Whirling Dervish image, from a tile in an Istanbul market (Lori Erickson photo)
If you are thinking of taking a spiritual journey but don’t know where to go, there’s a good online guide to start out your research. Lori Erickson and Bob Sessions are itinerant travelers who have explored more of our world than most people even dream about doing. Being a freelance writer has allowed Lori to support her passion and we get to benefit from her books and online advice. Thus she has created something of a spiritual Lonely Planet Guide for the spiritually-minded.
Spiritual Travels is a companion to my blog, The Holy Rover, which covers “travel tips for inner and outer journeys.” This site focuses on the practical details of how to take those outer journeys. Here you’ll learn how to plan a pilgrimage to Lourdes, where to eat in Wittenberg when you’re following in the footsteps of Martin Luther, and why you don’t want to challenge a Korean monk to a martial arts match.
The number of locations she has on her site is amazing, divided up by part of the world (North America, Asia, Europe, etc) and also by religion. As always, I am most interested in the unusual places, and there are some good ones listed. I’ll share a few with you here.
Amish Tour in Northern Indiana
From Shipshewana you can explore the surrounding rural countryside and the charming small towns of this region. A free Heritage Trail audio tour CD with directional cues will take you on a circular loop through the area. Just pop it into your car stereo and listen to interesting stories and historical tidbits as you drive (contact the Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau for a copy).
This area also has many Amish-owned shops where you can visit with the clerks to learn more about life in this old-fashioned corner of the world. Shop for fresh baked goods and farm-raised produce at local markets, sample the prize-winning cheeses at the Guggisberg Deutsch Kase Hause, and visit one of the many home-based workshops that make heirloom quality furniture. Das Dutchman Essenhaus in Middlebury includes an inn, shops, bakery and a restaurant that serves family-style meals. And Amish Acres, while not Amish-owned, offers tours of a former Old Order Amish farm, craft demonstrations, wagon rides, a restaurant, and musical theater.
Maori Culture in the Bay of Islands
My last two days in New Zealand were spent in the Bay of Islands region, located a short drive from the Waipoua Forest. While the area is renowned for its gorgeous islands, it’s also the site of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, which preserve the site of the 1840 pact that ended hostilities between the Maori and Europeans and gave birth to the modern nation of New Zealand. Its elaborately carved meeting house, the most magnificent in the nation, sits on a hill overlooking the bay.
Two tour companies near the treaty grounds gave us new insights Maori culture. The first, Living Maori Today, took us to a small native community on an isolated peninsula, where our crew split into smaller groups and joined local residents in their homes for a meal and discussion of contemporary Maori life.
She goes on to describe the chief and his grandson who he is raising so that this generation will carry on the traditional culture. All of this in a remote corner of New Zealand and described so vibrantly.
Whirling Dervishes of Turkey
My friend Marian and I witnessed the whirling dervishes at a Mevlevi Sema Ceremony held at the Hocapasa Culture Center in Istanbul. Notice that it is described as a “ceremony” rather than a “performance.” The distinction is crucial, for the dancers are engaged in a religious rite rather than simply presenting an entertainment.
So who are these people and why do they practice this hypnotic dance? The answer relates to one of the world’s most beloved poets, Jalaleddin Rumi. Born in 1207 in what is now Afghanistan, Rumi eventually settled in the city of Konya in Anatolia (in central Turkey). Rumi was a follower of Sufism, which emphasizes the mysical dimensions of Islam. As a scholar, mystic, and poet he was both a devout Muslim and a passionate advocate for peace and tolerance.
While dervishes—wandering Sufi ascetics—were common in Rumi’s day, the poet is credited with introducing the practice of whirling to Sufism. It is one of a number of Sufi practices designed to promote religious ecstasy.
To read more about these fascinating trips go to this website: http://www.spiritualtravels.info/
Lori Erickson has published a number of books, including The Joy of Pilgrimage. However, her articles and columns, many of which she lists on this site would keep you reading all year. Just the titles make you want to read on such as: “The Badlands at Last”, “A busy Street Corner with Thomas Merton”, “Hildegard of Bingen’s Lessons for Aging Well”, “Deeper Travel: Getting to Know a Place From the Inside Out”. I look forward to reading more of her travel stories. I’m sure she and husband, Bob, are not finished traveling.