Santa Compaña: A Procession of Souls
Santa Compaña is a myth that has been known in the Iberian Peninsula and other countries for years. Each region has their own version of the ghostly tale but generally, the Santa Compaña is a procession of souls usually in two rows, dressed in cloaks, barefoot, holding candles, that visit houses to announce an upcoming death in the nighttime.
The procession is usually led by a human who is cursed and does not know what they are doing. Legend says that they are extremely pale and ghastly looking and seen usually holding a cross or a cauldron of holy water. They are not allowed to turn around and see the dead and the only way to release themselves from this task is to find someone else to take their place or if they die. If they do not find someone to replace them, they will get sick from the hard work they do at night. The person would not know what they are doing at night so they do not know why they are sick or what they are sick with. They eventually die from an “unknown” illness.
The dead carry lamps but to the surrounding people, there are not seen, and the smell of burning wax from the candles they hold is one way they announce their presence in the area. Other ways to notice that the Santa Compaña is nearby is the silence of the forests as animals notice their presence and leave, bells and prayers can be heard, and a sharp drop in temperature is felt.
There are many ways someone can avoid the Santa Compaña. The most popular way is to draw the Circle of Solomon with chalk or salt on the ground and lay face down on it. Also carrying a black cat or having one cross the procession’s path will make them stay clear. If they come near you, pray, and if they try to hand you a cross tell them “Cruz I already have” or make sure to have your hands full. Additionally, if you make Queimada and recite the spell during the making, you will be safe from the Santa Compaña.
Most people will say they have never seen the Santa Compaña but at times have felt a ghostly presence surrounding them. Many regions in Spain are afraid of seeing the Compaña and have had reports of someone in their village seeing them throughout the years. They say that during the time of Halloween through All Saint’s Day is a popular time to come across the Santa Compaña along the Camino so maybe its best to stick to daytime walking on these days!
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