Rocamadour: Ritual Wanderlust

For more than a thousand years, pilgrims have stopped in this gorge on their way through France to the Santiago Di Compostela. There’s a shrine to a Madonna here.

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When we’ve come this far, we may as well keep going along the only street.

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Buildings cling to the canyon walls, while a castle crowns the crest.

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How do we get up there? Where are we?

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Climb more stairs at the castle, past the clock tower which begins to toll the hour. Shakily, step out onto the ramparts to get a better view: a sense of where we are in the world.

DSCF0593Looking down, there’s the Sanctuary with its basilica and chapels. Put one foot in front of the other. Go in and light a candle. Sit. Go back in time. Read the words on a mural ” Aimer, Evangeliser, Servir.” (To love, to proclaim, to serve.) Sit still in the space.

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Later, we followed the sheltered path, down past the 14 Stations of the Cross, where millions have walked before.  We talked of history and how fortunate we are to live now.

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I’ve taken a while putting this post together. ‘Wanderlust’ doesn’t seem the right word to me. I’m more of a WanderLuck person.  Now, especially with my camera, I notice good fortune more that ever.

When I was travelling in 88, setting out as a storyteller for the first time, I was given a copy of an Armenian story by New York storyteller Diane Wolkstein. She wanted me  to write it out again in my own way. It felt like a test. I did a fearfully poor job of it then. Years later I realised what a significant tale it is.

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Here’s a shortened version of what I read then in Virginia Tashjian’s collection “One There Was And Was Not.” Like most stories, it’s so much better told, face to face –

One there was and was not, a man who walked off in a temper one morning to find God. He was a poor farmer who’d struggled all his life. He wanted to tell God, once and for all how unfair his life had been.

On the way he met a ravenous, skinny wolf who wanted him to ask God why he was always so hungry, then a beautiful, rich woman, who was so lonely and next, a huge tree by a riverbank withered and thirsty. Each listened to his complaints, without judgement, and requested that he ask a similar question of God on their behalf. The man agreed and went on his way.

He met God sitting on a rock in the middle of nowhere. The man asked for answers for those three he’d met on the way. When God heard his complaint, he agreed with the fellow and gave him the gift of luck.

On the journey back, the man reiterated the solution to each character as he had been told … but was in too much of a hurry to dig up the treasure choking the tree roots and rejected the rich woman’s proposal. He had to get back home for he had been given the gift of luck.

And the wolf’s god-given solution ? ” Soon he would meet a very foolish man and once he had devoured him, only then would his hunger be truly satisfied!”

(I’ll leave you to imagine the ending.)

Thanks for your time.

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Wanderlust

References

Rocamadour

Shrine

Just a Whisker

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“He came back from the war a changed man. I don’t know what to do. He hardly speaks to me. He doesn’t listen. He’s angry all the time … hardly touches what I cook. When he storms out of the house for no reason, I don’t know where he goes.”

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There’s an old story from Korea, where a young woman describes her husband thus. In desperation, she travels to a distant mountain to get help from a famous hermit who has a reputation for magic potions that work. She truly wants her husband back to the gentle, loving man he used to be.

Everyone needs potions! Can we cure a sick world with potions?” the hermit declared.

However,  he listened to her complaints and offered to make such a brew, provided she supplied one essential ingredient – the whisker of a living tiger! The woman gasped and shook her head. She had always been afraid of tigers.

After many months she overcame her fears, persisting with her task. Night after night, she brought food to a tiger that lived near her village. She was able to get closer and closer to that wild creature. She always spoke gently to him and never reproached him. She gained the tiger’s confidence till she was able to rub his head and smile with him. He didn’t even notice when one moonlight night, she finally snipped off one whisker.

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When she gave the hermit that whisker, he inspected it and then tossed it into the fire. The woman cried out that now she had lost that which she held most dear …  the love of her husband…  it all had been for nothing.

When she was quiet and while the fire crackled, the old hermit replied,

Is a man less responsive to kindness and understanding? If you can win the affection and trust of a wild and bloodthirsty animal with gentleness and patience, surely you can do the same with your husband.”

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All photos and text by Meg (except quotes highlighted in italics).

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Sources.

I’ve read this story in many folktale compilations. Here, I have abridged the tale and quoted text  from this version –

CROSSLEY-HOLLAND, Kevin (ed.) “The Tiger’s Whisker” in The Young Oxford Book of Folk Tales. Oxford, OUP, 1998: 15-18.

There are many other versions available on the www.