The Camino de Santiago and the Origin of the Game of the Goose

Many of us have played this famous game when we were little, but few of us know how it came to be. What is its history? The origin of the Game of the Goose is related to the Camino de Santiago, and we will tell you how.

Some hypothesize that the creation of the Game of the Goose originates from the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar), who protected pilgrims as they made their way to holy cities like Santiago, Rome, or Jerusalem. It’s a game of the Camino Francés (The French Way) from Somport, which is beautifully represented on game boards that show famous stops along the road. And if you’re wondering which ones these might be, we’ve compiled a list of examples.

There is the Puente de la Reina in Jaca, the Puente de la Reina in Navarra, the Puente de Estella, the Hospital de San Marcos in León (a prison), O Cebreiro (the goose square), Santiago (square of the dead), and Finisterre (the final goose).

Origin of the Game of the Goose

There are other symbolic squares on the board as well, like The Inn, which represents the hostels; and The Wells, which represent the inevitable bad days that occur along the pilgrimage. Others, like The Labyrinth, represent the possible physical losses. The Dice, which every player uses, represent the element of chance on the road and the possible delays and advances that you can make.

The game itself was originally used as an informant. Since most of the population was illiterate at that time, they needed a map with pictures to guide them along the route. The goose was chosen because it is a migratory animal, which flies from east to west, eventually reaching Finisterre. It was a clear representation of wisdom, and it is ever present in the daily lives of the inhabitants of the Camino, who serve as guardians of the road.

This animal also appears in the names of stops along the Camino de Santiago, like Castrojériz (city of geese), Villafranca Montes de Oca, El Ganso, Ocón, Puerto de Oca, Manjarín (man of geese), and the Río Arga.

Origin of the Game of the Goose

Curiosities

The origin of the Game of the Goose is not the only unclear aspect of this game. The number 9 also plays a big part.

  • Between every goose square, there are 4 or 5 squares (5+4=9)
  • The final square (the “Gran Oca” or “Great Goose”), is on the 63rd square (6+3=9)
  • There was a total of 9 founders or the Orden del Temple
  • In a deck of tarot cards, the 9th card is that of the Pilgrim, which, with the help of a cane, advances in darkness to find wisdom
  • The masters and designers of the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela and its Pórtico de la Gloria designed it around the number 9

Without a doubt, the design of the Game of the Goose is quite complex. Surely, few children who play the game have ever stopped to think about where it came from.

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