Symbols, Symbolisms, Signs, Statuary and Sights Along the Camino

Tomorrow marks the 2 month mark from the moment we first touched down on the Camino this year. We began our mini-pilgrimage in Astorga on September 13th (My 53rd birthday). It’s hard to believe so much time has gone by since then.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my young adult novel set on the Camino was picked up by Interlude Press’s Duet Books. As the release date is scheduled for sometime in October, 2020, the preparations are beginning to ramp up. This week, I’ll be talking with the cover designer and boy is my head spinning. The publisher usually has the last word on cover, but often the author is consulted and a discussion goes on behind the scenes prior to mock-ups. The problem I’m having this week is not what do I want on the cover of THE CAMINO CLUB. My problem is what do I not want. I want everything CAMINO. It would be impossible for me to distill my wants down to a manageable number.

All I have been thinking about is the symbols of the Camino. I thought I would gather them here and see what I come up with.

Everyone on the Camino carries a few things in common. One of those things–though they may look different depending on where you come from or where you picked yours up–is a CREDENCIAL. This is the little passport book we all carry to collect stamps from various places along the Camino (Hotels, Albergues, Hostels, Restaurants, Cafes, etc). There is one stipulation with the credential—a pilgrim must collect at least two a day from the 100km mark to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. It’s up to the pilgrim to decide how few or how many they collect for the rest of the pilgrimage. Though not your typical ‘symbol’ per se, the credential is definitely a symbol to the pilgrim. Watching the stamps collect are such a part of the daily experience. It’s always thrill to add another stamp, turn another page…

THE CREDENCIAL

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As for the symbols one sees while walking? They are many…

THE YELLOW ARROW

The yellow arrow is EVERYWHERE. It’s how a pilgrim finds their way. They can be painted on the road, on houses, on trees, on fences, on everything.

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Follow not the white rabbit, for he will take you in the wrong direction. Look only for the yellow arrows. They’re not the most iconic symbols of the Camino de Santiago, but arguably the most important. They’ll take you there…

Sometimes the arrows aren’t yellow, but you know they still represent the way…

Even the yellow ones come in a variety of different ways…

THE ROUTE MARKER

Aw, the glorious route marker! How the heart sings when one worries that they have strayed and they finally come upon this symbol that tells them all is well, they’re on their way!

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They assure the pilgrim they are not lost, just as they let them know how far they have left to go before they reach the cathedral. This iconic symbol is everything to the pilgrim.

Quite often, there will be offerings left on these route markers…from stones to seashells to shoes…

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SIGNAGE

The Camino signage varies depending on where you are. If the arrows and the route markers are not enough to comfort the pilgrim, they’ll be reassured by the postage signage along the way…

ARTWORK AND STATUARY ABOUND

There is ALWAYS something to see on the Camino…whether it is something left behind by fellow pilgrims or something commissioned for the pilgrimage route. There’s as many statues as there is graffiti, as many messages as there is art installations. Statues and crosses and St. James representations…

REMEMBRANCES

One thing you don’t really think about until you see your first one? Remembrances. A lot of pilgrims don’t make it. There are markers where people have passed while attempting their pilgrimage. And remembrances for loved ones back home, as well.

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THE CATHEDRAL AND THE COMPOSTELA

It’s all for one thing…to reach the cathedral at the end of the yellow brick road. Whether you are religious or not, by the time you reach the goal you had set your sights on so many days before, it’s a huge thrill to walk into the plaza at the end of the Camino and see the monolithic cathedral standing before you…

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And also a thrill to pick up that certificate once you arrive…the compostela that serves as proof of the journey…

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SOooooooo…yep! I’m having an extremely difficult time imagining what will make it to the cover of my book. The iconic seashell maybe? A yellow arrow? St. James? A route marker? You see my problem? Too many things! It remains to be seen…

 

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