A Journey Continues with The Pilgrimage Chronicles
Last year, Tor and Siffy Torkildson published The Walkabout Chronicles: Epic Journeys by Foot. Large in format with gorgeous cover art by Candace Rose Rardon, it is a tremendous collection of walking adventures throughout the world that has received widespread acclaim. This year, I’m honored to be included in the newest volume of the Chronicles series, a collection of 30 essays about pilgrimages of all types, from the pilgrim trails of Europe to the most remote corners of world. Contributors include Rheinhold Messner, Arita Baaijens, Pat Morrow, Amy Gigi Alexander, Steven Law, Erin Byrne, Jack Moscrop, and many more. The dramatic cover art is by author/explorer Lorie Karnath. The Pilgrimage Chronicles: Embrace the Quest is now available from Amazon.
Whether monarchs, monks, philosophers or peasants in their everday lives, they’ve all gone on pilgrimage to find peace, show devotion, search for truth, reconnect with the Universe, pay penance, or seek enlightenment.
The Pilgrim Chronicles: Embrace the Quest is a unique anthology that brings together, at one exceptional moment in time, an extraordinary collection of modern pilgrims, explorers, scientists, writers, and adventurers who share their personal pilgrimages with us.
— from the Foreword by author/explorer Brandon Wilson
My contribution to the anthology was “Finding Margaret,” about a journey to the island of Wyre in Scotland’s Orkney archipelago. Wyre is small island with a population of only 17 people, most of them farmers, and the childhood home of my seventh great-grandmother in the 17th century. My quest was for vestiges of Margaret’s life on Wyre and clues to her life as a native Orcadian of Viking heritage, one with a dark and troubled family history.
“Finding Margaret” Excerpt
I take my journey back to seek my kindred,
Old founts dried up whose rivers run far on
Through you and me.
— Edwin Muir, The Labyrinth
We followed a trail […] across a pasture full of sheep to the remains of a twelfth century Viking chapel and cemetery. My pulse quickened as I swung open the ancient iron gate to enter. The chapel could have been the family church for some generation of Halcros. Margaret might have been baptized within its walls. Even if it was in ruins by her time, she would have explored its interior, looking out through the arched doorway and narrow window as I had done upon entering. We searched for evidence of Halcros buried in the small cemetery, but all the tombstones predating the nineteenth century had been scrubbed smooth by centuries of wind, rain, and snow.
Not far from the chapel, atop the island’s highest point, stood other ruins, those of a fortress built about the same time as the chapel by a Viking chieftain named Kolbein Hrúga. Though there was little chance of finding any trace of Halcros, we climbed the hill to explore the ruins. Walking through the structure that was five feet high in places, I imagined the children of Wyre hiding within its stone chambers. The Halcros must have considered the fortress a treasured part of their Norse heritage. The fortress and its Viking lord were both mentioned in the Norse chronicle, the Orkneyinga Saga. And more than once during our stay, we’d heard Orcadians proudly proclaim that they weren’t Scottish but rather of Viking blood. Surely Margaret’s father, brimming with that same pride, would have filled Margaret’s imagination with vision of longships in the harbors and Vikings roaming the islands. From the fortress, she would have had a clear view of all the surrounding islands. What did she imagine about herself from that stony perch?