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What is the meaning of the piles of Stones along the Camino?

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sillydoll

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Stone Piles

Every continent has its own history of stone piles.
In South America they were symbolic offerings left at huacas.
In Spain they were called milladoiros, and were placed there by pilgrims to show the route for those following. This practise was thought to have originated with a pagan rite to invoke the protection of pagan spirits who protected travellers.
Similarly, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, the cairns (izivivane) are thought to be a Khoi custom, followed by the Xhosa, to place a stone on the cairn as a prayer for a safe journey.
In the Umfolozi Game Reserve in Zululand, there is a huge cairn that has been there since the stone age.
There is a tradition on the camino to bring a stone from home and rub all your fears, hurts and sorrows into the stone which you can place at the base of the Cruz de Ferro.
 

John Hussey

Active Member
Rock Cairns

Along significant sections of the Continental Divide Trail on top of the Rocky mountains, USA, rock cairns provide the only occasional markings designating the route. In some places I saw that some of these rock cairns had been established more than a century or so earlier to designate the route for cattle drives.

Perhaps piling up rocks as a manner to show others the way is something peculiar to us as a species. It is certainly quite convenient in places where the rocks are abundant. I remember a few places along the Camino where there were hundreds of these little piles of rocks, obviously made by other pilgrims who had gone before me, and I added a few stones to some of the piles and straightened up some that had toppled over.
 
are you talking about piles of stones at the side of the roads or piles of stones at the side of the fields? In stony terrain, farmers pick up stones in the fields and move them to the edge of the fields (a Sisyphean task, as there'll be a new crop next year). Not every pile of stones is a milladoiro!
 
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sillydoll

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Stone Piles

My post referred to milladoiros on the sides of paths/tracks/trails usually in mountainous places.
I think most people would realise that a pile of rocks placed haphazardly on the side of a field is obviously not the same thing!
 

John Hussey

Active Member
Peter Robins said:
are you talking about piles of stones at the side of the roads or piles of stones at the side of the fields? In stony terrain, farmers pick up stones in the fields and move them to the edge of the fields (a Sisyphean task, as there'll be a new crop next year). Not every pile of stones is a milladoiro!

Making walls around a field for cultivation was a more convenient place to put those cursed rocks. Later, those same walls would come to delineate property boundaries. But rock cairns which marked The Way, were entirely different piles-and those rocks weren't quite so cursed.
 

JohnnieWalker

Nunca se camina solo
I was reminded of this when in the Pilgrimage Museum in Santiago - in their booklet they describe this practice almost exactly as Sil does in her posting - a practise of pagan origin whereby pilgrims would simply toss a stone on the pile.
 

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