Over the years, I’ve been developing a way of travelling that’s a kind of hybrid between pilgrimage and vacation. I go nice places and do things that appeal to me, but there is usually an religious slant to both the destinations I choose and what I do there. I’ve been absent from WordPress for the last few weeks precisely because I’ve been on such a voyage. My mother had been wanting to see France and Italy, and enlisted me as both a travelling companion and a facilitator of travel plans. (This is, of course, an delightful charge for a devotee of Mercury.) I was therefore able to work into our itinerary a considerable stay in Auvergne—sacred ground to the Gallic Mercury—as well as a Swiss leg of the journey, where I could pay my respects to the goddess Aventia and visit the Gallo-Roman museum at Avenches. Along the way, we passed through a number of places whose names even now recall that of Brigantia, including Brienz, Brig and Brianza, where I offered Brigantia my prayers and devotion. We also visited the crypt below Notre-Dame-de-Paris, where the Pilier des Nautes was found, as well as the Musée de Cluny which now houses those noble fragments of our ancient religion. There I beheld again the images of Cernunnos and Esus—the only ones that mention them by name—among the other sacred relics.
This time, I did not ascend the Puy de Dôme—that magnificent volcano overlooking Clermont-Ferrand, on whose summit the Arverni piously built a lavishly endowed temple of Mercury. (Their descendants, less piously but perhaps fittingly, have put up a TV and radio communications antenna on the site.) I passed by it twice, however, and both times offered my prayers to Mercury Dumias. And not without return, as you shall hear. The energy in that part of the world is simply electrifying. I mentioned this to the owner of the gîte where we were saying, and starting to comment on the air there, he immediately supplied the adjective, “Vif.” The very word.
I did, however, ascend the rock of Aiguille in the Velay—now called Saint-Michel-d’Aiguille, and thought to preserve the memory of a sacred place of Mercury, like so many of the Saint-Michels of Europe. Working on that probability, I climbed to the top up 82 metres of stairs (built for pilgrims on their way to Santiago to Compostela), circumambulated the summit, offered my usual prayers to Mercury, and poured out an offering of whiskey at an appropriate-looking spot. Just at that moment—no joke—a thunderclap sounded out of the clear blue sky. I took this as quite a favourable omen, even while thinking that it might be, perhaps, a cannon that always went off for some reason at that time of day. That wasn’t it, however—the woman down at the ticket booth, who had worked there for 19 years, had never heard any such sound before, and had no idea what it might be. Had it really been so long since Mercury had received an offering on this summit that had been sacred to him?
Our plan was to pass through Lugano as well as the Val Camonica. The alphabet of Lugano is the earliest in which a Celtic language is known to have been written, while the Val Camonica has the earliest depictions—in the form of Neolithic rock art—of Cernunnos or a god closely resembling him. Events conspired to keep us from the Val Camonica, but I was able, at the Lake of Lugano, to pray to the gods who once favoured my ancestors there to favour myself, my family and those dear to me.
My mother, in fact, had broken her wrist—and on the very day on which I had received such a favourable omen on the rock of Aiguille. This caused me considerable anxiety, as you might imagine—on her own account, above all, but also with regard to the religious work I had been doing. Had I misunderstood the omen? Was this not an odd return for such a prayer? Two nights’ stay in the hospital and a surgical intervention ensued. My mother’s spirits were excellent; the operation went without a hitch; the hospital’s care was practically impeccable and the staff superb; the cost was literally nothing (thanks to her forethought in buying travellers’ insurance). We were discharged almost without inconvenience—she’s been in a brace, not a cast, and never needed any stronger painkiller than tylenol. Even the hotel whose reservations we needed to change did so without fuss, and without charging us the penalty that we were technically due.
When my mother related all this to a relative over the phone—one who is not polytheist, and is unaware that I am—the said relative’s spontaneous remark was, “Well, the god of travel has sure been looking out for you.”
Aha. Out of the mouths of babes.
In the meantime, I had had the pleasure of requiting my vow to Apollo Borvo in case the operation went well—and doing so at a local waterfall, tucked away from the roads—a very special place clearly favoured by some gods or other. I offered them my humble prayers as well.
Fortunate indeed am I to be in the presence of such gods, and to receive their providential blessings.