A Shell from Shel : A Scallop Shell from The Camino

Books about Walking, Pilgrimage and Slow Travel

Camino Scallop Shell

A SHELL FROM SHEL – A SCALLOP SHELL, SYMBOL OF THE CAMINO

The Camino pilgrimage has fascinated me for years. I’ve read many books about it. I know I’ll never be fortunate enough to place a foot on the sacred pathway, I won’t get my walking passport stamped, nor will I be able to hang a scallop shell from my overweight backpack. But that’s OK, I haven’t completly missed out because I read books.

There is a land of magic folks and deeds, anyone can visit there, who reads and reads and reads. Source Leyland B Jacobs.

Wikipedia has a page dedicated to The Camino and a snippet tells us: “Pilgrims and many others set out each year from their front doorsteps or from popular starting points across Europe, to make their way to Santiago de Compostela (The Camino). Most travel by foot, some by bicycle, and a few travel as some of their medieval counterparts did, on horseback or by donkey. In addition to those undertaking a religious pilgrimage, the majority are hikers who walk the route for non-religious reasons: travel, sport, or simply the challenge of weeks of walking in a foreign land. Also, many consider the experience a spiritual adventure to remove themselves from the bustle of modern life. It serves as a retreat for many modern pilgrims.”

My sister Michele (Shel) recently returned from a trip to Europe which incorporated a 27 kilometre walk along The Way of St James (The Camino). With her friends, she walked the section of The Camino starting in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France and finishing in Roncesvalles, Spain.  She felt sure it must have been the steepest part of The Camino.  It wasn’t easy. Michele was kind enough to bring back a scallop shell from The Camino for me.  It now takes pride of place on our sideboard, giving our home a symbolic reference of one of the most important Pilgrimages in the European world. The fact that Michele carried it with her from place to place on her journey makes our scallop shell very special.

There are several symbolic icons pilgrims through the ages have cherished, one is the Scallop Shell and the other the cross of Santiago.  I found a good description of these symbols on the Caminoteca website. (Caminotect provide information and equipment for pilgrims travelling along The Camino.)

The pilgrim’s shell

Scallop Shell from The Camino “The scallop shell has long been the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. Over the centuries the scallop shell has taken on mythical, metaphorical and practical meanings, even if its relevance may actually derive from the desire of pilgrims to take home a souvenir. Two versions of the most common myth about the origin of the symbol concern the death of Saint James, who was martyred by beheading in Jerusalem in 44 AD. “Version 1: After James’ death, his disciples shipped his body to the Iberian Peninsula to be buried in what is now Santiago. Off the coast of Spain a heavy storm hit the ship, and the body was lost to the ocean. After some time, however, the body washed ashore undamaged, covered in scallops. “Version 2: After James’ death his body was mysteriously transported by a ship with no crew back to the Iberian Peninsula to be buried in what is now Santiago. As James’ ship approached land, a wedding was taking place on the shore. The young groom was on horseback, and on seeing the ship approaching, his horse got spooked, and the horse and rider plunged into the sea. Through miraculous intervention, the horse and rider emerged from the water alive, covered in seashells. “The scallop shell also served practical purposes for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. The shell was the right size for gathering water to drink or for eating out of as a makeshift bowl. The scallop shell also acts as a metaphor. The grooves in the shell, which come together at a single point, represent the various routes pilgrims traveled, eventually arriving at a single destination: the tomb of James in Santiago de Compostela.”  Source: Caminoteca

The cross of St James

The Cross of Santiago “The Cross of St James is shaped like a Celtic sword or dagger and, over time, it has become an icon of Galicia, St James is the Patron Saint of Galicia, he is also the Patron Saint of all of Spain. It should also be noted that the St. James Cross, when placed in red on a white background, is also the most popular Christian cross of all time – a symbol of God’s protection. The white colour represents purity and the red colour symbolises the blood of Christ. The red cross over a white field was used during the Middle Ages, by the Crusaders, and the Knights Templar; it has also been the national flag of England since the 16th Century. Pointed crosses like the St. James Cross, were carried in ancient times by Christian pilgrims. They would thrust them into the ground and then kneel before them to pray.” Source: Good Luck Gifts from The Camino

My reading list of books about Slow Travel

I’ve spent the last few days trawling through our libraries at Amazon.com; Audible.com; and our home library, reacquainting myself with my reading history related to slow travel. I located a large quantity of books on my “read” list and decided to list most of them here thinking that my readers may find a treasure.  Some books are missing from the list but I wouldn’t want to bore anyone rigid by listing too many.  It was fun reacquainting myself with my books, books that share the authors’ inner thoughts while on their pilgrimages, walks and slow travels. My Slow Travel Book List is set out below and the links will take the reader to the Amazon.com website where you will find excellent reviews and detailed information.

Diane’s bookshelf: Walking, Pilgrimages and Slow Travel

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