Saturday 30 July 2011

Love at Sixth Sight...

There are no longer any horses at Cabo Touriñan, the man with the twin dogs told me this morning. He spoke in a toothless Gallego but I knew what he said somehow. Someone got too close and was kicked and denounced the owner to the police (at least I think that's what he said, but it could have been because the horses were hobbled: something about the legs or ankles anyway); so one thing I had hoped to find again is no more. There is nothing at Cabo Touriñan now except the smell of the soft turf and the salt and the wind on your skin. Nothing except the lighthouse, and the sapphire waves below. Not even gulls.

As for me, I am in love. With Galicia. Deeply, blissfully, joyously, perhaps hopelessly in love. This should come as no surprise either to me or anybody who knows me as every time I have been here (five, six. I don't remember now) I have furthered our relationship. I love the countryside, the fields of corn and pimientos, the woods, the barren wild lands; I love the sea, the long spread of white sandy beaches and the vertiginous heights of the lighthouses on the Costa Da Morte. I love the food, the wine. I love the wild flowing rivers and the slow sedatious ones closing to the sea. I love the music and the dancers in their native costumes so far removed from the idea of "Spain" that most of us have with its flamenco and castanets. None of that here. I love the granite; I love the rich loam which would grow anything and the blue clad ladies who tend their grelos and potatoes. I love the language, Gallego, which each time sounds more familiar. Sometimes I understand it even better than I do "Andalus". I love the people and the fact that when driving you never have Mr. Big with his BMW up your tailpipe, flashing his lights and beeping his horn. People actually stop to let you pass, and if you do this for others, they wave to thank you!

This is unheard of in Malaga, believe me!

This morning I walked the 10 stepping stones across the Rio Castro without slipping or falling in or dropping my camera, though the last part was iffy. I was like the Little Fox in the 64th hexagram of the I Ching: determined to keep my tail above water (so to speak). This year there is a bridge and you no longer have to use the stones. Of course, pilgrims being the purists they are, continue to use the stones although I have been told that in winter this is almost impossible. This makes me wonder what this last part of the Camino - from Finisterre to Muxía or vice versa - would be like to walk in December or January. Even today while trying to follow it as much as I could in the car, I saw no-one.

Yesterday I visited a shrine to Maria Magdalena. Her feast day was last week and it was garlanded with white scarves and flowers and candles. There was no statue only an ancient and probably pagan spring now covered over with a granite roof and gathering in a moss lined pool. I had brought a stone (two actually) from the Cruz de Hierro in the Maragateria near Leon. I wrote two words on it in red marker: one in English and the other in Spanish. The same word. La Magdalena will know what to do with them. The other stone contained more words. I left it on a pilgrim marker by the stepping stones.

Tomorrow I will watch the marisqueros bring the Virgin de la Barxa out of the sea. Perhaps I will send her a reminder too.

All my wishes are now out there for the Universe to consider. Perhaps I am being selfish: but you see, I want it ALL.

More soon, and a photo of the horses at Cabo Touriñan which are no longer...

Tuesday 26 July 2011

A Picture...

...needs no thousand words.

At the end of January of this year I posted about what seemed to me to be Bliss, or "A State of Grace". I have come to understand it more as "Joy". I have posted yesterday about "joy" and been thinking a lot about it in the past few days. Not knowing this, my daughter sent me this as one of a recent series of photos of my granddaughter, Daniela, aged just 14 months. In it I immediately recognised what I had seen in that wonderful still from the second Fantasia film. (Do see January 29th blog for picture and comment: You will see what I mean.)

If you have ever wondered what the wind looks like ... here it is.

Zoom in, and be prepared to lose your heart.

More soon.

Monday 25 July 2011

"Generosity and Gratitude turn good into great"

This was my Note from the Universe today, the Day of St. James, and my first full day in Santiago. I went to the Pilgrim’s Mass this morning and sat very scrunched up on the tiniest piece of floor (impossible to rise to join the prayers but that's OK with me and my god) and this thought kept coming back to me: don’t ask for what you don’t have, and/or think you might want. Instead, thank whatever forces have brought you to this place in this time for all of the wonderful things you DO have: all the great gifts you have been given. With the release of this thought, I found myself absolutely deluged with all the blessings I have in my life and the feeling was just wonderful. So thank you to “The Universe” (and Mike Dooley) for reminding me.

The fireworks last night in front of the cathedral were quite spectacular as fireworks in general are expected to be, but this time I think even they were superceded by the sound and light presentation which was projected directly onto the Cathedral and its flanking buildings. Since this is the 800th anniversary of the cathedral’s consecration (NOT completion. I have had to put a few people straight on this today) the theme was the history of the Cathedral of Santiago from the time of the “translatio” by sea, the discover y (“inventio”) of the “Apostle’s” body, through the razing of the basilica by Almanzor, the rebuilding, the time of Diego Gelmirez, the Portico de Gloria, the Botefumeiro. We were invited into the nave as the three dimensional projection opened up and swallowed us, the twenty thousand. It was, in short, a brilliant piece of artwork.

Perhaps what I liked most of all was at the very beginning of the presentation: The facade covered in ivy as a red dragon appeared and swirled, devouring the foliage as it did so. Whether the makers of the film were aware of the significance of the Dragon in pagan times, the Celtic reference, I don’t really know. Certainly nothing about it was mentioned in the Galician press today. There is a repeat performance tonight and every night until the 31st when the fuegos artificiales are to be repeated. I am going to go back for more tonight. I am a real sucker for such spectacle, especially where history is concerned.

And, to think that I have written about all of this: in Pilgrimage to Heresy and in St. James’ Rooster ... and here on this blog, of course!

Going back to the thought of gratitude, so much talk today has been of death: Amy Winehouse, and the terrible, terrible tragedy of Norway. The grief of the parents and friends of those children I can not even begin to imagine.

Yet, here in Santiago I have been immersed in LIFE! I find it impossible to get this silly grin off my face whether I am suddenly caught up in a Marxist-Leninist demonstration (not intentionally may I add) or eating so many pimientos de Padron that I swear my skin is taking on a decidedly greenish tinge. I have in years past been to several sites of pilgrimage (which is an odd thing for a Happy Heretic to admit, I suppose). Jerusalem is an exception, and of course there are many others too. But I would imagine in Jerusalem as a pilgrim there would be too much sanctity for me, just as in Lourdes (though I do love the candle-lighters by the Grotto) there is too much near death and disease and despair only assuaged by blind faith. There is Age: one becomes elderly in Lourdes, fragile and mortal. This is not for me. Fatima is just strange. Rome is too Catholic, too much adoration of a man whose decisions and pronouncements and thoughts can never be wrong.

But Santiago is a place of intense JOY. It is youthful, regardless of the age of those who enter it and how they do so: Pilgrims with a sense of purpose they have trailed with them for 100, 200, 500, 1500 kilometers; Peregrinos who may not have known why they had set out or what they were seeking but along the way have found their priorities changed once and for all. And here in Compostela is the pay off. Yippee and throw that old donkey hat in the air. I know. I’ve done it: cried and cried at the sight of that beautiful, almost surreal Baroque front, and been hushed into silence by the builders’ marks on the stones, pillars, and archways. Whomever is buried in the Crypt, Santiago Cathedral simply hums with life and so does its city.

And now, if you don’t mind I am going back for a little more.

More in a few days when I begin my walk to Muxia and the ends of the earth. (Ojala!)
Photo by Francesco di Gregorio, a lovely German from Frankfurt with a very un-German name! I am sure he won't mind my sharing this here...

Thursday 21 July 2011

Wise Words from Other Sources...

This one comes without Pix 'cos I am on someone else's computer and I don't do that sort of thing. Will find perfect picture when I get home... (See: Promises Kept!)

I am currently on the Camino, helping out a bit at the wonderful location of the Peaceable Kingdom, a private home near Sahagun (Leon) run by Rebekah Scott and her husband Patrick O´Gara who welcome pilgrims year round. Paddy has given me this book to read: The Age of Pilgrimage: The Medieval Journey to God by someone with the delightful name of Jonathan Sumption. In it, I have found the following. I could, I suppose, paraphrase it, but I would rather make risotto and sit out in the sun with the dogs; so hoping Mr. Sumption will truly understand: that I write what I have read in its entrirety. It's a really good book by the way. Highly recommended...

"Particularly interesting is the hand of Cluny in composing the elaborate promotional literature put out by the church of Santiago. Most of it is contained in the Liber Sancti Jacobi, an exquisitely produced manuscript in the cathedral library (alas, no more.Ed.)
The Liber consists of five quite separate books bearing on the pilgrimage to St. James, proclaiming at the beginning and end that it was written for the benefit of the Abbot of Cluny by Pope Calixtinus II. The attribution is fictitious for there are parts which could not have been written for the abbot of Cluny by any Cluniac. But the second book which consists of the miracles of St.James, bears strongly the imprint of Cluny. Most of the miracles (contained therein) happened to the inhabitants of Burgundy, the Viennois or the Lyonais, and some happened within a few miles of the Abbey. A few are attributed to a canon of Besancon, while another was related by an abbot of Vezelay. Three miraculous stories which St. Anselm told to Hugh (Abbot of Cluny),during a prolonged visit to Cluny in 1104 (i.e. at the beginning of Diego Gelmnirez' bishopric. Ed.)all appear with minor alterations in the Miracles of St.James. These miracles were Cluny's greatest contributions to the Pilgrimage of St.James. They were plagiarised by every collector of marvellous stories, copied out in a great number of manuscripts, from the twelfth century to the sixteenth, set forward in sculpture and stained glass throughout Europe. Arnoldo de Monte a monk of Ripoll (which,the Santiago manuscript being missing, now has the oldest copy of the Codex: ed) justly remarked that it was these miracles which had made the apostle ´shine forth as bright as the stars in every part of the world´."
Their message was clear: embrace the teachings of the saints for they were the closest to Jesus and we have the priests to interpret for you exactly what you are too simple to read/understand for yourselves. Pilgrims, afraid of the Devil - a very real entity in the Medieval mind - flocked to Compostela to the tomb of "St.James" for forgiveness. Meanwhile the townspeople were of course, to use a modern phrase: "raking it in".
Plus ca change, plus ce le même chose...?

Next week I shall be posting more directly about the Camino and how it is affecting me. I shall be presenting at the Encuentro de Peregrinos (in Villafranca)on the 22nd/23rd. On to a few days in Santiago for the 24th through 26th, and then, God willing (I have had recent surgery in my leg and have 10 stitches to show for it!) on to Muxia, Touriñan (the real end of the world) and Finisterre. Wish me luck my friends and followers... X from T and Priscillian...

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Please Mister, can we have our Codex back...?

Like the Historia Compostelana, the Codex Calixtinus was written at the behest of Archbishop Diego Gelmirez of Compostela. By this time the archbishop was aging but he lived long enough to see the completion of the work which was composed between 1135 and 1139. It is believed that the main writer was the French ecclesiastic Aymeric Picard who may have been connected with the abbey of Cluny, although it is likely that a work of this size had many authors. As I have mentioned here often in this blog, Cluny at that time was by far the most powerful order and was establishing many churches in the north of Spain. Gelmirez had close ties with the Cluniacs (who produced more than one pope at the time). Perhaps in order to lend special credibilty to the book, the authors prefaced the Codex (also known as the Liber Sancto Jacobi – The Book of St. James) with a “letter” supposedly signed by Pope Calixtinus (himself a Cluniac). The letter of Pope Callixtus II which opens the book. The author, who claims to be Callixtus II, tells how he collected many testimonies on the good deeds of Saint James, "traversing the cruel grounds and provinces for fourteen years". He also describes how the manuscript survived many hazards from fire to drowning. The letter is addressed "to the very holy assembly of the basilica of Cluny" and to "Diego, archbishop of Compostela".

The problem is that Calixtinus died in 1124 and most scholars today maintain that this letter is spurious. (Like the rest of the St. James' story, ed.) Accuracy never really bothered our friend Diego Gelmirez.

The book itself comprises five parts: the first in Book I is the largest by far and contains sermons and homilies concerning St. James and describes his martydom. Book II contains stories – often from pilgrims – abut miracles attributed to the intervention of St. James.

The third book contains the life of Saint James and the supposed miracle of the discovery of his tomb. It is the shortest but perhaps in many ways the most important as it was this part which launched the phenomenon of pilgrimage in the 12th century. In order to bring wealth a prestige to his city, Diego Gelmirez knew that pilgrims were essential and in his 40 years as first bishop and then archbishop he devoted his life to increasing the wealth and prestige of Compostela.Book III tells of the death and martyrdom of St. James and how his body was transferred “by stone boat, rudderless and without sails” to Galicia and subsequently to the burial place discovered in the early ninth century. It also tells of the custom started by the first pilgrims of gathering souvenir sea shells from the Galician coast. The scallop shell is the symbol of the Santiago pilgrimage even today although many pilgrims acquire their shells before starting out whereas in the Middle Ages at first it was proof that the pilgrimage had been made. Later enterprising shell sellers realised that these shells could be used to hold morsels of food and to scoop water from rivers and streams.

Book IV tells the History of Charlemagne and Roland. It is attributed to Archbishop Turpín of Reims, although in fact it is the work of an anonymous writer of the 12th century. It describes the coming of Charlemagne to Spain, his defeat against the Moors at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass and the death of the knight Roland. It relates how Saint James then appeared in a dream to Charlemagne, urging him to liberate his tomb from the Moors and showing him the direction to follow by the route of the Milky Way. This association has given the Milky Way an alternate name in Spain of Camino de Santiago.

In fact it was far more likely that the attack against Charlemagne’s army came from the Basques. The story, however, did a lot to promote the idea of holy intervention on the part of “Santiago Matamoros” at a time when, as the Moors called upon the Prophet Mohammed when going into battle, the French (and Spanish) forces had no such protector.

In point of fact it was all very convenient.

The story of Pilgrimage to Heresy claims that St. James is NOT buried in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. In fact it is unlikely that he ever preached in Spain or if he did he made nine converts at the very most. I have told this story in some detail if you care to go back a year or so. It is far more likely that the occupant of the tomb, still venerated by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims each year, is a “heretic”, Priscillian Bishop of Avila, executed in Trier with six of his followers (one a woman) by the Roman secular court with the condonement of the Roman Church in 385 or 386 A.D. His body was brought back to Galicia by his disciples and buried there in an unknown place. As Compostela was already established as a Roman cemetery (hence the name) it is likely that this is where they brought him. Around the tomb many late 4th century graves have been found all oriented to the East as was the custom of the Priscillianists. The Vatican of course, resists carbon dating of the body.

St. James’ Rooster, which is due for publication later this year (also in Spanish as El Gallo de Santiago) tells the story of Bishop Gelmirez and his quest for fame and glory for his cathedral of Compostela.

The stolen Codex Calixtinus is priceless and irreplaceable. It is the earliest copy (not the original which has been lost) dating to perhaps 1150. A copy of the Santiago edition was made in 1173 by the monk Arnaldo de Monte and is known as The Ripoll (after the monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll in Catalonia). It is now kept in Barcelona. The book was well-received by the Church of Rome, and copies of it were to be found from Rome to Jerusalem. This widely publicized and multi-copied book describing the legend of Santiago Matamoros or 'St. James the Moorslayer' is considered by scholars to be an early example of propaganda by the Catholic Church.

The idea that it is to become pride of place in some wealthy collector’s mansion makes me very, very angry indeed. We can only hope that it will be found and the perpetrators locked up in some medieval gaol for life!

In some things I am not merciful!!!

Off to the Camino next week and the week after. I’ll keep you all posted.

Saturday 9 July 2011

Codex Calixtinus: Crime Scene Investigation

Rebekah Scott said: “I told them not to take it on the bus but would they listen? Noooo.”

After two days, I still can’t believe that the Codex Calixtinus has been stolen from the Archives of Santiago Cathedral. It’s a Dan Brown novel (or a Tracy Saunders one: what AM I thinking!!!).

I am a hypnotherapist, not a psychic, but I do have "antennae" sometimes. If I were investigating this very real “unholy theft” I would aim my questions in these directions:

Whoever stole the book must have know that the security was lax (as is stated almost everywhere in the press). They must also, presumably, have known something about the video camera in surveillance and its times of monitoring the Codex. According to El Pais, it seems one minute it was there and the next it wasn’t. The camera timing and angles appear to be quite strict, but, so says El Pais, the access to the keys is “bastante laxo”: Somewhat relaxed. The keys were found in the lock after the manuscript had been stolen! This seems to be in contrast with other reports I have read which state that only two or three people have access to the treasure. What I have seen of the Archives, it seems very small. I don't know whether the Codex was housed somewhere else or ...?

But, you have to admit, this would point to something of an “in job”, or with the keys still there, someone who wanted to flip the bird...

I would find this almost amusing if it were not for the very serious loss. In St. James’ Rooster, the new book in The Camino Chronicles series which is to be published later this year, I have one of my characters working in the Cathedral archives leaking out certain information he is not supposed to have access to to a university professor on sabattical because he thinks it might get him a better grade in his university degree. I have penetrated the Archives myself in a very modest way. The first time a notable and published scholar who agreed to meet with me was very cagey indeed about my questions of the “pink marble tomb” in the Cathedral which appears on no maps, in no literature, and is virtually hidden in the very east end of the cathedral. But the second time I went I spoke with someone else who was very helpful in most ways (although even he claimed not to have noticed the aforementioned: rather obvious if one is of a inquisitive bent, marble … thing). You can enter the cloisters easily from the Cathedral Museum. You locate the Archives, and push a button at the bottom of the stairs. They let you in, y ya está.

So back to my investigation. CSI: Who would want such a thing? Only a private collector and you can be certain that this was executed on his or her instructions. What kind of private collector? Well, anyone interested on old manuscripts comes to mind for a start. But that just doesn’t ring true enough. Dollar to doughnuts, this collector is a Pilgrim. Yes, I am serious. The Camino de Santiago homogenizes everyone. Why not a millionaire pilgrim? It wouldn’t be for the first time. This is about possession, not money or fame. It would also indicate, to me, that the person who wanted it fell hook, line and sinker for the entire St. James story portrayed so nicely (and falsely ) in this extensive manuscript. Would I look in the direction of the US? Yes, I am sorry to say, I would. Over 40% of visitors to this blog come from North America. But the Camino has a hold over everyone who travels it. I don’t know why. I just know I am one of them.

Would I like my own personal, signed by Diego Gelmirez, first edition copy of the Historia Compostelana?

No, actually. It would worry me to death. And it, like the CC, is to be shared (the oldest known copy is at the University of Salamanca. Tighten your security you guys… One might not be enough!). The idea of such a thing as the Codex becoming part of some Goldfinger’s prized collection makes my blood boil!!!
So, Policia Xunta Galicia, my advice is to check your pilgrim records. Impossible? Probably. What a shame. But I have great faith in forensics these days so maybe.

P.S. I just thought of something: I believe that a cross given to Santiago from Oviedo was stolen many., many years ago. Maybe there is a connection. Either way, I am dying to write the book!

P.P.S. It wasn’t me, officer. I have a nice blue, not even marked up with comments, copy of my own. I wouldn't be able to write notes in the margin of the original so you can cross me off your Usual Suspects list.

More on the CC and its history in the next post then its off to the Camino with me and who knows what adventures may arise….

Sunday 3 July 2011

Being and Paradox: A New Look at Anthropocentrism

Just published on Kindle and Smashwords and looking for a mainstream publisher too, here is my latest book. Being and Paradox is at, first glance, a long way away from Pilgrimage to Heresy and St. James' Rooster, but I do believe that readers of my novels will find something with which they can nod their heads in agreement in this book about environmental issues. I have claimed that the difficulty in solving environmental dilemmas is because we have created a paradox in which we forget we are not apart from but a part of nature. Here I look at Buddhist environmentalism, the Greek philosophers - in particular Heraclitus -, particle physics, existential philosophy, Martin Heidegger especially, and finally the conservationist Aldo Leopold to show that we owe a duty to care for nature in the same way as we would care for ourselves, and in fact if we neglect that duty we lose the right to consider ourselves specifically Human nature.
I am currently discussing things Celtic on this blog and so will not elucidate any further here on Being and Paradox, not yet anyway. I encourage you to order it from Amazon (you can get Kindle for PC for free if you don't have a reading device) and consider carefully what part you can play in what has to be an inevitable paradigm shift in understanding towards this fragile planet of ours.
Back to the Celts next week, so don't go away...