Unveiling the Enigma: Game of the Goose and the Camino de Santiago

Have you ever heard about the intriguing link between the Camino de Santiago and the Game of the Goose? Rumor has it that the Knights Templar, formidable Christian warriors of the time, crafted an encrypted guide to the French Camino using an illustrated game featuring geese – the popular game that has transcended centuries to reach us today!

The game is played on a spiral track with a series of numbered spaces, and players move their pieces according to the roll of dice or the draw of cards.

One captivating theory suggests that the Knights Templar may have conceptualized the game. For them, the Goose wasn’t merely a game; it was a hieroglyphic code known to the entire order, guiding them to Santiago while adhering to their prohibition of dice games.

This symbolic journey through the game mirrors the pilgrim’s path from St. Jean Pied de Port, at the French border, to Santiago, with the first 32 squares representing the stages of the French Camino and the remaining 31 denoting the return journey.

The game carries deeper symbolism. Inns represent pilgrim hostels, wells signify challenging days on the Camino, and the labyrinth reflects physical losses. Dice symbolize the unpredictable nature of the pilgrimage, where delays and advancements in arrival times are commonplace.

That being said, the connection between the Game of the Goose and the Camino goes beyond gameplay. There are several points that connect the game to the Camino. Come with us as we unravel the threads of history, intriguing anecdotes, and curious facts emerge, weaving a richer tapestry of this timeless connection:

  • Knights Templar’s Strategic Game: Serving as protectors of Christian pilgrims en route to holy lands, the Templars cleverly encoded the Camino’s secrets within the game’s symbols. The seemingly innocent pastime thus became a covert guide for pilgrims on their spiritual odyssey.
  • A Pilgrim’s Progress on the Board: The 63 squares of the board mirror the stages of the Camino de Santiago, out and back. Players navigate through squares symbolizing the pilgrimage’s milestones, from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago and back. Each roll of the dice becomes a step along the sacred journey, echoing the real-life pilgrim’s progress.
  • Symbols in Simplicity: In the game’s ingeniously simple symbols lies a hidden language understood by the Templars. The Oca, or goose, is a cryptic code pointing the way to Santiago. These uncomplicated symbols allowed the Templars to communicate across language barriers, ensuring the pilgrimage’s secrets were shared among the order.
  • Journey Beyond Borders: Just as pilgrims on the Camino come from diverse corners of the world, the Game of the Goose transcended borders. Initially gifted to Spain by Francis I of Medici in the 16th century, the game quickly gained popularity among the nobility, sparking demand for similar boards.
  • Galician Landmarks on the Board: Beyond the symbolic journey, the Game of the Goose’s board showcases Galician landmarks. From the Oca square nodding to O Cebreiro, the Death square representing Santiago, to the final Great Goose square symbolizing Finisterre, each square resonates with the spirit of the Camino.
  • Inns, Wells, and Labyrinths: Delve into the symbolism embedded in the game – inns portraying pilgrim hostels, wells representing challenging days on the Camino, and labyrinths as metaphors for physical losses. The dice, embodying chance, capture the pilgrimage’s inherent unpredictability, where delays and advancements echo the ebb and flow of the Camino’s challenges.
  • Place Names Echoing Geese: The Camino’s feathered companions, geese, leave their mark not only on the game board but also on the landscape. Along the French Camino, towns like Villafranca Montes de Oca, Puerto de Oca, and El Ganso pay homage to these birds, intertwining the physical and symbolic realms of the pilgrimage.
  • Numerology – the Mystery of 9: The number 9, a symbol of love for humanity and service to others in numerology, weaves its magic into both the Camino and the Game of the Goose. From the basilica’s nine naves with 63 pillars to the game’s strategic layout, the numeric harmony unfolds, creating a fascinating connection between spirituality and chance.

Would you like to play?

From its enigmatic origins with the Knights Templar to the symbolic journey embedded in its squares, this game invites us to explore the intricate web connecting spirituality, strategy, and the timeless allure of the Camino. So if you’re already dreaming and planning your Camino, play this popular game to get in the mood and step into the shoes of a medieval pilgrim, guided by the secrets of the goose on a path that transcends centuries.


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