There are moments during El Camino where the pain and the exhaustion make you question what you are doing there, what is the need to go through it, even to the point to want to give up.
There is a legend in El Camino de Santiago that illustrates perfectly well that moment of weakness. It happens in El Monte del Perdón (the mount of forgiveness), between. Pamplona and Puente la Reina, which is part of the Camino Francés.
La leyenda de “La Fuente de la Reniega”
The legend tells us that after a tortuous climb to Monte del Perdón, the place where the path hearth and the sky meet, a pilgrim arrived dying of thirst and exhaustion. After he got his breath back he started looking amongst the bushes and stones for a water fountain, any source of water to quench his thirst, but he only found dust and dirt.
While he was still trying to find water, an apparition interrupted him. The pilgrim, still thirsty, thought that the presence was just another pilgrim, but his sinister grin seemed to hide something else. Our pilgrim still asked him if he knew of any fountain nearby where to drink. The mysterious pilgrim told him about a fountain but it came with a high price. When the pilgrim proceeded to rummage in his bag for some coins relieved because he had found some water at last. The other mysterious pilgrim told him that it was not a monetary payment but a payment with faith, that he could drink all the water he wanted if he abandoned the pilgrimage and gave himself in body and soul to the devil. Our pilgrim, a man of unbreakable faith did not succumb to the temptation, the devil, tired of the negative disappear in a cloud of sulphur.
Abandoned to his own luck and resigned, the pilgrim fell on a stupor between life and death where he saw like in a dream a man dismounting a white horse and hitting a stone with a pilgrim shell a nearby rock, where suddenly water started emanating. The noise of the running water awoke our pilgrim and he understood instantly that it had been Saint James himself who worked the miracle. He quenched his thirst and then continued his peregrination gratefully.
Since then, the fountain has satiated the thirst of all pilgrims, thirsty or not. The tradition says that you must drink of this water because it will keep you from the temptation to abandon and it will keep your pilgrim spirit high.
A stumble, a blister, an anger, a bad day, everybody has a particular moment of unquenched thirst and our own particular devil that tries to bring us to our comfort zone, but luckily, most of the time we also see our particular Saint James like a pilgrimage companion, sometimes just a phone call home or a nice cold drink will help us back to continue on our way.
Cover photography: Cosmovisión – Flickr