Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Significance of the Shell

The Scallop shell for almost one thousand years has been the sign of
St James and the Road to Santiago Compostela.
Two stories of miracles and how the scallop shell became the mark of St James remain.
The story of how James the Greater, apostle to Christ, after being beheaded and set afloat on a stone boat, came ashore North at Finistera covered with the white shelled mollusks. Funny thing though, Scallops are usually found on the ocean floor.
There is also a story about a knight after being thrown from his horse, had fallen in the ocean and at the point of almost drowning, called out for help to the saint. He came ashore covered with scallops as well! His life was saved and thus, another miracle!
The legends have turned the Scallop shell into an insignia for all Pilgrims who had made the journey and the sign of St James and his miraculous powers.
Travelers having reached Finisteera bought or obtained as proof of arrival the shell.
Like the Mickey Mouse hat of sorts showing that you in fact have been to Disney World, the shell became a sign that a Pilgrim had made and finished the journey.
Like a hand and its fingers radiating outwards to give and receive.
And now like the many roads to Santiago Compostela all forming at a center point, the Cathedral at Santiago Compostela and the Grand Plaza.
The Scallop Shell also with its radiating lines coming from one point symbolized the rising sun and a new birth.
The Shape worked perfectly as a dish for food along the route and an amount one could always afford and share with a Pilgrim guest and an amount one could pick up with one scoop.

One needs to ask, which came first, the legends or the shell?

Everywhere along the Camino, you see the "mark". You follow the trail by looking for them. Sometimes only a yellow painted arrow, but the Scallop shell shows the way.

Jewelry of all styles and material can be found that resemble the sign of the Saint.
Santiago,s streets have many stores with souvenirs of the shell.
Just like years ago, one can bring home the sign as proof, they have been to Santiago.

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