On the trail everyone wishes each other well with the words “Buen Camino” meaning of course, Good Journey. I received a text a few days ago from Missy who suggested looking at page 61 of my map book for the explanation of Ultreia y Suseia…the ancient greeting and response of the Camino.

Passing a pilgrim one would offer “Ultreia,” meaning Onward. The other would respond, “Y Suseia,” meaning Upward. It’s from a time many centuries ago when the Camino was more purely a Spiritual Pilgrimage. These days there are many adventurists out on the Camino. Nothing wrong with that, but when I tried the ancient “Ultreia” I got blank stares back…or nothing at all. It’s not that it made me feel alone per se, but if I’m honest, it made me feel alone. So there.

Today, walking between Puente La Reine and Estella, about 14 miles, I heard a voice ahead of me, singing some mantra-like song in an unfamiliar language.

As I am want to do, I struck up a conversation with Elaina who shared her story with me. Turns out I met her husband the day before as he was sketching one of the churches along the way. They were walking together for their honeymoon, but allowing each other to own their own pace, knowing they would likely meet at the same end-point along the way.

Once we shared stories I asked Elaina about the song she was singing. “It’s called Ultreia!, she said. “Every young French student is taught the song. It’s the French Camino Song.” Elaina said she sings it when she gets tired. This is her 2nd time walking the Camino, and simply singing this traditional French Camino song helps her pass the time, carries her, even. I asked her if I could record her singing the song. She laughed, but allowed it.

And in a sweet french voice, she sang the refrain. It’s in Latin, though the verses are in French.
                                                               Ultreia Ultreia
                                                        Y Suseia Deus Ajuvanos

Translated; Onward Onward and Upward. God help us.

6 days of walking so far. I sort of figured I’d get the hang of it, find a rhythm, get a groove, feel like I’m owning my pace. Not so! At approximately 2pm this afternoon, I contemplated stopping for the night. However, I was in a field of grapes with a sign bearing the phrase PERROS, meaning “Wild Dogs inhabit this part of the Camino.”

I knew I would press on, of course, but how? And there it came, poor form and all; Ultreia Ultreia Y Suseia Deus Ajuvanos.

Pressing on never feels necessary when I’m part of something involving others. There’s so much good energy to move forward, one just does so, I find.

But in lonely moments, when I can’t find the Spirit, when my legs are cramping, when my heart is longing…I need something to carry me.

This ancient song did it for me today. I wrote it down to make sure and use it back home.

At the local coffee shop, some will look at me funny, or give me blank stares back., but no matter……. Deus Ajuvanos!

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  • Terrie October 12, 2016, 12:11 pm


  • Annie October 12, 2016, 3:52 pm

    Hi brother, David – thank you so much for sharing, all of your sibs are reading, and sharing their love for you and your writing. Journey on!

  • Allyson October 28, 2016, 2:27 pm

    “Ultreya” is also the word used by people after they have experienced a Cursillo retreat. The Ultreya is the regular meeting they attend after the Cursillo. (After they’ve come down from the mountain) Pretty cool!