This morning was cold – four degrees to be exact. I could see my breath again until it evaporated into the sky. It’s funny how the temperature can be so chilly in the morning yet warm enough to strip down to a tank top and shorts in the afternoon.

I regret buying the poncho yesterday because it doesn’t cover my arms inside my jacket. A fleece might have been better. Maybe I’ll get one in Astorga tomorrow and ditch the poncho somewhere. I could give it to someone. It was only eight euro, so no huge loss.

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Karen and I wandered through the fancy Paradores Hostal this morning after breakfast – the one that the characters from the movie, The Way stayed in. It was so elaborate, but much too expensive for my budget.

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On our way back, we stopped by the cathedral to get a credencial stamp. By that time I was so cold that I decided to return to the hotel, pack up and start walking. Karen was still sight-seeing, but I’m sure I’ll see her again somewhere along the way.

A funny thing happened upon leaving the hotel. The lyrics, “Somewhere over the rainbow…way up high…” resonated out of a cafe bar. They stopped me in my tracks in the middle of the narrow side street. I laughed and smiled to myself as I stood there dumbfounded recalling last night’s journal entry comparing my red sandals to Dorothy’s ruby red slippers. There are so many coincidental and strange little moments on the Camino. Sometimes I think angels send subtle messages to let me know they are there.

Today, I walked approximately 27 kilometers to a town called San Martin del Camino.

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It has been a very language-challenged, but interesting evening. I got off to a rough start when I was approached by a man in my dorm. He knew very little English and had to use his iPhone translation app to communicate with me. At first I thought he was another friendly pilgrim and that maybe we could learn from each other. Then I realized he was trying to solicit me for a massage. He was the albergue masseuse.

To get away, I told him I had laundry to do which was true, but then I ran into language issues there too. A sign posted at the albergue showed there was a washer and dryer available. Yay, right? But, the hospitalera gave me a blank look when I asked about them.

My iPhone app wasn’t handy, so I used charades to communicate instead. I pointed at myself, then at my clothes and then I made it look like I was washing them. She handed me a wash pail. I shook my head and said machine and made it look like I was opening a door and throwing my clothes in, but she wanted to take my bag of clothes away with her. I said no, I want to wash my clothes myself, but she didn’t understand.

Two French women tried to help, by asking me questions in French, but of course we didn’t understand each other either. Arghhh! I should have studied languages in school! I just shook my head and said that I would wash them in Astorga where I’m headed tomorrow. I’ll just wait. It’s easier. I would have hand washed them here, but it was too late in the day and it had clouded over. The clothes wouldn’t have dried and there is only so much space on my pack to hang things.

I retired to my dorm, climbed into my sleeping bag liner and laughed to myself. Without the ability to communicate properly with anyone, I didn’t see the point in socializing, however soon it was dinnertime and I was hungry.

Everyone at the table spoke French. I had a good giggle inside about it. I mean, when does this ever happen? All I really knew were the basics, enough to be polite. Regardless, it was still an entertaining evening. These people were all very happy, lively and loud. They loved to sing and they laughed a lot.

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After dessert the waitress brought out a large ceramic bowl containing a type of liquor with coffee beans and lemon skins in it. Then one of the women lit it on fire and began a ritualistic-looking stir while others motioned at it with their fingers and murmured to it in French.

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The flames glowed blue and orange. They grew brighter and licked higher the more she stirred the potion – a witch’s brew maybe? I was amused and mesmerized at the same time.

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Finally, after 20 minutes she blew out the flames and poured the liquid into small glasses.

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I tried a small glass of it. Very tasty!

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Later, I found out the potion is called Queimada, a mixture including a spirit distilled from wine called Orujo with coffee beans and lemon skins. It is lit on fire inside a ceramic pot and a special ritual is carried out.

The Queimada is a Galician tradition originally performed to ward off evil spirits. When the group was murmuring to it in French while scooping and pouring the burning liquid with the ladle, they were actually reciting the following spell:

Owls, barn owls, toads and witches.

Demons, goblins and devils,

spirits of the misty vales.

Crows, salamanders and witches,

charms of the folk healer(ess).

Rotten pierced canes,

home of worms and vermin.

Wisps of the Holy Company,

evil eye, black witchcraft,

scent of the dead, thunder and lightning.

Howl of the dog, omen of death,

maws of the satyr and foot of the rabbit.

Sinful tongue of the bad woman

married to an old man.

Satan and Beelzebub’s Inferno,

fire of the burning corpses,

mutilated bodies of the indecent ones,

farts of the asses of doom,

bellow of the enraged sea.

Useless belly of the unmarried woman,

speech of the cats in heat,

dirty turf of the wicked born goat.

With this bellows I will pump

the flames of this fire

which looks like that from Hell,

and witches will flee,

straddling their brooms,

going to bathe in the beach

of the thick sands.

Hear! Hear the roars

of those that cannot

stop burning in the firewater,

becoming so purified.

And when this beverage

goes down our throats,

we will get free of the evil

of our soul and of any charm.

Forces of air, earth, sea and fire,

to you I make this call:

if it’s true that you have more power

than people,

here and now, make the spirits

of the friends who are outside,

take part with us in this Queimada