Thin places

Cruz de Ferro

What the Celts call a thin place: a powerful place where the veil between heaven and earth thins

It wasn’t far through the fog from Foncebaden to the Cruz de Ferro on the Camino Frances in 2016. The remains of stone cottages littered the fields. At that altitude the grass was only just appearing after winter’s freeze. Cow bells interrupted the crunch of boots as I trudged up the rocky track.

The legendary cross appeared out of the gloom on its hillock of stones in a clearing in the forest at the peak of the mountain. Here pilgrims leave a symbol of whatever burdens them. The mound of stones and rocks, paper and fabric, inscribed and not, reaches high up the pole toward the iron cross. A sprinkling of pilgrims knelt, squatted or stood on the rise, reading messages, praying or leaving their own contribution of burdens and regrets. Others picked their way over the rocks, turning them over, reading the messages with reverence.

I paused. Fog swirled around the cross. Silence enveloped all who approached. This felt like an out of the ordinary place, what the Celts call a thin place: a powerful place where the veil between heaven and earth seems thinner. A place which exudes an energy or vibration that is palpable to those who stop and listen. An amalgam of the place itself, high on a mountain, the small ceremonies pilgrims perform there, and an openness to the otherworldly.

Some say the Camino itself is a thin place. Overhead the Milky Way presides over energy lines that point the way west to Santiago, but also to the coast, a threshold place sacred to the ancient Celtic peoples who once lived there. I stopped and dwelt in many sites along the Camino and felt the presence of the holy seeping through into the ordinary, but on the rocks at Finisterre where St James’ body is said to have come to shore in a stone boat, the earth felt particularly close to heaven.

Finisterre, Spain
The Aubrac, France

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