Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

The Enigma

Author: Paulo Coelho

On 30 December 2009 I stood next to a Celtic monument, pondering over the decade about to come to an end. And I thought: to what extent has virtual reality replaced the taste for adventure?
At that moment I remembered my searching for my sword on the road that had changed my life , and how that pilgrimage had been important in turning me into the person I had always dreamed of becoming, living my personal legend. The moment had come to make the same challenge to someone else, and that is what I am doing here and now: pilgrim, go and search for your sword! I offered a sword that was given to me, and 10.000 USD in exchange for a set of photos.
To my surprise, less than one month after I posted the quest in my blog, it was fulfilled (Sunday, 07 Feb 2010). If you want to read the original post, click in Rules of the Challenge


Less than a kilometer from the Greenwich meridian lies the sword. So, if that were the only objective of this quest, it would not be too hard to find it.

After all, it lies there in a manger, awaiting the hand that will carry it far away. But the sword has its caprices. When it awakens it will ask its Guardian who is arriving, and will only hand itself over to the first one who fulfils all the twelve tasks.

The Guardian will ask for the many images. And the first warrior who fulfils the tasks will gain access to the manger. Yes indeed, the conquest was above all the journey, but – just as in “The Alchemist” the shepherd discovers the coins – the warrior will receive, in addition to the sword, his or her prize in money.


In the place where Pelayo saw a rainfall of stars, a city was born between the Tambre and Ulla rivers. In the middle of this town, an old worksite was transformed into a public square, and in the middle of this square there is a mark on the ground.

The image of this mark is the first test.

Plaza del Obradoiro, “The Pilgrimage”


Walking toward the rising sun. in the mountain that was given the name February, I found my sword in front of the Holy Grail.

Stay there for a day. Talk to the third person you meet.

The image of the Holy Grail is the second test. The image of the third person you meet is also the second test.

O Cebreiro, “The Pilgrimage”


Continue walking toward the rising sun. In a place born from the ashes, a man with two gold teeth prepares a magic potion on nights when he feels like doing this. This potion has the gift of exorcizing evil spirits, and obeys a ritual where fire, water, earth and air are invoked.

Work there for a day. Shelter those who need shelter and care for those who need care. Convince the man to perform the ritual for you and for those who arrive on that day.

Your image with this man is the third test. The image of someone you helped is also the third test.

Ave Fenix, Jesus Jato, “The Pilgrimage”

Ave Fenix, Jesus Jato, “The Pilgrimage”

Before you leave the place, pick up a stone.


Continue walking toward the rising sun. You will come upon a hill, and on the top of this hill you will find a wooden post placed there by the Romans in homage to the God Mercury. Leave your stone there.

Iron Cross, “The Pilgrimage”

Close to this monument there is a city that I prophesized in 1986 would be reborn. It was reborn.

In the center of this city stands a cross.

Your image standing next to the monument to Mercury is the fourth test. Your image in front of the cross in the city is also the fourth test.

Foncebadon, “The Pilgrimage”


Continue walking toward the east. A former pimp gives up everything and decides to shelter pilgrims who adventure out in winter and summer, in the fall and in springtime. Little by little he begins to approach sanctity. The roof of his hostel was donated by Saint Joseph.

Work there for a day. Shelter those who need shelter and care for those who are in need of care.

Your image with this man is the fifth test. The image of someone you took care of is also the fifth test.

Acacio Paz

Refugio Acacio y Orietta


Continue walking toward the rising sun. On a hill in the middle of a plain was born a king whose wife would mark the history of the country where you find yourself. On the top of this hill, look around you: in the distance you can see a long stone wall that is not a wall, it is stone. The wind has fashioned it so that it seems to be the vestiges of an Incan temple.

Your image in front of this wall is the sixth test.

SOS del Rey Catolico, Navarra


Follow in the direction of the sea which is surrounded by earth. Close to a big city, a legend says that the angels came down from the skies and sawed the rocks to build a throne for the Black Virgin who is found there.

Your image in front of the place where the Black Virgin is found is the seventh test.

Virgen de Montserrat, Catalunya


Cross the mountains following in the direction of the east, then walk NW. At the top of one these mountains rises a fortress where Brida discovers her past incarnation.

Your image at this fortress is the eighth test.

Montsegur, “Brida”


Continue toward an old Roman camp that was baptized with the name of a Phoenician princess. Ask there for an old Celtic monument in the middle of a corn field. If no-one knows the answer, take the old road that leads to the city where a king lived who decided to put food on the table of all the residents of his kingdom. Walk three to five kilometers, and just before you reach a place where women cook, turn right and go straight ahead. You will find the monument.

Your image in front of the monument is the ninth test.

Celtic dolmen, “The devil and Miss Prym”


A young girl sees another girl dressed in white. The girl in white asks her to dig a hole, eat the earth and drink the water. A spring is born there.

Drink this water, and wash your face with it.

Your image in front of the place where the spring was born is the tenth test.

Lourdes, “By de river Piedra I sat down and wept”


In one of the seven valleys there is a village on the top of a mountain where Pilar and her companion sat at the spring and chatted. Later on, Pilar will go down to the river Piedra and weep in sadness, but that is another story.

The important thing is that in this village lives a witch of the Cathar tradition whose house caught on fire and she came out unscathed.

Your image next to the first fountain and your image with the witch is the eleventh test.

Saint Savin, “By de river Piedra I sat down and wept”

Jacqueline, “The devil and Miss Prym”

Continue walking toward the mountains. In a village Chantal met the devil, and to remember this feat there is a second fountain, where a frog drinks the water of the sun.

Don’t ask too much about the origin of this fountain – the inhabitants of the city will say that the writer create a story that does not exist.

Your image in front of the second fountain is also part of the eleventh test.

Viscos, “The devil and Miss Prym”


The twelfth test is the final path to the sword.

Prepare all your images, because this is the last day of the pilgrimage.

Walk to the village whose name comes from the Roman general who cut off part of his cloak to protect a poor man.

Here there is a gate, and behind the gate a sacred oak with a ribbon tied around its trunk. The Guardian awaits you, but he will only let you pass after he checks all the images

Once he has all the tests, the Guardian will lead you to a far-off place where the manger and the sword can be found.

And although the biggest reward is the road, the art of alchemy is to project on to the material plane what has been conquered on the spiritual.

The journey, the sword and the money will be given to the one who follows the whole path as an impeccable warrior.

17:58 ~ 07-02-2010


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