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Pilgrim "customs"?

Jacobus

Pilgrim since 2008
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Francés(2008,09 14)
Del Norte (2011)
Portuguese(2015,2017)
Inglés 2015
Fisterre (2015 17)
There is a common custom that the Camino "starts" at Saint-Jean Pied-de-Port, although many French believe it "starts" at Le Puy en Velay -- but it's just a custom. The Camino starts where you start it, and whilst preferably that would be from home / from the altar of your parish church, which is the original and oldest custom of this sort, most people have substituted this for customs that have been imported from hikers and backpackers who prefer to follow particular hiking trails that have been laid down with a definite start and a definite finish.

Too late for your presentation sorry ... :(
On my first Camino in 2008 I went to my Parish Priest and asked for his blessing for my trip. He refused initially until I explained what it was I was about to undertake. He knew what a pilgrimage was but nothing specific to Santiago. It was quite awkward as my expectation was that it would be well known and recognized amongst the clergy.
 
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Jacobus

Pilgrim since 2008
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Francés(2008,09 14)
Del Norte (2011)
Portuguese(2015,2017)
Inglés 2015
Fisterre (2015 17)
I’m very much a novice, having only completed half of the Camino Frances in three instalments so far since June 2019.
However, saying ‘Buen Camino’ is definitely a good tradition, as is leaving something at Cruz de Ferro.
Collecting stamps is definitely a worthwhile tradition, but not sure about this running into Santiago thing (I completed the last 100 km first, so I’ve already done that bit, though I will repeat when I complete the rest of my Camino).
I think everyone has small personal ‘traditions’ some of mine include always rewarding myself with a big bottle of water and a packet of biscuits (usually Filipinos) at the end of my day’s walking, and (if I’m alone) starting out each day’s walk by listening to Ventura by Tyler Bates (theme from the film The Way). I know it’s corny, but it gets me in the mood for the next five, six or seven hours!
I think collecting stamps is more of a lodging requirement than a tradtion or custom. It is part of the infrastructure of the albergue shelter system. Rules governing the collection for stamps originate in the church somewhere. It also helps prove that you have walked the last 100 k and didn’t just jump off a bus from Padron.😜
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I absolutely loved collecting the stamps! Even if they were not required I think they are each one so unique, and it felt good at the end of the day to get that stamp validating that you made it another day...very rewarding!
 

ThomasFromColorado

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
I've been asked to do a presentation on Walking the Modern Camino.
I have been asked several questions in advance, and some have to do with pilgrim "customs."

Specifically I have been asked about these "customs": burning your clothes in Finisterre/Muxia, dropping stones at the Cruz de Ferro, running the last few hundred meters to the cathedral, anything like that.

I will definitely tell them that burning your clothes anywhere is not a custom that should be followed! And I don't know anyone who ran the last few hundred meters to the cathedral.

Can you think of anything that is a real pilgrim custom that I should mention?
Tourists demand. Pilgrims thank.
 
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Mercutio

Let us walk together
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
Albergue etiquette:
  • Do leave your boots in the albergue boot room or rack
  • Do leave your hiking poles in the pole stand
  • Do get a private room if you know you snore like a freight train or have sleep apnea
  • Don't put your pack on the albergue bed
  • Don't leave your clothes on the drying rack long after they're dry; make room for others
  • Don't stay out until after closing then loudly barge into the bunk room, waking everyone
  • Don't apply a strongly-fragrant mentholated rub before bed when sleeping in the bunk room
  • Don't fool with your cell phone late into the night, oblivious to the light it casts
Trail & Cafe etiquette:
  • Step off the trail, out of the way, if you need to take a break or fiddle with your gear
  • Be aware of, and allow room for, those who overtake you
  • Announce yourself if the trail is narrow or difficult and you're overtaking others
  • Let people know if their pack has unzipped compartments
  • Show some respect to the cafe and shop staff along the trail
  • If cafe tables are in short supply, eat up and surrender yours as soon as you can
 
Last edited:

Ernesto.IT

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
I've been asked to do a presentation on Walking the Modern Camino.
I have been asked several questions in advance, and some have to do with pilgrim "customs."

Specifically I have been asked about these "customs": burning your clothes in Finisterre/Muxia, dropping stones at the Cruz de Ferro, running the last few hundred meters to the cathedral, anything like that.

I will definitely tell them that burning your clothes anywhere is not a custom that should be followed! And I don't know anyone who ran the last few hundred meters to the cathedral.

Can you think of anything that is a real pilgrim custom that I should mention?

Hi trecile

I don't know about any real pilgrim customs but the new real pilgrim custom is not to leave Covid19 behind.

Ernesto
 

RemysMimi

Hooked on the Camino!!
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances (2018)
Frances or Portuguese (2020)
So, @trecile, you are going to use photos and other visuals in your Zoom talk ☺ ? You could practice beforehand with volunteers from the forum ... 🤗. We would just have to bear in mind that we would be playing participants who don't know a thing about walking to Santiago. 😄
DON'T DO IT!!!! YOU MAY BE CRUCIFIED BY THIS GROUP. 🤣🤣🤣🤣
 

4 Eyes

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF from SJPP 14, VDLP from Seville 15, DN&P from Irun 16, Portuguese from Lisbon 17, CF from SJPP 18
This is not a custom for everybody yet but many are doing it: carrying a washable/reusable trash bag to carry your used TP and other trash for disposal later in a trash can rather than leaving them on or near the camino.

A personals custom that's very enjoyable is to attend vespers at every chance along the way. Sometimes the singing is beautiful and uplifting. Sometimes it's not uniformly good but is touching nevertheless and definitely provides comic relief, especially when I attempt to participate.
 
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Bert45

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
(2003) Francés, (2014) Francés, (2016) Portugués , (2016) Aragonés, (2018) del Norte to Primitivo,
en Eunate, some pilgrims walk bare foot around the church, it is said to give you a lot of telluric energy, which I doubt, but in any case, it is a very good massage for your feet, unless you have open blisters, it cools the foot down and estimulates circulation if you walk on those pebbles!
This "custom" featured in the BBC programme "Pilgrimage". The keyholder dismissed it as a sort of urban myth.
 

Bert45

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
(2003) Francés, (2014) Francés, (2016) Portugués , (2016) Aragonés, (2018) del Norte to Primitivo,
Graffiti has already been mentioned, but worth repeating. Especially the stupid "Love wins" or "❤️ W". Another "custom" that makes no sense (to me, at any rate) is leaving a stone on mojones. It's just untidy, imo.
 

stinmd

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances - May 2015; Camino del Norte/Primitivo - July/August 2016; Camino Portugues - Sept 2017
No-one's mentined carrying a shell...or the way it's different now than it was when people walked from home to home and brought the shell home with them.

Or the pilgrim's mass, and that moment when you hear the part of the reading the list of daily numbers of arrivals that includes you.

And hugging the statue/paying respects at the crypt
And if you are lucky, getting to see the botafumerio swing.

I am sorry that my first Camino was too late to enter the cathedral through the Portico de Gloria and so missing the old traditions that came with that. I always find it very moving that so many pilgrims hands have touched the base of the tree of Jesse there that there is a handprint worn into the Stone. That's a millennium of time and many pilgrims.
A custom that's not happening much in these days of COVID scare, I surmise.
 

alexwalker

Forever Pilgrim
Year of past OR future Camino
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
I’m very much a novice, having only completed half of the Camino Frances in three instalments so far since June 2019.
However, saying ‘Buen Camino’ is definitely a good tradition, as is leaving something at Cruz de Ferro.
Collecting stamps is definitely a worthwhile tradition, but not sure about this running into Santiago thing (I completed the last 100 km first, so I’ve already done that bit, though I will repeat when I complete the rest of my Camino).
I think everyone has small personal ‘traditions’ some of mine include always rewarding myself with a big bottle of water and a packet of biscuits (usually Filipinos) at the end of my day’s walking, and (if I’m alone) starting out each day’s walk by listening to Ventura by Tyler Bates (theme from the film The Way). I know it’s corny, but it gets me in the mood for the next five, six or seven hours!
The part from Burgos to Sarria is fantastic! The Meseta is a wonderful stretch (the best), despite what some people say.

Buen Camino!
 
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trecile

Camino Addict
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
So, @trecile, you are going to use photos and other visuals in your Zoom talk ☺ ? You could practice beforehand with volunteers from the forum ... 🤗. We would just have to bear in mind that we would be playing participants who don't know a thing about walking to Santiago. 😄
The presentation was recorded, but I have no desire to watch it, being my own worst critic. 😂
en Eunate, some pilgrims walk bare foot around the church, it is said to give you a lot of telluric energy, which I doubt, but in any case, it is a very good massage for your feet,
I didn't walk barefoot at Eunate, but I did at the botanical garden in Azofra where it is encouraged. That cool grass felt so wonderful on my tired feet!
 
Year of past OR future Camino
this will be my first. Norte September 2018.
I've been asked to do a presentation on Walking the Modern Camino.
I have been asked several questions in advance, and some have to do with pilgrim "customs."

Specifically I have been asked about these "customs": burning your clothes in Finisterre/Muxia, dropping stones at the Cruz de Ferro, running the last few hundred meters to the cathedral, anything like that.

I will definitely tell them that burning your clothes anywhere is not a custom that should be followed! And I don't know anyone who ran the last few hundred meters to the cathedral.

Can you think of anything that is a real pilgrim custom that I should mention?
Maybe to pay more than the base amount at albergues when you can.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
this will be my first. Norte September 2018.
Attend a mass or pilgrim blessing along the way. Visit the cathedrals whether you believe or not. Be kind and courteous. Ask for help if you need it. Offer help if you can. Greet people. Talk to people. Pay extra at the albergue if you can.
 

alexwalker

Forever Pilgrim
Year of past OR future Camino
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
The presentation was recorded, but I have no desire to watch it, being my own worst critic. 😂
Please don't be shy, and show us: We are cheering on you! I am totally convinced you did a GREAT job!
 

Old Kiwi

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
I have my own "Customs". I go to the river that runs through our town and collect two stones. One I paint with a small animal picture, the other is left natural. The painted stone goes on the pile at Cruz de Ferro. After placing the stone, for some reason that I cannot comprehend, I get very emotional and have to go and sit on a seat in the shelter to the right of the Cruz to wait for the tears to stop. The other goes into the sea at Finisterre. For me, this is my companion from home to the end of my pilgrimage. I collect a scallop shell from the beach a few miles from home. This of course goes on my pack and also goes into the sea at Finisterre which declares that my pilgrimage is over. I then pick up a stone from the small beach in Finisterre to bring home with me as a reminder of my pilgrimage. I try to have as many communal meals with other pilgrims as possible. This is one of the most enjoyable times on the Camino.
 
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pac1952

Author of "An Impossible Dream"
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2015); Portuguese Camino, Coastal Route (2018); Via de la Plata (2022, hopefully)
I have changed this part of my presentation from Pilgrim Customs to Camino Culture.

I've included wearing a scallop shell, greeting fellow pilgrims with "buen Camino" or if you're fancy "ultreia." 😄 Enjoying some wine at the Irache wine fountain (but not too much!). Communal meals, either in albergues or getting together as a group in a restaurant. Posing with the sculputures on Alto de Perdón, leaving a stone at Cruz de Ferro, hugging the St James statue in the Cathedral, and watching the Botafumeiro swing.
A good collection of "customs" @trecile, and good luck with the presentation.

I am not a "religious" person, but try to act/think of myself as a "spiritual" person, and I spent quite a lot of time both during and after my first Camino struggling with the idea of being a "true" pilgrim, which is perhaps another way of living to others' expectations. I suspect that some customs, at least the newer ones, come from a place of being "true" to others, or to external expectations, rather than simply to oneself.

Reading through all these posts I liked the recurring theme and language about kindness (my word) to self and others along the way. That's probabaly a "custom" worth promoting.
 

pac1952

Author of "An Impossible Dream"
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2015); Portuguese Camino, Coastal Route (2018); Via de la Plata (2022, hopefully)
The presentation was recorded, but I have no desire to watch it, being my own worst critic. 😂
Ahh, I missed this post. So, my "good luck" above should now become "well done".

Like others, I'd be interested in watching, if you're happy to share the link (or you can send it privately by message if you don't want to be too "out there").
 

Nev Sheather

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Walking now (2017)
I've been asked to do a presentation on Walking the Modern Camino.
I have been asked several questions in advance, and some have to do with pilgrim "customs."

Specifically I have been asked about these "customs": burning your clothes in Finisterre/Muxia, dropping stones at the Cruz de Ferro, running the last few hundred meters to the cathedral, anything like that.

I will definitely tell them that burning your clothes anywhere is not a custom that should be followed! And I don't know anyone who ran the last few hundred meters to the cathedral.

Can you think of anything that is a real pilgrim custom that I should mention?
What about the 'buen camino' greeting as you are walking? (if that's the correct spelling...). And grafitti should be a big no, leaving rubbish also.
 
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Raggy

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I never said it was a "good" custom - customs can be bad, and even criminal (just like habits can be good or bad). And did say it was custom that shouldn't be encouraged.
Some years ago, I attended the funeral of a family friend who'd had a distinguished military career. Several of the men who had served with him were there, and one of them led a toast at the reception with the following preamble, which was new to me, but must be quite well known: "The Navy is rich in traditions. The Army has its customs. In the Air Force, all we have is a few dirty habits, but one that means a lot to us is to raise a glass ... "

With that in mind, I don't think we should elevate pilgrim graffiti by calling it a custom. Scrawling ones name or a banal message on an object along the way is at best a dirty habit - on a par with dumping trash in the countryside or failing to leave a donation at a donativo albergue ...

The tradition of donativo hospitality surely merits a place in the list of (dying) camino customs.
 

Terry Callery

Chi Walker
Year of past OR future Camino
"Portuguese Camino"
"Slow Camino"
"The First Pilgrim"
All on Amazon
After placing the stone, for some reason that I cannot comprehend, I get very emotional and have to go and sit on a seat in the shelter to the right of the Cruz to wait for the tears to stop. The other goes into the sea at Finisterre. For me, this is my companion from home to the end of my pilgrimage.
Our brains seem to be hardwired to attribute power to inanimate objects - talismans. They seem to be present in every culture.
In AA they talk about "dropping the rock" = sheading our resentments.
I picked up one small very round black stone on the French Route -planned to make it into a necklace for a friend. I told the jeweler is was a "sacred stone". My attribution to the inanimate object.
You post was very touching.
 

roving_rufus

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances (2013-2015) Portugues (2017-2019) Via Francigena (2018-??) Camino from Ireland (2020-??)
Some years ago, I attended the funeral of a family friend who'd had a distinguished military career. Several of the men who had served with him were there, and one of them led a toast at the reception with the following preamble, which was new to me, but must be quite well known: "The Navy is rich in traditions. The Army has its customs. In the Air Force, all we have is a few dirty habits, but one that means a lot to us is to raise a glass ... "

With that in mind, I don't think we should elevate pilgrim graffiti by calling it a custom. Scrawling ones name or a banal message on an object along the way is at best a dirty habit - on a par with dumping trash in the countryside or failing to leave a donation at a donativo albergue ...

The tradition of donativo hospitality surely merits a place in the list of (dying) camino customs.
The problem is that on many sections it has become custom in the sense that is is a habit of a significantly large number of pilgrims... which fits the definition of a custom. There is obviously a sense that many want to leave a mark that they walked the camino, often meaning scrawling their name somewhere. I agree it is a nasty habit, but I think it has spiralled into a nasty custom... despite the fact that many would never even consider doing this "custom" for themselves, we all end up have to life with it on the camino.
 

Raggy

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
The problem is that on many sections it has become custom in the sense that is is a habit of a significantly large number of pilgrims... which fits the definition of a custom. There is obviously a sense that many want to leave a mark that they walked the camino, often meaning scrawling their name somewhere. I agree it is a nasty habit, but I think it has spiralled into a nasty custom... despite the fact that many would never even consider doing this "custom" for themselves, we all end up have to life with it on the camino.
Well, it would seem that we have identified what we disagree on. I don't think that "custom" equates merely to something habitual. (and I supported my argument with examples of habits that are not customs). You clearly do. On the other hand I don't. Whereas you do ...

Buen Camino.
 
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roving_rufus

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances (2013-2015) Portugues (2017-2019) Via Francigena (2018-??) Camino from Ireland (2020-??)
Well, it would seem that we have identified what we disagree on. I don't think that "custom" equates merely to something habitual. (and I supported my argument with examples of habits that are not customs). You clearly do. On the other hand I don't. Whereas you
Happy to come to the conclusion the issue is how we define custom
 

ijerry

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances late Sept 2016
One big custom is: Real pilgrims don't judge other pilgrims.

Wearing the scallop shell. In medieval times the scallop shell was collected from the beach at the end as proof to those back home that you had actually walked the Camino. Today, it marks you out as a pilgrim rather than a tourist.

Bringing a stone from home to deposit at the Cruz de Ferro - many find it a good psychological release to imagine your regrets or sins or pain being put into the stone and then to leave it behind you as you walk from your past to your future.

The pilgrim blessings after mass along the Way and in Santiago

Hugging the saint — again an acknowledgement that we do not accomplish great things alone.

Looking out for other pilgrims, treating all others with respect and compassion — and bringing that compassion back home with you.

Greeting other pilgrims with Buen Camino — and meaning it :)

Noticing that the alpha and omega symbols over the side door of Santiago Cathedral are reversed — to remind us that the end of the Camino is the start of a new life, and time to live the rest of your life as a pilgrim would — with care and compassion for others and for the environment around us.
 

Heather Anne

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
(2017)
My most emotional moment on the Camino was leaving a stone from my mother's collection below the Cruz de Ferro. She died in 2015 and I walked the Camino in 2017. Because I had been having nightmares about her last few months, I left the stone and verbally left the nightmares behind. Happily, I have had no nightmares since. One of the miracles that happened on "The Way".
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2018
One big custom is: Real pilgrims don't judge other pilgrims.
Aah, but isn't the phrase "real pilgrims" inherently judgmental? It divides pilgrims into "real pilgrims" and "fake pilgrims" and puts whoever says it as the judge, determining which pilgrims are real and which pilgrims are fake. If you are on pilgrimage and see a pilgrim judging another pilgrim, you judge them "not a real pilgrim" and, in doing so, lose the right to claim for yourself the status of "real pilgrim". I prefer to avoid the situation by avoiding the term "real pilgrim" (although I recognize that many real pilgrims embrace it).

I certainly agree that the experience of pilgrimage has helped me be less judgmental, but I haven't completely kicked the habit yet. Few pilgrims have, in my experience. And some that did a good job of kicking the judgmental habit are challenged in the last 100 km, in my observation.
 
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Dewdrop

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances August (2018).
I've been asked to do a presentation on Walking the Modern Camino.
I have been asked several questions in advance, and some have to do with pilgrim "customs."

Specifically I have been asked about these "customs": burning your clothes in Finisterre/Muxia, dropping stones at the Cruz de Ferro, running the last few hundred meters to the cathedral, anything like that.

I will definitely tell them that burning your clothes anywhere is not a custom that should be followed! And I don't know anyone who ran the last few hundred meters to the cathedral.

Can you think of anything that is a real pilgrim custom that I should mention?
Soaking your feet in a fountain meant for it! The cold water does wonders to numb the pain of aching feet and after a 5 min soak, my feet were as good as new to walk another 10 miles.
 

FrankW

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2013, 2016 and 2018 - French camino
2022 September/October - French camino
Thanks. Although I've given other Camino talks in the past, I'm a little nervous about this one because it's part of an OLLIclass (an organization for continuing education for older adults) which people are actually paying for. Plus it's on Zoom, which I haven't used much. 😨
I'm not the teacher for the entire course, which is about historical roots of the Camino. My portion is just about being a pilgrim on the modern Camino.
I have walked the French camino 3X and on each occasion have left a stone at the Iron Cross and each time was very moving for me. I have see this happen for others too. I imagine few customs have a neccesary outcome but many might touch us in powerful ways, even taking us by surprise if we allow the possibility.
 

Canada Wanders

Lost, but making great time...
Year of past OR future Camino
CF 2015
CP 2018
Reading through this, I found myself drawn back to the days leading up to my Camino, the walk itself...and of course the ending.
I had originally agreed to do this as my wife had heard about the Camino, and thought it would be great for us. I am retired Army...and no stranger to walking across a country with a pack- and the 'fun' part was lost on me. However, once she explained to me in the ways she does to 'enlighten' me("no one is going to shot at you, there will be crusty bread and red wine every day...and I think you need to by a new backpack..."), I agreed.
I felt leading up that it would just be a walk, a journey for my wife and I together, just the two of us. You all will know exactly how long that thought would have lasted! And I have to admit, my journey grew to include so many others we met along the way, people who have impacted my life so profoundly, and the sheer joy of seeing these faces in Santiago, and sharing in the fellowship. Even seeing a shared joy in the faces of strangers.
These are the customs I learned. Not so bull-headed as I can't be dragged to learn- but thank god for my wife, who is instrumental in my healing, and fully my joy. And the Camino? Well, it has left an impression on me that is both impossible to explain, and impossible not to share!
 
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