Friday, August 31, 2007
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
number of pilgrims worldwide, 2007: 190 million
pilgrims to Lourdes this year: 8 million
most frequented pilgrimage site: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City, 10 million
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
So get on down (but don't hurry!) to the boulevard, the boardwalk, the plaza, the esplanade... Banish all thoughts of destinations from your mind. And if you're on the Camino, don't race to that next refuge. Let it come to you.
To learn more about the history of World Sauntering Day, and the rules and principles of sauntering, listen here. Now I'm going out for a saunter. Hope to see you.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Yes, it's a peregrinating world out there, as people keep beating new paths and fixing up old ones. It was just a few days ago I was talking about the Abraham Path from Turkey to Hebron, and now here comes Brandon Wilson with "the Templar Trail." Here's his message, sent last week to the Santiagobis Yahoo Group.
A trail that I walked last year runs from France to Jerusalem. It traces an early pilgrimage route that coincides with that of the Romans and Godfrey de Bouillon of the First Crusades. The Templar Trail traces the Donau radweg, a beautiful bicycle path through Germany, Austria to Budapest. Then you walk onward through Serbia, Bulgaria and Turkey. There is plenty of tradition along the way, as you pass through 11 countries and areas practicing three major religions. No problem generally finding good accommodation and I was able to walk it in 160 days (133 walking days) for about the same cost as the Camino. I've been talking to groups about it lately with the hope that it will someday become an international trail for peace (fitting irony there, given its role in the Crusades).
Ultreia, Brandon Wilson
This one's not for the faint of heart. 4200 k's and not another pilgrim soul... Or not yet, anyway. Brandon's book on the walk, including stages, distances, sights and practical details, will be out in January. To find out more about this intrepid pilgrim (whose journeys have also taken him to Tibet and Africa), check out http://www.pilgrimstales.com/
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Since then, the botafumeiro has had a clean safety record, and to keep things that way,it was taken out of service for two months earlier this summer so the cords could be replaced. We'll see how well these ones hold out. Thousands of pilgrims were disappointed not to see the botafumeiro in action, but she's swinging again, as this broadcast from TV Galicia, July 11, shows. (I know, it's not exactly news, but it's great footage and a chance to listen to the soft gallego tongue.)
NB: the above photo was taken by Michael Krier and comes from the Confraternity of Saint James (CSJ) photo library, a terrific (and growing) source of Camino images.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
The Compostela is given to those who have completed the Camino "con sentido cristiano, aunque solo sea en un actitud de busqueda" - "in a Christian sense (manner / direction), even if it be only in an attitude of searching." At present, according to a cathedral spokesman, it is being claimed on a regular basis by "mere hikers and budget tourists" who show up at the Pilgrim Office bearing any old stamp-bearing document issued by dodgy Camino organizations and unscrupulous tour operators.
The abuses alleged are real. There are certainly individuals and groups who use the Camino's albergues as rest-stops on cheap holidays, driving from one to the next, arriving early to claim beds that should go to pilgrims who have walked or biked. I have known a few of these characters, and let me assure you that every last one of them held official credentials. They're really not that hard to obtain. So it's hard to see how the announced "reform" is going to change anything, and not surprising that many pilgrims are looking for a hidden agenda behind this unilateral move by the Cathedral of Santiago.
Let's hope there is no need for concern, and assume that if there is we can count on the various Camino associations - the ones who actually restored the path, established the refuges, and instituted the credential system - to speak out loud and clear on the issues.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Click here to see a 7-minute RealPlayer video presentation on the Abraham Path initiative.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Last night's candlelit vigil for Elvis was the biggest ever according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal (great name for a newspaper). An estimated 50,000 mourners, pilgrims, fans were still making their way, one by one, past the King's grave at sunrise this morning. One died of heat stroke in the afternoon leading up to the vigil, as Memphis temperatures soared to 106F. Check out this article for an interview with Roy Smalley, a "tribute artist" (aka, "Elvis impersonator") who also serves with the County Rescue Squad. He speculates on the reaction of someone waking from a faint to find they are being revived by Elvis.
And if the grave of the King is busy, how about the tomb of the Apostle? Not in centuries, maybe never, has Santiago de Compostela seen crowds like these. Last week, the Pilgrim Office in the Rua do Vilar handed out 7,209 compostelas, a single-week record (*the compostela is the certificate given to pilgrims who have walked one hundred kilometres or more and cyclists who have done two-hundred.*) On Saturday alone, 1500 accreditations were made, the first time the total has surpassed 1200 in a single day. Office hours were extended to make sure no one went home without their quaint Latin scroll, and though no figures are available, you can bet the little stationery shop across the road that sells cardboard tubes made an absolute killing.
Seems like we still need our kings and saints...
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
The opening ceremony takes place at 8:30 p.m. on August 15, near the front gates of the mansion property. Fans gather in the street and in Graceland Plaza to see this. There is a queue line in the street. At the end of the ceremony, torches lit from the eternal flame at Elvis’s grave are brought down to the gate. The queue line starts to move as fans walk through gates and light their candles on the torches and then walk single file up the driveway to the gravesite in the Meditation Garden and back down. To accommodate everyone who is in line, the procession lasts into the morning of August 16, the anniversary of Elvis’s passing.
Graceland staff members are positioned all along the way to offer assistance. Near the front gate, Elvis fan club leaders from all over the world work in shifts to offer further assistance. http://www.elvis.com/pdfs/EW07VigilFactSheetFAQ.pdf
Monday, August 13, 2007
Normally the stalactite waxes in summer and wanes in winter, but last year the stalactite failed to form at all - prompting person or persons unknown to construct one. The shrine's attempts to pass off this man-made frosty-the-snowman as Lord Shiva fooled no one, and scandal erupted amid accusations that shrine authorities had attempted to deceive pilgrims.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Friday, August 10, 2007
Thursday, August 9, 2007
The main observation this year is in Kimberley, where President Mbeki is speaking, and today's online edition of the Mail and Guardian reports that thousands of women have gathered at the stadium there, "some bussed in from as far as Pampierstad." Bussed in? They didn't walk? Well so much for symbolism. Or maybe it's just a way of saying these women have earned their seat on the bus.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
We've just passed Saint James' Day, July 25th. While most of us celebrate our birthday, for a martyr it's the day of his death that counts. Of course, from the standpoint of the faithful, the point of the rejoicing is not the saint's old life ending (decapitation, James' fate, is a hard thing to be merry about), but his new life beginning.
Here are some views of "los fuegos del apostol," the fireworks in the plaza of the Cathedral of Santiago ignited in honour of Saint James and his martyrdom. There's no denying the cathedral looks magnificent, though I'd be a little concerned about all the moss that festoons it bursting into picturesque flame.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Some beautiful music today, and a bewitching singer. If you hit the link, YouTube will transport you to the Atlantic shores of Galicia where you will hear/see a song/video about the rain (chove) in Santiago. The group is Luar na Lubre, which means roughly, "moonlight in the enchanted forest," and that soft language that doesn't sound quite like Spanish, isn't; it's Gallego. As for that instrument that sounds like a bagpipe, it is; or at least it's a Spanish bagpipe, the gaita, which you'll hear a lot of in the Celt-influenced music of northern Spain. The lyric is by Federico Lorca, from his Seis Poemas Gallegos. The singer, Rosa Cedron, has since left the band (alas) to pursue "other projects." Turn down the lights and let it wash over you.
Saturday, August 4, 2007
This spring I learned of the most ambitious pilgrimage project yet. The Abraham Path is a proposed walking (cycling, driving) route that will follow the steps of the Biblical patriarch from Harran, Turkey, where Abraham first heard God's call, through Syria, Jordan and Israel to his tomb in Hebron on the West Bank. It's a bold initiative to bring the three faiths together on a single road, and while there is political resistance to overcome, the ambition for Fall 2010 is to have more than half of the 1100 km route mapped, waymarked, and pilgrim-trodden.
Sound too good to be true? Find out more: http://www.abrahampath.org