The Pilgrim’s Stones
By Rosaura Sanz-Rincón
The stone, a symbol of permanence through time, strength, and security, has been used by many cultures throughout history to highlight important places. In Buddhist and Taoist traditions, ephemeral stone accumulations represent balance. In recent years, we have seen that the creation of these burial mounds has become a trend in touristic sites, and even in some places, this kind of manifestation is forbidden for the ecological damage that it implies.
These stone burial mounds, more than being just an ephemeral trend for some, are a symbol of human expression towards the place. In the bible, we can read how the dedication to some places is sealed with a stone commemoration. The book of Genesis talks about Jacob’s dream, where he would receive the Lord’s promise and blessing of his descendants. When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, “Truly, the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it!”. He took the stone that he had put under his head, set it up as a sacred pillar, and poured oil on top of it. And he named that place Bethel, which means “house of God” (Gn.28:10-22).
Also, when Joshua made a covenant at Shechem, he took a large stone and set it up there under the sanctuary of the LORD as a witness of the covenant with the Lord: And Joshua said to all the people, “This stone shall be our witness, for it has heard all the words which the LORD spoke to us. It shall be a witness against you, should you wish to deny your God.” (Jos. 24:25-27).
In Magdala, the walking paths for tourists and pilgrims are covered with gravel, and small white and black stones, are placed over the archeological floors to protect the site and allow visitor access.
Sometimes we have seen how visitors throw these little gravel stones into the site, at times, they do it to get to know the depth of the ritual baths, or maybe as a response to an involuntary or impulsive reaction. Nevertheless, when walking through the site, we have seen «little stones» placed with an intentional purpose, in places with no apparent relation with the touristic route or logical sense (like getting to know the archeological depth), and not as a reflex or behavior imitation from other visitors. This placement of little stones is not a modern trend, these little stones are commemorative stones, like Joshua and Jacob’s stone. These stones are a thought, a covenant, a show of gratitude, a prayer.
Dear pilgrim, if you have ever asked yourself if these actions are long-lasting or if your intention is been noticed, yes, your actions are long-lasting, your intentions are noticed, even if they are through a little stone. We, the Magdala Family, see it, we know and embrace your intentions. Thank you for your visit, and for placing your little stone.