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date: 21 September 2017

Pilgrimages in the United States

Summary and Keywords

Pilgrimage, as a type of religious journey, involves embodied movement across geographic, social, political, cultural, and often religious boundaries to a sacred place or landscape. It is arguably a universal phenomenon that can engage individual pilgrims or millions, especially with the onset of modernity, which has facilitated travel over distances great and small. As an aspect of religious life in the United States, pilgrimage is often overlooked. Nevertheless, the country’s landscape encompasses numerous sites of sacred significance associated with organized religions, civil religion, and facets of its cultural religion that attract millions of visitors annually. As a dynamic set of phenomena, pilgrimages to such sites are constantly evolving, affected by factors such as religious and social movements, national politics, immigration, and tourism.

Keywords: sacred places and spaces, national parks, Catholicism, Church of Latter-Day Saints, diaspora, violence, memorialization, travel and tourism, ritualization, minorities

“Pilgrimage,” defined minimally, is journey to a sacred place, a movement from a periphery to a center, as described by social anthropologist Victor Turner.1 Such movement can be further conceptualized as a “flow,” a key feature in Thomas Tweed’s theory of religion, which links flows to processes of “crossing and dwelling,” wherein religion entails embodied practices of both “moving across” boundaries and “settling in” places.2 Pilgrimage therefore involves active engagement in flows of crossing and dwelling wherein pilgrims traverse spatial and conceptual boundaries and participate in place-making practices that can engage whole landscapes. Such activities occurring over time lead to territorializations of religious and cultural systems, or in certain instances, reterritorializations. The former entails the embedding of a religion or culture in a particular landscape, the latter implies an experience of dislocation or displacement, followed by relocation and re-embedding.3

Pilgrimages can be identified in many cultures and religious traditions, past and present. The most famous include the Christian pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela in Spain and Lourdes in France, Hindu pilgrimages to the Ganges at Varanasi and Prayag, the Muslim Hajj to Mecca, Buddhist pilgrimages to Nepali and Indian sites associated with the life of Gautama Buddha, and the Japanese Buddhist pilgrimage to the island of Shikoku.4 These pilgrimage traditions have all obtained close affiliations with the modern nations and cultures within which they occur. When the question is raised about the existence of similar pilgrimages in the United States, it would appear that it has none that approach the renown and popularity that these have acquired. On closer examination, however, an array of pilgrimages have taken shape in the course of the United States’ short history, even if they do not resemble these others in terms of antiquity and popularity. The challenge is to recognize them and account for their variety and dynamics.

Identifying and explaining American pilgrimages requires working with a complex understanding of what constitutes pilgrimage. This should take into consideration how sacred places and landscapes are defined; processes of territorialization or reterritorialization; what the nature and extent of ritualization the journey entails; who and what governs pilgrimage sites and routes; why, when, and how the journey is taken; the sociocultural environment within which the pilgrimage occurs and with whom pilgrims interact; what fields of meaning are attributed to the pilgrimage; what transformations, if any, the pilgrim undergoes; and how a pilgrimage becomes memorialized or negotiated within the life experience of the individual and the collectivity. A pilgrimage thus understood as a complex phenomenon is what can be called in the Durkheimian sense a total social fact, entailing religious, cultural, political, economic, psychological, and even ecological features.

Although the Native American peoples of North America engaged in varied pilgrimage practices to a wide variety of sacred sites for differing purposes prior to the arrival of Europeans, most pilgrimages in the United States developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.5 Key interrelated factors that contributed to this growth included

  1. (1) the establishment of a secular polity that allowed for freedom of religious expression;

  2. (2) the place-making activities of different religious and immigrant communities;

  3. (3) the emergence of accelerated flows of incoming and outgoing national and global mobility, due in large part to petroleum-based motorized transportation that facilitated both immigration and touristic travel;

  4. (4) the post-World War II rise of the U.S. middle class and a prosperous consumer-based economy; and

  5. (5) the attribution of patriotic significance to the landscape by the creation of national parks, historical sites, monuments, memorials, and museums.

The pilgrimages that have arisen in the U.S. milieu are greatly varied, reflecting the diversity of U.S. society and the vastness of its urban and natural landscapes. Further complicating the picture is the indeterminate nature of its sacred places, the meanings of which can be construed and contested in widely different ways by those who claim them and those who visit them. No place or journey is intrinsically sacred. What one person might consider a sacred place, another might consider a curiosity or tourist attraction—a sight to be seen. Moreover, as Victor and Edith Turner have noted, “a pilgrim is half a tourist if a tourist is half a pilgrim.”6 These complicating factors are not unique to pilgrimage in the United States, and evidence can be found for similar perspectives in the literature about pre-modern pilgrimages in Europe, Asia, and Africa. What is perhaps most distinctive about U.S. pilgrimages is their formation in the context of modernity, coupled with their variety.

U.S. pilgrimages can be classified into three groups: (1) pilgrimages to sites connected with organized religious communities in the United States, (2) pilgrimages to public sites that demarcate aspects of U.S. civil religion, and (3) pilgrimages to sites connected with American cultural religion.7 Cultural religion is a more diffused understanding of religion embedded in the everyday lives of Americans and is manifested in particular places and often at particular times. It typically invokes prominent indicators of American life such as patriotism, popular entertainment, sports, love of the outdoors, technology, and automobiles. Studied historically and empirically, the pilgrimages that fall under these three categories often intersect, or at least combine elements from each other. For example, visiting a Catholic shrine might entail patriotic purpose or engage features of a community’s cultural religious practice. Similarly, visiting a national park where patriotic values are celebrated might also entail a quest for personal spiritual discovery or engage acts of religious faith. Alternately, pilgrimages rooted in American cultural religion may result in the establishment of sites of U.S. civil religion or manifest features of organized religion. What may be most important to people participating in any of these types of pilgrimage is that to some extent they seek or experience a sense of “real presence” or the miraculous at some point in their journey, which may also entail a quest inward. Their object need not be a god or saint; it may also be a loved one, respected leader, victim of a tragedy, fictive personality, or an ineffable energy or force.8 Each type of pilgrimage has its own meaningful story and form of ritualization that foster this sense. From the perspectives of those administering a pilgrimage or its landscape, this sense of presence may be constructed or instilled to promote religious conformity, national unity, community solidarity, or financial gain.

Pilgrimages of America’s Organized Religions

Catholics

The Roman Catholic Church in the United States is comprised of nearly seventy million registered members. It can claim the largest share of pilgrimages in this category, most of which were established during the 20th century. Although pilgrimage has been a key feature of Catholic religious life for centuries, supported by church doctrine, the development of pilgrimage centers in the United States was bolstered partly by the migration of large numbers of Catholics from Europe and Latin America and by the Church’s concerted efforts to construct a distinctly North American Catholicism that included promoting popular devotionalism and territorializing the landscape with monumental structures. An authoritative Catholic directory for pilgrimages sites around the world lists only eight for the United States, but Catholic internet sites identify more than one hundred, mostly concentrated in states with a long-established working- and middle-class Catholic communities: New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio. However, pilgrimage sites have also arisen in states and regions with large Catholic populations such as Florida, the Southwest, and California.9

About half of the Catholic pilgrimage sites favor Marian devotions, and the greater share of these commemorate shrines of European provenience, such as Lourdes (eight sites) and Fatima (four sites), or of Mexico. Perhaps the most iconic of the U.S. shrines is the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, also known as “America’s Catholic Church.” Taking more than fifty years to complete, this massive edifice contains more than seventy chapels and oratories dedicated to Mary, celebrating devotion to her among Catholics around the world. Designated as a “pilgrimage church,” the Shrine is visited by thousands throughout the year.10 Another prominent Catholic pilgrimage site is the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows near St. Louis—a two-hundred-acre outdoor complex established by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in the late 1950s. Visited by up to one million people annually, it consists of memorial gardens, walks, chapels, and other buildings, including a two-thirds-scale model of the Lourdes Grotto and replica of the hill of Tepeyac in Mexico City, where the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to the Mexican peasant, Juan Diego.11

Catholic pilgrimage centers in the United States are also dedicated to Jesus and saints from the early Christian era and medieval Europe, but some memorialize distinctly American saints and martyrs. The National Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville, New York, for example, was established by the Jesuits in 1885 in remembrance of three 17th-century Jesuits who died while missionizing the Native American peoples in the area. Also known as the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs, in one hundred years it grew into a six-hundred-acre complex comprising, in addition to the martyrs’ shrine, a round coliseum church for large pilgrim gatherings, several shrines to the Virgin (including Lourdes and Fatima), a “torture platform crucifix,” Jesuit cemetery, museum, path for the Stations of the Cross, retreat house, cafeteria, offices, and large parking lots. The shrine also celebrates Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, an early Mohawk convert, with a chapel, statues, and narratives about her miracles. Unlike Catholic pilgrimage sites whose sanctity is based mainly on relics and saints translated from Europe and the Middle East, this complex makes an unambiguous claim to its unique origin in the American landscape. As the shrine’s web page states,

Places like Auriesville are spiritual heritage sites. They are holy places where people changed the spiritual future of our nation. The history of America is incomplete without the memory of such places—and especially of this place. Here, the New World was made truly “new” because the Gospel message was proclaimed: sometimes by preaching, other times by living, and in the end by dying.12

Attendance at the shrine declined in the 2000s and it was largely abandoned by the Jesuits in 2015. The local diocese moved to revive it, however. Perhaps the most noteworthy pilgrimage to the site is the Pilgrimage of Restoration, a three-day, sixty-mile walking journey in late September organized by the Company of St. René Goupîl, a group of lay men and women named after one of the 17th-century Jesuit martyrs. Participants are organized into brigades of twenty to thirty-five under the banners of patron saints. Accompanied by clergy, they take part in daily masses, rosaries, confessions, and personal prayers along the way from the monument of St. Isaac Jogues (another of the three Jesuit martyrs) in Lake George Battleground Park to Auriesville, concluding with a “Crowning Mass” on Sunday afternoon. Participation in the pilgrimage for those unable to be present in body is made possible by sending a donation and obtaining a plenary indulgence.13

The National Shrine of St. Jude in Chicago is another distinctively contemporary American pilgrimage center. Named after an obscure apostle, a cousin of Jesus who was martyred in Persia, this shrine was founded in 1929 by the Claretian Fathers, a Spanish missionary organization, as part of a national campaign to raise funds for the building of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, which served Mexican migrants drawn to Chicago by the steel industry.14 Promoted through the media of the U.S. Postal Service and radio, this new devotion coincided with a rising tide of piety among Catholic immigrants from Europe who were beginning to move away from their old neighborhoods, seeking ways to blend their individual ethnic identities with the wider Protestant-majority American society. St. Jude’s shrine provided them with a way to participate in an ethnically inclusive pilgrimage from a distance, by mail. The Claretians encouraged them to send their petitions and donations to the saint by post as an alternate form of pilgrimage; they did not have to physically visit the shrine. Nonetheless, the sacredness of the place is upheld, as donors are told that their special intentions will be physically laid on the shrine’s altar and visitors to the shrine’s web site are invited to make an “epilgrimage” to this “most sacred space” on Chicago’s South Side.15

The most prominent pilgrimages for Americans of Mexican descent and more recent Hispanic immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America are those related to the Virgin of Guadalupe, whose original shrine is located on the northern edge of Mexico City.16 Devotion to her north of the Rio Grande River has been evident since the 18th century, starting in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It now reaches as far north as Chicago, New York City, and La Crosse, Wisconsin. Pilgrimage to her basilica in Mexico City draws some six million people annually, but through reterritorialization and replication her shrines in the United States have also been developing into local centers of pilgrimage and communal identity that attract thousands each year, particularly to commemorate her feast day on December 12. The shrine in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines features a replica of the sacred mount of Tepeyac, complete with running waters and fountains, a copy of the Virgin’s iconic image, and a statue of her standing before Juan Diego, inspired by El Jardin de La Ofrenda on the slopes of Tepeyac in Mexico. Based on its similarity to the original it was claimed to be the “Second Tepeyac” of North America in 2001.17

At Tortugas, near Las Cruces, New Mexico, multiethnic Pueblo Indians (indios) from the region have created a pilgrimage in honor of the Virgin, reflecting their distinctive culture and heritage. It involves a three-day festival in December featuring dancing in traditional dress, religious songs, masses, recitations of the rosary, processions, and a one-day ascent to the summit of Tortugas “A” Mountain nearby, concluding with a communal meal on the twelfth.18 Pilgrims usually make the ascent on behalf of an ailing loved one, but other purposes are also mentioned. In 2016, one group of pilgrims prayed in support of the Water Is Life movement that was protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock in North Dakota. Devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe also played a role in the emergence of another borderlands Marian pilgrimage center—that of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Like that of Our Lady of the Snows in Illinois, development of this site was promoted by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in the 1940s and 1950s. Each year it is frequented by thousands, particularly those of Mexican heritage.19 Another major pilgrimage center in this region is the small adobe Santuario de Chimayó, New Mexico, popularly known as the “Lourdes of America.” Founded by a lay Mexican community of Penitentes, the site receives thousands who journey there on foot from nearby towns annually during Holy Week. Many are drawn by the belief that its “holy dirt” has curative powers. Some pilgrims make the trek carrying large crucifixes and carved wooden saint images (santos). Passion plays and local Pueblo Indian and Aztec dances are among the distinctive performative aspects of this Holy Week pilgrimage.20

Mormons

The Mormon Church (formally known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [LDS]), comprised of more than twelve million members, is another religious community that has territorialized itself in the United States through pilgrimage. The fact that it was founded in the United States rather than abroad has given its territorialization its own indigenous character. Although Mormons have been called “a people of pilgrimage,” the practice per se is not officially supported by Church leaders. However, the Church’s belief system does orient members to a worldly and other-worldly spiritual materialism that lends itself to prioritizing corporeal practices. It has done this partly by interweaving its history with the sacred narratives and geographies of the Bible. This means that Mormons have interpreted events like the migration of Joseph Smith and his followers from New York State to Missouri and Illinois in the 1830s and early 1840s, and of Brigham Young and his followers (including new converts from England) from Illinois to the Utah Territory in 1846–1847 as latter-day enactments of the journeys of the Old Testament patriarchs and the Hebrew tribes. Mormons speak of Young as a Joshua leading his people through the wilderness to a promised land and the construction of a new Zion. This narrative is rich in the themes of biblical pilgrimage, themes of tribulations, difficult journeys, and soteriological expectations. Railroad touristic literature in the 19th century helped solidify and disseminate the linkage between Mormon sacred geography and the Bible.21

Hence, it is not surprising to find that travel to temples, sites of key events in LDS history—such as Nauvoo, Illinois, the early Mormon settlement where Smith was buried, and sites along the Mormon Trail—and LDS museums constitutes one of the characteristic features of Mormon religious practice. Visiting the Church’s sacred temples often involves “temple work,” which entails rituals for baptizing the living for the dead and the “sealing” of the bonds between family members to help their spirits, and those of deceased ancestors, attain full salvation in eternity.22 According to a 1990 study, approximately five million Mormons held “temple recommend” cards that allowed them to enter temples—especially the Salt Lake City Temple—to engage in these rites at least once annually. A 2012 Pew survey found that as many as 65 percent of LDS members held these permits, which provides a baseline for approximating how many might participate in pilgrimage-like journeys.23 This figure does not, however, include the thousands of non-Mormons who flock to Salt Lake City annually, making it the most frequented touristic site in Utah. By encouraging non-Mormon tourism to its historical sites, temples, and museums, the Church engages in a soft form of proselytization.

Protestants

It is commonly presumed that accounting for pilgrimage among American Protestants is an unproductive enterprise, given this branch of Christianity’s doctrinal affirmation of faith over works, condemnation of idolatry, and opposition to ritual, particularly the more embodied and materialistic practices that form key features of Catholic and Mormon pilgrimage traditions. Nonetheless, like American Catholics and Mormons, Protestants undertake pilgrimages to the Holy Land (Israel and Palestine), though their actions and motivations may differ.24 Moreover, Protestantism and deism have become undeniably spacialized and materialized in the United States, defining to a significant extent the pilgrimages and pilgrimage-like practices that have become embedded in American civil religion (“public Protestantism”) and American cultural religion. Although the topic requires more scholarly research, several pilgrimage sites connected with Protestant churches and denominations in the United States should be noted.

The Washington National Cathedral of the Episcopal Church represents itself “as a house of prayer for all people and a spiritual home for the nation.” One of its missions, according to its website, is “to serve visitors and pilgrims,” receiving more than 270,000 annually. Its Center for Prayer and Pilgrimage offers three-hour “guided pilgrimages” of the church and grounds for groups throughout the year and a package of materials to help individuals conduct their own “self-guided pilgrimage.” Additionally, it organizes pilgrimages abroad and invites people to join its monthly labyrinth walks.25 The United Methodist Church has also overtly encouraged pilgrimage among its followers in the United States, identifying thirty-eight “historic shrines” and “historic landmarks” that are worthy of visitation. Members make pilgrimages to these sites, which situate their history and identity solidly in the North American landscape.26

Jews

Jewish pilgrimage tends to be overlooked or downplayed. Nonetheless, Jewish synagogues and other religious organizations are actively engaged in promoting travel to Jewish sites in the United States and abroad.27 Followers of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic tradition have reterritorialized the movement in Queens and Brooklyn, New York, following their immigration from Eastern Europe in the wake of the Holocaust. This has been accomplished in part by making pilgrimages to the tombs of Rabbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson and his father-in-law Rabbe Yosef Yitzhok Schneerson, movement leaders considered to be moral authorities and miracle workers by their devoted followers. Beginning when the former died in 1994, it is estimated that up to fifty thousand people visit the Queens cemetery where they are buried, known as the Ohel (Heb., “tent”), annually. At the Ohel, pilgrims dress modestly, customarily wear head coverings, wash their hands, and remove leather shoes. They offer a charitable donation, light votive candles in honor of Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, and write petitions on paper requesting his intercession. Devotees also send requests by mail and fax. A visitor center with a library and small synagogue has been established in a house next to the cemetery. The group’s main Crown Heights synagogue in Brooklyn has also become a pilgrimage site, and Hasidic organizations organize tours of other sites in New York.28

Recently Arrived Immigrants

Waves of migration have brought people belonging to religions other than Christianity and Judaism to the United States from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa since the last quarter of the 20th century. It takes time, resources, and commitment for a community to situate itself securely enough in order to establish pilgrimage processes of “crossing and dwelling” in its newly adopted homeland. These diasporic place-making processes often require ongoing contestations and negotiations with the wider sociopolitical order over matters such as zoning ordinances and tax codes. In the United States, these immigrant religious communities have benefited from protections provided by civil law and overall public acceptance of religious diversity.

Among the religious communities from beyond the Western Hemisphere and Europe that have arrived since U.S. immigration laws were relaxed in 1965, the Hindus appear to have been most successful thus far in beginning to establish pilgrimage sites. This is due both to the prominence of collective territorializing and pilgrimage practices in Hindu religion, the relative wealth of the Hindu immigrant community, and opportunities for religious pluralism provided by living in the United States. Their success is evident in the building of temples that replicate sacred pilgrimage sites in India, and the consecration of land with water from sacred rivers in India. As of 2010 it was estimated that there are seven hundred Hindu temples and meditation centers in the United States, but the ones most suited to serve as pilgrimage sites are the large “prestige temples” that attract more than just members of the local community. Such sites are considered to be tirthas, or “crossing places,” a term that originally denoted a sacred river ford but grew to encompass many forms of territorial and ontological crossing points that can bring a pilgrim to a divine presence or liberation from the cycles of birth and rebirth (samsara). A pilgrimage is therefore called a tirthayatra (tirtha journey). In Hindu sacred geography, a tirtha is considered to be part of a network of such sites, which means that they are interconnected geographically and ontologically, usually in a hierarchy. The geography of the United States has become assimilated to this hierarchy, as reflected in temple literature and religious songs produced there. Among the most prominent temples are those of Venkateshwara (the Hindu god Vishnu) in Pittsburg, Bridgewater (New Jersey), and Malibu (California), all of which replicate the original at Tirupati, one of southern India’s largest pilgrimage centers. These replications are not exact but rather reflect adaptations to local conditions and Hindu community values and tastes.29

Although shrine pilgrimage (ziyarat) to the tombs of holy men and women has been a prominent feature of religious life in Muslim-majority lands for centuries, it has not taken root among Muslim immigrants to the United States in a significant way, many of whom consider shrine-based Islamic devotion to be irrational and a deviation from “normative” Islam. One exception, however, is the transnational shrine (mazar place of visitation) dedicated to Sufi saint Bawa Muhaiyaddeen (d. 1986), a Sri Lankan holy man. His domed tomb, built in 1987, is located in a rural area of Pennsylvania, and is surrounded by a garden. Devotees, who come from many different religious and ethnic backgrounds, including Euro-Americans and Jews, believe that his presence can be felt at the tomb and that the water used for ablutions is connected with the water at his mosque in Sri Lanka and at the sacred well of Zamzam in Mecca. Pilgrims gather there annually to celebrate the anniversary of his death (`urs) and that of Muhammad, as well as other occasions during the year. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen’s grave has been called the most popular shrine for Sufis in the United States.30

U.S. Religious Pilgrims Abroad

The flows of U.S. pilgrims to destinations abroad can be traced to the late 19th century and have grown ever since, boosting in some instances the revitalization of pre-existing pilgrimage centers, such as Catholic sites in Europe, or the establishment of new ones, such as the Protestant Garden Tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem (discovered in 1867). The growth of the tourism industry and modern modes of transportation have significantly contributed to this trend. The Holy Land has been the most popular destination for Americans since the 19th century, promoted most consistently by Protestant churches and missionaries, aided by print and visual media that have fed into an American imaginary that rivals only that of U.S. western frontier lands.31 For U.S. Catholics, aside from the Holy Land, foremost pilgrimage destinations include Rome, Lourdes, Chartres, Fatima, San Giovanni Rotondo, Santiago de Compostela, Walsingham, Czetochowa, Medjugorje, Guadalupe, and the Passion Play in Oberammergau. The U.S. Catholic Directory lists more than fifty pilgrimage sites abroad. Since the 1960s, Jewish American travel to Israel and visits to Holocaust-related sites in Europe have constituted an important form of pilgrimage or pilgrimage-like practice. Synagogues and religious organizations such as United Synagogue Youth participate actively in sponsoring and organizing these trips.32 Favored destinations in Israel are the Western Wall and Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, and the Masada palace fortress on the Dead Sea. In Europe they include the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, the Warsaw Ghetto, and Ann Frank’s house. In recent years, about twelve thousand U.S. Muslims annually have performed the Hajj to Mecca and visited the mosque of Muhammad in Medina, while many more have undertaken the lesser pilgrimage (ʿumra) before or after the Hajj season. The Hajj is a duty all Muslims must perform at least once in a lifetime if they are able. Shiʿi Muslims in the United States also travel to the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala in Iraq or to Mashhad in Iran. These cities contain the shrines of Shiʿi holy figures known as the imams. Hindus travel to pilgrimage centers in India, among the most prominent of which are cities along the Ganges such as Haridwar, Prayag, and Varanasi. Sikhs go to the Golden Temple in Amritsar. U.S. Buddhists perform pilgrimages to sacred sites connected with the life of Gautama Buddha in Nepal and India.

Pilgrimages of America’s Civil Religion

Aided by the automobile and commercial airlines, more people travel to sites that fall under the umbrella of American civil religion than to those affiliated with organized religious traditions. Key identifying factors for these public sites include immediate oversight and control by governmental institutions and civic agencies from the federal to the local levels, symbolic features and narratives that invoke the interconnection of God (however clearly or ambiguously conceived) and country, memorialization of national heroes (historical and legendary) and martyrs, and the infusion—territorialization—of the natural landscape with collective patriotic significance. Although they are quite diverse and have been established in numerous locations across the country, these public sacred sites are commonly set apart from surrounding localities by legally defined, at times contested, boundaries; they are exempted from property taxes; and they are supported by public funds (in addition to donations, admission fees, and income derived from business concessions). Indeed, many have been designated state and national parks and historical sites. The National Park Service (NPS) alone currently lists over four hundred sites in the continental United States, Puerto Rico, American Guam, and Samoa, which are visited by more than three hundred million people annually.33

While most visitors to NPS locations would see themselves as tourists seeking an encounter with “pristine nature” rather than as pilgrims, their visitations nonetheless share many of the characteristics of religious pilgrimage—a sense of “crossing and dwelling” and experiencing an openness and “presence” not found in the workaday world. The parks have their own distinct sets of ritualistic practices and experts in the form of park rangers and guides who explicate the parks’ natural and sacred histories. An early description of Yosemite, America’s first national park, declared how a feeling of “vastness, sublimity, profoundness, pervades the whole soul” upon seeing a grove of redwoods there, claiming that the experience surpasses that of pilgrims visiting Mecca, Trier Cathedral in Germany, or Jagannath in India. Visitors write of being overcome by awe while beholding Yosemite Falls. The striking vista of the Grand Canyon led to it being called in an Easter service there during the 1930s the Shrine of the Ages, “an infinity that raises the mind and soul to the limitless grandeur of the whole of creation.” This designation has since become applied to a church and event center on its south rim. Remarkable features in its landscape were named after Greek and Hindu temples.34 Likewise, Yosemite has its Cathedral Peak, and the central area of Muir Woods National Monument has its Cathedral Grove of redwoods, memorialized as a “temple of peace” where delegates to the inaugural conference of the United Nations gathered to mourn the passing of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1945.35 Projection of religious and patriotic values onto the natural landscape is also in evidence at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, America’s “Shrine of Democracy,” where the colossal portraits of “some sons of God” (Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt) were sculpted into the solid granite face of a mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The divine mission of the sculptures was very much in the mind of their maker, Gutzon Borglum (d. 1941), a member of the Ku Klux Klan, who felt that they should memorialize Anglo-Saxon civilization and “have a serenity, a nobility, a power that reflects the gods who inspired them and the gods they have become.”36

The counterparts to pilgrimage experiences occurring in the context of sacred public sites administered by the NPS in natural environs are those that occur in urban settings. The foremost of these is Washington, DC, where the NPS administers thirty-six parks and historical sites. At the heart of the nation’s capital is the National Mall, which is dominated by the temple-like Capitol Building, inspired by the Capitoline temple of Jupiter in ancient Rome. It faces westward along an axis that includes the Washington Monument, based on the ancient Egyptian temple obelisk of the Pharaohs, and, at the far end, the Lincoln Memorial, where a monumental inscription declares it a “temple” to enshrine Lincoln’s memory forever. In the last century, the Mall has become a ceremonial center for many public events, including presidential inaugurations. In the 1960s, the Lincoln Memorial in particular gained renewed importance as a national icon for the civil rights movement.37

It is fitting that the Lincoln Memorial, a monument to the outcome of the Civil War, overlooks the quadrangle at the western end of the Mall where many of America’s other wars and war dead are commemorated: World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and most recently, the Vietnam War. Of all of these, it is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that has become most noteworthy as a center of U.S. secular pilgrimage since it was established in 1982. Its Memorial Wall, called “the Wall that heals” by the NPS, bears the names of more than 58,000 war casualties among the U.S. armed forces who served in Vietnam. Visitors come individually and in groups to the Wall and do rubbings of the names of friends and loved ones, or leave gifts (“offerings”) in memory of the dead.38 Many other public sites across the United States commemorate armed conflict and violence, from Pearl Harbor, the Alamo, and the Little Big Horn, to Oklahoma City, Gettysburg, and the National September 11 Memorial Museum at the site of Ground Zero in New York City. Although not all fall under NPS purview, they represent key loci in what Kenneth E. Foote has called “America’s landscapes of violence and tragedy”—places set apart and rendered sacred by pilgrimage and public rituals of memorialization.39

Although the pilgrimage sites of America’s public religion are intended to embody and generate patriotic values and national unity, their territorial claims and the power and wealth that has historically enabled these claims create a dialectic that has made them sites of contestation and protest by the displaced, the oppressed, and the forgotten. What has become evident in recent generations is that such groups have developed strategies that enable them to appropriate hallowed public ground or establish new sites, infusing them with new meanings and forms of ritualized commemoration, thereby aiming to rectify the wrongs of the past and attaining the respect of the wider U.S. public, resulting in the creation of new pilgrimage sites.

For example, while the four presidential heads were being carved on Mount Rushmore by Gutzon Borglum, members of the Lakota tribe lamented that he was desecrating the beauty of the Black Hills, their sacred homeland. They wanted him to include Crazy Horse on the monument, but he ignored the request. In the 1970s, members of the American Indian Movement occupied the site several times, seeking to subvert its patriotic meaning by declaring that it stood for the crimes committed against Native Americans by “white America.” Some called for transforming it into Mount Crazy Horse, in honor of the defender of the Black Hills and victor at the Little Big Horn. Starting in the early 1940s, however, members of the Lakota nation contracted Borglum’s assistant, Korczak Ziolkowski, to sculpt a colossal image of Crazy Horse on horseback at a nearby mountain. A memorial foundation was established and the warrior’s face was finally completed posthumously in 1998 by Ziolkowski’s wife and children. The site is now home to a Native American museum and attracts thousands annually in celebration of Native Americans Day and other cultural and touristic events.40 Wounded Knee, where more than 150 Lakota were massacred in 1890, started to become a sacred gathering point for Native American plains peoples shortly after the event occurred. The Lakota erected a survivors monument there in the 1890s. Since the late 1980s, Lakota and others have traveled there in late December on a “memorial ride” by horseback in memory of the dead, and on behalf of peace and healing for future generations.41

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Site stands as an example of how African American protests against the injustices, violence, and racism of white America gave birth to a pilgrimage site that rectifies wrongs of the past and promotes the public values of racial integration and nonviolence. Established by an act of Congress as a national historic site and administered by the NPS since 1980, the 22.4-acre complex occupies an urban neighborhood in Atlanta. Among its chief features are Martin Luther King’s birthplace (the first black home to be included on the National Register); the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was co-pastor with his father; an eternal flame; his crypt; and the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. The latter was founded by Coretta Scott King in the aftermath of King’s assassination in 1968. It receives about one million visitors a year.42 Each year in early April, the historical site hosts King Remembrance Week, featuring a full program of events and free tours, capped by a wreath-laying ceremony at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. In addition to this location, the NPS lists nearly fifty additional sites in twenty-one states that have historical importance in connection with the civil rights movement. One of those that most clearly serves as a site for pilgrimage-like gatherings and commemorative rituals is the Selma-to-Montgomery National Historical Trail, where civil rights memorial marches are held.43

Another site on the U.S. landscape of “violence and tragedy” that has become a focus of pilgrimage is the Manzanar Historical Site in central California, where more than ten thousand Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II. Former internees, families, friends, and engaged citizens began to make pilgrimages there in 1969, establishing an annual tradition that has continued into the 21st century. From 2000 to 2010, Manzanar had nearly eight hundred thousand visitors. Pilgrims participate in an interfaith memorial service, evening talks, and discussions, as well as creative performances. In recent years, they have included American Muslims and Arab Americans concerned about what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II and possible threats to their own civil rights as a consequence of the U.S. war on terrorism.44

The pilgrimages of American civil religion engage dual processes of patriotic territorialization and of pluralistic inclusion. Spatialized expressions of communal memory and human mortality constitute the underpinnings of these processes, reflecting histories of violence, injustice, and the struggle for reconciliation. That these processes are still very much at play and in contestation is evident in the appearance of new pilgrimage sites, such as the Holocaust Memorial Museum on the National Mall and the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York City.45

Pilgrimages of American Cultural Religion

Pilgrimages in this category have points of intersection with those of organized religion and civil religion, but many embody points of disjunction and resistance to them, while still bearing common structural features. The flow of pious pilgrims traveling to witness an apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the windows of an office building in Clearwater, Florida, intersects with flows traveling to Mexico City or churches in the United States where replicas of Tepeyac have been erected in her honor. Visitors to Meramec Caverns (also called “America’s Cave”), a “commercial cave” along old Route 66 in the Ozarks, are feted with a state-of-the-art multimedia tribute to the U.S. armed forces and first responders projected onto a curtain of stalactites and stalagmites, accompanied by the hymn “God Bless America.” This flow intersects with those leading to landscapes of sites administered by the NPS, where “pristine nature” is imbued with patriotic significance. The Clearwater apparition, however, does not enjoy official recognition of the Catholic Church, and the Meramec display includes biblical verses that are not usually featured at sites connected with U.S. civil religion.46 Other pilgrimages of U.S. cultural religion appeal to those disaffected with normative religion and nationalistic memorialization and are pursuing self-discovery or meaningful spiritual experience through journeying.

The rise of American pop celebrity culture during the Cold War, coupled with white middle-class consumerism, has given birth to its own pilgrimage tradition—that of Elvis Presley and his Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee. When Elvis died on August 16, 1977, fans began to gather at his mansion, giving birth to what has come to be known as Tribute Week or Elvis Week. Elvis soon became a deified pop icon, and Graceland evolved into a 13.8-acre walled shrine complex managed as a commercial enterprise that has attracted more than twenty million visitors. The heart of Graceland is its Memorial Garden, demarcated by a monumental Jesus of the Sacred Heart tombstone, Grecian columns, fountain, stained-glass windows, and angel statues. This is where Elvis was interred, with an eternal flame burning at the head of his grave. Arranged next to him in a sunburst pattern are the graves of his mother, father, and paternal grandmother. There is also a memorial plaque for his twin brother, Jesse, who died at birth. Like pilgrims to a saint’s shrine, fans from around the world leave gifts at the gravesite: flowers, memorial wreaths, stuffed animals, American flags, poems, and homemade dioramas with scenes from Elvis’s life. Elvis Week marks the high point of this popular devotionalism each year. It climaxes with a candlelight vigil on the evening of August 15, when thousands of visitors pray and listen to Bible readings, sermons, and spirituals recorded by Elvis himself, then process carrying candles to the Meditation Garden. Visitors are also invited to write graffiti on the fieldstone wall that fronts Elvis Presley Boulevard nearby. Some are obscene; many, devotional in tone: “Elvis lives!” (over a radiant cross) and “I have seen Graceland. My life is complete. Miss you terribly.” Even though many visitors deny that their devotionalism is “religious,” they attest to a sense of presence at Graceland.47

The emergence of theme parks during this same period, particularly Disneyland (opened in 1955) and Disney World (opened in 1971), has resulted in the invention of secular pilgrimage traditions that bear “staged” forms of secular celebrity myth, iconography, sacred space, and ritualized codes of conduct. Like other U.S. pilgrimages, they have been enabled by modern forms of transportation (replicated as attractions in the park landscape) and marketing. The number of “guests,” however, surpasses those for any of the U.S. pilgrimage sites falling under the “organized religion” and “civil religion” categories, with the possible exception of the National Mall. During the second decade of the 21st century Disneyland attracted nearly nineteen million visitors annually, while Disney World’s Magic Kingdom attracted more than twenty million. Human mortality and suffering are marginalized or disguised, given that these sites carry the slogans of being either “the happiest place on earth” or “the most magical place on earth.” Nevertheless, both locations, which are intentionally designed to stand apart from their environs, memorialize Walt Disney, their creator, and his fictive creatures (Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Cinderella, Snow White, etc.), as well as idealize popularly held notions of American culture (the U.S. frontier, early 20th-century small-town Main Street, and technological progress). These have been combined with thrill rides, multimedia displays, and the merchandising of souvenirs to create a lasting postmodern imaginary—what Umberto Eco and Jean Baudrillard called a “hyperreality”—in which “guests” participate and carry back home, fueling in many, especially the young, a desire to return again and again to experience a reality felt to be more real than that encountered in the quotidian world. Like major religious pilgrimage centers, the Disney theme parks have achieved global reach and evidence strategies of replication and reterritorialization. The paradigm is so successful culturally and commercially that it has been extended to locations outside the United States in Japan, Paris, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.48

Indeed, the Disney model has been so successful that it has inspired theme parks based on the Bible, most notably the Holy Land Experience in Orlando, just eleven miles from Disney World. Opened in 2001, the fifteen-acre park replicates features of Palestine’s sacred landscape, particularly Jerusalem “as Jesus saw it.” It also features staged productions of key events in the life of Jesus using white human actors dressed in costumes suited to 19th-century Orientalist stereotypes. Although the park is meant to appeal to the long-standing interest among U.S. Protestants in making a Holy Land pilgrimage, it has failed to attract large numbers of visitors and has recently weathered financial difficulties.49

Alternatively, some culturally based pilgrimages seek to intentionally break away from the trappings of organized religion, civil religion, and cultural religion pilgrimages. Rather, their participants seek authenticity and self-discovery in an egalitarian communal experience in a remote setting, where commercialism and institutional norms are suspended. This corresponds closely to the idealized liminal pilgrimage experience of existential communitas set forth in the work of Victor and Edith Turner. A prime example is what Lee Gilmore has called the “desert pilgrimage” of Burning Man, an annual week-long gathering of up to seventy thousand artists and celebrants in the Black Rock Desert of northern Nevada. Managed by a nonprofit organization, the event provides participants—some identifying themselves as pilgrims—opportunities to engage in communal acts of artistic expression while dwelling in a makeshift city erected specifically for this event. Although commerce is generally banned at the site, attendees are required to purchase admission tickets to fund the minimalist infrastructure. In addition to engaging in the production and enjoyment of “outsider” and visionary art, participants are also encouraged to support each other, exchange gifts, and join together in carnivalistic activities and performances. The week ends with the burning of a gigantic wooden human effigy on the last night and a “temple” before daybreak the next day. Celebrants are instructed to “leave no trace” on departure from the site. The total experience is expected to be transformative.50

Along similar lines, many Americans travel to a wide array of sites, or “power places,” in the country and abroad on cultural pilgrimages that emphasize individual spiritual experience. Such trips may involve many of the sites already described, but the emphasis is on the personal quest for self-discovery, existential reorientation, inner reflection, healing, or unique experience. In the 1960s, India became a popular destination. Destinations for “New Age” pilgrimage that have arisen since that time include Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico; Sedona, Arizona; and Glastonbury, United Kingdom.51American Pilgrim, a short-lived magazine published in 2005, focused on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, but also featured accounts of journeys to a Navajo site in Arizona, Wounded Knee, an ancient monastery in Ireland, and the site of the first nuclear bomb test in New Mexico. This magazine was produced by a nonprofit volunteer organization based at the College of William and Mary called American Pilgrims on the Camino, which raises funds for the Camino infrastructure, organizes pilgrim gatherings in the United States, and provides information via its website about the pilgrimage.52 Other sites outside the United States that are popular for spiritual pilgrimage by Americans include the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the Pyramids of Giza, and Stonehenge.

Another facet of American cultural pilgrimage is that of diasporic homecoming. While this can engage a number of different ethnic and immigrant groups, it is particularly meaningful for African Americans searching for their pre-slavery roots in Africa. Many have drawn inspiration from Alex Haley’s book Roots (1976), a multigeneration narrative about an African slave and his descendants. Key sites for their pilgrimages include slave camps, dungeons, graveyards, museums, and fortress warehouses on the coasts of Ghana and Gambia, where enslaved captives were gathered for the Middle Passage to America.53

The phenomenon of African American heritage pilgrimage leads to the question of cultural pilgrimages to sites in the United States that engage participants in commemorating, reconciling, or seeking to rectify violent or tragic events. The histories of the establishment of the Martin Luther King Jr., Vietnam Veterans, Manzanar, and 9/11 memorials as sites of civic pilgrimage point to origins in U.S. cultural religious practice. People customarily respond to sites of tragic events with floral tributes, candlelight vigils, colored ribbons, balloons, stuffed animals, memorial plaques, and the like. When a community or group within the society recognizes that a traumatic act of violence or injustice has occurred, the processes of commemoration, public grieving, protest, and visitation at the site of the event can crescendo over time and lead to long-term commemorative and pilgrimage practices and even, in some instances, to the establishment of that site as a civic landmark, which in turn incurs greater visibility and visitation. How these processes operate, what organizations and agencies promote or regulate them, who participates in them, and whether in fact they actually lead to the formation of a pilgrimage, or fail to do so, is a topic that warrants closer study in relation to specific localities. Oftentimes the electronic and social media can play a significant role in these processes.

Primary Sources

Hanumadas, Marella L., ed. A Pilgrimage to Hindu Temples in North America. Flushing: The Council of Hindu Temples of North America, 1994.Find this resource:

Morgan, J. Anthony. Pilgrim’s Guide to America: U.S. Catholic Shrines and Centers of Devotion. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 1992.Find this resource:

Official Catholic Directory 2009–2010 Pilgrimage Destinations Guide. Berkeley Heights, NJ: P. J. Kenedy and Sons, n.d.Find this resource:

Further Reading

Davidson, Linda Kay, and David Gitlitz. Pilgrimage from the Ganges to Graceland: An Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2002.Find this resource:

Doss, Erica. “Rock and Roll Pilgrims: Reflections on Ritual, Religiosity, and Race at Graceland.” In Shrines and Pilgrimage in the Modern World: New Itineraries into the Sacred. Edited by Peter Jan Margry, 123–142. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2008.Find this resource:

Foote, Kenneth E.Shadowed Ground: America’s Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997.Find this resource:

Gitlitz, David M., and Linda Kay Davidson. Pilgrimage and the Jews. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2006.Find this resource:

Glass, Matthew. “Producing Patriotic Inspiration at Mount Rushmore.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 62.2 (Sumer 1994): 265–283.Find this resource:

Linenthal, Edward T.Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991.Find this resource:

Meyer, Jeffrey F.Myths in Stone: Religious Dimensions of Washington, DC. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001.Find this resource:

Michalowski, Raymond J., and Jill Dubisch. Run for the Wall: Remembering Vietnam on a Motorcycle Pilgrimage. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001.Find this resource:

Orsi, Robert. History and Presence. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Peña, Elaine. Performing Piety: Making Space Sacred with the Virgin of Guadalupe. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Prorok, Carolyn V. “Transplanting Pilgrimage Traditions in the Americas.” Geographical Review 93.3 (July 2003): 283–307.Find this resource:

Reader, Ian. Pilgrimage: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Rinschede, Gisbert, and S. M. Bhardwaj, eds. Pilgrimage in the United States. Geographia Religionum 5. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1990.Find this resource:

Ross-Bryant, Lynn. Pilgrimage to the National Parks: Religion and Nature in the United States. New York: Routledge, 2013.Find this resource:

Timothy, Dallen J., and Daniel H. Olsen, eds. Tourism, Religion and Spiritual Journeys. London: Routledge, 2006.Find this resource:

Turner, Victor, and Edith Turner. Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture: Anthropological Perspectives. New York: Columbia University Press, 1978.Find this resource:

Tweed, Thomas. “John Wesley Slept Here: American Shrines and American Methodists.” Numen 47 (2000): 47–68.Find this resource:

Tweed, Thomas. America’s Church: The National Shrine and Catholic Presence in the Nation’s Capital. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Notes:

(1.) Victor Turner, “The Center Out There: Pilgrim’s Goal,” History of Religions 12.3 (1973): 191–230.

(2.) Thomas Tweed, Crossing and Dwelling: A Theory of Religion (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006).

(3.) My understanding of processes of territorialization and reterritorialization is guided by the work of Sam D. Gill and Jonathan Z. Smith, together with the concept of deterritorialization as developed by Gilles Deleuze and Feliz Guattari, followed by Arjun Appadurai. See Gill, “Territory,” in Critical Terms for Religious Studies, ed. Mark C. Taylor (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 298–313; Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987); and Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996).

(4.) A good survey of pilgrimages in the major religious traditions can be found in Simon Coleman and John Eisner, Pilgrimage Past and Present in the World Religions (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995).

(5.) See Linda Kay Davidson and David Gitlitz, “Native American Religions and Pilgrimage,” in Pilgrimage from the Ganges to Graceland: Encyclopedia (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2002), 431–434. The first European-based pilgrimage site on what would become the continental United States was the Catholic shrine of Our Lady of La Leche in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1620.

(6.) Michael A. Di Giovine, “Pilgrimage: Communitas and Contestation, Unity and Difference, an Introduction,” Tourism Review 59.3 (2011): 247–269; and Victor Turner and Edith Turner, Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture: Perspectives (New York: Columbia University Press, 1978), 20.

(7.) This typology of U.S. pilgrimages was first presented in an earlier publication by the author. Juan Eduardo Campo, “American Pilgrimage Landscapes,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 558 (July 1998): 40–56. and updated portions of that publication have been included in this article. draws upon a three-fold description of America’s religious landscape proposed by Catherine Albanese; see America: and Religions, 5th ed. (Boston: Wadsworth, 2012), 290–300.

(8.) On the idea of “real presence” in modern religious life in the United States, see Robert A. Orsi, History and Presence (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016).

(9.) A formal listing of Catholic pilgrimage sites can be found in The Official Catholic Directory 2009–2010 Pilgrimage Destinations Guide (Berkeley Heights, NJ: P. J. Kenedy and Sons, n. d.). Figure cited here is based on the listing found on the list of Catholic Pilgrimage Sites. Thomas Tweed states that there were more than 360 in the 1990s, citing J. Anthony Morgan, Pilgrim’s Guide to America: U.S. Catholic Shrines and Centers of Devotion (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 1992). See Thomas Tweed, “John Wesley Slept Here: American Shrines and American Methodists,” Numen 47 (2000): 50.

(10.) Thomas Tweed, America’s Church: The National Shrine and Catholic Presence in the Nation’s Capital (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011); and Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

(11.) Paolo Giuriati, Phyllis M. G. Myers, and Martin E. Donach. “Pilgrims to ‘Our Lady of the Snows,’ Belleville, Illinois in the Marian Year: 1987–1988,” in Pilgrimage in the United States, eds. Gisbert Rinschede and S. M. Bhardwaj, Geographia Religionum 5 (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1990), 149–192.

(14.) Robert Orsi, “The Center out There, in Here, and Everywhere Else: The Nature of Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Saint Jude, 1929–1965,” Journal of Social History 25 (1991): 213–232. Also see the National Shrine of St. Jude.

(15.) Orsi, “Center out There, 219–220.” Also see the National Shrine of St. Jude.

(16.) According to traditional accounts, she appeared to Juan Diego, a Mexican peasant at Tepeyac in 1531 and a small shrine was erected in her honor shortly thereafter. Scholarly consensus holds that the devotion did not really spread beyond Mexico City until the 1570s. See Louise Burk, “The Cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico,” in South and Meso-American Native Spirituality, eds. Gary H. Gossen and Miguel Léon-Portilla (New York: Crossroad Press, 1993), 198–227; and D. A. Brading, Mexican Phoenix: Our Lady of Guadalupe: Image and Tradition across Five Centuries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

(17.) Elaine Peña, “Guadalupan Sacred Space Production and Mobilization in a Chicago Suburb,” American Quarterly 60.3 (September 2008): 721–747; and Peña’s book, Performing Piety: Making Space Sacred with the Virgin of Guadalupe (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2011) expands on her article by placing the Des Plaines pilgrimage in relation to the one of the Guadalupe Basilica in Mexico City. For a parallel example, where exile is more of a factor, see Thomas A. Tweed, Our Lady of Exile: Diasporic Religion at a Cuban Catholic Shrine in Miami, rev. ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)

(18.) Deidre Sklar, Dancing with the Virgin: Body and Faith in the Fiesta of Tortugas, New Mexico (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001), and Native America in the Twentieth Century: An Encyclopedia, ed. Mary B. Davis (New York: Garland, 1994). An instructive video, “Tortugas Pueblo: Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” is available on YouTube.

(19.) Manuel A. Vásquez and Marie Friedman Marquardt, Globalizing the Sacred: Religion across the Americas (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2003), 85–91.

(20.) Sam Howarth and Enrique R. Lamadrid, Pilgrimage to Chimayo: Contemporary Portrait of a Living Tradition (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1999), and El Santuario de Chimayo.

(21.) D. J. Davies, “Pilgrimage in Mormon Culture,” in Social Anthropology of Pilgrimage, ed. Makhan Jha (New Delhi: Inter-India, 1990), 312–314; Catherine L. Albanese, America: Religion and Religions, 3d ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1999), 224–228; Daniel H. Olsen, “Tourism and Informal Pilgrimage among Ladder-Day Saints,” in Tourism, Religion and Spiritual Journey, eds. Dallen J. Timothy and Daniel H. Olsen (London: Routledge, 2006), 254–270; and David Walker, “Transporting Mormonism: Railroads and Religious Sensation in the American West,” in Sensational Religion: Sensory Cultures in Material Practice, ed. Sally M. Promey (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014), 581–603.

(22.) Davies, “Pilgrimage in Mormon Culture,” 318–320; and Albanese, America, 229. Not all LDS destinations are temples, however. For more details on LDS sacred and touristic sites, see Olson, “Tourism and Informal Pilgrimage,” and the “Places to Visit” page at the LDS website.

(23.) Richard H. Jackson, Gisbert Rinschede, and Jill Knapp, “Pilgrimage in the Mormon Church,” in Pilgrimage in the United States, eds. Gisbert Rinschede and S. M. Bhardwaj, Geographia Religionum 5 (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1990), 42; and Pew Research Center, “Religious Beliefs and Practices,” in Mormons in America—Certain in Their Beliefs, Uncertain of Their Place in Society, January 12, 2012.

(24.) See Hillary Kael, Walking Where Jesus Walked: American Christians and the Holy Land Pilgrimage (New York: New York University Press, 2014); Stephanie Stidham Rogers, Inventing the Holy Land: American Protestant Pilgrimage in Palestine, 1865–1941 (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2011); and Olson, “Tourism and Informal Pilgrimage among Ladder-Day Saints,” 262–263.

(25.) The pilgrimage portion of the Washington National Cathedral’s website is placed in its “Experience the Cathedral” section. There is need for in-depth scholarship about the history of the cathedral, its place in American public life, and the kinds of beliefs and practices it promotes.

(26.) The sites are listed in Tweed, “John Wesley Slept Here,” appendix A, 67–68.

(27.) An attempt at surveying Jewish pilgrimage-like travel in the United States and abroad can be found in Dimitri Ioannides and Mara W. Cohen, “Pilgrimages of Nostalgia: Patterns of Jewish Travel in the United States,” Tourism Recreation Research 27.2 (2002): 17–25.

(28.) Simon Dein, “A Messiah from the Dead: Cultural Performance in Lubavitcher Messianism,” Social Compass 27.4 (12/2010): 537–554; and Chabad Lubavitch Headquarters, The Ohel website.

(29.) Marella L. Hanumadas, ed., A Pilgrimage to Hindu Temples in North America (Flushing, NY: The Council of Hindu Temples of North America, 1994); Vasudha Narayanan, “Sacred Land, Sacred Service: Hindu Adaptations to the American Landscape,” in A Nation of Religions: The Politics of Pluralism in Multi-religious America, ed. S. Prothero (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 139–159; and Vasudha Narayanan, “United States,” Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism, eds. Knut A. Jacobsen, Helene Basu, Angelika Malinar, and Vasudha Narayanan (Leiden: Brill, 2009)

(30.) Frank J. Korom, “The Presence of Absence: Using Stuff in a Contemporary South Asian Sufi Movement,” Austrian Academy of Sciences Working Papers in Sociology 23 (2012): 1–19; Merin Shobhana Xavier and William Rory Dickson, “Négociation du sacré à Philadelphie: soufismes concurrents au sactuaire de Bawa Muhaiyaddeen,” Social Compass 42.4 (2015): 584–597; Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship.

(31.) Lester I. Vogel, To See a Promised Land: Americans and the Holy Land in the Nineteenth Century (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993); and Hilton Obinzinger, American Palestine: Melville, Twain, and the Holy Land Mania (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999).

(32.) David M. Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson, Pilgrimage and the Jews (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2006).

(34.) Lynn Ross-Bryant, Pilgrimage to the National Parks: Religion and Nature in the United States (New York: Routledge, 2013), 36, 91, 95–101.

(35.) Kerry Mitchell, Spirituality and the State: Managing Nature and Experience in America’s National Parks (New York: New York University Press, 2016), 131–164; and NPS Muir Woods National Monument Website.

(36.) Matthew Glass, “Producing Patriotic Inspiration at Mount Rushmore,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 62 (1994): 265–283; NPS Mount Rushmore.

(37.) Jeffrey F. Meyer, Myths in Stone: Religious Dimensions of Washington, D.C. (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001).

(38.) Kristin Ann Hass, Carried to the Wall: American Memory and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998). Tens of thousands of offerings have been left at the Wall, which are collected and stored by the NPS. A replica of the Wall itself is transported around the country to make it accessible to those unable to travel to Washington, and permanent replicas have been built in Florida, New Jersey, and Kansas. An account of a secular ritualized journey to the Wall can be found in Raymond J. Michalowski and Jill Dubisch, Run for the Wall: Remembering Vietnam on a Motorcycle Pilgrimage (Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001).

(39.) Kenneth E. Foote, Shadowed Ground: America’s Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003 [1997]). Also see Edward T. Linenthal, Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991); Edward T. Linenthal, The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003); and Geoffrey M. White, “National Subjects: September 11 and Pearl Harbor,” American Ethnologist 31.3 (2004): 293–310.

(40.) Matthew Glass, “‘Alexander’s All’: Symbols of Conquest and Resistance at Mount Rushmore,” in American Sacred Space, eds. David Chidester and Edward T. Linenthal (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 152–186; and Crazy Horse Memorial.

(41.) David W. Grua, Surviving Wounded Knee: The Lakotas and the Politics of Memory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016); Davidson and Glitz, Pilgrimage, s.v. “Wounded Knee,” 687–688; Healing Hearts at Wounded Knee. Pine Ridge, the site of the Wounded Knee memorial, is an Oglala Lakota reservation. The massacre site is currently listed as a national historical landmark; one of the aims of the memorial ride has been to have Wounded Knee declared a national monument.

(44.) Joanne Doi, “Bridge to Compassion: Theological Pilgrimage to Tule Lake and Manzanar,” PhD diss., Graduate Theological Union, 2007; Gary Y. Okihiro, ed., Encyclopedia of Japanese American Internment, s.v. “Manzanar Pilgrimage” (Santa Barbara: Greenwood, 2013); Manzanar Committee; and National Park Service, Manzanar Pilgrimage.

(45.) Edward T. Linenthal, Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create American’s Holocaust Museum (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001); Jennifer Hansen-Glucklich, Holocaust Memory Reframed: Museums and the Challenges of Representation (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2014); and Molly Hurley and James Trimaco, “Morality and Merchandise: Vendors, Visitors, and Police at New York City’s Ground Zero,” Critique of Anthropology 21.1 (2004): 51–78.

(46.) For more on the Clearwater apparition, see Manuel A. Vázquez and Marie F. Marquardt, “Globalizing the Rainbow Madonna: Old Time Religion in the Present Age,” Theory, Culture and Society 17.4 (2000): 119–143. Scholarly literature on Meramec Caverns is lacking, however. The biblical verse displayed in the multimedia show is 2 Chron. 7:14, which promises forgiveness and healing for a repentant people and their land. The cave also hosts an Easter sunrise service and an annual gospel music festival.

(47.) J. W. Davidson, Alfred Hecht, and Herbert A. Whitney, “The Pilgrimage to Graceland,” in Pilgrimage in the United States, eds. Gisbert Rinschede and S. M. Bhardwaj, Geographia Religionum 5 (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1990), 229–252; Gary Vikan, “Graceland as Locus Sanctus,” in Elvis + Marilyn: 2 x Immortal, ed. Geri DePaoli (New York: Rizzoli, 1994), 150–166; and Erica Doss, “Rock and Roll Pilgrims: Reflections on Ritual, Religiosity, and Race at Graceland,” in Shrines and Pilgrimage in the Modern World: New Itineraries into the Sacred, ed. Peter Jan Margry (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2008), 123–142. Graceland is administered by Elvis Presley Enterprises and was listed as a National Historical Site in 2006.

(48.) David Lyon, Jesus in Disneyland: Religion in Postmodern Times (Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press, 2000); and Kathy Merlock Jackson and Mark I. West, Disneyland and Culture: Essays on the Parks and Their Influence (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2011). See also Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality (Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace, 1986); and Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, trans. Sheila Faria Glaser (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995).

(49.) Ian Reader, Pilgrimage in the Marketplace (New York: Routledge, 2014), 186–187.

(50.) Burning Man started as a countercultural celebration of the summer equinox at a beach in San Francisco in 1986. It moved to Black Rock in 1990 because of city zoning issues and the attraction of a desert artists gathering at the Nevada site. See Lee Gilmore, Theater in a Crowded Fire: Ritual and Spirituality at Burning Man (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010); and Jennifer Raiser, Burning Man: Art on Fire (New York: Race Point Publishing, 2016).

(51.) Adrian Ivakhiv, “Nature and Self in New Age Pilgrimage,” Culture and Religion 4.1 (2003): 93–118; and Ian Reader, Pilgrimage: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 111–114.

(52.) On the modern pilgrimage to Compostela, see Nancy Louise Frey, Pilgrim Stories: On and Off the Road to Santiago (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998). The writings of Paolo Coelho have helped popularize this pilgrimage significantly. See Americans on the Camino.

(53.) Katharina Schraam, African Homecoming: Pan-African Ideology and Contested Heritage (Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2010); and Ann Reed, Pilgrimage Tourism of Diaspora Africans to Ghana (New York: Routledge, 2014).