02 Jan ROAD OUT OF TIME: Way of the stars
The Camino is a timeless story, brimming with fantastical myths and legends. One tale weaves a narrative that explains the band of pulsing starlight, The Milky Way. It says it was created from the dust of pilgrim’s feet striking the earth. The Milky Way became a celestial way-marker for pilgrims on their journey across the north of Spain.
Norse myth describes this band of stars as a river of milk from which Gods and Goddesses would drink to receive divine powers. In Roman times, the road to Santiago de Compostela was a trade route known as the Via Lactea (Milky Way). It was also an efficient means to move merchandise and armies of men. These roads were carefully designed and stones were laid a little unevenly to maximise drainage. Roman roads can still be found on the Camino. It is intriguing to walk upon roads that have braved wars, plagues, massacres, invasions and the soles of countless, dedicated pilgrims.
Camino is Spanish for ‘Way’. Old English: Weg, road, path, your course of life.
Stars and planets make their own celestial pilgrimages and constellations have been tracked and studied for millennia. Mesopotamians identified the sun, moon and then five bright stars which became the seven original planets.
The word ‘planet’ comes from the Greek phrase ‘planets aster, meaning wandering star. On the Camino, the symbol of the star is ever-present. It still sparkles in the names of some of the towns: Estella, Astorga, Compostela (field of stars) and ‘ster’ (star in Dutch), can be found in Finesterre.
Many prehistoric stone circles or cromlechs reside on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Researchers believe these stone circles represent stars reflected on earth from the sky above. One study examines the cromlechs that are found on the French and Spanish sides of the Pyrenees. The study concludes that the stones were markers for The Milky Way which had two star-gates for the passage of souls to pass through.
The northern gate was in the constellation of Orion and represented the summer solstice: birth and descent into the body. The southern gate was at the tail of the constellation of Sagittarius, which represented the winter solstice: death and the ascent or return to the gods (1). Like many indigenous cultures, ancient Europeans believed their heritage was from the stars.
As above, so below; as within, so without!
Road Out Of Time is a regular Walk & Write blog about the spiritual, mystical and religious significance and traditions of The Camino de Santiago de Compostela.
Sarah Blogg is a Camino scholar and pilgrim of life, who is drawn to share her research into and insights about the enigmatical pilgrim path across Spain.
While for many pilgrims The Camino is The Way of St James, for Sarah the ancient road is The Way of the Goddess.