Today thousands of pilgrims are climbing a mountain in Ireland, as they have been doing for an amazing 5,000 years! Over the course of a year, it's estimated that one million visitors make the climb.
The mountain is Croagh Patrick. It's approximately 2,500 feet, located in County Mayo. On Reek Sunday, the last Sunday in July, pilgrims climb the mountain in honor of the patron saint, St. Patrick.
The mountain is locally known as the Reek, which Wikipedia says is a Hiberno-English word for a "rick" or "stack." In my book, Celtic Wisdom, I mention the legend that has compelled folks to make this pilgrimage for centuries.
"...the legend involves Caoranach, the pre-Christian female monster depicted as a snake. The legend says that when this being attacked Patrick on his mountain, the holy man threw his bell and knocked her all the way to Lough Derg. Scholars note that Lough Derg is never mentioned in Patrick's own writings and neither is the mountain he allegedly climbed. Another legend, very similar to the first, says Patrick climbed to the top of Eagle Mountain and fasted there for forty days, being tempted by the devil. He defeated the devil, also known as a serpent in the biblical account of Adam and Eve."This may have been where the idea that Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland came from.
The remains of an ancient church at the base of the mountain has raised speculation that Patrick founded a church there. Whether or not Patrick visited the mountain hardly matters to the many people who choose to make the journey. They do it for their own spiritual renewal, to pray for themselves and for hurting loved ones. They do it with pain sometimes (many go barefoot and inclement weather is always a possibility.)
Certainly some climb the mountain basically for the view and the beautiful surroundings.
Today there is a visitor's center at the base of the mountain, and a chapel at the summit. Have you been on this pilgrimage? If so, please tell us about it. If you've been on a similar pilgrimage, let us know that too.