In his groundbreaking book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, mythologist Joseph Campbell established the concept of the “Hero's Journey.”
Essentially, what Campbell did was he examined classic myths from various cultures, and using concepts gleaned from Carl Jung, came to his monomythic theory:
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
Okay, let's apply that to a pilgrim who leaves home to walk the Camino.
The hero (pilgrim) as Campbell describes in his book, starts in an “ordinary world” and gets a “call to adventure,” to enter an “unusual world of strange powers and events.” The hero/pilgrim then must face a “road of trials,” some of them intense and requiring assistance from others.
The hero/pilgrim ultimately must face a severe test, and if he or she survives, is then granted a great gift, or “boon.” The hero/pilgrim must then decide whether to return to the village, or the “ordinary world,” to bestow this gift or boon on the rest of the community, or the world.
There are so many parallels with someone getting the “call” to walk the Camino, a strange world of unusual powers and events – facing a road of trials, having to overcome an intense challenge, and receiving a gift before returning home.
But, one of the essential elements of the Hero's Journey is returning home. Returning home to bestow the “boon” on those that he or she left behind. This is for the betterment of the home, the village, the community and the world.
In times past, reaching Santiago was only half the journey. The other half was walking back home. Very few pilgrims do this now. I saw about 6 doing the return journey on my pilgrimage.
But some, even when they do return home, remain on the Camino.