For most walkers on the Camino, the journey ends when they reach Santiago; the city of St. James. Whether they travelled the French route, the Camino Norte, up from Seville along the Via de la Plata, or the Portuguese Camino, the end of their adventure is near when they see the Cathedral spires in the distance.
Camino Santiago De Compostela – Sanitago to Finisterre
However, over the last few years an increasing number of people are continuing westwards to the coast, where, as the Romans used to say “the sea swallows up the sun each day”. The history, traditions and mythology surrounding Finisterre, or Fisterra in Galego, is legendary and there is evidence of pre-historic man going back to 4,000 years BC. In Celtic and Roman times, this area was one of the most important sites of ritual and worship in what was then the ‘known world’. In fact, the very name Finisterre itself translates to ‘End of the Earth’, and it was here that Roman legionnaires would retire and wait to pass over into another world.
There are many accounts of rituals and practices associated with sites still evident today. Cama de San Guillermo, that is St. William’s bed, for instance has long been linked to pre-Christian fertility rites for couples to bring about conception. Then there were “the spirits of the dead which ride upon the haze”. Night time travellers over marshy places were warned to be on the lookout for “an invisible presence trying to place a lighted candle in your hand, and should you open your hand and accept it, you are lost; you have joined the holy company of souls condemned to wander about purgatory until you can thrust your candle into the hand of some unsuspecting stranger, and by doing so, escape yourself.”
All this and much more, points to the belief that in this most westerly part of Galicia, St. James would have come to bring his Christianity to an area already rich in Pagan worship, and the story of the return of his mortal remains after his death in 44 AD from Jerusalem is legendary. In fact, it was from then on that a whole new set of myths and legends surrounding hags and witches was spawned. The ‘new Church’ put it about that these evil beings roamed the countryside to snare young men who might be engaged in the aforementioned rituals.
However, back to the present day and our walk westwards from Santiago to the sea begins from the Cathedral square. From there it quickly enters the countryside through forest paths and quiet laneways, until your first glimpse of the sea appears as you descend to the town of Cee on the third day’s walk.