pil·grim·age: n. 1. A journey to a sacred place or shrine. 2. A long journey or search, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance. (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th edition)
This is the third year I’ve observed Vestalia. I feel drawn to the holiday and to the goddess it honors, but I’m having trouble translating that attraction into practice. Most of the rituals I know of (for Vesta or any other deity) assume that you are a theist, that you believe in the deity you’re worshiping. Semi-atheist that I am, I see Vesta as an archetype, as a astrological asteroid, and I want to deliberately acknowledge that archetype in some way. But a ritual designed to please a deity I don’t believe exists feels pointless. So I try a little of this and a little of that, searching for something that will resonate with the “feel” of Vesta. Meditate on a candle, per Francis Bernstein’s suggestion in Classical Living. Clean the apartment. Those sorts of things.
This year, I went to IKEA.
One of my goals is to make my office/craft room usable. I tend to treat it like a room-sized junk drawer, shoving random stuff into the closet, under the table, or just piling it on top in the hopes that it will put itself away somewhere. But as my rent goes up each year and I’m paying more for each square foot of this room, I want to make better use of it. Thus, off to IKEA to find “storage solutions.” Between the travel time there and back, and the time spent navigating the store itself, it’s a day trip, and since I was taking Vestalia off from work anyway, it seemed like an excellent time both practically and symbolically to make the trip. Certainly recommitting myself to making my apartment a home was appropriate for Vestalia.
When I was first trying to think of a title for this post, I used the term “pilgrimage” facetiously. After all, a trip to a humongous home furnishings store is hardly a journey to a sacred site, and while it’s nifty that I went there on Vestalia of all days, it’s not, you know, meaningful. Unless I make it so—and I can. In this case, with what I just called “nifty:” timing my trip to IKEA for the day in my calendar most focused on home.
This is the kind of sacred activity that speaks to me the most: doing things that correspond symbolically to a holiday or to a goddess or something, while at the same time having practical results. Maybe it’s all the earth in my chart, but I need that practical aspect as much as I need the spiritual. We Pagans often look for the sacred in the mundane world rather than draw a line between the two. IKEA is huge and generic, but it is about home, in the most physical, earthy sense. (Okay, it’s probably overstating matters to think of it as a giant temple of Vesta, even if the delineated path through the store does remind me of a labyrinth!) I’m not going to make an annual rite of this trip, of course, since my apartment would burst at the seams from all the new furniture I’d be hauling home. But linking action to a symbolically corresponding day is an act of magic—or of ritual.