The Camino

The Camino de Santiago de Compostela translated loosely into English means “the road of St. James along the path of the stars”. Camino is road, way or path, Santiago is an adaptation of the Hebrew name Jacob which later became the European name for James the Greater, who is the Christian Apostle buried in the great cathedral of Santiago. Compostela means way of the stars. The ancients who first paved this traditional pilgrimage route of initiation were recognizing the imprint of the starry heavens on the geography of the route. They felt the pathway resembled the Milky Way Galaxy, and established temples and shrines honoring various gods and goddesses along the way. With the arrival of the Roman Imperialist expansion, the pathway fell out of use as a pilgrimage, but became a major trade route. During this time, the Milky Way was seen as the compass, guiding travelers to their destination by pointing towards “the way.” The Camino was revived by Constantine the Great and his mother Helen as a path of initiation in the 4th Century CE. In the Eighth Century, Charlemagne had a vision of St. James which led him to the Camino. This event brought the pathway into the mainstream consciousness. It became a popular destination in the Middle Ages for those desiring a pilgrimage but for many reasons could not go to the Holy Land. Locals along the path constructed shrines, taverns and hostels to serve the pilgrim population. After the Reformation and Renaissance, the Camino fell into disuse. Starting in the 1980’s due to several books on the subject by famous authors such as Paulo Coelho and Shirley MacClain, the Camino has become more popular. In 1993, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the French and Spanish Camino a World Heritage site. The modern pilgrim on the Camino embarks for various reasons, from a desire to see beautiful landscapes to personal discovery. For the past 15 years, nearly 200,000 people travel the Camino de Santiago de Compostela each year, and every one of these pilgrims has a unique experience that transforms them in expected and unexpected ways.