I feel the life in me, therefore I am. (pg 58)

The Hidden Camino, by Louise SommerI took this book with me on an overnight trip, not expecting to stay up into the small hours to read it from cover to cover, but found it so engaging that that’s exactly what happened.

Louise Sommer, who works in psychotherapy and has a passion for the roles of women in European history, had a series of powerful dreams and other synchronicities calling her to the pilgrimage, just the sort of thing described in Joseph Campbell’s well-known “Call to Adventure” in the Hero’s Journey.*

The dreams were beautifully described and I felt I was being drawn into the adventure too, not difficult as the book is well-written and, I must admit, pressed many of my buttons – I’ve long wished to walk the Camino but there are so many things on the bucket list!  If you have an interest in Goddess, Pilgrimage, the Magdalene, the Grail, past life memories, the Templars, symbolism and mythology, serpents and dragons, women’s history or, of course, Black Madonnas, you will find this a fascinating read.  I’m also an inveterate old church visitor and can barely pass one by unexamined when travelling.

Far better than any formulaic Dan Brown novel, the book has much to tell us and also hints at mysteries to be explored: the meaning of the Camino’s scallop shell symbol, and connections between Cybele and Mary Magdalene to mention but two.  As a person who loves to walk alone, or at least in silence, I also had a great deal of sympathy for Louise Sommer’s decision to do this for much of the way – it’s a wonderful meditation, and ideal for people who find it difficult to sit in a chair for very long.

The book is multi-layered, and contains much besides the fascinating spiritual aspects of the journey undertaken, the day-to-day recounting of the walking itself, interesting people met and the mostly supportive community of pilgrims.  There are also useful practical suggestions for those planning a similar pilgrimage, with an appendix containing ideas for preparation and even a packing list.  There’s also a short but useful reference section with books, websites and DVDs/TV programmes to look out for, plus a companion website with lots more background and a gallery of pictures.

As a former Catholic Convent girl I particularly appreciated the author telling off a group of Catholic priests who, while other pilgrims were sitting on a terrace peacefully reading or quietly conversing, loudly discussed and defended the Church and went so far as to question that the thousands of children who have been sexually abused by Catholic institutions were telling the truth. Sickening.

I’d strongly recommend this if you’re thinking of walking the Camino, with only the most minor quibbles: the occasional spelling or grammatical error, hardly fair as English is not the author’s first language and it’s mostly written very well.  I would also have loved an index!

I’ll close with a quote from one of the author’s walking companions: “Now I realise that it is the Camino that has plans for you!  Not the other way around”. (p152)

You can obtain the book direct from the author and it’s also available as hard copy or for the Kindle from Amazon.