Magic Spells and Potions

Itero del Vega to Villarmentero de Campos
Saturday 15 November

My brother was leaving today. Sad. I had enjoyed his company, and it seemed a very short visit. We all left to go to the bar for breakfast, but it was closed, we wandered around the town to try and find something open. A man passed on a bicycle, and pointed us in the direction of the Camino, but we said we we looking for a bar for breakfast. He opened a nearby albergue, and said we could have breakfast there. It was smoky and the floor was covered in old cigarette butts, not the most pleasant of places. There was however a non smoking sign. It was an average breakfast, but at least we had something in our stomachs. My brother had to leave as his prearranged taxi was waiting. He later sent me a message that the driver was a really strange man with burns all over his face, rather fitting for this creepy town.

My feet were painful, so I hobbled along slowly behind everyone else. The rain was beating down, and the wind was biting. It was cold, but the landscape was breathtaking. Flat, huge sky. Yes, breathtaking. I was bathing in the well wishes many friends had sent from all around the world for my Birthday. I am so lucky.

We arrived in Fromista, and everyone seemed restless and indecisive. I wanted to eat, as breakfast wasn’t very satisfying, and I was hungry. I went to a nearby bar, but then it was mentioned that the church museum closed at 2pm, it was almost closing time, so I left to go and look. When I returned the others were in another bar that only had snacks, not what I wanted, so I went in search of a resturant with a pilgrim’s menu. There was a really nice place near the church. I was soon joined by my Camino Angel, Miss Venezuela, my Italian and New Zealand friends. The food was excellent. I had octopus with rice cooked in it’s own ink, similar to a dish I’ve had in Indonesia, sans chili. A few more pilgrims we recognised arrived, and the place was pumping. My Dutch friend and our other Italian friend had decided to go on ahead, and hadn’t stopped for lunch. Our Italian and New Zealand friend wanted to stay. I was keen to walk, as was Miss Venezuela. My Camino Angel was indecisive, as the weather was bad, but by the time we had finished lunch, the sky was clear and we had a lovely walk together into the late afternoon light.

We were very tired when we arrived at Villarmentero de Campos, and fell into the first bar we saw, which was also the Alburgue. It was warm, and rather like a bar on the tourist trail, from when I first went to Indonesia, many years ago. Hippy traveller decor. There were ducks, chickens, geese, turkeys, and donkeys wandering around outside, and the walls were covered in graffiti. One in English I noticed said ‘All saints have a past, and all sinners have a future’. Hopeful.

We found it hard to move. There was not a soul in sight… No barman, no hospitaliro, just an old smelly dog. There was a phone number above the bar, so we asked our Spanish speaking friend to call, and soon the hospitaliro, arrived to take us to the alburgue at the back. Same style, and the fire was roaring. There were three others staying – two Spaniards, and a young French man, he was training to be a priest, and had walked from his home in France to Rome, to Lourdes, to Santiago, and was on his way home.

The hospitaliro said there was no hot water, not what I wanted to hear, but said they could heat a pot on the stove. I was impatient, so braved a quick cold shower. There wasn’t much choice for dinner either, microwaved cardboard pizza. Luckily I’d had a good lunch. However there was good wine.

I settled down on the couch by the fire to write. Later the Spanish girl said they were going to perform a traditional Galician ritual, Queimada, and invited all to join. A large earthenware bowl was placed on the table, she added lemon and orange peel, sugar, a hand full of coffee beans, then about ten litres of a local clear spirt. She then set fire to the mixture. It took some time to catch, but then the whole bowl was alight. She began to stir with an earthenware ladle, swishing and pouring the flaming liquid. The blue flames danced. She then began an incantation in Galician. I googled the translation:

“Owls, barn owls, toads and witches.
Demons, goblins and devils, spirits of the misty vales.
Crows, salamanders and witches, charms of the folk healer(ess).
Rotten pierced canes, home of worms and vermin.
Wisps of the Holy Company, evil eye, black witchcraft, scent of the dead, thunder and lightning.
Howl of the dog, omen of death, maws of the satyr and foot of the rabbit.
Sinful tongue of the bad woman married to an old man.
Satan and Beelzebub’s Inferno, fire of the burning corpses, mutilated bodies of the indecent ones, farts of the asses of doom, bellow of the enraged sea.
Useless belly of the unmarried woman, speech of the cats in heat, dirty turf of the wicked born goat.
With this bellows I will pump the flames of this fire which looks like that from Hell, and witches will flee, straddling their brooms, going to bathe in the beach of the thick sands.
Hear! Hear the roars of those that cannot stop burning in the firewater, becoming so purified.
And when this beverage goes down our throats, we will get free of the evil of our soul and of any charm.
Forces of air, earth, sea and fire, to you I make this call: if it’s true that you have more power than people, here and now, make the spirits of the friends who are outside, take part with us in this Queimada.”

Farts of the asses of doom, powerful stuff. And Owls again. Perhaps it’s a sign I’ve entered the wisdom years.

We all took turns in stirring the flaming potion, I did however remove my highly flammable jacket first. Flames of doom, you know. Suitably cleansed, once the flames were extinguished, which took a surprisingly long time, we were all pored a cup. It was a sweet coffee flavored lemony alcoholic drop, sure to extinguish any evil inside, and deliver me from my sins.

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