The Modern Pilgrim:


Following a brief sketch of a theoretical framework the author examines a selection of contemporary Dutch pilgrims’ accounts. With the help of a model of analysis an attempt is made to interpret the accounts as 'biographical stories of experiences', at both a textual and contextual level. Three clusters, with the help of which the analytical material can be ordered for an analysis of contents, could - in the opinion of the author - be listed as follows under the supportive and binding denominator of 'experience of contrast' and 'self-presentation': a/ the ritual, the journey, pilgrim-beingness; b/ meeting, relations; c/ the past. The theme of 'involvement with the past ' is more closely examined, especially within the framework of the so called musealisation of culture. In the ritual of pilgrimage the past is used, invoked and deployed. The ritual extends to a sort of 'vessel-ritual' that may be filled according to individual necessities: it is a 'vessel-ritual' that is attractive because it is 'traditional'. But beside or in this aspect of continuity and tradition, innovation is also involved. In the corpus of pilgrim's accounts we find a completely new and emerging type of pilgrim and pilgrimage in the sense of a new function and appropriation. Through a detour to the past, one seeks identity and quality of life through a series of contrasting experiences. The article concludes with some comments on the 'proportion of tradition', popular culture and European ethnology, and on the (Dutch) terminology of 'pelgrimage'/'bedevaart'.

How to Cite

Post, P., (1994) “The Modern Pilgrim:”, Ethnologia Europaea 24(1), 85-100. doi:


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Paul Post (The Liturgical Institute of the Theological Faculty of Tilburg)



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