Tokens left on a fictional pilgrimage?
May 1, 2014 10:33 AM   Subscribe

I'm drawing a short comic in which two characters visit a site that has significance to many different kinds of people, for both religious and secular reasons. I want for there to be a cluster of items that previous visitors have left behind, but I'm having trouble thinking of anything outside of my own (northeastern urban American) experience.

If it matters, it's not a memorial for someone who died, more like an important marker of history and a cultural touchstone. The "pilgrims" leaving these tokens would come from many different cultural and religious backgrounds, so basically everything is game.
posted by Narrative Priorities to Society & Culture (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
maybe something like an inuksuk?
posted by lizifer at 10:36 AM on May 1, 2014

written messages in a variety of languages
votive candles
posted by jquinby at 10:46 AM on May 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Beads, scarves, baby shoes, flowers, photographs, jewelry, bones, chains and shackles, tools, bags of unidentified objects, jars of unidentified liquids, food items, notes, watches, navigational equipment (sextant or compass), hair, animal skulls, stones.
posted by Flood at 10:49 AM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

maybe something like an inuksuk? the people will know we were here....

I was thinking something more individual, something that meant something to each individual. A driver's licence, for example. Leaving some 'part of themselves' behind, if you know what I mean. Depending on the nature of the site, it may lend itself to symbolic items. For example, if it was symbolic of the end of an unjust law perhaps someone leaves behind a symbol of having that law abolished. (ie. Previous they had been barred from owning a house, they leave behind a door knob from the house they just bought.)
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:50 AM on May 1, 2014

Perhaps some things representing the Scottish First Footing tradition for celebrating the new year - a lump of coal, a bottle of whisky, etc. Arriving for the first time at a new at a significant location has a similar flavour to welcoming the new year.
posted by Jabberwocky at 10:58 AM on May 1, 2014

Origami cranes?
posted by marginaliana at 11:06 AM on May 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Perhaps a shell, like the symbol of the Camino de Santiago.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 11:19 AM on May 1, 2014

Atop Medicine Mountain in the Bighorn Mountains of Montana there is an ancient stone circle called the Medicine Wheel. Native visitors to the site often leave items bundled in colorful cloth and tied to the rope fence that surrounds the wheel.
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:23 AM on May 1, 2014

Finger bones
Clay/Paper models of food animals
Clay/Paper models of people with injuries back home
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:29 AM on May 1, 2014

Locks of hair, military medals and ribbons, sports awards, game balls, seeds
posted by maggieb at 11:48 AM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Outside of Canada, the sure way to tell if Canadians have been hiking a trail is the presence of an Inuksuk. They're typically built on rocky banks or gravel bars in streams. You see them in the most surprising places.
posted by bonehead at 11:52 AM on May 1, 2014

Prayers tied to tree branches.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:04 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Rice wrapped in banana leaf, incense sticks, flower petals, old coins, fruit.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 12:27 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

an avant-garde theater professor at my undergraduate alma mater used to write and stage plays in outdoor locations. one time, he procured several thousand pairs of shoes, just lying on the ground in pairs, as props. we were suitably impressed.
posted by bruce at 12:41 PM on May 1, 2014

Candy, fresh cigarettes, honeycombs, seashells, black chalk marks indicating of a prayer has been fulfilled
posted by spunweb at 1:18 PM on May 1, 2014

Cigarettes and gin. Padlocks. Shells. Domino pieces. Flints. Blood.
posted by glasseyes at 2:17 PM on May 1, 2014

Coins under water and small images pinned on tree branches.
posted by Tobu at 2:36 PM on May 1, 2014

I found the shrines to Difunta Correa along empty stretches of desert highway in Patagonia quite captivating. Offerings vary (candy, flowers, etc.), but water bottles are most common.
posted by unsub at 6:07 PM on May 1, 2014

Lead curse tablets.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:07 PM on May 1, 2014

I live near a gravesite that is something of a tourist attraction I often see coins, bottles/gasses of liquor, food (everything from apples to cakes -- these are often nibbled on or stolen by local squirrels/wildlife), miniature models (or childrens toys) of animals/vehicles/saddles, seashells, sand, letters (sometimes written in code/shorthand), quotes, stories, religious symbols, there is something of a guest book there also that people tend to write in/leave drawings/notes in.
posted by AnneShirley at 12:32 AM on May 2, 2014

The comic -- which is a SF short story set on Mars -- is now finished, and you can see it here if you're curious. Thank you for the extremely helpful suggestions!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:20 AM on May 23, 2014

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