Santa Compaña occurs in late October in the Northern region of Spain, normally coinciding with Halloween. The Santa Compaña is a procession of souls that wander through the village beginning at midnight wearing white, hooded cloaks. The procession of souls in torment is also referred to as Güestia in the Asturias region. Santa Compaña is the term used in Galicia to denote the presence of the dead in the world of the living. If you are walking the Camino de Santiago at this time of year, you may well come across it!
Santa Compaña – The Living
The procession is usually led by a living person normally a local parishioner. They are cursed and do not know what they are doing. Their appearance is normally extremely pale and ghastly looking. They are usually seen holding a cross or a cauldron of holy water. The parishioner is not allowed to turn around and see the dead. And, the only way to release themselves is to find someone else to take their place or they die. If they do not find someone to replace them, they will get sick from the task.
Santa Compaña – The Dead
The dead walk behind the leader usually in two rows, dressed in cloaks, barefoot and holding candles. They visit houses to announce an upcoming death in the nighttime. Lamps are carried to illuminate the way but to onlookers, there are not seen.
The smell of burning wax from the candles announces their presence in the area. Another way to notice that Santa Compaña is nearby is the silence of the forests. This is due to animals noticing their presence and remaining still. Bells and prayers can also be heard, and a sharp drop in temperature is felt.
How to avoid the curse of Santa Compaña
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.
Alternatively, if you have nothing to draw a circle with or no black cat conveniently to hand, you can make hand symbols to ward off the Santa Compaña. With both hands, you can give the horn gesture by keeping up your index and little finger whilst folding down your other fingers. The other hand gesture you can make is the Fig sign, by closing your fist and putting your thumb between your index and middle finger.
Additionally, if you make Queimada and recite the spell during the making, you will be safe from the Santa Compaña. Finally, a Galician food tradition that you should check out is “Huesos de Santo” (Bones of the Holy). Have a look at some of the other festivals happening in Spain during October.
Enjoy Halloween on the Camino de Santiago
Book your Autumn Camino with Follow the Camino and experience all the wonderful elements of Halloween on the Camino. Our team have loads more top tips for your Camino, from choosing the best route to what to pack and how to prepare.
Start your Camino by contacting one of the Camino Planners at Follow the Camino. We will send you a customised itinerary and answer all your questions.