A Santiago Voy!

Spain Spain Spain!
One more day of cleaning, organizing, and packing, and then I’m off! Off to walk the Via de la Plata, one of the pilgrimage trails leading to Santiago de Compostela.

Map of Via de la Plata

My route will begin in Seville, and continue for more than 600 miles until I reach the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. And after that, I’ll walk a few more days and miles to reach the Atlantic Ocean at Finisterre. Along the way I’ll see vineyards, churches, Roman ruins, pigs, cows, abandoned castles, Moorish architecture, and an awful lot of sky and road.

Many people think the Vía de la Plata means “the silver road”, since one variant leads ultimately to Astorga and the mines in that city’s area, but current thought is that the name is related to the Arabic word balata, which means “paved”. In either case, the road is old, and is still in many stretches paved or marked with Roman blocks.

I’ll be blogging along the way when I can, relying on computers I find at the pilgrim hostels or in local libraries or internet cafes.

And I’ll be carrying the world’s ugliest scallop shell with me.

A really ugly scallop shell

The scallop is a symbol of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago. There are various legends about the origin of the symbol, and variations on the variations. Buying a scallop shell on the route seemed way too touristy to me, and in one of my woowoo moments I decided that finding a scallop shell on the beach here in California would be a sign that I was meant to take another pilgrimage. (Of course, if I didn’t find one, I would take that as a sign that I was meant to walk all the way to Finisterre and find one there. This was going to work for me one way or the other!)

Lo and behold! I found a really really ugly scallop shell on my local beach in February.

At least I believe it’s a scallop; it has the requisite radiating pattern and the scar left by its adductor muscle. If anyone thinks otherwise, keep it to yourself. This is my sign!

And I am tickled by its ugliness. Like the pilgrimage route itself, it’s been added on to, morphed, with layers of growth and transformation. The scallop shells one buys at shops selling pilgrim trinkets are perfect. I rather like the idea of carrying a symbol that bears the marks of its life, that has undergone change, that is marked by transformation. After all, isn’t that what a pilgrimage is all about?

See you in Seville!

Author: Melissa

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