Buen Camino!!

Getting pretty hot and dry and thirsty, but the trail never disappoints…  well no, I digress for a moment…  once in awhile we’d come upon a water fountain where the water was contaminated.  The signs might be noted with a skull and crossbones or the red line drawn though a water bottle, or the words, “aqua contaminada”, but this one location had water bottles half-filled with a hazy shade of gray and a simple note. Duly noted!

We have passed through quaint, rustic, medieval villages and cities, and walked by endless farms, grasslands, fields of grain, vineyards, and stopped to capture even the most minute details, and we are still surprised by each different sight and scene around every corner, up and down the rolling hills, or next to far away roads…

A grasshopper’s greeting, farmlands as far as the eyes can see, tainted water, vineyards, poppies (again), white asparagus crops, some empty ruins and fellow pilgrims…  

Being welcomed by a grasshopper.

We can see for miles and miles past a healthy vineyard.

Yet another vineyard; too bad no nearby wine tasting!

Lone tree

concentrating on the overall composition

don’t drink here!

crops and poppies

wondering why the cover-up!

still not getting it…

farmlands as far as the eye can see

at the top of whatever this is

Aha!! Asparagus is covered to keep it white!

some kind of pine tree with round cones?

fellow pilgrims and great camaraderie

empty ruins

So, What’s With All the Scallop Shells?

The scallop shell is the most iconic symbol associated with the Camino de Santiago. Many pilgrims see the lines on a Scallop Shell as a reflection of the Camino de Santiago – many paths leading to one point. There is more to the Scallop Shell symbolism however. (The first recorded reference to the scallop shell’s association with the Camino dates back to 1106.)

The significance of the shell: Santiago de Compostela is named in honor of St James the Greater, who worked as a fisherman before becoming a Disciple of Christ. Following the death and resurrection of Jesus, the apostles began to spread the gospel and convert others to Christianity. As part of his mission, James travelled to Iberia (now Spain) to preach to pagans in the area. On his return to Jerusalem, he was beheaded by King Herod for blasphemy. Following his execution, his headless body was being brought to Galicia to be laid to rest. As the boat containing his body approached the coast, a knight on horseback was walking the cliffs above the Atlantic. Upon seeing the boat, the horse bolted and both horse and knight fell to the sea. Divine intervention occurred whereby St. James miraculously saved the knight, still on horseback, who emerged covered in scallop shells!

Other references: Throughout the medieval period, pilgrimages were long and dangerous journeys undertaken as an act of penance and religious devotion. The pilgrimage started at the pilgrim’s home and continued by foot until they reached Santiago. Once they returned home, either by foot, horseback or boat, pilgrims presented the scallop shell as proof they completed the pilgrimage since the shells are indigenous to the Galician coast. By the 12th Century, scallop shells were being sold by hundreds of licensed vendors around the Cathedral of Santiago cementing their symbolic status. The scallop shell was also historically used for gathering water and drinking and as a bowl for collecting gifts of food and for eating.

The modern pilgrim embarking on St. James Way can see the scallop shell at every turn, guiding them on milestone markers and providing a reassuring point in the right direction. Many pilgrims wear the shell, either around their neck or attached to their backpack, making it easy to spot fellow pilgrims on the Camino and enhance the camaraderie. Buen Camino!!