To say I ended up here by accident is weird. You don’t end up in a city or small town such as Knock by accident, right? People don’t end up at a pilgrimage that way. You were supposed to go there. Or the sweet Lord himself has guided you there.
To be fair I would have thought the same if it had happened to anyone else. Not just because I’m an atheist, though that has a strong correlation to the why I don’t believe that, but still. The ‘ended up there by accident’ in this scenario is simply because I was guided through the loveliness that Ireland has to offer by my two aunties.
Both lovely, but severe nutcases. Each in their own right and each with their own set of charming characteristics. I’m named after one of them, so how bad can they be, eh?
So how did we end up there, then??
I’ll tell you. First one thing you have to know: both my aunties are incredibly sweet and funny, and incredibly stubborn. The one who was doing most of the driving, hates maps. Even satnav. She refuses to use any of those. It’s not that she can’t read a map, but during driving, she likes the whole experience, thank you very much! She literally drives the car the way vikings and skippers sail(ed) their boats: by looking into the sky. She looks at where the sun is and she keeps in mind where she wants to see it at the end of the day, that’s the direction she will drive in. This could be by highway, but she takes D-tours just as easily. She is the kind of person to like the tour just as much as a the destination. Yes, really.
My other aunt will give away how we ended up in Knock: she collects holy water trays. You know the ones you keep on your wall, for instance, to make a quick pray? Yes, we are an atheist family in general. Don’t give me that funny look, I’m not the one collecting them.
They are a hard find. This is one of the things collectors of anything get a kick out, yes I know. To find a trinket of your collection when abroad is the big thing there too. But her collection is really quite specific, so as soon as we saw signs for a carboot sale, she would go: ‘oh, let’s check it out, they might have some!’ and most of the time, she was right about that, too. She had collected a few during our roadtrip. Given that we were travelling with a camping van, there was quite enough room for her collection to grow. Then, one morning, without any specific plans -except for ending up in a place I do no longer recall the name of, we drove there.
We were driving through, what we didn’t know was the main road in Knock. Whilst the aunt driving was watching for directions to go (she doesn’t use maps, she does use roadsigns), the other, collecting aunt, goes:
‘Hey, this place has holy water trays!’ and after that (as the car/van was riding at the time):
‘This place too!’ and so on. And so on. And so on.
So, we parked the van, auntie tried to remember exactly where she saw the trays, then noticed:
‘Oh wow, every store here has those trays?!’ it was like hitting the Holy Water Tray Jackpot for her. She went nuts in one store after another (from having to search for any, she now suddenly had to pick, as buying all of them would’ve left her penniless) and then there was the chapel and the whole story of Knock.
Because of course, as true idiots, we had entered the city backwards (typical), so the explanation came last.
While being in awe of all that we had just discovered, the square where one can actually fill up anything that might contain fluids with Holy Water showed itself to us. I was reminded of the many holidays I’d had as a small child on campingsides in France instantly. Because yeah, basically that’s what they looked like. With far smaller taps, as the stores all sold bottles in a massive range of varieties of shapes. Mother Theresa, Mary, Jesus, Joseph, anyone who looked holy enough. With a small blue cap. All to fill up these beauties of Holy Water Trays that my auntie collects. We saw cars stopping by, opening their trunks and getting coffeecans and teapots out to put under those taps, causing a traffic jam. It was truly bizarre. Well, for me.
It was a magnificent find.
Later, I visited the place with my (then) fiancé. We then actually went to the museum to see what had happened, to learn about the story of Knock. It’s a lot more convincing than anything I could put here. So knock yourselves out and go visit Knock. Even if you’re not religious, it is a friendly and not so crowded pilgrimage to take.