I just can’t seem to leave the subject of rocks. We have seen beautiful rocks. Some that looked like quartz or marble…dark black ones with bright white veins running through them…beautiful deep beet colored ones. Actually those are the only three times we had good things to say about rocks. How do pilgrims relate to rocks? I don’t mean just trying to avoid them. I’ve covered that enough previously. They actually serve as a diversion for many pilgrims. While bringing a video game or legos would require carrying more weight, rocks can be found anywhere. So along the trail we see many designs made of stones. Common ones, which are often helpful, are arrows. Crosses are popular as are hearts. Sometimes we run across a word written in stones. Once I saw a fairly long phrase with letters made of rocks. I’m not sure what it said but I’d like to think it was the first two verses of “Feeling Groovy.” “Hello lamp post what cha knowing, I’ve come to watch your flowers growing.” It was in some language I couldn’t read, maybe Swedish or Danish (where is Per when I need him?).
Most of the pilgrims use of stones are in cairns (piles of stones). There must be thousands of them along the Camino. Almost every monument along the way will have a pile of rocks associated with it
The Cruz de Ferro is a particular example. It is a tradition for pilgrims to bring a rock from their home and to drop it at the base of the cross as a sign of leaving a care or sin behind them at the cross. While it is a nice symbolic gesture, does Spain really need more rocks brought in from around the world? I really don’t think so. (Pilgrims leave more than stones there. There were flags from various countries, boots, and miscellaneous other items including cigarette butts. June suggested that those people were leaving their tobacco habit behind. I think she was being kind.)
There are many kinds of cairns from a simple stack of two or three stones, to a pile of a lot of stones, to elaborate configurations of large and small stones.
The practice of adding stones to monuments is so ubiquitous that one monument to a pilgrim who died along the Camino had a sign saying not to drop stones at the monument. It may have been the only one I saw without them.
I’ve been wondering, though. Where are those pilgrims getting their rocks from? That seems like an absurd question because as I previously stated there are rocks everywhere. But the issue is, are they looking for and finding only “pretty” stones. Are they picking up stones at random? OR are they taking rocks from the smoothish part of the trail making it smoother for the pilgrims that follow? As you can see it isn’t a moot point. As the old saying goes, “A heart made of rocks brings a smile to a walker’s lips, but a path with fewer rocks brings laughter to his heart.” I don’t remember who that is attributed to.