“What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim – A Midlife Misadventure on Spain’s Camino de Santiago de Compostela” by Jane Christmas

The first thing you need to know is that “Santiago“ is the apostle Saint James. His body is believed to be buried in the city of Santiago de Compostela in north western Spain, and routes to that location have become “pilgrimage” routes, traveled (mostly) on foot by Christians seeking spiritual refreshment. Jane Christmas joined this tradition. Her “quickie” explanation (you need one on this road) was that she was walking to “affirm her belief in God and celebrate her 50th birthday”. Good! And admirably clear, though I don’t know why she consulted a psychic during her preparations.

Christmas undertook serious physical training before her trek and began in good condition, through not, perhaps, fully adequate for crossing the Pyrenees at relatively high altitude, one of the first challenges of the route. Her “mistake”, while preparing for the pilgrimage, was to accept the company FOURTEEN additional women who, inspired by her example, asked to join her! She had not intended to be “in charge” and when that burden was thrust on her, she hit the road at a brisk walk and (unintentionally?) left the pack behind.

I didn’t particularly like the attitude she conveyed about this misunderstanding, which she dismisses with nonchalant statements that amount to “women are like that”, namely bitchy, whiney, cliquish, etc. I just think these were the wrong women…

Christmas’s descriptions of the Camino and the people she met are vivid and often amusing. The countryside and small towns sound wonderful. The fact that she found romance on the trail warms my heart.

I wonder what the Camino is now like. From what I’ve read, the number of pilgrims has increased steadily over time. I hope the hostel accommodations, which sounded sketchy at best, have been upgraded. There’s a whole literature of this pilgrimage, and I’m interested enough that I’m likely to check it out, reading modern accounts first.


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