There is a place along the Camino de Santiago, between the towns of Foncebadón and Manjarín (Camino Frances), where a wooden pole, about five feet high stands and carries an iron cross high above this pole, it is called Cruz de Ferro (Iron Cross). It is said to be a replica of the original cross which is preserved in the “Museo de los Caminos” in Astorga. Over the years a mound has formed with rocks and other objects left by Pilgrims from all over the world. Legend has it that at the time the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral was being built pilgrims were asked to bring stones as their contribution to the Cathedral. It is also said that the tradition is to throw a stone with your back to the cross. Pilgrims bring this from their home or they pick up a stone along the Way before arriving at Cruz de Ferro.
In 1982 a chapel dedicated to St. James was built by the Cross which for some years has celebrated the feast of Santiago/Saint James bringing people together.
The stone may symbolize the heavy load pilgrims carry in their hearts and souls. Some might just carry it because that’s what they hear pilgrims do or it’s a tradition. In the movie The Way, a rock was given to “Tom”, he asked what that was for, and all he was told was that he would know what to do with it at the right time. Just like “Tom” in the movie, some people don’t even realize what they are carrying inside and it’s amazing to see how a small rock can sometimes help you understand and release some of the weight they carry, whether it is a sin, broken hearts, the loss of a loved one that you didn’t get to say goodbye too, etc. So many things we carry in our hearts and it overwhelms us because we don’t cry, we won’t talk about it and the biggest one…WE WON’T LET GO!!
I am not walking the Camino Frances and will not be “dropping” my rock “my weight” at the “Cruz de Ferro” (Iron Cross), but I have found my own rock to carry with me, I believe that on the Camino Portuguese I will find a place to throw it and “let go”. I believe the Camino will show me the right time and the right place. It’s funny but the rock that I ended up picking up is not just a flat smooth rock, it actually looks like a mountain, it has cracks and crevices, if you touch around it, some of the “bumps” are really rough, the bottom of the rock is not smooth either, it’s got ridges. There is a large crack that seems like the rock could break in 2 pieces, as you look past the middle of the rock it starts to smooth out. As I looked at it, it reminded me of how my life looks so much like this rock.
My foundation was not smooth, I had a good childhood, but it didn’t come without dark clouds hanging over it, just like so many childhoods our lives had “bumps”. When I grew up and left my hometown to marry and begin a family, it began as a fantasy that besides my children it’s hard to remember the good times, just like the rock, a time came when I felt that my heart was being broken in half, the tears that flowed made dents in my soul, the middle part of my adulthood was rough and had edges (brokenness) that cut through my soul, at one time I did feel like I would break in half, as I got older and my children grew, life began to get smoother, it still shook me at times but I have arrived to a place in my life where things are changing, my kids are grown, have their own families, and I am left to care for my Mother, she is good, just her mind can play tricks on her some days. I’ve felt guilty for decisions I’ve made throughout my life, but I am learning to let that go and see life through a different set of eyes. When I reach the peak of a mountain along the Camino, my journey will be smooth like the top of this rock and a whole new journey with a new perspective will have begun.
A friend looked at this rock and said it looks like a piece of poop!! Haha, when I told her what I saw of course she said I was weird. I don’t know where this comes from, what do you think would you take a rock, a rose’s stem and see what I see? Hope you share your thoughts on how you would use something so simple to create a “ceremony” to release what you carry in your soul.