Not to step on anyone’s belief system, but part and parcel of walking The Way is to reach the burial-place of Saint James. (And this might be a good place to add that if you are thinking of a religious pilgrimage, it would be a good idea to review the lives of the saints and the gospels so that the iconography of the paintings, retablos, and stained glass windows does not escape you as much as it has eluded me.)
In brief, St. James and his brother John were two of Jesus’s twelve disciples. Legend has it that it was James, beheaded by King Herod Agrippa in 44 AD, who brought Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula. After the beheading, the remains of James were returned to Spain. Due to the persecution of Christians in Roman Hispania, his bones were lost. But found later in the ninth century by the hermit Pelayo (Pelagius) who was led to the remains by a strange light in the night sky.
Quoting from http://www.catholic.org/saints: Legends have sprung up that James evangelized Spain before he died, but these stories have no basis in historical fact.
It doesn’t really matter if legends or stories are true or not. They caution or inspire. They teach us (of one mind in our aspirations) universal lessons – therein lies their value. Thinking about the value of mythology, I turned to Bill Moyers and his interviews with Joseph Campbell, author of The Power of Myth among other books. The six-part interview aired on PBS in 1991. I remember watching; I remember nothing. I must watch it again. But one quote stands out: “All religions are true but none are literal.”
If you are familiar with the Martin Sheen movie, The Way, you will know that on the completion of walking 100Km, you are awarded a certificate or Compostela. If you have walked as a tourist, your Compostela is in Spanish. If, however, you have walked for religious or spiritual reasons, you will be awarded a Compostela written in Latin… with flourishes. How cool is that? I want the one in Latin. That said, my Compostela will go in the memorabilia box never to see the light of day.
For me, walking The Way has not been about the certificate of completion. Rather, I have been lucky to live outside the secularized, polarized, commercial world for one month. Physically, I have exceeded my expectations. I had hoped to make it over the Pyrenees. I did that, and I have done more. Spiritually, I have had the time and focus to marvel at Nature and the sympathetic (as in synaptic) connection of people differing in culture and language but bonding by like intentions.
There is a neat quote in the John Brierley book – a book that I don’t have at-hand. (I’m beyond a paraphrase. I’ll make it up.) Something akin to: before Enlightenment, wash dishes, cook dinner, weed the garden. After Enlightenment, wash dishes, cook dinner, weed the garden.
Enlightenment never sees the light of day and yet it glows within.
We have laid over in Villafranca – gathering strength for climbing up and over into Galicia. An early dinner today. Someone asked me what we were eating. Today, sitting outside in the sun, I started with eggs scrambled with assorted mushrooms and shrimp. For the second course, I savored ox tails washed down with wine. Finally, I finished my light repast (gotta keep my strength up) with flan and espresso.
And you thought I could only complain about the weather and my feet.