The Game of the Goose and its connection with the Camino de Santiago
The Game of the Goose is a popular board game, which we have all played at one time, without knowing that behind its board is really an encrypted guide to the Camino de Santiago, according to some historians. The 63 squares in the Game of the Goose would represent, according to these types of scholars, the stages of the Camino de Santiago, and its symbolism would be associated with pilgrimage.
In this article on our blog, we want to talk to you about the various theories that explain the relationship of the Game of the Goose with the Camino de Santiago. We will also reveal the meaning of each of its squares, analysed from the point of view of pilgrim tradition. Read on, because this post will be very interesting!
The origin of the Game of the Goose: Greece or Camino de Santiago?
The origin of the Goose Game is uncertain. Currently, there are two lines of research regarding how it emerged.
One theory relates it to the discovery of the Phaistos Disc in the Palace of Crete in Greece. The other line links the origins of the Goose Game to the Order of the Temple. Here are both hypotheses.
If you want to tour the places where these theories originate, we recommend you to do the popular Camino Frances from St Jean Pied de Port and continue through the Pyrenees until you reach Pamplona. Leave everything in our hands! Just tell us when you want to travel and some details of your plan.
The Goose and the Phaistos Disc
In 1908 a clay disc 16 centimetres in diameter and 2.1cm in diameter was discovered in the ruins of Minos Palace in Phaistos, in the south of the Island of Crete. Archaeological analyses located its date as between 1580 BC and 1700 BC.
On both sides of the circumference a spiral was represented, each divided into 30 and 31 squares. The inside of the boxes contained various drawings: animals, people, etc.
The piece is considered by historians and archaeologists to be one of the first written documents in the world. Its symbols have not yet been deciphered, but among them are 8 birds that some scholars have interpreted as geese. For this reason, some theorists point out that the origin of the Game of the Goose is related to this disc and not to the Camino de Santiago.
The Templars of the Camino de Santiago and the Game of the Goose
Another theory attributes the origins of the Game to the Order of the Templars. According to this line of research, the Game of the Goose was inspired by the Nautilus Shell, because like the board game, it has 63 spaces.
Some researchers point out that the Order of the Temple, guardians of the holy places of Jerusalem and the Camino de Santiago, used the shell to entertain themselves by playing the game. Later, when pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago was consolidated, the Templars attributed an encrypted message to the Game of the Goose, which only some members of the order could decipher.
Scholars from the Order of the Temple claim that this could not have been the case, as the Templars were completely forbidden to play dice. So, from its very origins, the Game of the Goose was an encrypted guide for journeys on the Camino de Santiago.
The spread of the game
Whatever the original precursor of the Game of the Goose was, its use did not extend until the 16th century. This happened when Francis de Medici of Italy gave Philip II the game.
The monarch’s weight in society at the time was such that the pleasure he felt for the game caused the game to spread rapidly throughout Europe. Thus, in the regal European Courts chess was abandoned in favour of the Game of the Goose, and the exchange of boards of the game was established among the nobility.
The Game of the Goose as a guide to the Camino de Santiago
According to the defenders of the Game of the Goose as an encrypted map of the Camino de Santiago, its board is based on markers that the builders left on monuments, bridges, churches, etc. An encrypted code that was shared between master builders and Templars.
The board did not exist, what was used was the structure of the route. Thus, the 63 squares of the Game of the Goose were drawn on any surface to be used as a travel guide on the Camino de Santiago.
The initial 32 squares would represent the one-way trip to the Cathedral of Santiago and the squares from 33 to 63, the return journey. Of all the boxes, there are only 24 that have fixed figures and rules. This is what its significance has been attributed to.
Many of the interpretations that have been made about the relationship between the squares in the Game of the Goose and the Camino de Santiago are unfounded and are therefore mere speculation. However, below we want to reveal the meaning that has been attributed to each box on the board of the Game of the Goose, analysed as a guide to stages of the Camino Frances.
The geese are represented on the board in boxes 5, 9, 14, 18, 23, 27, 32, 36, 41, 45, 50, 54 and 59. Of these, the last six mark the direction of the Camino de Santiago.
Thus squares 32, 36 and 41 show a well pointing to the box of the Great Goose, which represents the tomb of the apostle. However, boxes 45, 50 and 59 contain a goose indicating the opposite direction. These boxes correspond to the return trip.
It should not be forgotten, at this point, that geese have been animals that have always represented the esoteric world. An animal that has been associated, since time immemorial, with sacred wisdom.
Hence, landing in the boxes containing geese, is a breakthrough in the game. The more wisdom, the faster you go along the road, avoiding its various dangers. According to the rules, when you land in a box with a goose, you advance to the next one and throw it again. Hence, the popular saying:
“De oca a oca y tiro porque me toca”
(“From goose to goose, and I go again because it’s my turn”)
Popular Song from the Game of the Goose
The bridges on the Camino de Santiago in The Game of the Goose
The bridges appear in boxes 6 and 12. It is believed that the first, the one in box 6, represents the stage to Puente la Reina. Bridges are interpreted as a step between the mundane and the heavenly.
Crossing them requires effort by the pilgrim. Hence, after square 12, the inn is located, a resting place. According to the rules of the game, when a player falls on one of the bridges, they jump directly to the inn square (number 19).
In box 19, after the last bridge, the inn is located. This symbolizes rest, a space for reflection and to recover from the previous hard stretch and continue on the path to the Great Goose (the final box).
However, this stop also involves delaying the arrival to your goal: the tomb of Santiago the Apostle. Thus, according to the rules of the game, each time a player lands on this square, either by roll of the dice or because he jumps to it from one of the bridges, they lose a turn.
Boxes 26 and 56 depict the dice, which symbolize luck. According to the interpretation of the Game of the Goose as a guide to the Camino de Santiago, the dice reflect the fate of the pilgrim in dealing with the challenges posed by the pilgrimage.
There are various versions of the Rules of the Game of the Goose, at this point. However, they all reflect how fortunate you can be when moving along the board (life or Camino de Santiago).
Versions of the game
One version of the rules states that when a player falls into either of these two squares, the player can move forwards or backwards on the board, depending on whether he falls into box 26 or 56, then throws again. Associated with this version you usually hear the chant:
“De dado a dado y tiro porque me ha tocado”
(“From one dice to another, I throw because it’s my turn”)
Popular chant from the Game of the Goose
Another version is to add the figure indicated in the numbering of the box (2+6 or 5+6) and advance as many squares as it gives you. In this option of the Game of the Goose, and under the interpretation of the board as Camino Frances, falling on the dice in box 56 allows to overcome the dangers of the later stages: the well and the maze.
Another rule of the Game of the Goose, associated with the boxes containing the dice, and that also reflects the importance of luck in advancing on the Camino de Santiago, is that if at the beginning of the game, you get a score of 9, by rolling the two dice, you advance to the dice box that reflects the score.
So, if you roll a 5 and a 4, you advance to the box number 53 containing the dice. If a 3 and a 6 are obtained, the player moves along to box number 26.
The well is represented in box 31. According to pilgrim understanding, it reflects sin and forgiveness. That is why when you fall into this box you have to stay there until another player falls into it.
According to the configuration of the squares with the stages on the Camino Frances, the well is located on the stage that leaves from Arzúa, crossing Monte de Gozo. The interpretation given to the location of this square is this was the last place where pilgrims could sin, before reaching the tomb of Santiago the Apostle.
On the board, the maze is located on square number 42. This symbol represents the loss of faith and the failure of the divine commands that guide the Camino.
That is why, in the rules of the game, when you fall into the maze, you have to go back to box 30. A square that is situated before the well, the pilgrim must again avoid that danger, and of the Great Goose.
The prison is in box 52. This represents other dangers of the Camino de Santiago: deviation from dominant beliefs. Hence, on many occasions, it has also been associated with the Inquisition.
According to the correspondence between the boxes of the Game of the Goose, and the stages on the Camino de Santiago, the prison is located in León. It is believed to be the current hostel at San Marcos, which formerly functioned as a pilgrim’s hospital and as a prison.
Like all the dangers on the road, falling in jail means straying off the Camino, wasting time reaching your goal. Thus the rules of the Game of the Goose indicate that when you fall into this box, you miss two turns.
Death, depicted as a skull, reflects the end of the Camino. This is interpreted in a positive sense, a culmination of the Camino de Santiago, with this feat a resurrection is expected, a new life. That is why, when falling into the skull, you return to square number 1: to a new life.
Finishing line or The Garden of the Goose
Box 63 shows the Garden Gate. It is the last square on the board, since the Goose Garden, which would be the number 64, is not represented. Achieving the goal on the Camino de Santiago is not easy, as symbolized by the rules of the Game of the Goose.
Wisdom is achieved with balance. Hence, to reach your goal you have to get the right score, otherwise the player will be forced to go back on the board.
We hope that you have found this post on our blog of the Camino de Santiago entertaining, and that you have enjoyed discovering the pilgrim symbolism that is hidden by the Game of the Goose. If so, we would invite you to share this article with your friends on Facebook.
Finally, and as we do with all articles, we just want to remind you that if you are planning to do the Camino de Santiago alone, and want to count on the support of a specialized agency, do not hesitate to contact us. Our team would be delighted to assist you.