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Santa Compaña

The Santa Compaña is probably one of the most deep-rooted mythical beliefs in rural Galicia. It is also known under the names of "Estadea", "Estantiga", "Rolda", "As da noite" [The Night Ones], "Pantalla", "Avisóns", "Pantaruxada"... all of these are terms that show us the presence of the dead in the world of the living.

Many different versions of the "Santa Compaña" can be found in any bibliography, that is probably why it is so difficult to define with precision. In spite of the many exceptions, there are many features which the authors coincide in when mentioned; a procession of the dead or souls in torment wander the path of a parish at midnight. A living person carrying a cross and a cauldron of holy water[?] leads the procession followed by all the souls with lit candles, although not always seen, the smell of wax and the breeze which appears when they pass warn of their presence. The person carrying the cross must never turn around or renounce his duty in leading the Santa Compaña; he can only be freed from his duty if he manages to find another person to carry the cross and the cauldron. To avoid this obligation the person who sees the Santa Compaña pass by must draw a circle on the ground and enter it, or he can also lie face-down. The Santa Compaña mostly appears at night but it has also been heard of appearing during the day.

The person leading the procession can be a man or a woman -- this all depends on whether the patron saint of the parish is male or female. To conclude, the Santa Compaña is an announcer of death, its one mission is to visit the homes where death is due.

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