Sunday, 21 February 2010

The right - Third Test

The utensils for the "Burning Drink Ritual"

Sarka from the Czech Republic
Jesus Jato - Ave Fenix

Continue walking toward the rising sun. In a place born from the ashes, a man with two gold teeth prepares a magic potion on nights when he feels like doing this. This potion has the gift of exorcizing evil spirits, and obeys a ritual where fire, water, earth and air are invoked.

Work there for a day. Shelter those who need shelter and care for those who need care. Convince the man to perform the ritual for you and for those who arrive on that day.

Your image with this man is the third test. The image of someone you helped is also the third test.
Before you leave the place, pick up a stone.

Several days, two countries, thousands of kilometers and the solution of many tests had passed before I had come to the conclusion that I was not satisfied with my solution of the Third Test. Basically, it was the Magic Potion Ritual that concerned me most of all, and the more I thought about this, the more I was convinced that I needed to go back to Tomas at Manjarin and insist that he perform the ritual for me.

Returning the rental car that I had needed to circumnavigate the Pyrenees, to Burgos, I spent one more day with my dear friends Rodrigo & Victoria, to rest from the exhausting road trip thus far. During this well needed pause, I became more convinced that it was going to be necessary, if I wanted to complete my Enigma fully and properly, to return to Manjarin.

One day was enough to decide, and I took a car once more, driving back along the Camino de Santiago to Manjarin at the top of the Montes de Leon. The snow was still visable in Foncebadon, so just in case the heavens opened once more during my return, I decided to leave the car there and continue on foot to Manjarin. Aprehensive as to the type of welcome I would receive, I walked up once more via the Cruz de Ferro to the sparsley inhabited village.

This time it was Rosa, Paco's wife, who greeted me at the entrance to the ramshackle hut, and she quickly ushered me inside and out of the cold wind, immediately offering me the choice of either coffee or tea from the wood stove.

I felt comfortable her company, despite the fact that we could not converse coherantly in a language of mutual understanding. Spanish will cerainly be one of the next foreign languages that I'll attempt to learn, but for now we continued with hands, eyes and facial expressions.

Paco soon came in and was both surprized and happy to see me, though he didn't ask why I decided to return, just carried on with his kitchen chores. I asked if Tomas would be present at supper and i received a positive incline of the head, from both. We were joined later by Maria a good friend of Rosa, and Louise, finally someone I could converse with in English. We all prepared the table for supper which, as written in Antonio's book of rules, would begin promptly at eight. Both Antonio and Tomas joined for the evening meal, and have the luxury of my new found translater, I took the oportunity to ask about the possibility of Tomas performing ritual. They discussed the subject at length and Louise said theat Tomas would perform the ritual at 11:00 am prompt the next day. Satisfied with this, and now assured that I had made the right decision to return, I headed up to the loft for a good night's sleep.

Well rested I woke before sunrise but waited obediently until nine to stir. Once again we all sat at breakfast which consisted fo dry cakes and coffee or tea. I asked Louise once again just to be sure that Tomas would perform the ritual as promised at eleven. She comforted me and said that he would keep his word. I waited patiently as eleven would soon be here after getting up first at nine!
Punctually at eleven, Paco came out in front of the hut, and began a series of clangs on the bell beside the front door. It was rather like morse code and once finished, we were ushered back into the living-kitchen, in the corner where Tomas' shrine of Madonnas & Jesus' offered those who believed, a place to pray. Tomas had changed into his version of a Knights Templar Uniform and he began his so called "Calling of the Angels!" to which he said through my dear translater Louise, that he usually performs this every year for the first time on March 19th, but hat he was performing it today at my request and in my honour. Apparently today was perfect according to Tomas, because it coincided with another special day in his religious calender. Tomas summoned 7 Angels, utilising those present as manifestations of the descending heavenly bodies. The entire process took about 25 minutes, after which I gratefully thanked Tomas and all those present, for this honour... but something was not right, I thought to myself. Where is the magic potion? Not wanting to appear ungrateful, but needing to confirm that I had experienced the intended ritual, I asked Louise to carefully put my question to Tomas. "Where is the magic potion?" I asked. Louise looked at me and smiled, "Ah, I know what you are looking for... the burning drink ritual with the woooh!" "But Tomas does not do that here, that is done by his friend Jesus Jato at Ave Fenix in Villafranca del Bierzo!"... My mouth was wide open in amazement. OMG, I have been to this tiny hut at the top of the mountain twice now, believing that this is the place that was "born out of the ashes", and as soon as Louise had uttered the name Ave Fenix, I knew that it was where I should have been all along. I felt so foolish, I should have known, I had even passed the said Albergue 3 times already. I hugged Louise, not knowing whether to laugh or cry, and thanked her for putting me back on the right path. I packed my rucksack hurridly, and this had not gone unnoticed by Tomas. He was chuckling to himself as I rushed down the stairs with all my seven things, and said "careful careful, Jesus will wait!" ;) (Authors Note: I read "The Pilgrimage" in 1987 and not since, so my recollection of the location of Ave Fenix & the person Jesus Jato, was not saved in my memory)

I thanked and hugged all present, and made my way back to my car, which was of course parked several kilometers in the wrong direction at Foncebadon. This didn't bother me in the slightest, I was only to happy to have solved the location of Test Three properly this time. Passing the Cruz de Ferro once more, I stopped to leave yet another symbolic burden, and hurried down the hill to Foncebadon.
Once there, I raced back up the hill and on past Manjarin, hooting and tooting the car's horn, all the way down via Molinaseca, Ponferada and on to Villafranca del Bierzo.

The right 3rd Test solution:

I arrived at mid afternoon and Marielies, the German Hospitalero, welcomed me at the door. She asked me to sit down and take the weight off my feet, not knowing that I had actually arrived by car. Beginning to register me and check my credentials, I found it only fair to mention that I was no ordinary Pilgrim, although the statement alone sounded pretty toffee nosed ;). She didn't seem to be surprized, but asked me to explain. I told her that I had a mission to perform and she immediately changed her tone, similarly to that of Antonio at Manjarin. Given that I was not the first person to arrive at Ave Fenix in search of the magic potion and making the quest for the Enigma, she was well informed and had prepared a number of rules by which she interacted with such Knights. First showing my quarters, she then showed me the ablutions (male & female) the kitchen, bar & restaurant, which was to be my revier for the next two days. She also explained that she understood the length of the task as being one whole working day and therefore enveloped by two whole nights. I did not question her logic, only too pleased to be able to complete my task as an impeccable warrior, and began immediately with the chores at hand.

Jesus Jato, the owner of the Albergue, came in and out at regular intervals, wearing a set of typical workman's blue overalls. He was busy rebuilding an adjacent family residence for future use. As Marielies bored holes in Conche Shells, I completed the humble gifts for Pilgrims by feeding the thread through the holes Marlies had made in the Shells. It is said that by wearing the Conche Shell as one would a neklace, with the shell directly placed over the the top of the rib cage, this both protects and gives strength to the pilgrim's heart. It was a very medative task and we completed it with very few words, enjoying the peace and tranquility of room warmed by the wood burning oven on a cold winters afternoon.

A single pilgrim arrived shortly before sundown, it was Sarka from the Czech Republic, and I assisted her with the usual tour of the complex and carried her heavy bag to the room. Sarka is a landscape gardener with her own business, and was on her second Pilgrimage, which she was able to make during the off season, when her plants didn't need intesive care.

Jesus came in, this time without his overalls, followed by a German and Spaniard who had been assisting him on his building site. Jesus went straight to the kitchen and assisted Marielies with preparing the evening meal. I had of course discussed the "burning drink ritual" with Marielies and she had said that Jesus Jato would decide about that later, and if he did not, it was certainly for a very good reason...
Marielies had inaugurated me in the details of Jesus Jato's indiosycracies, one being that at the table, each should serve himself, and not attempt to serve another. Perhaps this was his interpretation of a saying I had often heard, namely, "That God helps those who help themselves"? I have often wondered if this applies to criminals who break into houses? ;)

We all sat down to supper after first linking hands while Jesus Jato said his usual prayer. The selfish fight for all that lay on the table began... Jato first of course. ;)

As the evening drew to an end, it became apparent to me that I was, yet again, not going to receive my ritual, so I headed off to bed with the resignation that Test number Three was going to be a real tough nut to crack. If only I had re-read the four books before setting out, I thought to myself.

It had poured with rain during the night and the morning air was fresh and the sun made an effort to break through the scattered clouds in the valley del Bierzo. having completed my ablutions, I made my way down to the central stone walled room of Ave Fenix, where Marielies was already sipping her first coffee, awaiting the arrival of her guests and enjoying the peace and quiet of the early morning hours. 
"Guten Morgen Paul!" she said "und wie hast du geschlaffen?" "Danke, nicht schlecht" was my response, and I sat down with her at one of the long wooden tables. The wood fire had gone out and it was quite cool in the room with the high ceeling. But I remembered her saying that we were not allowed to touch the ashes of the fire... that was Jesus Jato's privilage alone!

Sarka finally joined for breakfast and Marlies informed her of the two route variations that open for her continuation up to O Cebreiro.

The infamous and trecherous valley route, which Hape Kerkeling had over dramatized in the hilarious account of his Camino "Ich bin dann mal weg", was one of Sarka's possibilities. However the more strenuous but scenic hill route, as long as the weather allowed, was certainly more rewarding, recommended Marielies. With this advice, Sarka hesitated no longer and following our friendly hugs and  good wishes, she headed off for O Cebreiro, via the mountain path.

Once again the Albergue was devoid of Pilgrims, and following a brief exchange of small talk with Marielies, I continued with my "Enigma" responsibilities, by cleaning the Bathrooms, Toilets and Bedrooms. Thereafter we continued the preparation of Conche Shells for the coming high season in the holy year of Xacobeo 2010.

Later, someone appeared at the door, and I recognized the tall young man whom I had seen previously at Saint Savin in France. It was SantiagosDream, this time he was chasing me ;) Marielies soon got wise to fact that she needed a task for him to perform for day, so she introduced him to Jato and his German assistant, and they all headed for the building site.

The day progressed without any particular high or low notes, a time to meditate by doing mundane tasks for the Albergue. Later that afternoon, a few Pilgrims came by, some just requiring infomation and continuing on their way, and few had decided to spend the night with us. I was pleased about this because it increased my chances of receiving the "burning drink ritual".

Whilst attempting to brake firewood to size for the stove, Marielies trod on a long nail and she became quite ill thereafter, so much so that the German builders had to take her to the local medical centre for treatment. She was not sure when she had received her last tetinus injection, so she was naturally concerned about a possible infection. Upon her return she sat for a while with us on the table, but it was quite clear that she wasn't improving at all. When Jesus Jato finally came in, she burst into tears and appologized to Jato, saying that she could not prepare supper and just wanted to go to bed, which she then did. We all helped Jato in our small way to prepare supper and finally sat down together to eat.

I was a little concerned that the distraction might have caused Jesus Jato to forget about his ritual, but as supper was over, he began to bring out the utensils for his mysterious show. First darkening the room, he began by explaining the process and instructing us about the part we should play. Our sole responsibility was to say whoooooooh, after every stage of his ritual.

Once completed, the first cup of fire water was passed through the entire group of roughly 7 people, then promptly emptied back in to the burning pot. The remaining cups were filled and passed around to those in attendance. The concoction had a very syrupy flavour and was actually quite enjoyable. 

SantiagosDream and I of course made our compulsory photographs. Jesus Jato immediately headed off to wedding party, to which he had been invited. SantiagosDream also departed immediately toward his next Enigma Test location.

Needless to say I was relieved and happy to be able to have fulfilled the tasks of this location.

The following night was restfull and in the morning I packed and left once having said goodbye to Jesus Jato and Marielies, but without taking breakfast... after all, I had spend enough time solving the Enigma Test Three...

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