Busted Halo

Follow Joe as he hikes the Camino, experiences World Youth Day in Madrid, and travels to spiritual points in Spain, Portugal, Morocco and beyond.

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August 13th, 2011

The Scallop Shell


If you’ve ever been on the Camino, or seen movies about it, or watched Busted Halo® videos about it, or even purchased the Busted Halo® Camino hat, then you know that one iconic image associated with this popular pilgrimage is the scallop shell.

the "mile" marker from kilometer 86 of the Camino

Why? Well for starters it’s prevalently found on the shores of Galicia, the part of Northern Spain that contains Santiago de Compostela.  And though there are heavy mythologies surrounding it’s association with the pilgrimage, it may have nothing more to do with St. James than just simply being a convenient (and practical) tool for travelers a thousand years ago.  Because of it’s shape, it could be utilized as both a plate to hold food, as well as sort of a cup or glass to hold aid a pilgrim in drinking water from nearby streams or rivers.  And today, it’s most conventional usage is probably as a nifty souvenir for modern pilgrims, (watch out family and friends, you may have some shells in your future.)

But here’s something weird.  Knowing about the Camino symbol, and greatly anticipating my upcoming journey to northern Spain to take the hike, the day I departed for Madrid I began seeing this symbol everywhere.  Here’s a little taste…  Buon Camino!

at the dollar store picking up a cheap pair of sunglasses the day I left (which i subsequently lost as soon as i arrived in Spain)

walking past some garbage on the streets of Brooklyn


even on my walk to catch the subway to the airport

The Author : Joe Williams
Joe is the Production Editor for Busted Halo, working as producer and editor for all things video. After graduating from T.C.U. with a degree in production and religion, Joe spent time teaching on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona, exploring the film and music scene of Chicago, volunteering with the U.S. Peace Corps in South Africa, and surviving the world of corporate event production around the globe.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • claire

    I too will be departing for Spain in two weeks. Not Northern Spain though, but Southern Spain. We’ll be walking from Sevilla to Santiago.
    Buen Camino!

  • Max77

    The scallop shell is a very pleasing object– functional, evocative, symmetrical without being static, providing a decorative element which expresses a coherent energy radiating outwards.The shell is also a powerful symbol in that it suggests an inherent mortality, and that which persists beyond death, cast out of the sea and stranded on the shore– a fragment of another world obscured to us by watery chaos. An expression of beauty and order that has survived chance and time, placed before us in the sand by the action of a storm. “–The wind blows where it listeth, and you hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell where it comes or where it goes; so it is with every one that is born of the spirit.” In other words: the symbol serves as a reminder of our own mortality, but also of the grace of the spirit…

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