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In the United States the word "Pilgrims" usually refers to the English settlers of New Englandmarker, who celebrated the "First Thanksgiving" with the Native Americans in 1621.

A pilgrim (lat. peregrinus) is one who undertakes a pilgrimage, literally 'far afield'. This is traditionally a visit to a place of some religious or historic significance; often a considerable distance is traveled. Examples include a Christian or Jew visiting Jerusalemmarker or a Muslim visiting Meccamarker.

Religious pilgrims

Pilgrims and the making of pilgrimages are common in many religions, including the faiths in ancient Egypt, Persiamarker in the Mithraic period, Indiamarker, Chinamarker, and Japanmarker. The Greek and Roman customs of consulting the gods at local oracles, such as those at Dodonamarker or Delphimarker, both in Greece, are widely known. In Greece, pilgrimages could either be personal or state-sponsored.

In the early period of Hebrew historymarker, pilgrims traveled to Shiloh, Dan, Bethel, and eventually Jerusalemmarker, a practice followed by other Abrahamic religions. The great Islamic pilgrimage to Meccamarker (now in Saudi Arabiamarker), is obligatory for every able Muslim. Other Islamic devotional pilgrimages, particularly to the tombs of Shia Imams or Sufi saints, are numerous. The early Christians made pilgrimages to the scenes of the Passion of Christ in Jerusalemmarker. After Jerusalem had been occupied by the Saracens, Christians secured the liberty of pilgrimage, on payment of a tax by treaty. Medieval military orders, such as the Knights Templar arose to protect the pilgrims on their journeys.

While religious pilgrims usually travel toward a specific destination, a physical location is not a necessity. One group of pilgrims in early Celtic Christianity were the Peregrinari Pro Christ, (Pilgrims for Christ), or "white martyrs". They left their homes to wander in the world. This sort of pilgrimage was an ascetic religious practice, as the pilgrim left the security of home and the clan for an unknown destination, in complete trust of Divine Providence. These travels often resulted in the founding of new abbeys and spreading Christianity among the pagan population in Britain as well as in continental Europe.

Cultural pilgrims

A cultural pilgrimage, while also about personal journey, involves a secular response. Destinations for such pilgrims can include historic sites of national or cultural importance, and can be defined as places "of cultural significance: an artist's home, the location of a pivotal event or an iconic destination." An example might be a baseball fan visiting Cooperstown, New Yorkmarker. Destinations for cultural pilgrims include examples such as Auschwitz concentration campmarker, Gettysburg Battlefieldmarker, the Ernest Hemingway Housemarker or even Disneylandmarker. Cultural pilgrims may also travel on religious pilgrimage routes, such as the Way of St. Jamesmarker, with the perspective of making it a historic or architectural tour rather than a religious experience.

Secular pilgrims also exist under communist regimes. These devotional but strictly secular pilgrims visited locations such as the Mausoleum of Leninmarker or Mausoleum of Mao Zedongmarker, or the Birthplace of Karl Marxmarker. Such visits were sometimes state-sponsored.

Notable pilgrims

Many national and international leaders have gone on pilgrimages for both personal and political reasons.



External links

Traditional folk song about a pilgrim

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