Tuesday, October 20, 2009

St Andrew and a Can of Yams

I've been searching for the perfect pilgrim bling for this upcoming continental walk. A scallop shell is such an easy one for St James - the French order St Jacques right off the menu and get scallops. Crossed keys are a no brainer for St Peter, they're plastered all over Rome and anything to do with the Pope. Jerusalem is the palm leaf, far less violent then the recognizable crucifix, but well established as the appropriate symbol for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. But my boy Andy... not so clear.

A bit of wiki research by a friend yielded some medieval blazons, crudely fashioned out of some soft metal to be sewn to a cape or hat. The thing was, the pilgrims who sported them were headed toward St Andrew's on the firth of Fife, Scotland. Maybe it was that not many Europilgrims headed to Patras? Nonetheless, asking around clergy, scholars, and any Ukrainian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Turk, or Greek I've come across in the last few months got me no where - no one can provide any insight to a modern, known, universal symbol for timeless Andy.

Scots were somehow descended from the ancient Scythians, who lived in the 'Terra Incognita', and they did adopt Andy as their patron, so why not borrow the symbol of pilgrims from the Middle Ages? It's the best I've got.

Another friend offered up a can of yams. I removed the top and bottom lids and sautéed the yams for dinner. From one of the metal discs, I tinkered a prototype, making measurements and choosing the right tools from the basement collection. Once I got the kinks ironed out, I made my little blazon out of the other lid... tin snips, a hammer and awl, and a nail file, some felt, cement, and a ribbon off a Christmas reindeer in the basement. I've got a pilgrim symbol.

I found sporting a symbol on my other journeys absolutely useful, except in Spain where there are so many pilgrims, any symbol is redundant. From a greater distance, the message was clear. I was surprised how many people, old and young, recognize the significance of the symbol. The sight of it produced many a cup of coffee and glass of wine. The manifested symbol started many conversations. I like having the symbol hung around my neck to break any silence and demonstrate my mission.

From a can of yams, I have my pilgrim symbol. One step closer.


Jefferson GrandsLieux said...

Nice blog !
Crossing Ukraine in winter is deary. I know you like winters, and you're used to walking in the cold season.
But have you considered that the East of Europe has a continental climate, i.e. very hot summers and very cold winters ? A winter storm in Ukraine may have much harder consequences than in western milder countries like England, France and Italy.
So before each departure , that is every day, check the weather forecast, you won't regret it !
How's that ? You can mail me your answer at
All the best

Paolo said...

Hello Ann,

Great blog!
I'm going to walk the Via Francigena this winter, starting on december. I have a lot of questions about it and could rellay use some advice. Can I contact you via email? My address is: paolo.deguidi@gmail.com

Ukiefriend said...

Anna, did you save the label from the can of yams? You could have made it "famous!" Your wit and resourcefulness never cease to amaze me!