The Santa Compaña (Holy Company) is one of the most well known legends in the northwest of Spain, specially in the communities of Galicia and Asturias.
It's also known by the names of "Compaña" "Estadea", "Estantiga", "Rolda", "As da nuite" (The Night Ones), "Pantalla", "Avisóns", "Pantaruxada" and Güestía (the name that this myth has in Asturias).
The Santa Compaña has a lot of different descriptions, however, the most popular and extended image is a procession of the dead or souls in torment that appears at night crossing the path of some concrete parish in barefoot and wearing white cloaks, this procession is formed by two lines and every member has a candle (or a bone in fire according other versions) and all of them walk and walk and emit prayers, funeral songs or ring a little bell. They leave a candle smell in where they pass and all the animals run scared of it's presence.
The procession is leaded by a living person (whose gender depends on whether the patron saint of the parish is male or female) who carries a cross and a cauldron of holy water, this person is forced to walk in front of the Compaña every night and not being able to remember it the next day, that person is also unable to free itself due that he/she is a victim of a curse. The only way this person can free itself is finding another person at night and being able to give him/her the cross and the cauldron, if the living leader doesn't do this soon it's health will be worse night after night until causing it's dead.
Some versions also says that the procession is accompanied by an animal (generally, a goat) and that one of the members is a cripple, that member is always at the end of the line. Another legend says that the procession also carries a coffin without a lid which has a person inside who can be seen in the outside, this person can even be the one who sees The Compaña (obviously it's his/her astral body, not the physical ).
Not everybody is able to see the procession only the people who is going to die soon (in less than a year) or
people who was wrongly baptised with oil of the dead instead of holy water are able to see them. other people can only feel it's presence, and some versions says that people are only able to see the lights of the candles.
The company can appear for some reasons. It can appear for claim the soul of somebody who is going to die soon, to punish a person for a bad action it has done (if this action is really bad this person can be punished by being forced to lead the procession) or to announce to somebody the death of an acquaintance.
How to avoid the curse
There are some ways to avoid the curse and not being forced to lead The Santa Compaña carrying the cross if you meet it in person:
- Lie down and play dead, The Compaña will not notice you but it will walk over you and you will be
injured and bruised. But at least you will not have to take the cross.
-Open your arms forming a cross with your body and pronounce "Jesus Christ" before they try to give you the cross.
-When the one who has the cross tries to give you the cross it will say "Te toca a ti" ("It's your turn") you have to respond "Cruz ya tengo" ("Cross i already have got") before taking cross, he/she will not be able to pass it if you respond that.
-Draw a circle in the ground with a cross inside it, if you enter in the circle the procession will not be able to touch you.
-Have your arms idly or carry something with both hands (some rocks, sticks or whatever you can find).
-Have in your pockets some beetle horns and garlic.
-If you see The Santa Compaña far from you, just take another way and you will not encounter it
because The Compaña can't abandon it's path.
In popular culture
The myth have appeared in some manifestations of Spanish popular culture.
-In a comic strip from the Spanish satirical magazine "El jueves" (The Thursday), showed the fictional characters from the magazine Ortega and Pacheco joining The Santa Compaña for avoid to listen the songs that the Spanish singer Juan Pardo was singing in the middle of the forest.
-In the comic "Iberia Inc.", created by Rafael Martín and Carlos Pacheco, appeared a version of The
Santa Compaña formed by some of the most popular characters from the Spanish comic.
-The legend is mentioned in the 1980 film El liguero mágico.
-The Compaña appears too in the 1943 novel El bosque animado and in the 1987 movie adaptation of the same name.
-The Santa Compaña has an important role in the 2012 stop-motion animated film O Apóstolo.
-The Spanish band "Golpes Bajos" have a song called "Santa Compaña" and is based in this myth.
- "Santa Compña" is also the name of an album and a song of the band "Los Suaves".
-The Spanish celtic metal band "Mago de Öz" have a song called "La Santa Compaña" inspired in that myth
-The Spanish heavy metal band "Vendaval" have a song called "Santa Compaña" inspired in that myth.
-The Asturian punk band "Spanta la Xente" have a song called "Güestia" The name the myth have in Asturias.
-"La Güestia" is also the name of a song of the Asturian band "Montañas".