I chose the Autumn Equinox – my favourite celebration on the Wheel of the Year - as the perfect date to lead my first pilgrimage. The venue was a morning riverside walk at the little market town of Masham. I had placed a priority order for fine weather and wasn’t disappointed. Sunny, breezy, with the last vestiges of Summer mingling with the first hints of Autumn – perfect!
Seven of us met at the entrance to St. Mary’s church and, after asking the Luminous Beings to bless our journey, we meandered through the peaceful churchyard to a gate at the back. Already we had to wait for stragglers, which reminded me of the many schoolchildren I have chivvied on trips over the years.
We passed by the memorial stone for fifty-eight Anglo Saxons whose skeletons were uncovered in the 1980s during some utility maintenance work in the market square. The poor souls were left to gather dust in boxes at Harrogate museum for over twenty years before being interred in the churchyard in 2009. One of our group placed a white feather by the stone.
We set off alongside the River Ure, on the path which forms the most northerly part of the Ripon Rowel Walk (a rowel being the little wheel at the back of a horse-rider’s spur).
Gathering bits and pieces for our mandala, we ambled along, chatting to dog walkers and enjoying each other’s company. The walk encircles farmland, with newly ploughed field and the straggling remnants of barley and potato plants along the edges.
Two thirds of the way along the path, a few steps led us down through a small wood to a tiny beach by the river. I knew this was the perfect spot for our mandala and a short ritual, as I had been there before. One member of the group commented that the energies of the place felt very good.
Our mandala was created quickly, with everyone keen to contribute to its making.
I’d brought a white crystal and a black one, to represent the equal night and day, and the balance of the season. Another member of the group gave each of us a small bag of tumble stones to take home, so they were added to the mandala too. We were all very happy with the result, and one member said it looked just right for the start of Autumn. The sun emerged from behind a cloud just as we finished.
Standing in a circle around our masterpiece, I led a brief meditation, inviting everyone to reflect on the bounty and gifts of Autumn. I used my singing bowl to begin and end our quiet time before we returned to the path and continued our circular walk back to the church.
We chose a quiet spot just outside the churchyard to thank the Luminous Beings for welcoming us.
Everyone was delighted with their experience and felt it was a very beneficial thing to have done. One member had chosen to abandon her duties as church warden for the morning in favour of coming along, and she was delighted that she had done so. The whole morning felt relaxed and positive, and a fitting start to my favourite season. I mentioned that I was already planning the next pilgrimage for Samhain and met with an enthusiastic response.
Some of us repaired to a café for necessary treats and sat happily in the sun, watching the tourists and locals browsing the busy market stalls.
It can be a little nerve-wracking doing something for the first time, but this pilgrimage was completely stress-free and I look forward to leading many more in the future.
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