• For 2024 Pilgrims: €50,- donation = 1 year with no ads on the forum + 90% off any 2024 Guide. More here.
    (Discount code sent to you by Private Message after your donation)

Search 69,459 Camino Questions

A secular Camino?

Status
Not open for further replies.

pepi

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Last: Sept 2022
next 🤷
Preface:
Moderators: I absolutely respect the rules of this forum - which I consider essential - and if this post, or reactions to it, go in the wrong direction, I ask you to delete it.
I don't want to discuss religion and faith, I'm just interested to know why other "non-believers" walk a "secular Camino" and if they had any problems; but especially if there are needs and wishes to do so. But let’s keep nastiness and spitefulness out of it, p-l-e-a-s-e.

After six long Camino walks, I still wonder: is there a secular Camino?
I love to hike, and I enjoy the conversations and camaraderie as much as the days of solitude and reflection on the Camino. In doing so, however, I by no means want to be categorized as a mundane hiker. As an agnostic/atheist, it fascinates me to watch the religious rituals, they are part of an occidental culture; for example, I never fail to stop at the small chapel in Rabanal with the Gregorian chants of the monks there; and attend Mass in SdC at the end for me is a respectful reference to those who make the Camino possible. I have a lot of admiration and gratitude for the faithful pilgrims who never - or very rarely - let me feel that I do not belong.

On the other hand, it strikes me, how many of my fellow Pilgrims spontaneously admit stress that they go on pilgrimage "not for religious reasons". Thus I know that I am by no means the only one, possibly I even belong to a large group; if there were one, it would be a very silent one. I hope that respectful reports of experiences and opinions on this subject will be possible in this forum.
 
Last edited:
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
I think the key here is that there is a huge difference in "not believeing" and "not appreciating".

If you go to Camboja and visit the amazing Ankhor Wat temple, would you consider that a religious trip? Or maybe going to Japan to visit the temples in Kyoto? Unless you follow one of their religions, the answer is probably No. But it does not impede you from feeling in awe with the beauty of the place, or the efforts people went to get those structures up.

The camino has religious origins, so it is indeed hard to separate the walk from any type religion engagement. And most westerners tend to be more familiar with the traditions followed on the Camino than on East Asia or Africa. So even if you don't believe, it's not completely new.

Personally, I think that you could walk a secular Camino and avoid all the "religious bits". But it would kinda lose what makes the Camino a Camino. It's still a great experience to walk for no religious reasons, but like you, admiring the art, history and comraderie along the way :)
 
I think the key here is that there is a huge difference in "not believeing" and "not appreciating".

If you go to Camboja and visit the amazing Ankhor Wat temple, would you consider that a religious trip? Or maybe going to Japan to visit the temples in Kyoto? Unless you follow one of their religions, the answer is probably No. But it does not impede you from feeling in awe with the beauty of the place, or the efforts people went to get those structures up.

The camino has religious origins, so it is indeed hard to separate the walk from any type religion engagement. And most westerners tend to be more familiar with the traditions followed on the Camino than on East Asia or Africa. So even if you don't believe, it's not completely new.

Personally, I think that you could walk a secular Camino and avoid all the "religious bits". But it would kinda lose what makes the Camino a Camino. It's still a great experience to walk for no religious reasons, but like you, admiring the art, history and comraderie along the way :)
Thank you for this well-thought response, Anamya ❤️
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
An interesting question, @pepi. I think one aspect goes to the question of whether there is a secular spirituality, and what that might mean. There are many interesting resources on the internet that I have found in searching for an answer to that question, from which I conclude that this is a well established philosophical discussion, even if I have only come to it recently.
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
@pepi, you’ll know I’m the forums resident self declared pagan. No, not the moon-bathing, learned it off the internet, been to Stonehenge at least twice pagan. More “old paganus, the country dweller, living in respect of Mother Earth and Father Sun. The change makers that are fire and water. The life givers that are Earth and Air. Rock and Wind.”

Sorry mate, I might have just sunk your thread. But if not- I’ll make pilgrimage to the bones of one who may have touched the divine. I’ll make pilgrimage to the end of the world. I’ll make pilgrimage to our broken boat and watch the sun set over the sundering seas.

So, for me, I’ve no idea why you walk. My old gran told me “walk, because that is what we do”. Maybe your Caminos are what you do. There is no one in charge. There are no rules. And if your journey offers only that and to yourself then that is Camino
 
Last edited:
I am not Christian and planning my second and third Caminos for this autumn. I do have a love of ritual and a healthy respect for those that follow a religious path. I admired chapels, churches and cathedrals along the way and attended a couple of masses, I might have attended more but it honestly didn't occur to me. When I lived in Toronto I would occasionally attend mass at a Maronite church because the mass is in Arabic and the Eucharist is in Latin, I enjoy the way the rites are sung. For Camino I did a bit of reading and research to understand what a pilgrimage or a plenary indulgence is (woohoo! clean slate!) so that I could be respectful in those spaces.

I think many people identify as "spiritual" and find Camino to be a good place to just think about their life and what everything means while having the joy (and torment) of walking every day and meeting new people to discuss everything from favourite foods, to why we are here. Most of the people I met were on the spectrum of slightly to very religious. Everyone was completely accepting of anyone not religious.

I needed to walk Camino. I don't know why. I heard about it more than 20 years ago and it stuck in my
heart and mind, I finally had the opportunity to go and now I need to go back. Camino changes you, it doesn't necessarily make you a better person, but it does change you.
 
A strong response, typical @Tincatinker 👍
I have a bit of a problem with the word "pagan", it may be because English is not my mother tongue, but in my translation, the expression would not fit with me.
Why do I walk, I often wonder myself. Because I love to, I guess. As @Anamya put it so well, to admire the art, history, and camaraderie along the way; the spirit (no, I don't mean the religious spirit, nor the one in the bottle of Tinto, though I love its content)
What would help is a "secular Compostela", and I don't mean a certificate of distance.
 
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
I am not Christian and planning my second and third Caminos for this autumn. I do have a love of ritual and a healthy respect for those that follow a religious path. I admired chapels, churches and cathedrals along the way and attended a couple of masses, I might have attended more but it honestly didn't occur to me. When I lived in Toronto I would occasionally attend mass at a Maronite church because the mass is in Arabic and the Eucharist is in Latin, I enjoy the way the rites are sung. For Camino I did a bit of reading and research to understand what a pilgrimage or a plenary indulgence is (woohoo! clean slate!) so that I could be respectful in those spaces.

I think many people identify as "spiritual" and find Camino to be a good place to just think about their life and what everything means while having the joy (and torment) of walking every day and meeting new people to discuss everything from favourite foods, to why we are here. Most of the people I met were on the spectrum of slightly to very religious. Everyone was completely accepting of anyone not religious.

I needed to walk Camino. I don't know why. I heard about it more than 20 years ago and it stuck in my
heart and mind, I finally had the opportunity to go and now I need to go back. Camino changes you, it doesn't necessarily make you a better person, but it does change you.
Beautiful. Thanks.
 
What would help is a "secular Compostela", and I don't mean a certificate of distance.
There is already such a thing. An alternative "certificate of welcome" from the pilgrim office specifically for those who say their journey was not religious or spiritual in purpose. Though the pilgrim office do not seem to advertise the fact and by default will issue the standard Compostela.
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
I will say that when we are hospitaleros we have pilgrims who say they are walking just to walk and some say "I guess I didn't realize that there is more to it than that. There seems to be meaning that I had not expected." Don't know if that is typical or not, but we have encountered that more than once.
 
There is already such a thing. An alternative "certificate of welcome" from the pilgrim office specifically for those who say their journey was not religious or spiritual in purpose. Though the pilgrim office do not seem to advertise the fact and by default will issue the standard Compostela.
Not only do they default to the Compostela, they may even give you a Compostela if you ask for the Welcome Certificate. That happened to me on my first visit to the Pilgrim's Office. I admit that I stuck it in the tube, and didn't really examine it, but the following year I once again asked for the Welcome Certificate, and when I got home I noticed that I had two different certificates The first year they gave me a Compostela.
 
Very light, comfortable and compressible poncho. Specially designed for protection against water for any activity.

Our Atmospheric H30 poncho offers lightness and waterproofness. Easily compressible and made with our Waterproof fabric, its heat-sealed interior seams guarantee its waterproofness. Includes carrying bag.

€60,-
Not only do they default to the Compostela, they may even give you a Compostela if you ask for the Welcome Certificate. That happened to me on my first visit to the Pilgrim's Office. I admit that I stuck it in the tube, and didn't really examine it, but the following year I once again asked for the Welcome Certificate, and when I got home I noticed that I had two different certificates The first year they gave me a Compostela.
My wife will be glad to know that she is not the only one this has happened to.
 
Very light, comfortable and compressible poncho. Specially designed for protection against water for any activity.

Our Atmospheric H30 poncho offers lightness and waterproofness. Easily compressible and made with our Waterproof fabric, its heat-sealed interior seams guarantee its waterproofness. Includes carrying bag.

€60,-
I walked 50 miles alone in the Cami Sant Jaume. Most of my photos were of plants and buildings. As an adamant non-Christian, I wondered what I was doing there. At first it was to join a tradition, and walk an Old Way, and have a predetermined path to walk. Then it was about plants and how to get from one town to the next.

I won't go again, but I'm planning to walk a portion of the Ruta del Ter, downhill from the Pyrenees. More plants, cows, sheep, towns, water.
 
I never fail to stop at the small chapel in Rabanal with the Gregorian chants of the monks there
How does one go about hearing the monks chant there?
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
As a hospitalero, I have encountered people from muslim countries. I never asked, but one from UAE said he was Muslim (but he bought a beer from us). He had bought or found a DVD of Sheen's "The Way" and was frustrated that he couldn't persuade anyone else at home to watch it. There were people who just loved to walk, people who needed an escape from some trauma or disappointment, people who felt a need to do something challenging, people looking for something but didn't know what, new agers who believed the path itself contained some sort of beneficial energy, Christians who aren't Roman Catholic but saw value in doing something other devout people had done, people who considered themselves "lapsed" and thought the pilgrimage might bring them back to faith, and so on. I presume (merely from statistics) that some of the Taiwanese and Japanese visitors were Buddhist. I checked in one person from Israel but didn't ask him about religion.
 
It is a nightly (or close to it) service in the small monastery/chapel in Rabanal.
I have gone several times. Just turn up at the proper time and enjoy.
I have to get back to Rabanal. It’s one of my favorite places on that Camino. And I’ll be sure to stop in the chapel
 
Ideal sleeping bag liner whether we want to add a thermal plus to our bag, or if we want to use it alone to sleep in shelters or hostels. Thanks to its mummy shape, it adapts perfectly to our body.

€46,-
As for myself
"Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît pas/ the heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing."
Pascal, Les Pensées

Perhaps the first post of my last camino explained best why I walked the Camino Frances ten times; thus although my situation has changed while I was able to walk it served as my apologia.

Unfortunately now at 83 I am only able to walk long distances in my memory.
 
As you most likely assumed, these philosophical questions rarely give a clear answer, Pepi.
But thanks for asking as it is interesting to read the posts. Yep, they inevitably show the diversity of human consciousness. I walk the Camino to think less about how different we all are. My head gets too crammed up with labels in "everyday" life.
The Camino, as a path; a Way, does not identify, discriminate or define.
Amazing.
Sweet relief!

Sure, churches, monuments, cathedrals, and the scallop shell are constant reminders of the history of Catholic pilgrimage. But symbols can have different meanings as they pass through different cultures and ages. They do for me. Scholars have observed that many churches are built over, or alongside, temples and places of Celtic (pagan?) worship.
I have seen the remnants of the well in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Le Puy en Velay. When I walk into this cathedral I feel transformed. It is magnificent. The energy there with the water and electromagnetics stirring beneath... I feel quiet; in awe. This place has been made sacred; consecrated by all who have passed through; those who have prayed with open hearts.
There can be so much beauty in religion.

I can be altered and transformed without having to give myself a label.
And the splendour of Nature, surely the first church/cathedral/temple!
And the gregorian chanting--yes, so lovely in Rabanal. These beautiful and often simple ceremonies can be appreciated and witnessed without having to "believe".
Kindness is so often experienced by people on the Camino. It is the most profound experience to be touched by someone in this way or to listen to someone who has been irrevocably changed in some way.
 
A selection of Camino Jewellery
I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian (protestant) household. I pulled away from it by the time I was a teenager, and can't remember the last time I was in a church in the U.S. But, I walk into almost every iglesia, catedral y monasterio I pass on the Camino. That's partly because of the religious history and implications of the Camino itself. So, I'm not religious, but still kind of curious. In conversations with devout people on the Camino, I sometimes disclose that I am not a believer, although I am open to something happening that would change that. On all three previous Caminos, my apathy (bordering on apostasy) was shaken by a relatively minor kind of spiritual experience. But not enough to bring me back. Maybe the 4th time this summer will be the charm.
 
I have just finished reading 'The Crossway'. During his stay in Jerusalem at the end of his pilgrimage from Canterbury, Guy Stagg writes (p.394):
When I set off on pilgrimage, I was bewitched by the stories of surrender, of sacrifice. But in the course of my journey I was shown how sacrifice could mean something much smaller: the habit of kindness, or the discipline of humility, or the steady practice of patience. And looking back on the last ten months, it was not the solitude I remembered, but the charity of so many strangers.
Throughout that time, the pilgrimage provided a sense of purpose. As well as the long march towards Jerusalem, it also knitted my life into the landscape.
 
Technical backpack for day trips with backpack cover and internal compartment for the hydration bladder. Ideal daypack for excursions where we need a medium capacity backpack. The back with Air Flow System creates large air channels that will keep our back as cool as possible.

€83,-
@pepi, you’ll know I’m the forums resident self declared pagan. No, not the moon-bathing, learned it off the internet, been to Stonehenge at least twice pagan. More “old paganus, the country dweller, living in respect of Mother Earth and Father Sun. The change makers that are fire and water. The life givers that are Earth and Air. Rock and Wind.”

Sorry mate, I might have just sunk your thread. But if not- I’ll make pilgrimage to the bones of one who may have touched the divine. I’ll make pilgrimage to the end of the world. I’ll make pilgrimage to our broken boat and watch the sun set over the sundering seas.

So, for me, I’ve no idea why you walk. My old gran told me “walk, because that is what we do”. Maybe your Caminos are what you do. There is no one in charge. There are no rules. And if your journey offers only that and to yourself then that is Camino
💜
 
Fantastic, I will add that to my list of places to stop overnight at.
In an amusing coincidence, I noticed the 'solvitur ambulando' in your signature, and this rock is in the garden of Refugio Gaucelmo, directly opposite the monks' church in Rabanal.

On the wider question, I'm not a follower of any religion, so I guess my walk last year was a secular one. I tried to walk with an openness to whatever experiences I had or discoveries I made on the way and used the time walking to think and reflect as well as enjoying the experience and being present in the moment. I think the nature of the Frances, at least, is such that even if you're strenuously avoiding all religion, there's always going to be something more to it than just doing a long walk.
 

Attachments

  • solvitur.png
    solvitur.png
    1.6 MB · Views: 38
I too am primarily a hiker and for that reason i'm drawn to the camino. I enjoy the people, the geography, the physical challenges and generally just being in Europe. I've spent 40 years as a teacher, and I've learned to respect the fact that human beings are very different and have different beliefs. Although for me it's always a secular camino, I appreciate that for others it's religious. I think John Lennon said it best," whatever gets you through the night."
 
A selection of Camino Jewellery
I was raised LDS and am not religious these days. I am interested in world cultures and histories, and that interest is behind my choice to walk this year (le puy to sjpdp or so). I will go to Mass and visit churches, but mostly as an observer.

I have known about the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage longer than I have been aware of El Camino. I speak Japanese much better than French (on lesson 37 on DuoLingo now) and had a two week portion schedule for April 2020 and then... Had I done that trip, I would have chanted the Heart Sutra at the temples. That is more participatory than I expect to be at a Catholic Mass.

I have been to Japan enough times that I was looking for a different challenge, and a different cultural experience, so I chose to dive into learning French (ya, will be quite basic when I'm there) and learn about a new region.
 
There are many other non-religious activities which are associated with ancient churches especially in the UK. I don't have a religious bone in my body, but I have a huge respect for what has been achieved in the name of religions in the past.
I volunteer as one of 50 or so guides into the roof and spire spaces in Salisbury cathedral.
I have recently started bell ringing, a peculiarly English practice to celebrate and call the faithful to services.
However, bell ringing is a notoriously heathen community, more interested in beer than services.

I can thank those who came before me and established the paths that we now walk, respect and admire and meet with others who are experiencing the culture and infrastructure for whatever reason without any feelings of guilt for the fact that I am secular.
 
3rd Edition. More content, training & pack guides avoid common mistakes, bed bugs etc
What a great question! I like using these kinds of questions to explore my myself and clarify my current view and then seek a better view.

On my recent Camino I found a spectrum of reasons people were walking from the religious to the spiritual to the secular. Most seemed to have an expectation of getting "something" out of their Camino that went from simply fitness, disruption from day-to-day life, to major seeking of a transformational experience. As a self-identified Stoic, raised in a Christian heritage, I was not walking for religious purposes, but I was open for and seeking a perspective-changing mid-life adventure.

I read many books, watched YouTubers and listened to Podcasts in preparation for the Camino. The two books that I found best informed my Camino experience were: 1. A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine. and 2. The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker's Guide to Making Travel Sacred by Phil Cousineau.

The first book is definitely secular and gave me a "mental" framework for preparing for the Camino in a way that helped me deal with the challenges of the Camino and learn so much about myself and how I can deal with my "real" Camino that is now playing out. I do view the Camino as a metaphor for life, now.

The second book provided practical guidance and inspiration on how to make the journey more meaningful and purposeful, regardless of the religious perspective. It did help me associate my Christian heritage to the Camino, the architecture, the rites and rituals, and so much more. Although there was a lot of religious and spiritual understandings explored in the book, it did not seem to advocate religion. The book helped me appreciate deeply where we were walking and the varied spectrum of experiences of the others I was able to walk with and engage in meaningful conversation.

So in answer to what I understand to be your question. Yes, there is a secular Camino and it can be as significantly transformational as a religious or spiritual Camino. It all comes down to how you frame it, walk it, and process it.

The meaning of the words we use to describe religious, spiritual and secular experience are profoundly personal, just as is the Camino a very personal experience. It's what makes the Camino "magical" to me and wide open for all... But that is just my opinion. And, I reserve the right to change my mind, given new information or on my next Camino. LOL.
 
Burroughs on the Camino ... There's a thought. As a lapsed atheist it intrigues me that on the Camino everyone (tourigrini, hobogrini, kids, even the hook-up artists) naturally behaves as a real Christian should ... loving, giving, listening, being kind, accepting of others. Far more than the nominal Christians in the real world. So it works.
 
I think a growing number of people walk the Camino for reasons that are different from the religious basis upon which the Camino was founded. Even among those who identify as Christians, I suspect many are not confident in the identification of the relics at the destination or in the religious benefits of being on close proximity to those relics, the ostensible "religious" reasons for undertaking this pilgrimage.

Among those who are not drawn specifically to St. James, there may be some, of any religion, who view the journey itself as an opportunity to get closer to God (or Gods, Tinkatinker) because of the time and space it affords the pilgrim, and the separation from their regular mundane life. These might be said to walk a religious pilgrimage. They might be said to walk a spiritual pilgrimage. It depends on what the words are taken to mean.

Then again, there are those who might not have clearly defined religious beliefs but still a sense of something larger, perhaps immaterial, within, behind, beyond, or infusing the universe we inhabit. Some of those may be walking with the intent to be more in touch with that, gain a better understanding or relationship with it, etc. These are likely those who consider themselves on a spiritual pilgrimage. They may be on a secular pilgrimage if their sense of the larger is "Nature" or "the Universe" and has no immaterial component.

And, of course, there are those who walk for purely secular reasons: enjoying the hiking and exercise, enjoying the scenery and countryside, enjoying the culture and history, enjoying the companionship and interactions with fellow pilgrims and locals. They are truly walking a secular hike. But I guess the question is, is it a secular pilgrimage.

I think so. Certainly, the word pilgrimage has a broader use today and is regularly used in non-religious contexts. People talk about Elvis fans making a pilgrimage to Graceland, or a Shakespeare scholar making a pilgrimage to the Globe Theatre in Stratford. So a secular pilgrimage is possible. Any journey to a meaningful destination can be construed as a pilgrimage. Can Santiago de Compostela be a meaningful destination to those who are not Catholic, or are not Christian? I think the proof is in the pudding. The fact that we are wiling to walk so far to it is evidence enough for me. I know it has felt a meaningful destination to me every time I arrived there and I'm not Christian.

I think another question that I'm seeing is "What brings us beyond the mundane hiker and entitles us to call ourselves pilgrims?" I think it is our participation in the ongoing community of pilgrims. This can be a community of pilgrims around us (especially on the more commonly walked pilgrim routes) but it can also be a community of pilgrims across time. When I did my 1989 Camino there weren't a lot of other pilgrims walking at the time. But I really felt like a pilgrim because I felt like I was participating in a tradition of pilgrimage that stretched back a millennium and adding my footfalls to that tradition. For me that is enough to be a pilgrim: religious, spiritual, or secular.

YMMV, of course.

PS. All of this leaving aside the people who may have begone their pilgrimage for completely secular reasons but discovered over the course of their walk (or even afterwards) that there was an unplanned spiritual or religious dimension that either emerged or had been there all along unseen.
 
A Treasure Trove Of Interesting Pilgrim Hacks! Learn & Share Your Own Too!
Some of the most beautiful stories I have heard were about those who start the Camino as atheistic and, over the miles and days, find themselves, otherwise, in their beliefs by the time the last mile is complete.
What you write is often recited among Peregrinos, and I don't doubt that this happens. But I honestly don't believe think that a true atheist/agnostic would "change his mind". If he does, he was not a convinced non-believer before.
Such a one does not come to his conviction overnight, but over many years, in my case decades of logical, conclusive reasoning, according to which the divine entity is man-made and exists exclusively in the minds of believers. All the more so, if one, like me, grew up in a Christian environment. I don't want to elaborate here, but once you reach this stage, there is no more room for irrationality.
 
Last edited:
Ah, @pepi, a "convinced non-believer", one who believes in non-belief? :):)

I've put a couple of smileys in just so you can be comforted by where I'm coming from. The assumption that there is no God, that there is no-one in charge, that the Universe unfolds as it always would. That's just another belief system. We are Carbon, a few million life forms, a tube to process nutrients, and a bit of luck. We have and serve no purpose. Well, other than to drive the universe to entropy at a couple of nano-seconds faster than it might have achieved all by itself.

Or, we are the most glorious manifestation of what happens when hope collides with chemistry and a slime mould evolves into John Lennon singing Imagine.

I'm minded of George Bernard Shaw, asked what he would say if he found himself stood at the Pearly Gates, confronted by Saints Peter and Paul. He responded: "Well, I would say "I'm sorry Gentlemen. Obviously I was wrong"".

 
Very light, comfortable and compressible poncho. Specially designed for protection against water for any activity.

Our Atmospheric H30 poncho offers lightness and waterproofness. Easily compressible and made with our Waterproof fabric, its heat-sealed interior seams guarantee its waterproofness. Includes carrying bag.

€60,-
What you write is often recited among Peregrinos, and I don't doubt that this happens. But I honestly don't believe that a true atheist/agnostic would "change his mind". If he does, he was not a convinced non-believer before.
Such a one does not come to his conviction overnight, but over many years, in my case decades of logical, conclusive reasoning, according to which the divine entity is man-made and exists exclusively in the minds of believers. All the more so, if one, like me, grew up in a Christian environment. I don't want to elaborate here, but once you reach this stage, there is no more room for irrationality.
Please be careful. I offer my own experience like everyone else here, without intent to argue points. I do believe that is your wish too. It happens. Others have also advised this. I will not inject any further than this.
 
Please be careful. I offer my own experience like everyone else here, without intent to argue points. I do believe that is your wish too. It happens. Others have also advised this. I will not inject any further than this.
Not wishing to argue either, as clearly stated in my OP. Nor did I say, that it does not happen, quite on the contrary.
 
Hard to get ahead of you @Tincatinker.
It isn’t a race. There shouldn’t be any winners.
I’m also minded that at a security review I was told that records showed that I had been a member of an Anarchist Organization. I countered that that was oximoronic at best. I think my code name was “smart Alec” thereafter 😉
 
Prepare for your next Camino on Santa Catalina Island, March 17-20
What you write is often recited among Peregrinos, and I don't doubt that this happens. But I honestly don't believe that a true atheist/agnostic would "change his mind". If he does, he was not a convinced non-believer before.
Such a one does not come to his conviction overnight, but over many years, in my case decades of logical, conclusive reasoning, according to which the divine entity is man-made and exists exclusively in the minds of believers. All the more so, if one, like me, grew up in a Christian environment. I don't want to elaborate here, but once you reach this stage, there is no more room for irrationality.
@pepi, I think there is a risk here of conflating the positions of atheists and agnostics. No doubt what you say about committed atheists might be true. They do not believe in the existence of a supreme being, a god, and might not be converted from that by walking the Camino.

Agnosticism, on the other hand, is the view that the existence of a divinity or the supernatural is unknowable, and cannot be proven by rational means. It doesn't deny the existence of a devine being, although some agnostics might also be atheists, and do that.

But I think it is equally possible for an agnostic to retain a belief in a divine being, acknowledging that they see that as an irrational position, and to also have faith in a particular religion. There is no reason that walking the camino won't support them in that belief and won't enhance their faith. Not on the camino but earlier in my life, a good friend took this path over years of reflection and deeper reading than I was prepared to undertake to reach a position of profound belief in a Christian god. Unlike @MichelleElynHogan, I have yet to meet anyone similar after the camino, but don't deny that it might be possible.

On the other hand, there are those agnostics who have no particular belief, and whose spiritual search is not going to convert them to a particular faith. What is the secular spirituality that integrates their understanding that there is a spiritual dimension to all our lives with the desire to have a rational foundation for their moral and ethical lives? Should they approach this by trying to unpick the foundational moral and ethical principles of any one or all of the world's religions from their origin stories in those religions' belief these were transmitted by a supreme being? Or is there an alternative, more fundamental, approach where these moral and ethical principles are really quite independent of, and do not need to rely upon, the existence or otherwise of a divine being?

I don't think it important to discuss these questions here, rather that we acknowledge that there might be pilgrims walking the camino in search of such purely secular insights into their spirituality. More, that in entertaining that search, they are pilgrims both in a general sense, and in the more specific sense of undertaking The Pilgrimage to Santiago for both spiritual reasons and in an attitude of search.
 
Last edited:
@pepi, I think there is a risk here of conflating the positions of atheists and agnostics.
I am well aware of course. I conflated in order to avoid the thread going astray on the differences between one and the other, but I admit using either description depending on the debate and the person(s) engaged. (@Tincatinker escapes the dilemma by declaring himself a Pagan :) )

I like btw your use of "secular spirituality" to distinguish a secular pilgrim from someone on a cheap holiday.

And one more btw: Isn't it amazing, how this potentially devastating thread has stayed so civilized?
 
Last edited:
Two lines come to mind. One that occurs somewhere in T.S. Elliot: "... to kneel where prayer has been valid." I forget what comes before and after, but that phrase has always struck me, and since the Camino, it's struck me also as an apt description of the walking. It means something that THIS way has been walked as a spiritual journey by so many, through centuries. It's not just a hiking trail with nice amenities.

Second one is from Abraham Joshua Heschel: "Religion is what you do with awe." I think there are a lot of people on the Camino who aren't religious in the sense of caring about St. James or his relics or some indulgence thing (even Catholics), but they feel awe there and feel a need to respond to it.
 
A selection of Camino Jewellery
As for myself
"Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît pas/ the heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing."
Pascal, Les Pensées

Perhaps the first post of my last camino explained best why I walked the Camino Frances ten times; thus although my situation has changed while I was able to walk it served as my apologia.

Unfortunately now at 83 I am only able to walk long distances in my memory.
Mspath do you have health problems that preclude you from walking? I am also 83 but have no intention of hanging up my walking shoes.
Rather than 25-30klm etapes I now look for 15-20 klm days. For the record I am an atheist and walk for the sheer pleasure of the journey. I do however feel a little guilty in using the facilities provided for genuine pilgrims.
 
Two lines come to mind. One that occurs somewhere in T.S. Elliot: "... to kneel where prayer has been valid." I forget what comes before and after, but that phrase has always struck me, and since the Camino, it's struck me also as an apt description of the walking. It means something that THIS way has been walked as a spiritual journey by so many, through centuries. It's not just a hiking trail with nice amenities.

Second one is from Abraham Joshua Heschel: "Religion is what you do with awe." I think there are a lot of people on the Camino who aren't religious in the sense of caring about St. James or his relics or some indulgence thing (even Catholics), but they feel awe there and feel a need to respond to it.
"If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid."

It's from Little Gidding, my favourite.
 
"If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid."

It's from Little Gidding, my favourite.
Thank you!
 
New Original Camino Gear Designed Especially with The Modern Peregrino In Mind!
What a marvellous question. The thing is, the Camino is the same as a thousand years ago, the people are not. Compulsory education has led to a literal reading of all texts ... is it historically true and so on but early Christians inhabited a different world, to them the texts weren't 'historical' they were experiential. It was an initiation into something - whether something was historically 'true' or not was never asked ... the stories of the NT, if accepted on an experiential level allowed the potential Christian to encounter something that transformed them. But now we do not think that way and have no understanding of initiation ceremonies/teachings nor what they mean - so the falling away from "dogmatic" scriptural religion .. which then leaves the human in a bit of a hole as it is designed to seek "other" (which we who are religious call God) but has no pathway to achieve this.

Sorry this is so long - think of "The Child Who Cried Wolf" story ... all in the English speaking world and perhaps beyond were told this story when they were children... it had a secret "arrow to the heart" message inside it, never call for help unless you really need it - and that is the experiential level of the story ... but now? treat it the way we read texts now and we would ask which breed of wolf this was and were the parents prosecuted for not protecting their child, and people wouldn't believe it unless they saw the wolf-teeth scarred bones. In our woke world children would be told before the story that it wasn't true and no child died - But! this would negate the meaning of the story, the child wouldn't be horrified and instantly learn not to call for help unless truly needed - so with religious texts; once they were experiential, with the hidden arrow that pierces to the heart, but now they are read as faulty and false historical documents with wildly unbelievable miracles and happenings and have no effect - and is also so how those very people approach Camino today, not experientially - but, and here is the thing, they are still called.

So .... why do people (not pilgrims if not Catholics, for obvious reasons) walk the Camino? Why do those same people often walk it again and again? If they wanted a long walk they could walk round their nearest park each day, or go to their nearest long trail and walk that - but they don't, do they? they come to Camino ... for some year after year .. and all those returning "non religious" people will tell you over a bottle of Rioja that they are there because they like to walk, or like the scenery, or like the meeting with other pilgrims ... but, to me? they are called ... and they surrender and they go ... you may ask "called by whom?" and I would answer ... " look deep and silently and answer that for yourself". and read religious texts, of any religion, experientially, not as some sort of history.

I do understand aetheism, agnosticism, I do ... but throughout our history we can see that humans seem to be designed to seek "other", and that, I believe, is what they/we all do ... and, again, to me they/we are called and so often it is found on our Camino - I leave this there.

Buen Camino!
 
Last edited:
I like btw your use of "secular spirituality" to distinguish a secular pilgrim from someone on a cheap holiday.
Honestly, how many people who are looking for a cheap holiday also want to walk 15 - 30 km a day? If I want a cheap vacation or holiday I'll find a cheap place to stay near a beach.
 
Honestly, how many people who are looking for a cheap holiday also want to walk 15 - 30 km a day? If I want a cheap vacation or holiday I'll find a cheap place to stay near a beach.
I suspect we are not all alike. :)
 
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
I suspect we are not all alike. :)

I disagree, we may look and act differently due to upbringing and culture but we are all alike .. we are all the same human, seeking an answer, seeking a certainty ... we are all the same.
Anyway, there is only one life on this planet, just that over billions of years it has evolved into multiple forms - but still just one life xx
 
I disagree, we may look and act differently due to upbringing and culture but we are all alike .. we are all the same human, seeking an answer, seeking a certainty ... we are all the same.
Anyway, there is only one life on this planet, just that over billions of years it has evolved into multiple forms - but still just one life xx
Alike is not the same. If we were the same, evolution literally could not have happened (as in 'the egg came first having been laid by an animal that was almost but not quite a chicken'). We are diverse creatures in a diverse world: just look at this thread - I can see the metaphorical thread but each response is unique and each of us is unique. Some of us accept and some of us reject the metaphysical explanations and some of us accept and some of us reject the logical-rational explanations and some of us are sceptical of both, and a growing number of us reluctantly accept a large measure of uncertainty. I don't walk the camino expecting or searching for an epiphany - then again St Paul wasn't looking for one either on his way to Damascus. I'm not sure why I walk the camino at all. An honest answer would be partly that I enjoy it, and I think that is human and if I can make other people feel a little bit better about life in the process then I like to think that is human too.
 
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
@David, sad to say, it isn't obvious to me what point you are making here. Would you mind expanding on this thought to clarify what you mean.
Apologies, meant no harm. As the post is about secular Camino's and therefore not a pilgrimage then the opposite would be a Catholic on pilgrimage to the remains of st James. That is what the Camino actually is, after all, a Roman Catholic pilgrim route to a Roman Catholic saint, the Compostela being a Roman Catholic indulgence.
 
Apologies, meant no harm. As the post is about secular Camino's and therefore not a pilgrimage then the opposite would be a Catholic on pilgrimage to the remains of st James. That is what the Camino actually is, after all, a Roman Catholic pilgrim route to a Roman Catholic saint, the Compostela being a Roman Catholic indulgence.
This thought introduces a perspective that might be useful exploring. Earlier I outlined a justification that someone walking in search of purely secular insights into their spirituality would meet the requirements of the Archdiocese in Santiago to be considered a pilgrim on The Pilgrimage to Santiago. I know that's long winded, but this goes to the Pilgrim Office's statement that

To get the “Compostela” you must:

  • Make the pilgrimage for religious or spiritual reasons, or at least an attitude of search.
The statement makes no requirement for the pilgrim be of any faith. So yes, The Pilgrimage to Santiago is governed by relatively simple rules published by the Pilgrim Office, and if there is an indulgence, it is really only relevant to Catholics. But as one of the Apostles, St James is recognised as a saint beyond the Catholic church, and I know of feast day services in Anglican and Church of Norway liturgical calendars.

You might object to the separation of engaging in a spiritual search from doing that as part of a religious practice. I clearly think that these two things, religion and spirituality, can be treated as separate concepts, much as they might also be conjoined in most religious practice. I note here that the Pilgrim Office clearly allows this distinction in referring to both religious and spiritual reasons.

I think there is perhaps a broader discussion we could have about what distinguishes the activity of pilgrimage from the routes on which that is undertaken, but not here. My main focus is exploring the idea that there might be people who walk, in search of purely secular insights into their spirituality, and they should be considered pilgrims no more or less than any others we accord this status.
 
Last edited:
Ideal pocket guides for during and after your Camino. Each weighs just 40g (1.4 oz).
Doug, I agree with everything you wrote ... I may have made a slightly Asperger's error by getting 'stuck' on that word 'secular'.
The Roman church is open and welcoming to all of any faith and none who go on Camino, which is why they are happy to issue the Compostela to non-Catholics - and I like that.

As for personal reasons (or intent?) for going on Camino ... of course, I agree, if one is led to pilgrimage and is being experiential in the process then I agree, they/we are pilgrims.

But ... can one have "purely secular insights into their spirituality?" We so need to meet on Camino and share a bottle of Rioja!
 
Never felt the need to have a specific reason to go on a walk. I simply like long walks. I have walked the caminos because they are mostly well marked with a clear start and end and happen to be in a lovely country that has better waether in general then where I live (UK). In addition, long walks are expensive to do in UK owing to the price of accommodation, food and drink!
 
Earlier I outlined a justification that someone walking in search of purely secular insights into their spirituality would meet the requirements of the Archdiocese in Santiago to be considered a pilgrim on The Pilgrimage to Santiago.
"Secular" for me means to exclude religious references, in particular those related to official church doctrines, rules, and dogmas. Hence, I would not care whether the Archdiocese of Santiago or any other religious (self-declared) authority might consider a pilgrimage as genuine or not.
My main focus is exploring the idea that there might be people who walk, in search of purely secular insights into their spirituality, and they should be considered pilgrims no more or less than any others we accord this status.
You, @dougfitz, appear to be focused on whether a secular walker is recognized as a "pilgrim" by some (self-appointed) religious authority; I, on the other hand, am not concerned with this. The use of the term "pilgrim" for a secular walk mainly comes about because there is no other suitable word that can adequately describe a secular Camino (Using your expression). Or with what word would you title the endeavor?) Btw, instead of "pilgrim" I euphemistically use "peregrino", the same meaning, just a different language, but this is what the locals along the way are calling me.

When secular walkers reach Santiago de Compostela and want to celebrate the end of their journey in a spiritual manner with the other pilgrims they bonded with along the way, they have few other options than to accept the Catholic Church's generous offer to enter the Cathedral regardless. As a very grateful guest, I am able to attend the mass and participate in the ceremony in my own secular way, without feeling any religious obligation. I appreciate the exchange of peace – between one human to another –, which always moves me strongly, and I make a donation at the end of the mass as a sign of gratitude.
 
Down bag (90/10 duvet) of 700 fills with 180 g (6.34 ounces) of filling. Mummy-shaped structure, ideal when you are looking for lightness with great heating performance.

€149,-
Ideal pocket guides for during and after your Camino. Each weighs just 40g (1.4 oz).
Let's not get into discussions about what is or is not a pilgrim, or a hiker. Being a pilgrim is not an official status or description and we need to allow for others to use names and labels we may not use ourselves for the same thing.
Thank you.
 
the Compostela being a Roman Catholic indulgence.

and if there is an indulgence, it is really only relevant to Catholics.
There's often some confusion about what the Compostela signifies. The Compostela declares that the named person has visited the tomb of the Apostle "with an attitude of devotion or because of a vow or promise" (pilgrim office translation) and the more recent version includes a statement about the minimum distance travelled by foot, horse or bike. No more than that. It does not in itself confer any indulgence on the recipient: the additional conditions for receiving an indulgence are religious and sacramental and as such generally only available to Roman Catholics.

 
There's often some confusion about what the Compostela signifies. The Compostela declares that the named person has visited the tomb of the Apostle "with an attitude of devotion or because of a vow or promise" (pilgrim office translation) and the more recent version includes a statement about the minimum distance travelled by foot, horse or bike. No more than that. It does not in itself confer any indulgence on the recipient
Thank you. And, since this could also benefit from some clarification it seems: Catholics don't have to walk 100 km or more to obtain a plenary indulgence. They don't have to walk at all for any significant length of way.

As to the attitude of search: I always understood this to refer to a searching attitude with the aim to discover or to get closer to the Christian/Catholic faith. Of course now I can't find my own credentials and they are in French anyway but the Cathedral of Santiago edited version says their credential is only for those pilgrims who make the pilgrimage with a Christian sentiment, even when only with an attitude of searching. And it says in their credential that it gives access to those albergues who offer the Christian hospitality of the Camino. Just check out the text for yourselves.

This, of course, completely ignores the fact that other officially recognised credentials don't mention any of this at all, neither Christian faith nor non-faith based spiritual quests. It ignores the fact that the bulk of the albergues that make up the unique infrastructure of the Camino of today don't offer la hospitalidad cristiana but hospitality full stop, perhaps one could say a hospitalidad humanista or a hospitalidad amistad. In a nutshell: Today's Camino is not a religious pilgrimage that also allows other spiritual quests. It's a secular infrastructure that allows and encourages a broad range of motivations for all who walk.
 
Ideal pocket guides for during and after your Camino. Each weighs just 40g (1.4 oz).
Never felt the need to have a specific reason to go on a walk. I simply like long walks. I have walked the caminos because they are mostly well marked with a clear start and end and happen to be in a lovely country that has better waether in general then where I live (UK). In addition, long walks are expensive to do in UK owing to the price of accommodation, food and drink!
Yes the financial aspects, the weather, and the infrastructure are a huge draw for me! A similar endeavour in the UK would cost a lot more, would not be a a well supported from an infrastructure standpoint, and the weather would be less predictable!
 
In a nutshell: Today's Camino is not a religious pilgrimage that also allows other spiritual quests. It's a secular infrastructure that allows and encourages a broad range of motivations for all who walk.
That does seem to be the way it has evolved. In my mind I keep returning to some remarkable statistics which you posted some years ago. A summary of records from Roncesvalles in 1987 where around 90% gave their motive for walking as 'religious', 98% described themselves as Catholic and one solitary person out of the 1,400+ was recorded as "sans religion". Both literally and metaphorically something from another millennium! :cool:

Roncesvalles1987.png

PS: Not relevant to the "secular" question but interesting to note that July was by far the busiest month in Roncesvalles in 1987. Probably because of the very large proportion of pilgrims who were students.
 
Last edited:
not pilgrims if not Catholics, for obvious reasons
Without getting into another endless and unproductive "what is a 'real' pilgrim" discussion, I'll just say the reasons aren't obvious to me, for the reasons I expressed in my post earlier in this thread and I disagree with the sentiment.
 
Very light, comfortable and compressible poncho. Specially designed for protection against water for any activity.

Our Atmospheric H30 poncho offers lightness and waterproofness. Easily compressible and made with our Waterproof fabric, its heat-sealed interior seams guarantee its waterproofness. Includes carrying bag.

€60,-
Never felt the need to have a specific reason to go on a walk. I simply like long walks. I have walked the caminos because they are mostly well marked with a clear start and end and happen to be in a lovely country that has better waether in general then where I live (UK). In addition, long walks are expensive to do in UK owing to the price of accommodation, food and drink!

Yes the financial aspects, the weather, and the infrastructure are a huge draw for me! A similar endeavour in the UK would cost a lot more, would not be a a well supported from an infrastructure standpoint, and the weather would be less predictable!

I agree.

The general discussion about pilgrim / hiker / tourist / peregrino, the suggestion to hike elsewhere if one only wants to go on a long hike, the slogan "it's a pilgrimage and not a hike", the claim that everybody who returns to Camino walking does so because of some mysterious inner call that is different from say the call of the high mountains ("The Mountain Calls" - a famous 1938 movie by a widely known South Tyrolean alpinist) - all this blends out one major aspect: that the Camino de Santiago, ie the Camino Frances, has developed into a unique infrastructure and a unique environment the like of which you will not find anywhere else; and that many factors contribute to its current attractive power for so many people. And that it can also not be created anywhere else, despite all the attempts to remodel existing trails or create new trails in its image.
 
Last edited:
You, @dougfitz, appear to be focused on whether a secular walker is recognized as a "pilgrim" by some (self-appointed) religious authority; I, on the other hand, am not concerned with this. The use of the term "pilgrim" for a secular walk mainly comes about because there is no other suitable word that can adequately describe a secular Camino (Using your expression). Or with what word would you title the endeavor?) Btw, instead of "pilgrim" I euphemistically use "peregrino"
Ditto. For similar reasons, I, too, use peregrinos in English or Camino walkers or caminantes to circumvent the polysemy of the word pilgrim.

Polysemy is a noun that I learnt only today, btw 😊. It means the coexistence of many possible meanings for a word or phrase.
 
I agree.

The general discussion about pilgrim / hiker / tourist / peregrino, the suggestion to hike elsewhere if one only wants to go on a long hike, the slogan "it's a pilgrimage and not a hike", the claim that everybody who returns to Camino walking does so because of some mysterious inner call that is different from say the call of the high mountains ("The Mountain Calls" - a famous 1938 movie by a widely known South Tyrolean alpinist) - all this blends out one major aspect: that the Camino de Santiago, ie the Camino Frances, has developed into a unique infrastructure and a unique environment the like of which you will not find anywhere else; and that many factors contribute to its current attractive power for so many people. And that it can also not be created anywhere else, despite all the attempts to remodel existing trails or create new trails in its image.
Yes very well put! It’s just very doable on every level, especially if you reside in Europe. Great transport, hotels, bars, baggage transfer, not overly difficult for most, no altitude issues, very safe on every level, great medical options, food, wine, and you can walk from 1 day to 50 days and choose to stop at any time, and get a bus to local station or airports I can’t think of many walks that have this flexibility and ease.

A great thing in my view as it allows access to all ages, fitness levels and a range of financial statuses.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
Polysemy is a noun that I learnt only today, btw 😊. It means the coexistence of many possible meanings for a word or phrase.
A huge source of conflict and confusion! Especially if one or more parties fails (or flatly refuses) to recognise that their particular interpretation is not the only conceivable one. Been known to happen round here occasionally....

It is a major problem when a particular group or discipline uses a term in a technical sense which is different from its more general meaning. "Secular" is such a word. In Roman Catholic usage priests can be either 'secular' or 'religious' but the rest of the world might easily assume those terms to be polar opposites and that all priests are by definition 'religious'! :)
 
Last edited:
You, @dougfitz, appear to be focused on whether a secular walker is recognized as a "pilgrim" by some (self-appointed) religious authority; I, on the other hand, am not concerned with this.
@pepi, that is true. Perhaps it is a legitimate subset of the broader debate you initiated, or a red herring? I know that I had been thinking about it in another, similar context, in that much more narrow way.

Noting, that like @Kathar1na, I learned this new word, polysemy, let me say that I like to use the word pilgrimage to refer to the activity, in this case of walking The Pilgrimage to Santiago as a very specific instance of travelling to a sacred place. I prefer to use the term Camino when talking about the routes themselves, that collection of the sacred and profane infrastructure and the associated social support we use in the daily undertaking of walking from wherever we start to some place. I have walked on pilgrimage routes that don't use the word Camino in their title, including two St Olavs Ways, and there are routes in Spain like the Via de la Plata. They can still be considered Camino routes. Trying to use the word Camino to refer to both the activity and the place where that takes place does rather overwork the word!

But on the original point, I do think that one can undertake a secular pilgrimage on any of the Camino routes, irrespective of whether you intend to walk to SDC, visit the cathedral, or any of the other practices that define The Pilgrimage to Santiago. But I also think that it is your motivation that will make this a 'secular Camino' and it may be impossible to distinguish between this pilgrim and someone who is a tourigrino or hiker.
 
As for myself
"Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît pas/ the heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing."
Pascal, Les Pensées

Perhaps the first post of my last camino explained best why I walked the Camino Frances ten times; thus although my situation has changed while I was able to walk it served as my apologia.

Unfortunately now at 83 I am only able to walk long distances in my memory.
Fret not... reading your posts full of wisdom and information has been enlightening and they are much appreciated. May your memories be a source of joy and peace.
Muchas Gracias.
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
But I also think that it is your motivation that will make this a 'secular Camino' and it may be impossible to distinguish between this pilgrim and someone who is a tourigrino or hiker.
Thanks for your thoughts. With regards to the last sentence, the question arises of who would be the individual(s) to establish such a differentiation, chances are, that it would turn out to be a judgment; the sole person who has the ability to do so and for whom it holds significance is me.
 
Last edited:
Preface:
Moderators: I absolutely respect the rules of this forum - which I consider essential - and if this post, or reactions to it, go in the wrong direction, I ask you to delete it.
I don't want to discuss religion and faith, I'm just interested to know why other "non-believers" walk a "secular Camino" and if they had any problems; but especially if there are needs and wishes to do so. But let’s keep nastiness and spitefulness out of it, p-l-e-a-s-e.

After six long Camino walks, I still wonder: is there a secular Camino?
I love to hike, and I enjoy the conversations and camaraderie as much as the days of solitude and reflection on the Camino. In doing so, however, I by no means want to be categorized as a mundane hiker. As an agnostic/atheist, it fascinates me to watch the religious rituals, they are part of an occidental culture; for example, I never fail to stop at the small chapel in Rabanal with the Gregorian chants of the monks there; and attend Mass in SdC at the end for me is a respectful reference to those who make the Camino possible. I have a lot of admiration and gratitude for the faithful pilgrims who never - or very rarely - let me feel that I do not belong.

On the other hand, it strikes me, how many of my fellow Pilgrims spontaneously admit stress that they go on pilgrimage "not for religious reasons". Thus I know that I am by no means the only one, possibly I even belong to a large group; if there were one, it would be a very silent one. I hope that respectful reports of experiences and opinions on this subject will be possible in this forum.
I am a secular Camino hiker but I don’t think that anyone even knows or cares.
 
What would help is a "secular Compostela", and I don't mean a certificate of distance.
Why? If getting a compostela is important you could then declare you walked for Spiritual reasons. You can get a compostela for walking for spiritual reasons? No one asks for your definitions of Spiritual.
One definition of Spiritual is “ relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.”
 
Last edited:
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
On the left is the Compostela, and the right is the Welcome Certificate

Compestela~2.jpg
 
New Original Camino Gear Designed Especially with The Modern Peregrino In Mind!
Why? If getting a compostela is important you could then declare you walked for Spiritual reasons. You can get a compostela for walking for spiritual reasons? No one asks for your definitions of Spiritual.
One definition of Spiritual is “ relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.”
This is indeed one of the points that I have been making if you did walk, in the words of the Pilgrim Office, "for ... spiritual reasons, or at least an attitude of search." I think it is entirely within what seems to be the intent of the Pilgrim Office to welcome pilgrims of all faiths or none to participate in The Pilgrimage to Santiago.
 
In answer to your original question, @pepi - of course a secular camino exists. It's not a dualistic Sacred or Secular, but rather more of a continuum.

The way had sacred roots, and some still walk with that intent. But now others just walk not caring a whit about all that, and perhaps completely ignorant of it. Most of us are somewhere between those extremes.

And we change, camino to camino, day to day- even hour to hour. In any given moment we may abide on a different point on that continuum. You can't pin down something that isn't fixed.

Whatever.
Walking clarifies everything, and these distinctions begin to matter less.

(And for the record, I am definitely religious, but of a non-theistic sort. "Peregrina" fits, but in a Catholic/Christian context pilgrim certainly doesn't. But I'm not secular, either. Spiritual and religious, just not in the boxes most people in the Christian 'West' put around those things.)
 
Last edited:
In answer to your original question, @pepi - of course a secular camino exists. It's not a dualistic Sacred or Secular, but rather more of a continuum.

The way had sacred roots, and some still walk with that intent. But now others just walk not caring a whit about all that, and perhaps completely ignorant of it. Most of us are somewhere between those extremes.

And we change, camino to camino, day to day- even hour to hour. In any given moment we may abide on a different point on that continuum. You can't pin down something that isn't fixed.

Whatever.
Walking clarifies everything, and these distincions matter less.

(And for the record, I am definitely religious, but of a non-theistic sort. "Peregrina" fits, but in a Catholic/Christian context pilgrim certainly doesn't. But I'm not secular, either. Spiritual and religious, just not in the boxes most people in the Christian 'West' put around those things.)
A very intriguing position, food for thoughts, thank you
 
Ideal sleeping bag liner whether we want to add a thermal plus to our bag, or if we want to use it alone to sleep in shelters or hostels. Thanks to its mummy shape, it adapts perfectly to our body.

€46,-
This is indeed one of the points that I have been making if you did walk, in the words of the Pilgrim Office, "for ... spiritual reasons, or at least an attitude of search." I think it is entirely within what seems to be the intent of the Pilgrim Office to welcome pilgrims of all faiths or none to participate in The Pilgrimage to Santiago.
Totally agree!
 
Ditto. For similar reasons, I, too, use peregrinos in English or Camino walkers or caminantes to circumvent the polysemy of the word pilgrim.

Polysemy is a noun that I learnt only today, btw 😊. It means the coexistence of many possible meanings for a word or phrase.
Thank you for my new learning. I need to use the word, see it more in context, to grasp it properly. A superficial search brought me to this:

Examples and Observations

"The word good has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man."

– G.K. Chesterton, "Orthodoxy," 1909

While I am distinctly aware that my preceding contribution is a diversion from the question posed by the OP, it is as much as I can offer.
I am not qualified to speak to the question.
Or, to be more honest, I can't be bothered defending my position!
Walk, hike, trek, trot, hop, cycle - your choice.
Spiritual, religious, holiday, punishment - as many possibilities and nuances as there are people found on any one of the many Caminos to Santiago and beyond.
And my own experience? That is my life's task to discover.
Thanks, OP, for the rich tapestry of replies you have managed to surface.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Thank you for my new learning. I need to use the word, see it more in context, to grasp it properly.
I discovered the word polysemy in an article where it is used nearly a dozen times. It is Who Is Interested in Developing the Way of Saint James? The Pilgrimage from Faith to Tourism by Rossella Moscarelli, Lucrezia Lopez and Rubén Camilo Lois González, see link. The abstract starts with these lines:

Abstract
The Way of St. James in Spain is the main European pilgrimage route. Currently, it is a cultural, tourist, monumental, spiritual, and sports route. For this reason, the paper aims to discuss the concept of the “Polysemy of The Way”, by analysing how the new pilgrims’ motivations are creating an inclusive and complex space, which is making a shift from religious space to a multifaceted tourism reality.
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
The Roman church is open and welcoming to all of any faith and none who go on Camino, which is why they are happy to issue the Compostela to non-Catholics
I sometimes wonder whether people are not drawing the wrong conclusions from the general statement that the Camino is open for all of any faith and none ...

Christian churches including Catholic churches are open and welcoming to anyone whether they arrive at the church portal on foot, on a bus or in a Rolls Royce. After all, we don't live in the Middle Ages but in societies where religious tolerance is written large in big capitals. It is the same on and off Camino, whether in Spain or in another European country - at least in the ones I know. In addition to this fact, the Catholic Church has no say about who is welcome to start in SJPP and walk to Santiago de Compostela or not. I am not sure that they have even ever bothered to make a statement about this during the last 3 or 4 decades.
 
Although it doesn't fully answer the question, I think it's important to distinguish between religious and spiritual. I know the Camino was originally a Catholic ritual. I'm not Catholic and not religious, but would consider myself spiritual. Had none of the churches, rituals, or other religious trappings existed along the Camino, I still would consider it the most spiritual thing I've ever done. Mostly because it provided me with 2 months without distraction to connect deeply with myself, with my "higher" self (call it what you want), and with other people.

That last one was the main message I took from a spiritual trip to Egypt in 1999. I spent weeks seeking some magical/mystical experience from the ancients. On the last day in the Valley of the Kings, alone in a vast temple, I was swarmed by a group of young school children who wanted to practice their English and who all had small gifts for me (I was carrying nothing with me, so had nothing to reciprocate with). At first I was annoyed that they had disrupted my last chance to connect with ancient gods. And then I got a very loud, very clear message (from those gods???) "It's about the people." I've carried that message with me ever since. Just as I carry the many messages I received from that same small voice when I was on the Camino.
 
New Original Camino Gear Designed Especially with The Modern Peregrino In Mind!
In answer to your original question, @pepi - of course a secular camino exists. It's not a dualistic Sacred or Secular, but rather more of a continuum.
This is an interesting perspective. It wouldn't work for me - I think I would find it difficult to think of it as a little bit sacred and a little bit secular.

And perhaps it is only someone with a belief in god that can take the broader view you suggest here. Those that don't might acknowledge others views about the sacredness of the places on the camino and the activities of pilgrimage, but I cannot see them taking that view themselves.
 
Last edited:
of course a secular camino exists. It's not a dualistic Sacred or Secular, but rather more of a continuum.
Or, and although I usually loathe this kind of comparison between concepts from different areas of knowledge, there is indeed duality: A Camino is both scared and secular at the same time and in the same places*). Similar to the wave-particle duality, a concept in physics, where light is both a wave and a particle. Or being both fully god and fully human - a concept with which at least the Christians among the Camino pilgrimage population would not have a problem at all. Having two complete and distinct natures at once is a basic concept for the Catholic and Protestant faithful. 😶

*) I hasten to add - because I can already anticipate potential replies :rolleyes: - this excludes of course church buildings and other similarly consecrated places.
 
Last edited:
I discovered the word polysemy in an article where it is used nearly a dozen times. It is Who Is Interested in Developing the Way of Saint James? The Pilgrimage from Faith to Tourism by Rossella Moscarelli, Lucrezia Lopez and Rubén Camilo Lois González, see link. The abstract starts with these lines:

Abstract
The Way of St. James in Spain is the main European pilgrimage route. Currently, it is a cultural, tourist, monumental, spiritual, and sports route. For this reason, the paper aims to discuss the concept of the “Polysemy of The Way”, by analysing how the new pilgrims’ motivations are creating an inclusive and complex space, which is making a shift from religious space to a multifaceted tourism reality.

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’​

Lewis Carroll, or rather Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was a very insightful man and you could say he anticipated most of the precepts of Applied Linguistics some 50 or more years before they were formulated. There is no essential link between a symbol and what it represents and the same symbol can represent a number of meanings or concepts. Having said that, there has to be a considerable level of agreement within a culture over what symbols represent which concepts, otherwise communication via language would break down. That still leaves a lot of fuzziness and room for a lot of miscommunication.
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
No comment on the idea of a "secular pilgrimage" but I personally experienced sadness when walking with a friend, an avowed atheist, who would not enter any religious building. My sadness had nothing to do with his lack of belief, or his views, but simply because he was deliberately choosing to miss beauty, history, rituals, culture, architecture, music (sometimes), and the pleasure of a shared human experience. He was quite fixed about it, and it made no sense to me.

The comment about Ankor Wat is relevant. Would anyone miss that, simply because it was built as a place of worship?
 
No comment on the idea of a "secular pilgrimage" but I personally experienced sadness when walking with a friend, an avowed atheist, who would not enter any religious building. My sadness had nothing to do with his lack of belief, or his views, but simply because he was deliberately choosing to miss beauty, history, rituals, culture, architecture, music (sometimes), and the pleasure of a shared human experience. He was quite fixed about it, and it made no sense to me.

The comment about Ankor Wat is relevant. Would anyone miss that, simply because it was built as a place of worship?
Yes I totally agree. I’m not religious at all but to miss the history, heritage and so on does seem sad (whilst acknowledging it’s each to their own). I find it unimaginable, to visit the Middle East, SE Asia, South Asia and so on and not visit temples, mosques, and hear the stories and traditions. Belief systems are so fundamental in many countries (admittedly not so much in the countries that populate this forum), it almost like ignoring the key part of the country’s’ culture!
 
A Treasure Trove Of Interesting Pilgrim Hacks! Learn & Share Your Own Too!
An interesting question, @pepi. I think one aspect goes to the question of whether there is a secular spirituality, and what that might mean. There are many interesting resources on the internet that I have found in searching for an answer to that question, from which I conclude that this is a well established philosophical discussion, even if I have only come to it recently.
First mention of that word 'spirituality'. Thank you Doug.
It is the reason I walk, and as I always maintain, spirituality is a broad church...🙂
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Most read last week in this forum

I just read this article. https://www.elconfidencial.com/espana/2022-08-19/descenso-peregrinos-camino-santiago-frances_3478222/ Here are some points in English: "That pilgrims abandon the French...
My blessing and I are planning to walk the Camino Frances in September 2025. We have another trip this year so… How long is the Meseta? About how long are we on it? What could in be like in Sept...
An article on the Church Times website today which I found interesting. Focussing on the work of the British Pilgrimage Trust - an organisation which promotes pilgrimage in the UK in a very broad...
I absolutely don't want to start a hard discussion, but just share some of my thoughts. At least something to reflect on, certainly not necessarily comply to. Maybe think more of them, if you...
A few friends and I are looking to do the Camino mid to the end of October. I know there will be likely some rain on each route but which route will likely have the least amount of rain at this...
Hello! Newbie here. I've been searching/reading for a while, and it's been incredibly helpful. However, I am still torn between several route options, and would appreciate opinions, suggestions...

❓How to ask a question

How to post a new question on the Camino Forum.

Forum Rules

Forum Rules

Camino Updates on YouTube

Camino Conversations

Most downloaded Resources

This site is run by Ivar at

in Santiago de Compostela.
This site participates in the Amazon Affiliate program, designed to provide a means for Ivar to earn fees by linking to Amazon
Official Camino Passport (Credential) | 2024 Camino Guides
Back
Top