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The devil never looked so handsome

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The Pilgrimage of San Campio de Ourente (Outes)

Well, what can I say. I had never (and when I say never, I mean never) believed in this kind of thing. It offended or at least displeased some acquaintances and relatives, especially my paternal grandmother, who was very devout.

It is already an oxymoron to try to reason things about faith, but the big conflict comes when you make it clear that these rites have pagan origins, well before Christian beliefs, and that the only thing they did was to appropriate them. A big mess.

But that’s all right, after all, we are dealing with people of good faith. And faith is what it’s all about. Today in the newspaper I have been commissioned to write an article about one of those pilgrimages that are so common in this Galicia of ours. “Fermín, go and cover this, like the good Galician that you are”. And here I am, on my way to the pilgrimage of San Campio, in San Ourente de Entís, Concello de Outes. I had to look it up on the map. I must not be such a good Galician.

First, a bit of documentation. Who was this Campio? Was he a neighbour of Outes who had achieved sainthood? Well no, here history begins to prove me right. At the end of the 18th century, a powerful cardinal asked Pope Pius VI for a martyr to venerate, because, in his opinion, pagan beliefs were too widespread in these lands.

An imported saint. Disillusioning. I discover that the Pope sent them the body of a martyred soldier, who was buried in the catacombs of Rome. It was suitably preened, dressed for combat and placed in a glass urn. The result must have been very good because it is said that the Discalced Carmelites of Santiago wanted to keep him there when they took him in at a transport stop. They said that he would be much more venerated in Santiago than in Outes.

Well, I don’t know what to tell them, because this Sunday, 29th September, there was such a crowd of people that I was forced to leave my car in a car park created for the occasion several kilometres from the Church of San Ourente.

In the end the locality was not so unfamiliar. Nearby are the Cabañas del Barranco, one of the pioneering tree climbs that I had already heard about several times. The atmosphere is conducive to this type of initiative. I see in a tourist brochure that Outes is also home to some magnificent rural tourism houses. The woods ooze a strong tranquillity. I discover that its wood was considered the best for making ships. This gave rise to an infinity of sawmills and carpentries along the coastline of the Ría de Muros Noia. Today the “ruta dos mariñeiros cos pes mollados” (https://www.outesturismo.gal/es/carpinteria-de-ribeira) brings back the memory of those times when hundreds of people toiled by the sea to make sloops, galleons and other vessels that today various associations strive to preserve.

I am now next to the church. A sober building with a beautiful entrance staircase. Next to the church, a few traditional stalls evoke distant decades. Doughnuts and candles. There are all kinds of shapes of human organs or limbs. There are even full-body ones for those who suffer endlessly. I’m considering buying one. After all, after all, after so many hours in front of the computer, the back suffers.

I attend mass. The first surprise is that there are no pews, which seems strangely inappropriate for a crowd of people with a lot of crutches. The second surprise is that the saint is mentioned countless times, but is nowhere to be seen. I try to find out for myself, but I also sharpen my ear.

I learn something curious. It was typical to come to make offerings to the saint before leaving for war. Normal, remember that he was a soldier saint. With time, this led to making offerings before leaving for compulsory military service. This gives us an indication of how we become softer over the centuries. But at the same time there is the second effect, which is not secondary, and which has brought me here.

Devotees attend the pilgrimage to San Campio to have the devil removed from their bodies. To be more precise, they speak of removing “o mal pequeño”, a kind of curse, meigallo or evil eye. Excellent, but where is the saint?

I managed not to have to ask. I could see how the faithful passed by the sides of the altar. I followed them. There he was, behind the high altar. In his glass urn, the saint, of really small dimensions, was receiving an endless succession of acknowledgements and gifts. I stood for a long time in front of him. I have already told you that I did not believe in such things, but the atmosphere, despite its extreme simplicity, still had a certain aura of solemnity about it.

Once outside, I heard several times about the Rial hermitage. This time I will have to ask.

-Ladies, what is the Rial?

-But what are you looking for?

-To remove the Devil from the body!

-You go to San Campio and don’t go to the Rial, you come back home with the same evil!

Well, so the thing has a second part. I follow the crowd towards a nearby chapel. Next to me walk the ladies I asked. I’m going to get into it with them.

-Ladies, a question: what do you do with all the demons?

-What do you do with all the demons?

-I say, what do you do with all the demons you take from people? Do they stay around here? Then Outes must be a demonic town.

-Boy, we’re talking about the spirit. O mal sácase e eliminínase. O problema téñeno aqueles a os que queda dentro, entendes?

Touché. I bow my head and accompany them to the hermitage. We drink in a fountain, we rest our foreheads on a stone saint, we go round a cross nine times and I put my back in wax.

-Well, now I feel better!

-You really are a demo, rapas. Ja, ja. Xa nos avisaban que o demo cada dia está máis guapo.


And for a moment I felt like Carlos Herrera. We’ll have to invite some cockles.