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The most pilgrim rituals of the Camino
All kinds of "memories" dot the last fifteen kilometers of the French route
DAVID COSTOYA SL SANTIAGO / LA VOZ
08/26/2018 05:00 H
The last fifteen kilometers of the French Way are reflected in the faces of the pilgrims with a mixture of joy and exhaustion, because they know that their destination, Compostela, is already around the corner, or almost. The final sprint starts around the Lavacolla airport and, leaving it behind, a series of paths begins among the vegetation, alternating with stretches through the small population centers until reaching Monte do Gozo. The cairns with the yellow scallop will escort the passage of the pedestrians, although they will not be the only companions on the route. On all sides you can see the marks that other pilgrims went through there before: pebbles, religious prints, stickers and even clothes.
Before arriving at the village of San Paio, the strategic placement of a sneaker on a "Do not pass" sign is surprising. Beside this, multiple stickers dot a street lamp, and a heart-shaped painting looks like a stone-topped landmark.
Abandoning the small town is San Paio, the walkers go back into the vegetation. This section runs between trees, dirt trails, and the passage through a tunnel to cross the highway. Further on, the route shows houses and farms, and ultimately leads to Lavacolla. The walkers make a stop on the way to drink water at the fountain of the church of San Paio de Sabugueira. There you can also see the passage of other pilgrims, for example with messages such as "You will always walk by my side Patrick, Carlos", an anonymous inscription that since July of this year looks on a sign of the route.
When crossing the national road in the direction of Vilamaior, the pilgrims pass by the Lavacolla stream, where since medieval times, its banks were a point to be thoroughly cleaned before entering the city. Today there is a walkway, where many stop to regain strength. In Vilamaior, the smell of rough work welcomes pilgrims, but so does a bicycle saddle and an apple, which are stacked in perfect balance on top of a landmark.
As you pass the neighboring village of Neiro, a large fence with hundreds of crosses made with branches and eucalyptus leaves is striking. The allusion to religion is clear, although possibly many pilgrims left there their mark by inertia and imitation.
The route continues towards Monte do Gozo, where there is more affluence of walkers. Already in this natural balcony to the city, the arrival of pilgrims is attested by the hundreds of memories that "decorate" the monument of the place. From photographs, shoes and hats, all kinds of effects hang from the reliefs as if it were an offering. There are also missing the recurring stones. On the other hand, a few meters from the place, crosses are erected with branches, from which generally pieces of clothing also hang.
However, the "big altar" pilgrim is the signpost indicating the entrance to Santiago. The ritual sends out the photo of rigor, but in this sign you can barely distinguish the letters due to all the stickers, shoes, flags and all kinds of physical witnesses of the arrival of the walkers who are cramming it.
Leave stones to abandon the sorrows and create community
The passage of the walkers is commonly marked by simple pebbles. These form small agglomerations, which are usually located in the cairns of the Jacobean Route. Nobody knows who started them, but almost all the signs that shine the arrow and yellow scallops are topped by these mounds.
Originally, when there was no formal signage, it is believed that the small piles of stones informed the traveler that this route had been followed by more pilgrims. However, this changed at some point, and today the action of depositing a pebble in a certain place on the Camino has a self-help function. Christian Kurrat, a doctor in Sociology and an expert on the Camino de Santiago, explains that leaving behind the stones symbolizes leaving behind fears, sorrows and problems, which remain petrified on the path. "This ritual is also a way to create a historical and diachronic community of pilgrims, a way of making other pilgrims see others before, and in this way the new stones will leave the same message to future pilgrims", Kurrat adds.
Whether to free oneself from the pain, with the wish that the pilgrim feeling transcend the borders of time and space, or simply by imitation, hundreds of testimonies of those who go to Compostela continue to accumulate day after day.