Thursday, March 7, 2013

Jacobsmuscheln - the Shell of Saint James

The Jacobsmuscheln, Jacob's mussel or scallop shell is a symbol for the Camino, and it was a tradition for pilgrims to carry one with them.  This identifies the "true" pilgrim, who, upon showing this shell to churches, monasteries or homes, are given some food or drink -- oats, beer, wine -- whatever fits in one scoop. The shape is such that you can actually eat and drink out of it.
The beginnings of the symbol came from a story about the body of St James sent by the disciples upon his death, and travelling on a ship to his final resting place in Santiago. One story said that the ship was hit by a storm and his body washed ashore undamaged and covered with scallop shells. Another story says that as the ship was in sight of shore, a horse and knight fell into the water but miraculously came out covered in shells.
I like the metaphor of the scallop shell.  The grooves of the shell radiate out from one center point, as the pilgrims come through different routes and from different corners of the earth; and all meet together at a final destination, the tomb of St. James at Santiago de Compostela.
I was able to find some fresh Jacobmuscheln here.  They were actually very delicious cooked with a little garlic and butter, and fresh parsley on the side. 

I will bring the shells with me on my trip.

Scallop shell

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