When long time trekker, writer, and anthropologist Beebe Bahrami made her first full 500-mile hike on the Camino de Santiago,via the Way of Saint James, across southern France and northern Spain, she met French and Spanish pilgrims who told her that the Camino was more than a Christian pilgrimage. They explained that it also was a great leyline, a path of earth energy that could transform one by walking it. They added that under the 1,200-year-old Christian pilgrimage road there was a more ancient, pre-Christian initiatory path that could take one deeper into spiritual experience and consciousness. A person engaged it by looking for signs along the way. Signs? Many, she learned, but that the most potent were those associated with the goose.
The leyline idea made sense to her for she was already feeling it as she stepped along, an uncanny hum from the earth that seemed to support her every step. But signs and geese? What did this have to do with pilgrimage, let alone spiritual initiation? She dismissed it as a wonky idea and dropped it quickly on the trail and forgot about it.
But the goose would not leave her alone. It appeared as Bahrami walked, in village and landscape feature names, on medieval churches and monasteries, and most unusually, as a part of a massive inlaid stone board game, the Game of the Goose, in the Plaza de Santiago, the Spanish name for Saint James, in the Riojan city of Logroño. A popular European children’s game similar to Snakes and Ladders, in Logroño Bahrami learned that the Game of the Goose was intentionally set there by city planners and with church’s blessings to serve as a metaphor for the pilgrimage, as well as for life. She learned that the goose was seen as a creature of luck. But what else did the goose mean, beyond luck, signs, and children’s game? What really led it to become associated with spiritual initiation, pilgrimage, and the Camino? No one seemed able to give her a straight answer but by now, she was intrigued.
It took Bahrami three returns on three more through-treks on pilgrim paths in southwestern France and northern Spain to unearth the answers, ones that were rooted in ancient, pre-Christian times and that had survived to the present in the seemingly innocuous form of the goose. As Bahrami pursued the mystery of the goose, part skeptic and part seeker, she encountered wise and humorous locals, quirky and questing pilgrims, and unusual evidence in stones, local stories, and practices that revealed that the way of the wild goose was indeed a real and vibrant pathway, a parallel universe to the Christian Camino de Santiago. She discovered that though the medieval Camino was officially dedicated to Saint James the Greater, under the surface still dwelled older native goddesses and gods who continued to influence the way. Most stunning, she found that the goose was very likely an ancient Eurasian earth-centered mother goddess who took many forms but the goose was among her most prominent forms or association. Ideas about the goose were crumbs, clues, and survivors of an older spirituality, ones that even found their way into stories of Mother Goose.
In all this, what Bahrami did not anticipate was that the outer goose adventure would take on an inner twist, that way of the wild goose would pull her into her own initiatory journey. She began as a curious bumbling trekker and ended a seeker on a full-blown medieval adventure in modern times.
This three part, outer and inner adventure of The Way of the Wild Goose is a travel narrative about wild nature, ancient roads, and mysterious lore that tells a modern story of initiation, challenge, trail magic, and deep personal transformation. Something of a cross between Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, and Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, The Way of the Wild Goose is a travel narrative and a detective…