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What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim: A Midlife Misadventure on Spain's Camino de Santiago
If You Contemplate Walking the Camino de Santiago
This article discusses author Jane Christmas' book, What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim: A Midlife Misadventure on Spain's Camino de Santiago. The Camino de Santiago, often called simply "the Camino", is a 500 mile pilgrimage trail in northern Spain.
To elaborate on the distance, there are several approaches to the trail, each with somewhat different distances and levels of difficulty. The 500 trail is perhaps the most often used passage.
About "What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim"
In this true story, Canadian writer Jane Christmas celebrated her fiftieth birthday by leading a group of 14 women across the Camino. Or, to be more accurate, she lead her group halfway then abandoned them to their own devices when the whining and complaining got too much to bear.
Jane's misadventures make for good reading if you are simply reading for entertainment. She writes in a light-hearted and honest way, describing her personal issues, shortcomings and attitudes as she stretches her limits in this fairly grueling trek. If, like me, you are reading out of a hope to do the Camino some day, you will find her personal experiences helpful and informative. However, this book is not intended to be a guidebook and should not be used as one.
And where does the psychic fit in? Before embarking on the pilgrimage, Jane received a reading by a psychic who made a few predictions about the experience. As it turns out, the predictions were accurate.
About the Camino de Santiago Trail
er -- tell me more about the Santiago, you say?
Okay, before I move on to talking about this book, the issue here is "First Things First."
The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage trail that stretches across northern Spain for approximately 500 miles (or 800 kilometers), culminating at Santiago de Compostela. Santiago de Compostela is said to be the resting place of St. James. For a thousand years, give or take, pilgrims have been making their way along this trail to pay homage to the saint. It is said that miracles happen on the Santiago.
Although initially the pilgrimage was a religious voyage, today's pilgrims walk the trail for many reasons -- physical fitness, weight loss, adventure, spiritual growth, to prove something to themselves, or "just because".
I have read this book twice. I will probably read it again before (or if) I do the Camino as intended.
Jane vs. the Camino
Jane Christmas first learned about the Camino from a Westjet flight attendant. She vowed to do the trail as a 50th birthday present to herself. When word of her intentions spread, 14 other women from various locations and walks of life contacted her and asked to come along. This proved to be Mistake Number One. Jane was ill suited to accommodate the whims and hissy fits of various women. At some point, she simply walked on and left the group to their own devices. I would have done the same!
Today's pilgrims undoubtedly have a softer time of it than the pilgrims of yore -- who dealt with such issues as exposure to the elements and death threats from warring tribal groups. As Jane discovered, the challenges of today were more irritating and inconvenient than life threatening.
Among the challenges Jane encountered were blistering heat, the need to walk across the Pyrenees on Day One, a torn fingernail, bedbugs, mislabeled trail signs, refuges with no beds, rude tourists and at one spot, wild dogs.
On the plus side, she completed the pilgrimage to her satisfaction -- and made the acquaintance of a fellow pilgrim from the UK with whom she enjoyed a romantic encounter.
It's a good book if you are even remotely interested in the Camino de Santiago trail. I recommend it.