Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Calling Prospective Pilgrims!


Anniewalkers has space in both groups for pilgrims who would like to walk the Camino but aren't quite ready to go alone.

We hope to have two groups of 8 people. One is being led by Joe Walsh, who has walked the Camino at least 7 times!

The other group will be a women-only group led by Robin Lieberman, a former peregrina from Portland, Oregon.

If you or someone you know are interested in walking with us, find the information here:

Note:  We are not a professional touring company. We are simple pilgrims helping pilgrims. Our prices reflect that, and our group leaders are based in the United States.  If you're looking for group leaders with experience on the Camino, and a chance to walk the Camino YOUR way, check us out!

Buen Camino!

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Killing of the Wren: Hunting King Charlo

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze
Although he was little his honour was great,
Jump up me lads and give us a treat.

As I was going to Killenaule,
I met a wren upon the wall.
Up with me wattle and knocked him down,
And brought him in to Carrick Town.

Drooolin, Droolin, where's your nest?
Tis in the bush that I love best
In the tree, the holly tree,
Where all the boys do follow me.

Up with the kettle and down with the pan,
And give us a penny to bury the wren.

I followed the wren three miles or more,
Three miles or more three miles or more.
I have a little box under me arm,
A penny or tuppence would do it no harm.

Mrs. Clancy's a very good woman,
a very good woman, a very good woman,
Mrs. Clancy's a very good woman,
She give us a penny to bury the wren.

Today, December 26, is Wren Day. It is also celebrated as St. Stephen's Day, though the celebration itself really has nothing to do with the saint.

The tradition consists basically оf hunting a wren аnd putting іt оn top оf а decorated pole. Then groups of men or boys dress up іn masks, straw suits аnd colourful motley clothing and, accompanied by traditional céilí music bands, parade through the towns аnd villages. These crowds аre sometimes called wrenboys.

In Galicia, Spain, this ritual is called "Caceria del rey Charlo" ("Chase of king Charles") and is still performed. In the past, the inhabitants of Vilanova de Lourenza would chase down a wren and, after tying it to a pole, parade it and show it to the abbot of the local monastery, who would proceed then to offer them food and drink and appoint two leaders of local town council out of the four candidates proposed by the neighbours. This tradition has been recorded since the XVIth century. The sources are somewhat misleading about the date, since they claim it was "New Year`s Day" but it might mean "The day after Christmas", which was regarded back then to signal the end of the year. The wren, in Galicia, is called carrizo (reed).

In the folk traditions of Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Holland, British Isles, Denmark and Sweden, the wren is considered king of birds but also is believed to bring bad luck and harm.  As early as the seventh century, carrizo was considered King when it appeared in one of Aesop's fables.  Plutarch attributes the fable of the Eagle and the Wren to Aesop, though the story is not found in any surviving collections of Aesop’s fables.

In the fable, the wren outsmarts the eagle in a race by riding on its shoulders until right before the finish line, at which point the wren  suddenly flies ahead and wins the race!  Some believe Aesop’s fable was taken from an ancient Sumarian tale about an elephant and a wren rivalry. There are various versions of the tale. Grimm has a version of the tale where the wren creeps into the breast feathers of the eagle and hides. In another version, the wren rides on the crest feathers of the eagle, and when the eagle, from the heights, proclaims itself king, the wren objects from its higher position, challenging the eagle to “come up here!”  The eagle is too tired, and the wren is proclaimed King!

Some versions of the story have the eagle cursing the wren to never be able to fly higher than the hedges. Others say all the other birds were disgusted at the wren’s trickery, and since that day have driven the wren from all open spaces and have forced him to take shelter in the hedges.

According to Elizabeth Lawrence’s book, “Hunting the Wren,” a Welsh sequel to the fable states the other birds were sorrowful about the outcome of the contest. They cried bitterly and decided to drown the wren in a pan full of their tears. This plan, however, was foiled by the owl, who upset the pan and spilled the tears. The birds then swore vengeance against the owl. Ever since, he has not dared to go out during the day, but hunts at night when the other birds are sleeping.  Yet another Welsh story says the wren fell to the ground and was injured during the contest. The other birds made a broth to cure the wren but again, the blundering owl upset the pot. Darn that owl!

At any rate, the wren was saved as was the title of King of the Birds.

What is interesting to me is that in almost every part of Europe, some form of the contest between the eagle and the wren exists, with variations in North America and China. Perhaps the legend can be traced back to Taliesin, a sun god in the British tradition, for whom the wren was a sacred bird. The wren and eagle can also be found in the Mabinogion, where the wren is the spirit of the Old Year killed at the Winter Solstice, and the New Year rises like the eagle. I believe the origins of the story are even more ancient, and that the Eagle represents Horus, god of the rising and setting sun, god of the east and sunrise, born at the Winter Solstice. And how dare that dastardly little wren foil the Sun?!

The wren is surrounded by an aura of sacredness whose meaning is not easy to understand without some digging into those origins. In Ireland it is popularly believed that "the robin and the wren are two saints of the Lord. "(The robin and the wren are God's two holy men). In Cornwall, early last century, the children knew and recited the following:

“He that hurts a robin or a wren
Will never prosper nor his land”

There are many folk traditions that speak the same warning. From Sussex and Essex:

“The robin and the wren
Are God Almighty’s cock and hen;
Him that harries their nest,
Never shall his soul have rest.”


“Hurt a robin or a wren,
Never prosper, boy or man.”

In Scotland the wren was called the “Lady of Heaven’s hen.”

Despite that veneration, it was a custom in many parts of Britain and Ireland to kill wrens on December 26. Sometimes it was done by servants or peasants, sometimes by children, sometimes by mummers. The wren was murdered and mounted, wings extended, on the top of a long pole, or suspended by the legs in the center of two hoops set at right angles to each other, or mounted it in a bush or holly branch.  The wren-boys then went from house to house chanting a rhyme and asking for gifts of food or money. Sometimes the day was concluded by carrying the wee body to the churchyard and burying it with chanting, singing and dancing.  Though it seems cruel, the wren was most certainly killed because it was a hallowed bird representing the Old Year, the dying sun. 

The tradition of hunting the wren survived in Galicia, northern Portugal, southern France, England, Wales and Ireland until the middle of last century.  In some villages, it survives still.  Within these ancient agricultural rites is the attempt to somehow magically stimulate the renewal of plant and animal life after winter.

In Spain, these and other pagan festivals were censured by San Paciano, Bishop of Barcelona (circa 370), St. Augustine (circa 400), Cesareo of Arles (circa 480), and others. However, they were often glossed over with Christian symbolism and have survived, nearly intact.

Sometimes, it was the priests themselves who brought the traditions to the locals.  The hunting of the wren in Lourenzá, Spain, according Designed Tomé, was a tradition that probably came to the monastery of that place with the French monks.

Some authors assume that the apparent popular antipathy was demonstrating against these little birds in the vicinity of the winter solstice, was encouraged by the Church to end, or Christianize, the pagan tradition.

The sacralization of the wren certainly contrasts with its year-end ritual slaughter; indicating that popular aversion is most likely the manifestation distorted by the Church or simply by the passage of time, an ancestral rite  - the primitive sacrifice of the king - represented here by a bird that acquired its supposed personality under the beliefs about this rite.

An interesting aside:  a 1527 document on the hunt wren in Vilanova de Lourenzá, mentions an important analysis of the origins of this tradition data. The wren commonly referred to as Bird King, in the sixteenth century also received the name of King Charlo.  This could have to do with the former emperor of the Franks, Charlemagne, though there is nothing to prove (or disprove) that theory. However, considering Charlemagne was the one who led the observance of the Celtic church to the designs traditional church of Rome, it’s not out of the question.

Art by Glass Candy

Friday, December 19, 2014

But How Do You Find Your Way on the Camino Santiago?

The answer is WAYMARKING.

Waymarking is a term used to describe the specific symbol which is used to mark a route people travel. Waymarks sometimes follow the route in one direction, or in other cases allow a route to be followed in both directions. Following is an explanation from the Confraternity of St. James website.

The waymarking along the Camino Santiago is,in general, very good. In France, the route from St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port is part of the long-distance GR65 footpath, and is marked by the red and white flash of the GR network. There are separate red and white to indicate changes of direction, and a red line crossed with a white one to indicate that you have taken the wrong turning.

In Spain, the official mark is the stylized scallop shell on a blue background, which is often placed on the walls of houses well above eye level to indicate the route through villages and towns. In open country, one frequently encounters these signs are often found embedded in small concrete pillars. There are also signboards with this mark at the top, a pedestrian sign in the middle, and a direction arrow at the bottom; these are much used at road crossings.

The red and white GR flashes are also found from time to time in Spain. However, the most common mark is a yellow arrow, which may be painted on trees, rocks, kerbstones, storm water gutters etc. Sometimes a yellow stripe is painted on trees as a continuation marker for reassurance. Some other waymarks incorporating the scallop shell can be found.

When walking the Camino Frances or most of the other routes to Santiago, one does not need a map... you simply follow the waymarks!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

My Camino Chaplet

Camino Chaplet

To help pay my way for my first Camino, 
way back when,

I made these knotted Rosaries and Chaplets to sell or trade.

The Rosaries were one decade and have a St. James Crucifix on them.
The Chaplets had either a St. James medal or a Pewter Scallop on them.

I thought I'd ask 5 Euro for the Chaplets and maybe 7 Euro for the Rosaries.
I sold a few and gave many, many more away.

People just loved them.

Next time, when I took my groups, I gave these out as mementos.
I'm not sure if I'll continue this practice.
It was a labor of love.

I have to think about it...

Where's Annie?


The time has flown and I find I haven't blogged in a while.
Time to catch up!

Summer was wonderful in my new house, 
but when the days began growing cold, 
and my bones began to ache, 
I knew I needed a change.

I called my friend Joe and said,
 "You going to the desert this year?"

He said "yes!"

I made him a deal he couldn't refuse. 
I agreed to drive and pay for the gasoline 
in exchange for him letting me stay in the little sunroom this winter. 

We had a hell of a drive in sheeting rain.
It was crazy!
We could barely see most of the way.

We saw several overturned cars and trucks.
People were driving too fast
and hydroplaning on the standing water!

We pulled into Hanford exhausted,
having driven straight through.
It was about a 14 hour trip.

I was happy to see my mom - she's doing well.

 We spent about 3 nights in Hanford.
I needed to visit my Aunt Vena, who just turned 98 this year.
I also had to collect some DNA from my Aunt Jean, her sister, 
so I could trace the family tree a bit more.

Then we were off to Desert Hot Springs to rest and relax.
I love this little place in the desert.
And I don't mind sharing space with Joe;
we've been friends for many years.
The park model has a regular bedroom where he lives,
but along the side, he's built a small sunroom.
It's a lovely little room with a bed and a desk.

 I share it with the washing machine and a few tools, 
but that's ok with me. 
And now, I have a plan!

As some of you know, 
I returned from the Camino last year
 only to experience a strange case of tendonitis in my ankle 
AFTER my return. 
I have been seeing my chiropractor regularly 
and the ankle is healing… slowly. 
 But the downside was 
that I've been unable to walk any distance at all.

That combined with sharing my house with three men 
who eat ice cream every night, 
and my lack of self-control, 
has led to a HUGE weight gain. 
I look in the mirror and say,
 "How did this happen?!"

Following the weight gain, 
and most likely because of it, 
my gallbladder began to complain.

So, I have a plan.

Here in the desert, there is nothing to do 
but write, exercise, and enjoy the sunshine.
I've decided to concentrate on my health and writing.

In order to create accountability, 
I'm going to blog my plan right here:

Writing and Genealogy

My writing will concentrate on my own family stories.

Several of my students have asked for a biography, 
so that will be one focus.

Also, I have many stories and interviews 
I have collected from the old folks in my family.
I need to get them written and in a safe place.
That will happen here.

Mixed in with those will be stories from the Camino.


Morning - Fat Burning Workout by Joyce Vedral.
I've used this workout successfully in the past
 and hope to lose 5-10 pounds per month.

Afternoon - Walk
I began last night with only 10 minutes. 
I will increase 5 minutes each day as long as my ankle holds up. 
I hope to build up the strength slowly and not aggravate it.

Evening - Yoga
There are several nice bedtime yoga routines on You-Tube.
Last night I did this one and slept like a log!

I have ordered the herbs I need 
to do a complete kidney and gall-bladder cleanse.
I will begin as soon as the herbs arrive.
The kidney cleanse takes 13 days, 
after which I will do the gall-bladder cleanse.
The last time I did this cleanse, maybe 7 years ago,
 I released several hundred gallstones.

In the meantime, 
I'm eating healthy food, 
watching calories and fat, 
and drinking lots of water.
I feel less bloated already.


We have two Camino trips planned this year.

The Best of Both will be led by Joe and it is nearly full.
We are also doing a Ladies Only trip, 
which will be led by Robin Lieberman.
You can read more about both 
at our Anniewalker's Camino website:

We originally had three trips planned, 
but the Ebola scare mixed with economic woes 
apparently frightened some folks off 
and people cancelled to the point we had to drop one trip. 
It was a shame, really, because I feel flying is very safe 
and Spain is one of the safest places in the world. 
I'm much more comfortable walking alone in Spain 
than most places in the USA.

Will I walk this year?
At this point, I'm going to say no.
I need a year to rest and recover from this tendonitis injury.
But I'll be ready to walk in 2016 for sure!

So there it is in a nutshell.

If you're interested in walking the Camino, 
and would like to go with a small group, please get in touch. 
We also offer a KickStart program which is very affordable. 
With Kickstart, I give you all the information you need to plan your trip, 
and am available for email, telephone, 
and face-to-face Gmail or Skype chat.

For those of you planning your trip, I'm excited for you!
Please keep me in your prayers.
I REALLY want to walk next year!