Re-reading Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways I discovered a section on the work of Vaclav Cilek that I must have skimmed over on the first read. As it is illuminating to seek out and read the primary sources that have caught the attention of a writer I set out on Cilek’s trail.
Cilek proposes a set of Rules for Pilgrimage in his essay Bees of the Invisible – An Awakening, which pays homage to Rilke’s much-quoted quote;
“We are the bees of the invisible. We wildly gather the honey of the visible, in order to store in the great golden hive of the Invisible…”
These are not regulations or admonitions they are instead a set of observations based on thirty years of often subterranean journeying. There is a mystic quality to these but he acknowledges that a playfulness, a tongue-in-cheekness is required to engage with them.
I was strongly reminded when reading his words of the different feel between two ancient sites in Derbyshire. Arbor Low broods timelessly like his description of Avebury whilst Nine Ladies has a sleepy, dormant ambience. Wycoller in the Forest of Pendle which has river crossings that span many centuries sparkles with the invisible.
His Rules led me to think playfully and poetically about my own Rules of The Road.
The Green Rule
– goes up or down or is flat by degrees in-between,
– is different for you and everyone every time and in every time,
– is weather, season, time and space,
– is the way and where you are going,
– reflects you back, is a telescope, microscope, kaleidoscope,
– asks silent questions, offers impertinent answers.
The Red Rule
You make The Road the road that it is; the road has no personality; you respond to the road; the road is you and you the road.
The Blue Rule
There is no compulsion on The Road. Go where you please, when you please; be as fixed, familiar or free as you wish.
The Purple Rule
The road may be long but is never lonely.
If you want to read a translation of Cilek’s article that was published in Artesian magazine you can find it here on Tereza Stehlikova’s website – Cinesthetic Feasts
Robert Macfarlane’s Guardian piece Rites of Way: Behind the Pilgrimage Revival about Cilek and other pilgrims can be accessed here