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Travel and the Question of Spirituality

Updated: Jan 12, 2021

The ruins of St. Declan's cathedral in Ardmore, Ireland

Well I’m back kids! I know it’s been a long time and you were probably wondering, “did she get lost out there?” As you know if you have been following this blog, I travelled for a year experiencing location independence with my family. We travelled all over Canada, the Caribbean and the British Isles this trip. What an amazing experience! Being able to travel like that with my daughter, taking her to see the places and things that we were studying in person, showing her other cultures and customs. Watching how she embraced all the cultures and people we encountered on the road was such a gift to both of us.

My then fiance and now husband had never travelled out of Canada and had only left the province of British Columbia once. It was very important to me that we travelled before we tied the knot. As a travel bug I needed to know how he dealt with all the challenges and experiences that travelling entails. He handled it well! We got married in a castle on a private island in Ireland at the end of our trip, ending our travels in the most perfect of ways.

Now one of the reasons I set off was to explore spirituality around the world and I’m sorry to say that I was sorely disappointed with what I found. While religion (specifically Christianity) abounded wherever we went, I have to say that spirituality was sorely lacking. Yes, people dutifully milled into Church on Sunday and tried to live their lives by the religious rules they chose to follow but where was the self-reflection, self-work, true compassion for others and divine love? Also, the fact that most people knew very little about the religion they clung to much less their ancestral traditions was vastly disturbing to me.

Standing stones at Aberystwyth Castle, Wales.

I was so excited to go to Ireland and experience part of my ancestral heritage (I am of Celtic - Caribbean heritage). Celtic spirituality plays a large part of my personal spiritual practice and I was so excited to find Brigid in her home country. I was doomed to disappointment. I asked every home-grown Irish person I had a conversation with about what they knew or felt about Her and the original celtic traditions and most people didn’t even know who I was talking about. Tara and Newgrange were “just a bunch of stones”. Tuatha de Danann was gibberish. Even Saint Brigid seemed curiously absent. I was shocked and baffled. How did I know more about celtic traditions than the average Irish citizen? The only people I spoke to who actually knew anything were historians and the Pagan Federation of Ireland. St. Patrick sure did his job well.

It wasn’t only in Ireland where I encountered this. Jamaica was worse. I grew up in Jamaica and my mother’s side of the family have a long Jamaican heritage. As the years go by I feel that Jamaicans seem to be losing more and more of their traditional beliefs and cultures and I have a lot to say about that. Warning: most Christian POC will not like what I have to say.

My daughter in front of a Banyen Tree in Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Jamaica’s population is 90.9% black (not including people of mixed heritage) according to the Oxford African American Studies Center. That means Jamaica is a slave nation. The population is made up, almost entirely, of the descendants of slaves brought to the Americas through the slave trade. Which is why it baffles me that Jamaica is so staunchly Christian. Jamaica has more churches per capita than any other country in the world. I have travelled to 14 different countries including devout Muslim countries in the middle east and I have never seen people pray as much as in Jamaica. “Why does this bother you?” you may ask. Well, this is evidence of the effectiveness of slavery and colonialism. An entire nation of slaves who fought hard for their freedom have completely turned their backs on their own beliefs and traditions in favour of clinging desperately to a foreign religion that their white slaves masters forced on them through violent oppression. Jamaicans (and indeed most African American communities) fear and revile anything that is not a part of the Christian religion and abhor even mention of their traditional African and Caribbean beliefs & Practices. They are dismissed as archaic and barbaric or labeled as “devil worship”. Trying to find information on African or Native Caribbean traditions was an exercise in futility and often hostility.

So, I did learn about spirituality around the world but it was not the lesson I was expecting. I learned about loss and capitulation. It was a lesson on colonialism and its effects on the global consciousness. It was a lesson on the psychology of trauma and violence on people and cultures long term. It was a lesson in the reality of how much work has yet to be done. I will definitely be exploring deeper into these of these themes in the coming years.

The lessons of this trip sparked a journey inward. An inner pilgrimage if you will that led me to question who I was and where I come from more deeply than ever before. It was a journey over familiar territory but details that I had not noticed before rose up in my consciousness to add to the rich tapestry of my own self - knowledge. It brought clarity of how my gifts can be more effectively used in the world and what path to my goals I should take. And that’s what spirituality is all about isn't it? Exploring the path inward. And as I often say: the path to the divine leads within.

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