The Camino is many things including a walk through history, legends and lore. And the history and lore that surround the significance of the ever- present scallop shell is fascinating, religious, utilitarian and beautiful.
Scallop in Spanish is Vieira.
The connection between the scallop shell and the Way of Saint James is very deep. So deep that in France a scallop is called Coquille Saint Jacques, while in German scallops are called ‘Jakobsmuscheln’ (James mussels). Not a coincidence. (taken from caminoways.com)
You cannot walk The Way of Saint James and not be surrounded by the scallop. It has become, in the
modern times, the “brand” of the caminos. But in medieval times it had many purposes and stories.
One story is the scallop shell represents the numerous caminos that all lead to Santiago. The lines on the shell all pointing to one center.
Another story is that before Christianity, pagan
walkers went to Finisterra to the sea (50 miles past Santiago) believing it was the end of the earth. The word Finis Terra meaning the end of the world. To prove they had made the journey they returned bearing the scallop shell that is found there.
Because the Camino Frances is essentially a walk west to the sea, many associate the scallop shell and its shape with the setting sun.
Medieval pilgrims began carrying scallop shells as symbols of their pilgrimage and the tradition continues today. EVERY pilgrim carries one. In addition to the symbolism, pilgrims of old times found the shell useful as a utensil for both eating and drinking. Today the shell has become a souvenir more than a eating utensil, although many pilgrims use their shell to drink wine from the
fountain provided for the pilgrims at the Bodega Irache.
This use comes partly from the Catholic story of the devil appearing to a pilgrim who was dying of thirst. The devil promised to save the pilgrim if he would renounce God. When the pilgrim refused, Saint James himself appeared and fed the pilgrim water from a scallop shell.
The people of Spain embrace the symbol and often you will find the shells on homes and fences and in gardens and art. A constant reminder of how much history is present in every step of “the way”.
La vieira ilumina el camino. Muy Bien.
Total miles walked 339. Miles to go 150! 😁