Our first 10 days were in Galicia (NW Spain), so we'd like to give you a few discoveries we made there.
- The Climate: With the high temperatures of Córdoba ranging from the tolerable 35°C (95°F) to the downright uncomfortable 45°C (113°F), we were delighted to find that Galicia, especially in the Vigo area where we spent the majority of our time, was much more comfortable, with highs between 25° & 30°C (77° to 86°C), but with some humidity to thicken the air. As a result, Galicia is very green with lush vegetation and, to B.J.'s delight, lots and lots of corn (making us a bit homesick for Illinois and Pennsylvania).
- The Language: Galicia has two official languages: Spanish and Gallego. To us Gallego looks like a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese and can be somewhat understandable to some Spanish speakers. The Spanish accent of native Galicians (or Gallegos) is kind of sing-songy and melodic, making us wonder if it's the result of the Celtic tribes who originally settled in the region a couple thousand of years ago.
- Bagpipes: The Celtic influence in the region can be seen perhaps most obviously in the common site and sound of bagpipers throughout the area.
- Santiago de Compostela: It's the supposed site where the bones of St. James (the half brother of Jesus) are laid to rest. About 100,000 people make the pilgrimage to Santiago every year, and if they stop at all the appropriate checkpoints to get their pilgrim passports stamped and travel at least 100 km of the pilgrimage, they receive a certificate called the 'Compostela,' which entitles them to at least partial remission of purgatory. Click here to see a few of our photos from Santiago.
- Witchcraft: Galicia is known for witches and witchcraft. Knowing this, we entered one of the many shops in Santiago that has an assortment of witchcrafty decorations and asked the ladies working there where this interest came from. They told us, "In ancient Celtic tribes, women had a very important role, especially the older women who were known to have special knowledge or wisdom of magic. But when Christianity reached this region centuries ago, the Church was run by male priests and made no place for women to serve or to lead. Even so, the Church couldn't change the culture, and people continued to consult witches along with being a part of the Church, to cover all of their spiritual bases, which continues widely to this day." When we pressed them for their personal beliefs about witchcraft, one said that she believes there is real power in it, while the other thought that it's all hocus-pocus. This was eye-opening for us as we consider the role of women in the church and how that will be a part of our ministry in the future. For a couple other intriguing insights on the mixing of pagan Celtic spirituality and Christianity, click HERE or HERE and don't forget to read the captions.