Nature, health and healing: gendered ritual in Swedish pilgrimage
Lena Gemzöe (Stockholm University)
Paper short abstract:
The vawe of interest in pilgrimage in Sweden is connected to other social trends, e.g the interest in health and fitnes. The pilgrims, among them many women, elaborate the classical theme of health and healing in new rituals.
Paper long abstract:
During the last decade, pilgrimage has recievied an increased attention in Sweden. The Swedes walk along the ancient road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain or join the pilgrimages organized by the Swedish Protestant Churchin in different parts of Sweden. In both settings two thirds of the participants are women. The pilgrimage movement in Sweden can be seen as an expression of a post-secular longing for a lost religion, but it is also connected to other important social trends. One such trend is the current interest in health, fitness and out-door activites, an area that according to experts have become predominated by women in recent years, thus pointing to an overlapping characteristic with the pilgrimage movement. In their narratives, Swedish pilgrims foreground a sensual experience of moving one's body, of being in contact with nature and a deeply sensed well-being that pilgrimage can offer. These facets of the experience contribute to the particlar ritual style that is being being created among Swedish pilgrims. It has been pointed out that the modern pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, unlike other classical Catholic pilgrimages, concerns the healing of the mind, rather than the body. However, when Swedish pilgrims seek a healing of the mind walking to Compostela or along ancient paths in Sweden, this healing is achieved through the experience of a healed or healthy body in contact with nature. In this way, the theme of health and healing, often associated with women in the Christian tradition of pilgrimage, is elaborated in new, culturally and ritually distinct ways.