Oysters, Pearls, and Seafaring Heroes

Oysters, Pearls, and Seafaring Heroes

The Feast of St. James is an important celebration in the traditional Christian calendar, especially in sea-going countries such as England.  Too, before his martyrdom, traditions claim James visited Spain, bringing the gospel message with him.

Fisheaters.com tells us, “…tradition picks up again by telling us that James’s relics were translated to Spain (of course, legends grew surrounding the event, one strange and lovely one in particular apparently meant to explain why the cockleshell is St. James’s emblem. It is said that when the Saint’s relics were being conveyed by ship from Jerusalem and approached the coast of Portugal, a man happened to be riding his horse on the beach. The horse disobediently plunged into the sea, with its rider, making for the boat. They sank, of course, but then rose again, covered with scallop shells, and hence the cockleshell became the symbol of our hero).”

St. James is the patron Saint of Spain, but was also dear to Christians in England, including the characters in my new book; the hero and heroine are each from families dependent upon the high seas. Fisheaters.com continues, “…the people of England who couldn’t make the pilgrimage to St. James’s shrine would gather up seashells, bits of broken colored glass, pretty stones, and flowers and such and would build little grottoes in honor of St. James on his Feast.  It is also customary for the English to eat oysters that day… In France, it is not the oyster that is eaten, but the scallop – named “Coquilles St. Jacques” – “shells of St. James” – in his honor.

Here’s a tiny excerpt from Bride of a Distant Isle.  I hope you’ll read it to see if Annabel gets her pearl!

“I’ve eaten too many oysters,” I admitted. “You know it’s been said that whoever eats them on Saint James’ Day shall never want.  At this moment, I feel I shall never want of another oyster.”

            He laughed and led me toward an arrangement of chairs near the Edge of the World, where we could best see the horizon, the cloud-pebbled sky as it married the bright water.  I did not look down, though, where quicksand waited to catch whoever fell in its malevolent arms.

            “You are so partial to oysters?”

            “No,” I admitted. “Though I can better tolerate the ones doused in garlic and butter.”

            “Why so many, then?” He waited for me to settled down, comfortably, on the best of the small group of seats assembled.

            “Pearls, Captain Dell’Acqua.  Chef has told me one must open at least 100 oysters to find a pearl. Every year I try to find one.”

{Main Photo of oyster by purchase permission from iStock}

{Photo of James the Great: Guido Reni [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, By Guido Reni – bgH3Bqotg5nTTw at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21880518}