Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Who is this Apostle Saint James...

and why this Pilgrimage?

    The saga of James is a mixture of fact and fable with a large scoop of J.R Tolkien-like characters thrown into the blend.    

   Apostle James was last seen alive in Jerusalem, trying to convert the locals to a new religion. King Herod didn’t take kindly to this and had the young man’s head removed from the big part. (Present-day Mormon missionaries are lucky that this practice is now frowned upon.)  A few of James’ followers deposited the body and unattached head into a rudderless boat. James’ groupies hopped into the boat and went along for the ride. Somehow they arrive in Galicia in what is now western Spain. James’ flock spread out in search of a decent burial site for their former mentor. Now this is where the story gets really weird.

    They meet up with the very-pagan Queen Lupa. They plead their case and request a nice piece of property with perhaps a pleasant cathedral over it. She proceeds to set them up for failure against mean kings, unmanageable oxen and the inevitable fire-belching dragon. Of course our Hobbit-like heroes overcome all of these obstacles, and create many Christian converts along the way. Finally, the Apostle James gets his plot of dirt with a humble mausoleum above it.

    After all of this fussing, the grave whereabouts went missing for 800 years, until the hermit Pelayo had a “divine revelation” complete with “angels singing” and of course, “altar lights.” The remains were quickly established to be that of the Apostle Santiago (Saint James in Spanish). Thus one of the world’s first tourist attractions came into existence.

     Many famous people have trod the Camino since its inception in the 1100’s. Anthony Quinn walked the walk in 1999 while filming a TV show about the pilgrimage. I guess he felt compelled to do it; after all, he did play a Russian pope in “The Shoes of the Fisherman.”

    In 1994, Shirley MacLaine slept in hostels and spoke to fellow pilgrims. She went on to write a book named, “The Way, a Spiritual Journey.” I often wondered, with her belief in reincarnation, which Shirley MacLaine wrote the book.

    One of my favorite old-timey pilgrims was Aymeric Picaud, a French monk and curmudgeon who wrote the first travel guide of the Camino around 1140. It was called the Codex Calixtus. Mr. Picaud was a rather opinionated writer who didn’t hold back from calling a spade a spade. He lambasted most of the people he met along the way. He didn’t like the Basques at all, though for the most part, I’d consider him to be an equal opportunity racist. In my mind’s eye, I pictured him to be an Andy Rooney look-alike.

There's more myths and legends surrounding the Camino. 
    There’s a fable in Santo Domingo de la Calzada concerning German pilgrims, jilted lovers, vengeful magistrates and the usual intervention of good ol’ Santiago to save the day. Oh, yeah, there’s a footnote of two roasted chickens coming back to life to crow again. In other words, your typical miracle.

   Now in honor of those pollos, a few well-groomed barnyard animals hang out in a holy coop at the local cathedral. At the church, I was allowed access to gaze up at those blessed birds. (After making a 3€ "donation"). Another legend says, if you score a "Cock-a-Doodle-do" from the poultry; your Camino will be blessed with Good Vibes. I craned my head up to hear. Nada! But then again, I'm sort of deaf. 

That night I ate chicken for dinner.

Now you are sort of all caught up. 

From Villa Franca-Montes de Oca,