As Autumn creeps in and darkness takes over light, here in Galicia we feel the onset of the misty morning and take notice of the shadows in the depth of the night. Pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago are warned by local villagers of the legends of the Santa Compana.
For centuries the Santa Compana have occupied the forests encasing the old pilgrim trail leading to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. As far back as the Middle Ages, the presence of the lost souls dressed in hooded white robs would chose who was next to be taken to their death.
The procession of demise, was known to be led by one living person carrying a holy cross and caldron of holy water. The walking dead would be accompanied with song or prayer echoing off the fading leaves of the surrounding trees. The scent of wax would entice your sense of smell from the droppings of a single candle as the succession meandered through the woods.
The mortal leading could be male or female and would be condemned to wander every night, not knowing of their fatal task during the day, until brought to their bewildering death. To the community and those who had not seen the Santa Compana, the health of the chosen would deteriorate suddenly without any identifiable cause.
Walking the Camino de Santiago before sunrise or after sunset between October 31- 1 November, or Todos los Santos, increases walkers’ chance of coming across the Santa Compana. These two days, honoring deceased children and infants, are thought best to walk only by the light of the sun.
Should you be unlucky enough to see the Santa Compana – lay down and hope they leave you only in the midst of their ghostly presence.