Thursday, December 13, 2007

Pilgrimage Mantras and Prayers

Here begins the Journey Now begins the Day. With one step upon the Road My soul is on its Way. © JS Selfe

Ancient Hasidic Saying: “When you walk across the fields with your mind pure, then from all the stones and all growing things, and all animals, the sparks of their soul come out and cling to you and become a holy fire in you”.

Buddhist prayer: "Simply looking ahead without looking down at our feet, we shall stumble. To look at others and not look at our own self is a horrible thing."

St Anthony's messenger:
1. Blessed are you, pilgrim, if you find that the camino opens your eyes to the unseen.
2. Blessed are you, pilgrim, if what concerns you most is not arriving, but arriving with the others.
3. Blessed are you, pilgrim, when you contemplate the sights of the camino and find them full of names and of new dawns.
4. Blessed are you, pilgrim, because you have discovered that the true camino begins at its end.
5. Blessed are you, pilgrim, if your backpack empties of things as your heart doesn't know where to fit so many emotions.
6. Blessed are you, pilgrim, if you discover that a step backwards to help another is more valuable than one hundred forward without awareness of those at your sides.
7. Blessed are you, pilgrim, when you have no words to give thanks for all the wonders in every nook of the camino.
8. Blessed are you, pilgrim, if you search the truth and make of your camino a life and of your life a camino, after Him who is the Way, the Life, and the Truth.
9. Blessed are you, pilgrim, if in the camino you meet yourself and make yourself a gift of time without hurry so that you may not neglect the image of your heart.
10. Blessed are you, pilgrim, if you find that the camino is rich with silence, and the silence is rich with prayers, and the prayers are encounters with the Father that awaits you.

"Not all who wander are lost." JRR Tolkien

Thomas Merton : “Sitting at home and meditating on the divine presence is not enough for our time. We must come to the end of a long journey and see that the stranger we meet there is no other than ourselves - which is the same as saying we find Christ in him."

The journey of one thousand miles begins with one step.

Always aim for the ultimate.Never look back.Be forever mindful of others.Keep your eyes always set on the Way.

What is important is not the destination,but the act of getting there.The Path itself is the goal.

St. Gildas - 5thC
In health may I and all of my companions
Safely arrive with no harm or injury –
May my boat be safe in the waves of the ocean,
My horses safe on the highways of the earth,
Our money safe as we carry it with us
To pay due heed to our poor necessities.
May our enemies fail to do harm to us,
However evil the counsels which inspire them,
In the eternal name of Christ our Master,
May my roads all lie plain before me,
Whether I climb the rugged heights of mountains,
Or descend the hollow depths of valleys,
Or trudge the lengthy roads on open country,
Or struggle through the thickets of dense forest:
May I walk always in straight ways and shining
To longed-for places . . .”
Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” James A. Michener

Jewish Prayer: May it be your will, Lord my God, to lead me on the way of peace and guide and direct my steps in peace, so that you will bring me happily to my destination, safe and sound. Save me from danger on the way. Give me good grace, kindness and favour in both your eyes and in the eyes of all whom I may meet. Hear this my prayer, for you are a God who hears to the heart's supplication and communion. Blessed are You, Lord our God, who hears prayer

Where will yon lonely pilgrim wander,
Where will my ancient pigrim roam?
Away on the road to Compostella.
Who know when he’ll reach his goal?
His weary feet are stained with gore
And he can tramp no more.

Pilgrim Blessing (1078): In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, shoulder these rucksacks which will help you during your pilgrimage. May the fatigue of carrying them be expiation for your sins, so that when you have been forgiven you may reach the shrine of St. James full of courage, and when your pilgrimage is over, return home full of joy. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

O Lord whose word makes all things holy, bless we beseech you these emblems, rucksacks and staffs to be used on this pilgrimage. May all those who carry them arrive safely at the shrine of St. James the Apostle, the objective of their journey. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not." Ralph Waldo Emerson
"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart." Helen Keller.

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep;When in the morning light I wake,Teach me the path of love to take.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


It was customary in the middle ages for stone masons to place their marks in stones. These marks identified the work of a particular mason for payment of wages, and indicated that the stone was acceptable for use. Other marks specified where a particular stone should be placed within the structure. Marks have been found on stones used in Ancient Egypt and elsewhere, including castles, churches and cathedrals of Europe. A register of marks became necessary to identify the personal mark of each mason. The first written reference to mason's marks occurred in Scotland, in the Schaw Statutes of 1598, where it was stated that on the admission of a Fellow of Craft, his name and mark were to be registered.
One can follow a mason by identifying his mark on monuments, churches and cathedrals - some that would have taken many years to build. It is presumed that the stone with the large sign on the wall of the collegiate church in Roncesvalles was recycled from an earlier structure, possibly the 10th C hospice which was demolished in the 1600's.
Eunate Santa Maria is almost covered in mason marks and at Villafranca del Bierzo, Jesus Jato showed me many stones that were donated from all over Europe - and even Brazil - to rebuild Ave Fenix after it was burned down.
When you look at a monument, church or cathedral, look closely and you will see many signs in the stones.

Crosses on the camino

There are thousands of crosses on the caminos through Spain - here are a few.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sant'Iago Killer of Spaniards!!

Santiago Mataespanois (Killer of Spaniards)
There have been recent reports of Muslims obejcting to scupltures, paintings and carvings of Santiago Matamoros (killer of Moors). Someone should tell them that the very same imaginary figure, was also the killer of the Spaniards!
Jacobus, brother of John, son of Zebedee was a fisherman who evolved into the archetypal hero of Western culture. From Sant’ Iago Peregrino to Sant'Iago Matamoros - killer of the Moors: to Sant’ Iago Mataindios - killer of Indians: to Sant’ Iago Mataespañois - killer of Spaniards - everyone wanted him as their hero!
In Mexico City there is a carving from the altarpiece of the Church of Santiago Tlatelolco showing him as Santiago Mataindios - the Indian-slayer.
And although Christianity and the Catholic religion were taken to the Americas by the Spaniards, when Mexico fought to obtain its independence from Spain in 1810, Sant’ Iago was exalted as Santiago Mataespañois - the slayer of Spaniards!
In Peru, during an indigenous uprising in 19th-century they adopted Santiagoas its champion, using the "Matamoros" iconography of “Santiago Mataespañois” that in Peru had come to be associated with a pre-Columbian deity who drove out evil forces. There is a mid-19thC silver statue of Santiago Mataespañois in the Museum of Pilgrimages in Santiago de Compostela.
and another one – scroll down to under Ano 1998 - (as well as pictures of items from the museum) here:
You can see the altarpiece of Santiago Mataindios here (click on the photo to enlarge it)

You can see paintings of Santiago Matamoros and Mataindios together here:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Of slugs and sundials - weasels and weathervanes

I took photographs of all sorts of things on the camino - from giant slugs to 400 year-old sundials, weasels to weathervanes. Here are just a few.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Precious memories on the camino

We met a delightful Irish girl on the camino who, for various physical reasons, could not carry a heavy pack and who chose not to sleep in the albergues. She started at St Jean Pied de Port and walked to Santiago staying at small hostals or pensions having her luggage transported from place to place by taxi. Some people seemed to disapprove of this kind of pilgrimage but I am of the opinion that where you sleep or what you carry has no bearing whatsoever on your spiritual status as a pilgrim. She walked the same paths, through the same villages and towns and visited the same churches and cathedrals and monuments. She walked the camino and has a Compostela to prove it.

The camino has many levels - something for everybody. It is a physical journey and a spiritual journey. It offers religion and science, art and architecture, history and legend, fauna and flora, music, literature and much more. For me its richest blessings are the pilgrims who walk it and the people who care for them. I do feel that staying only in hotels deprives one of experiencing the wonderful camaraderie and social interaction pilgrims have with hospitaleros and other pilgrims which you only find in the pilgrim refuges. Sure, you can chat to fellow pilgrims on the road and at café bars but it is usually at the end of the day when most pilgrims are relaxing that you meet and befriend so many different people and have the most amazing encounters.
After arriving at a refuge most pilgrims attend to their daily chores of washing clothes, finding food and preparing for the next day. This is never done in isolation, but by patiently waiting your turn at the washtub, chatting with the people around you or sharing your food. Everyone shares, not only food and wine but information, medication, blister products. You break bread every day. Friendships are formed. Distrust among pilgrims disappears. One keeps meeting the same pilgrims in different refuges and if separated for a few days, familiar faces are greeted like long-lost relatives.
The scenes around a modern albergue can’t be too different from a medieval hospice. Pilgrims relaxing together in a meadow sharing food and wine, tending to each other’s feet or massaging aching shoulders. An ethic develops where those pilgrims who need to be alone are left alone and those who need a shoulder are treated with empathy and compassion. Pilgrims develop an open mind and a culture of acceptance, compassion and caring rarely seen amongst strangers. And, many hospitaleros display these same attributes.
In Villamayor de Monjardin the hospitalero took one look at my raw heels and insisted on treating them from her first aid box. In Granon, we had to sing for our supper and had a special blessing before bedtime. In Tosantos, after dinner we climbed into the attic to find a delightful makeshift chapel where we were asked to take a piece of paper out of a box containing the requests for prayers written by other pilgrims. Mine was written by a woman who asked that we pray for her son who had been diagnosed with a kidney disease. In Logrono we could take a prayer from a box (written by children) to present at the altar of St James in Santiago. In Bercianos we all had to watch the sunset over a hill before we were allowed back in to the refuge for our communal meal. At Arroyo San Bol, a young Italian Rastafarian chef cooked us the most amazing meal. At Villafranca del Bierzo, Jesus Jato performed his healing Reiki on pilgrims who were in pain and at Manjarin, a young man with a Mohawk hairstyle and studs in his face cooked us lunch and dinner in between gently caring for a mother cat and her kittens.
These are the jewels of the camino and my most precious memories are not of a soaring cathedral or of stunning stained glass but of the kindness of strangers, the astounding generosity of the Spanish people and the many humble refuges that brought us all together.