Spiritual Voyages, a short background

Journeys for spiritual purposes are a very old tradition all over the world.  This is reflected by the sheer number of "Hero's Journey"(see Joseph Campbell's writings or video taped lectures for a detailed explanation of this) stories that exist in nearly every mythology or literary tradition of the world.  Some spiritual journeys took place in a physical sense, but most, are voyages for the spirit.

The "Epic of Gilgamesh" is one on the oldest written accounts of a spiritual journey.  We may read translations of it today an learn about the culture that created it, however, I sincerely doubt we understand the symbolism of the story the way the ancient Mesopotamians did.  Other example of journeys can be found in "The Odyssey", "The Aeneid", the story of Orpheus and Eurydice ("Black Orpheus" is a great retelling of the myth in a more modern Brazilian setting), "The Labors of Hercules", and adventures of Jason and the Argonauts.  In Asia, "The Journey to the West" and the stories of the Buddha's travels are also examples.  Many native American groups have their own accounts of journeying into the otherworld to change a person into a leader.  The Aborigines of Australia have their stories of "Dreamtime"; and there are many African tales of journeys into the unknown that help a hero develop into the person they need to be.

My experience focuses a bit more on Irish and Welsh tradition.  The Irish had two classes of stories about spiritual journeys, one pagan (the ecthrae) and the other more Christianized (the immram).  Theses stories involved a journey into the Western ocean where the hero sails to many islands, learning lessons and gaining experiences as he goes.  The most famous of these is "The Voyage of Bran".  Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels borrows from this tradition.  The Mabinogi, a series of ancient Welsh stories, also describes a journey into the Otherworld, from which wisdom is gained.

Journeys, whether physical or mental, teach us about our strength, our prejudices and our desires.  If you choose to take part in these, you will learn something important about yourself.  I invite you to join me on the journey and to read some of these amazing tales that I have listen here.