While pilgrimage sites may be sparked by historical events, their meaning is created by their accompanying narratives. A pilgrimage site becomes sacred to visitors not merely because of scripture, or supposed religious facts, but also because of social and psychological contexts. It is their winning narrative that supplies meaning and a framework for understanding. Without such narratives, it is conceivable that some pilgrimage sites would not have gained their enduring popularity and international appeal. This article not only describes a few instances of such sites rising to fame, but also the philosophy behind a winning narrative.

The idea that narrative can construct the Identity of a place is based on the notion that a story can supply meaning by unifying discrete, and otherwise disjointed events, into a coherent account (McAdams, 2013). While the concept of narrative identity is most often associated with personal psychology (Hammack, 2011; Nussbaum, 1990), the authors of this paper find analogies between the function of narrative in personal psychology, and in pilgrimage. These analogies are applied to pilgrimage to illustrate how narratives function at pilgrimage sites to unite events with historical, religious, personal, cultural and political contexts. A pilgrimage narrative forms the framework for how people and institutions understand their roles and motivations, and thus how they will act, respond, and experience things.

The authors identify five features that make some narratives more successful than others, claiming that ‘winning narratives’ are so powerful that a sacred site or shrine’s establishment and development could not have done without it, or at least, would not have enjoyed the rate of success in visitor numbers in comparison to similar sites that lacked a winning narrative and enjoyed therefore less popularity and visitors. The five features of a winning narrative are here illustrated with examples.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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