Sunday, 24 June 2007

Templar Rites Right Here!

A cool thing happened last night, a local legend from the Dark Ages! Oooo!

The next town over from us is called "Terradillos de los Templarios." It's a bit bigger than Moratinos, and Santiago pilgrims can stop there at an overnight shelter, buy food and drink, and do a couple of other things we can't do here.

Yes, you saw the dark and mysterious word "Templar." Spain used to be lousy with Templar knights, a medieval military monastic order that came here to help guard the travelers on the pilgrimage path to Santiago against bandits and Moors and other malefactors. The Templars were driven out and burned up on Friday the 13th Oct., 1307... they'd accumulated too much money and power, and the king owed them a lot of money...but that's a story better explained by the Conspiracy Theorist bloggers.

This is for real. On the path between Terradillos and here is a little spring and a couple of benches on the bank of the Rio Templarios. (The "River" is more of a stream than anything else.) The little tree-lined spot, according to a carving on a rock nearby, was back in medieval times a village called "Villa Oreja" (aka 'house of the ear." I am not making this up.)

Anyway, according to the locals, there once was a monastery at Villa Oreja, and the monks there joined the Dark Side. When pilgrims stopped there for shelter or food the monks robbed/killed/kidnapped them, and sometimes stole away youngsters from nearby towns to bolster their own numbers. This was something up with which the people could not put.

And so came the Templar Knights. They set up shop a mile or so up the road from the mean monks, and accompanied travelers down the road and safely past the bad guys. That is how Terradillos de los Templarios got its name... "little fields of the Templars." And even long after the monastery and community at Villa Oreja crumbled to dust, the river running through it is named for the Templars, too.

The cool thing about last night is this, which I learned from a Terradillana named Pili today: 23 June is St. John's Night, "la noche de magia." St. John, the patron of the Templars, is also Terradillos' patron, and all the scattered people who consider the village their family home are now back in town to celebrate the fiesta. In the middle of the night they bring candles, flashlights, and orujo (the local home-made fire water) out to Villa Oreja, where they sit and listen.

If you tune in just right, she said, you'll hear the hoofbeats and snorts of the horses the Templar knights once rode past here. You can hear the creak and jingle of the harness, even!

Pili didn't hear anything herself, she said, and she stayed til almost 2 a.m. Her husband Taddeo said he heard the templars once, back when he was a lot younger. "The likelihood of hearing anything goes way up as the level in the bottle goes down," he said.

So... there were lots of semi-intoxicated people out on the camino last night, looking and listening. Next year I think I might join them, just to see what happens. Or maybe I'll borrow a black horse, and take a gallop down the Camino in the dark, and give 'em all something to talk about!

No comments: