In front of the Jacobean Tradition the most normal thing is to adopt one of the two postures: to accept it or to reject it. Any one of them is impossible to assume with certainty and is adopted one or the other according to the previous disposition of each one. In such old traditions, a destructive attitude is as uncertain as ensuring authenticity, because all legend arises from a nucleus of historical truth of popular root that soon surrounds itself with an envelope of inventiveness and even falsity, reason why each, according to its Predisposition, you will find what you want to find, arguments of possible credibility or reasons for falsehood. It is possible to say that the tradition, transmitted during centuries, introduces elements that magnify and deform the legend. It is therefore appropriate to see what can be truthful or credible and extract the elements of symbolic value throughout their transmission through time and successive cultures. In doing so we may find the true background of the Tradition. It is necessary to analyze if between the historical and legendary elements there is something that allows us to discern and relate what may exist between the fantastic and the objective. We can begin the analysis by the mythical “stone boat”.
The older versions say that Santiago arrived at the Galician coast in a Stone Boat, which will soon be an easy resource for detractors, who, faced with the brilliant argument of the impossibility of a stone ship floating, conclude that tradition is a Mythical story, without credible content and that does not deserve historical consideration or scientific analysis.
But the stone boat is not a constant element, it appears only in the old versions, those of popular origin of oral transmission, because the Jacobean Tradition is not an ecclesiastical initiative, but that its origin and its transmission is popular of local beginning. In tune with this, we see that there are coincidences in other places of Galicia, such as Muxia and San Andrés de Teixido whose rocky cliffs are rich in forms whose vision allows us to understand that primitive people could see here Stone Boats, with rocks that mimic the Parts of a ship or inverted forms turned by the sea.
Stone Boats also appear on other European Atlantic coastlines, such as Brittany, Wales and Cornwall, where stone ships bring heroes, warriors and other mythological characters. That is, we are faced with the Atlantic diffusion of an archaic element that permeates the Jacobean Tradition, but which is neither substantial nor genuine in it.
An option valued by some authors is that the stone boat is a sarcophagus on a boat or raft to go up a river in case of “repatriation” of some personage of the antiquity, for which it was necessary to exhume the sarcophagus and to send it to its place of origin. This would be perhaps unusual, but not exceptional in the antiquity, in that the transfer of rest and relics, acquired a certain development. How was the transfer ?. Neither the roads nor the vehicles were adapted to it, and the land routes were scarce and conceived for military and administrative rather than commercial purposes. The maritime and fluvial routes, already developed by trade from ancient times, were the fittest way. The sarcophagi and stone blocks were even well accepted in the ships’ holds as ballast necessary for navigation. The landing of the sarcophagus at its destination in a raft submerged by the weight, would seem a small ship of stone floating. From an estuary or estuary, the fluvial drag with poles or ropes, from the raft or the shore, allowed to go up the rivers to the opportune place. Placed these elements in some Galician place, between mysterious mists, reconstructs the legend with all its most fantastic and legendary components. So the absurd assumption of the stone boat floating and sailing over the waters does not necessarily have to be a myth, but may respond to an understandable fact.
Still another explanation: stone boat does not refer to the material of which the boat is made, but to the function that it carries out, the transfer of mineral (gold and tin) by sea, according to the route of tin initiated by Phoenicians and continued by Romans. Galicia is in the middle of the commercial route of tin, and was also producer of the same, and in the valley of the Sil, lands of Orense and in the Bierzo, there is evidence of Roman gold explorations, minerals that would later be transported by sea to other points of empire. The trade in stone between Egypt and Galicia in the time of Jesus Christ is documented in ships that were already called stone ships, which is associated with the Celtic cultural tradition, allows to understand the easy transformation of one concept into another through the centuries.
Without a demonstrative pretension the stone boat has a logical dimension that does not authorize to a priori dismiss the Jacobean Tradition.
A parallel procedure can be applied to other of the many elements that mythologize the Jacobean account, such as the 7 days and the 7 disciples, which can be explained more simply by the biblical use of number 7 than an impossible chronological reference or a specific number of disciples. The fight with the dragon and the bulls are also symbolic elements that represent the overcoming of difficulties. The helmsman angel or the divine hand that guides the ship or the sinking of the bridge that protects the disciples from their persecutors tell us of the divine protection in the style that makes the crossing of the Red Sea.
The useful conclusion of this section is that the legend, even its fantasy accumulated across cultures and centuries, keeps a coherent and understandable content, which is already a first substrate of verisimilitude that invites us to continue deepening.