Many faiths of the real world have their pilgrimages. Journeys of both physical and spiritual significance for the believers. The Road to Compostela, St. James Way being one example, the Hajj another. Fantasy worlds should have one or a few as well, depending on the religious beliefs in place. Don't have one in your your world? Write one up. They can add verisimilitude to any given divinity or cult, and help paint the canvas geographically and culturally. These pilgrimages can involve anything you can dream up. They can be simple (tame), just adding color to some religion, like the one below, or they can be outlandish. Perhaps the pilgrimage of Thuurtu, god of War, invloves his followers having to literally pass across three active battlefields, in mid-fight, once in their life-times, and so on.
This is one from my world.
The One True Faith acknowledges many venerated saints, and this is one such journey, undertaken by the followers of St. Cled, a great holy man in his time, said to be responsible for four recorded miracles. Although the world-unifying religion is only thirteen hundred years old, quite a new religion as far as worship goes; there exists a much-travelled “path”, a spiritual and physical journey across many leagues, which the faithful, the monks, priests, and lay worshippers travel upon, usually once every fourth year. During this journey, the throngs of pilgrims and penitents, sing hymns and pray loudly, as they make their way across several kingdoms and baronies, six hundred miles from Old Drozhenen in the frozen north, to the Mountain of the Hundred Angels and the Shrine of St. Cled, first of his name.
The journey must be undertaken on foot.
The Four Miracles of St. Cled
Silpag’s Onion Fields, where St. Cled stopped to console and pray with a farmer wracked with sorrow, and it was there the Saints tears seeped into the earth.
Silpag does not look like much from the road, a dismal town of nary two thousand souls, and it proves to be unimpressive once its gates are entered as well. A gray, bland place of deeply religious, yet peculiarly morbid people, Silpag’s single claim to fame, and the sole reason for it being a stop along the One True Path, is a rather small, inconspicuous farmer’s patch of onions, two miles west of the actual town. It is said that when Cled first passed Silpag, he had stopped at a field and spoke with a farmer who was pulling up onions from the soil and crying. Cled inquired as to the man’s grief, and the farmer exclaimed that bands of savage pagans had earlier raided his stead, and had violated his daughters, and then left, and that he had felt powerless to do anything alone against the bandits in retribution. Cled listened and took pity, and cried with the man in turn, and a miracle occurred it is said, and to this day, over a thousand years later, this small onion patch has produced robust crops of the aromatic vegetable, without being planted or cared for by anyone, as this farmstead has long since been abandoned and the land, as does much of Silpag, belongs to the Church now. And it is said, that before Cled’s Third Miracle occurred, the onions of Silpag had been sweet, but since, they make those that eat them cry tears of sorrow. Pilgrims on “The Path” come to the Onion Fields to contemplate and to taste of the onions, and to cry tears in remembrance of Cled and the farmer. Silpag’s inns meanwhile, look forward with great anticipation to the arrival of the pilgrim droves, every four years. The faithful come by the thousands in scattered travelling groups, and the establishments of dust-worn Silpag swell to capacity, providing the town with much needed currency.
The Ulox, and the Unbreakable Glass Church, where St. Cled stopped to inquire of the populace as to why no temple to the One True Faith did stand.
When he was told that three temples had been built over the years and each one destroyed by enemies or great storms in turn, St. Cled thought for a long time, and told the people to build a temple once more, but this time of glass, and told them further that if their faith remained strong, the temple would remain indestructible. And indestructible it has been henceforth, a transparent chapel on a hill, upon a small isle in the middle of a storm-tossed lake. The pilgrims passing through, along their journey, will stay at least the night upon rowing out to the island of the Ulox. The prayer services to St. Cled and the Faith are indeed held at night and during the fiercest storms, entirely safe from the raging elements outside.
Bells of Old Drozhenen, where St. Cled stayed for a time
And where the ringing bells of the cathedral were said to mesmerize the saint, and it was further said that he heard the voice of the True Faith, through the ringing, and it was this voice that compelled him to follow the path, that now centuries later his faithful re-enact every four years. When pilgrims reach Old Drozhenen, the dour locals ignore them for the most part, but all join together in the three-hour long “Tolling of the Bells” in honor of St. Cled at midnight on the anniversary day of St. Cled’s departure from the city.
Mountain of the Hundred Angels and the Shrine of St. Cled, upon its summit St. Cled lay down to die after performing his fourth and final miracle.
The Saint petitioned the skies and rain came, saving the villages surrounding the mountain, thus granting them salvation from a great drought. And it is said, a hundred angels flew down from the skies to usher the priest’s soul into the heavens. Centuries later a particularly pious arch-duke had one hundred man-sized statues of angels carved into the very mountain itself, to mark the holiness of this place, and commemorate the Faith’s most popular Saint. Later still, a small shrine was built at the base of the mountain to allow the holy faithful on pilgrimage a locus point for their journey.
These days, condors and ravens haunt the summit where St. Cled’s stone shrine stands, surrounded by half-broken statues of fractured angels, over-grown with mountain heather and wild thyme. The pilgrims climb to this summit to end their long journey of self-discovery and faith, and contemplate St. Cled and the heavens above.
Game note: It would not be overly difficult to involve the PCs in one of these moving plot-lines, the easiest way of course would be having the priest or monk PC of the group, have to under-take just such a journey as per their particular faith’s doctrines. The other PCs can be along for the ride, or even hired as protection by those less than few, well-off pilgrims. And of course, anythng can happen along the way to vex the slow-moving host of the faithful. In closing, every good fantasy religion should have a pilgrimage attached to it, detailing people, places, and things along the way, mundane or otherwsie.