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“That You Cannot See Them Comes Only From An Impossibility:” Women And Non-Corporeal Pilgrimage

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores women's participation in three varieties of non-corporeal pilgrimage. The first, proxy pilgrimage, posed the largest economic challenge to the would-be pilgrim. In this ritual, another person's travel was sponsored by the non-corporeal pilgrim, and the spiritual benefits of the pilgrimage were conferred upon the sponsor. In another form of non-corporeal pilgrimage, devotees sought and kept small objects that had either visited a shrine or been collected or produced there, and were carried back home by fleshly pilgrims. These objects were thought to carry some of the benefits of a visit to the shrine back to the stationary devotee. Finally, devotional guides of the later Middle Ages advised their readers on how to perform a non-corporeal pilgrimage through prayer and imagination alone. These spiritual pilgrimages could be conducted at no cost and no risk, and hence might have been ideal for women who sought the benefits of pilgrimage.

Keywords: devotional guides; later Middle Ages; non-corporeal pilgrimage; proxy pilgrimage; women



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