The Quiet Beauty and Power of Muxía
To those pilgrims on the Camino who grow tired of the rising commercialization of the French Way, alternate routes and lesser-known sites have a strong draw. One such site, whose inclusion in the movie The Way has increased its popularity without “tainting” it too much with the touristy shops seen in other areas, is the ancient sea village of Muxía.
Muxía (pronounced “moo-SHEE-ah”) is situated on the northwest coast of Galicia, an area known for its rocky promontories and lighthouses to warn nearby ships of the danger. The town itself is one of the smallest you will see along the Camino, with many customs seemingly unchanged for the last few hundred years. Large fish hang from wooden poles to dry and cure in the salty air, while women of all ages harvest and lay out huge quantities of seaweed along the sidewalks and squares to dry in preparation for inclusion in various beauty products.
Stories abound regarding Muxía’s significance in pre-Christian Galicia and the way in which the area was converted. The Camino route from Finisterre to Muxía has a number of Romanesque chapels and churches as well as hermitages and other structures dating back to the 12th century, which does seem to point to a relatively late date of conversion, but the devotion of modern-day pilgrims is now steeped deeply in veneration of the saints and a desire for the miraculous.
The rocks along the ocean have an eerie beauty to them. Centuries of wind and surf have smoothed them and shaped them into alien shapes, and led to the formation known as the Pedra de la Barca, which is one of several “oscillating stones” along the Galician coast. These massive stones, through unique weathering, are balanced so as to be easy to move back and forth with a light push of wind or hand.
As I’ve written in the blog on Finisterre, the Camino to Muxía attracts both “more serious” pilgrims and those who don’t feel ready to finish when they reach Santiago, a fact the movie The Way beautifully portrays. I submit to you that the Camino to Muxía – or better yet, the triangle from Santiago to Finisterre to Muxía and back to Santiago – is a beautiful way to prepare for your journey home. The reentry into Santiago after being at the coast is a wonderful chance to examine the change just a few days can make – compare your feelings upon first entering Santiago to your feelings when you return from the coast. Meditate on what you learned or received over the course of your whole pilgrimage.
Muxía, though touted by some as the “true end” of the Camino, is no more the end than the cathedral in Santiago. Yes, at the cathedral you get your Compostela, but once you’ve walked the Camino you will be “on the Camino” for the rest of your life. Muxía is only one stop on the Way after Santiago, but a good one if you have the time.
Hunter Van Wagenen’s Camino experiences began in 2007 when he was a high school senior. He enjoys sharing humorous and miraculous stories in addition to practical advice he has collected during his walks. He and his wife Stephie's dream is to live in Spain helping pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. They currently live in Greensboro, NC. hunter@CaminoProvisions.com