From Natural Life News & Directory March/April 2022, p. 35
You might say my Camino story began in 1994. I was a young mother of three
children, with my youngest having been born in April of that year. Having finished The Alchemist (seriously one of the best books
ever written), I devoured anything by Paulo Coelho, with the next one
being The Pilgrimage.
At the time, I was also teaching fly-fishing and The Pilgrimage offered me the perfect escape. It recounts Paulo’s experience along the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. I recall finishing the book with thinking, “I would love to do that,” only to look at the chaos beneath my feet, with the
thought, “Well, not quite yet.”
The perfect time would arrive twenty years later. On the Camino, I would learn to trust and be vulnerable. It would lead me to honor that inner voice
and to open Camino Spice in Livingston, MT where the tagline reads:
Add Flavor to Your Journey.
For those of you who have no idea what the Camino de Santiago is, the most well-traveled route is called the Camino Frances in northern
Spain. It’s a five-hundred-mile journey that begins in St. Jean Pied
de Port in southern France, that takes a Pilgrim over the Pyrennes, through the towns of Pamplona, Burgos, Leon, Astorga, O’Ceberro, Sarria, and into Santiago de Compostela (“St. James of the Field of Stars,” because the Camino
lies directly under the Milky Way).
St. James (Sant Iago) was the first apostle of Christ to be martyred in Jerusalem. His body was sent back to Spain, because he spent much of his time on Earth evangelizing in Spain, so much so that he is their Patron Saint. A
shipwreck off the coast sent St. James’ body to shore, completely incorrupt because of all the scallop shells that covered his body. That is why the symbol of a Pilgrim is the scallop shell and why the iconic image of St. James depicts him with a staff and a scallop shell.
His remains were moved to the Cathedral at Santiago and people traveled along various routes to view his remains for centuries (more likely millennia). The year I walked the Camino (2014), marked the 800th anniversary of St. Francis of Assisi walking The Way.
Camino itself means Path, Way, Road, Journey, or Walk. Back in the days of Christ, the apostles and disciples referred to themselves as The Way, taking their cue from Jesus. Pilgrims either walk or ride on bikes or horses along the Way, following yellow arrows or scallop shells (like the one pictured). A passport is stamped at every stop.
Many Pilgrims walk only the last part, from Sarria to Santiago, in
order to get their Compestela, only after the registrar inspects the passport to make sure each stop is legitimate.
Usually, the next stop is the Cathedral for a Pilgrim Mass. If you’re lucky enough to experience the botafumeiro (incense burner) being lofted over your head by six grown men, as they set it into motion over the altar, it will likely
change your life. I know it did mine. To be continued...