We Are Pilgrims
Journeys in Search of Ourselves
A beguiling exploration of our primal urge towards journeys of purpose, wonder and self-discovery.
Each year, 200 million of us embark on a pilgrimage of some kind. We have been making ritual journeys for millennia, ever since our ancient ancestors followed migrating animals, coming together to hunt and celebrate. The era of setting out as a matter of survival is long gone, but the impulse to travel somewhere sacred to us remains.
Victoria Preston discovers that, whether we set forth in search of solace or liberation, as an expression of gratitude or faith, journeys of meaning and purpose are always a powerful reminder that we are each part of something much greater than ourselves.
From the Stone Age pilgrims of Anatolia to the present-day crowds at Glastonbury, We Are Pilgrims is a quest to understand what drives this rich and varied human behaviour, unbounded by time or space, faith or identity.
‘[We Are Pilgrims] invites us to step beyond the narrow confines of our present understanding; to make connections with other faiths; to explore common ground; and to investigate the universality of the spiritual journey made physical.’ — Church Times
‘In a series of lively sketches, [Preston] shows that pilgrimage is intertwined with some very basic human impulses, from the seasonal migration of nomads, to the contemporary rite of passage of a teenager going to a music festival.’ — Times Literary Supplement
‘[This] valuable new book … reminds us that pilgrimage remains the best metaphor we have for understanding our peregrinations through the stations of life.’ — LA Review of Books
‘[A] superbly researched book […] The range, scope, and scholarship of We Are Pilgrims make it an invaluable resource to serious students hoping to understand the impulses underlying pilgrimage in a variety of historical and religious contexts. But it is the “underglimmer” of personal insights – those of the author and of the pilgrims she interviews in the course of her research – that make this book such a truly rewarding and thought- provoking read.’ — California Review of Books
‘Preston is widely read and widely travelled, and writes with considerable erudition, drawing both on learning and her own experience. But this book is as remarkable for its lyricism and the beauty of its prose as it is for the information and insights it contains.’ — Pilgrims to Rome
‘A wide-ranging and well-researched study [that] offers plenty of practical reasons for [the] continued popularity of [pilgrimages].’ —The Idler
‘Beautifully written, this book reflects on the multiple meanings and textures of pilgrimage as a literary, religious and cultural experience binding people and memory throughout history.’ — Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies, University of Edinburgh
‘Pilgrimage is a much misunderstood human urge. It is an activity not so much of faith as of purpose: the use of the body in a ceremony of emotion, discovery and renewal, culminating in the metaphor of destination. Its appeal is for all time, to everyone, everywhere—and so is Victoria Preston’s splendid book.’ — Simon Jenkins, Guardian and Evening Standard columnist
‘Reminiscent of writers like Mircea Eliade and Rene Daumal, We Are Pilgrims turns the idea of pilgrimage to metaphor: a tantalising recreation of that sacred journey within and beyond this world.’ — Aatish Taseer, author of The Twice-Born and The Temple-Goers
‘Devotees of physical, spiritual and aesthetic exercise will find much to enjoy in Victoria Preston’s insightful, thoroughly researched and vividly written account of pilgrimage, past and present.’ — Edward Lucas, Times columnist and editor of Standpoint magazine
Victoria Preston has roamed far and wide in her thirty years advising corporate and government clients in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. She is an associate fellow at the King’s Centre for Strategic Communications, with an MSc in Development Studies from the London School of Economics.