Origins and meaning of the greeting “Ultreia et Suseia”

One of the oldest surviving pilgrim expressions is the popular greeting of “Ultreia et Suseia” (from the Latin ultra -beyond- and eia -interjection to move-). It means something along the lines of “let’s go there” or “let’s move on”.

It is commonly used for encouragement among pilgrims.

Even so, some medieval historians are not in favor of this theory, alleging that the word “ultreia” had at the time the meaning of “hallelujah”, a term used by pilgrims upon their arrival at the Cathedral. Be that as it may, the expression derived over time to the meaning of greeting with which we know it today: “ultreia” (said one pilgrim) “et suseia” (replied the other).

cancion-camino-santiago

This Jacobean greeting is taken from the Codex Calixtinus. It appears in the musical part of appendix II, within the “Dum pater familias”. It is also known as “Song of the Flemish pilgrims” or “Song of Ultreya”.

Herru Santiagu,
Got Santiagu,
E ultreia, e suseia,
Deus adiuva nos.
————————
¡Oh Señor Santiago!
¡Buen Señor Santiago!
¡Eultreya! ¡Euseya!
¡Protégenos, Dios!

In the text the word “ultreia” is composed of the terms “ultra” (more) and “eia” (there), therefore it could be translated as “beyond”. And the term “suseia” is composed of “sus” and “eia” which can be interpreted as “higher”. The complete greeting would then be: “beyond” and “higher”.

Some scholars of the Camino de Santiago suggest that it would refer to the desire of the pilgrims to meet again later (upon their arrival at the Cathedral) or if that were not possible, higher (in heaven).

Nowadays, many pilgrims simply greet each other wishing “Buen Camino” but there are many who still know and use the traditional expression.

One more curiosity that we can take into account when embarking on our Camino de Santiago tour.

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