The Fire and Demons Tradition in Mallorca

The presence of Demons in the festivities of Sant Antoni and Sant Sebastià is very popular in Mallorca Traditional Festivities. They encourage those festivities in Mallorca from immemorial time with their dances, bonfires, singing & dancing, devil-chasing and represent the struggle between good and evil, festivities celebrated in Mallorca since 1365. The output of “Dimonis” (demons) is documented since the XII century in the Balearic Popular Culture and its origin is religious.

Demons represent evil, mischief and always accompanied by fire. All this so ingrained culture of Mallorca tradition is explained by two different ways, corresponding to double symbolism of the character in the party, good and evil.

The presence of Demons in popular festivals is just not an exclusive tradition in Mallorca, there is “Devilish Culture” in Barcelona, Valencia, Castellón, having these regions a large associations where children are subscribed from en early age, having even written records of these celebrations dated 1150 when the Earl of Barcelona, Ramón Berenguer IV married the princess Peronella, daughter of the king of Aragon and Catalonia.

The Demon, as the initial concept of evil, appears in all cultures from man´s need to explain the negative circumstances and adversities of the natural environment as can be flood, wind, earthquake or fire. Accidental events, sudden deaths, misfortunes are attributed to the existence of a negative power that becomes, according to the formalization makes every system of beliefs and cultures, a sort of deity or an evil deity opposed to divinity. In basically naturalistic religions or, for example, in the traditions of many European cultures, beings who care for the natural forces appear, are the divinities that dominate the Earth, take care of vegetation growth, regulate climate, a mythological world that overlaps and serves to explain the events that affect everyday life.

More than good or bad in a strict sense, these beings may be defined as dangerous. As the forces of nature, their action is beneficial, but their action triggered may be catastrophic. It is the difference between a benefactor and needed rain and a flash flood that devastates all on its way, or fire that is essential for survival, as a source of light and heat, and a fire that destroys everything. These beings and forces of nature are assimilated by Christianity with Demons, rebels angels banished to hell, agents of evil.

Centuries later, are still found in Mallorca´s traditions, especially in the festivities of Sant Antoni and Sant Sebastia, demons that are more representative of the nature that essentially evil demon, which, moreover, would have been dangerous in places that socially celebrate Christian beliefs as the Balearics. Sant Antoni Abat (Anthony the Great) is the saint par excellence representing the triumph of Christianity, the triumph of good over ancient pagan gods assimilated to the devil.

The symbolic elements during these festivities and celebrations are:

Bonfires lighting, that was already part of the primitive rituals in Sun Worship. Demons stick jumping, twirling above the fire and dancing all around such primitive shamans and sorcerers. The fire represents the victory of light over darkness and is held very close to the winter solstice dates (December 22). Fire symbolizes the sun “rebirth”, masculine element that fertilizes the earth and our ancestors were convinced to take the ashes of the bonfires and scatter them favored seed crops. Fire is considered the child of the Sun that came to Earth through the thunderbolt. Our calendar is eminently solar but also incorporates the computation of former lunar calendars, with respect to weeks and months. Bonfires (present in many celebrations in Mallorcan villages), are the wheels of fire, dances and circle dances are symbols of the power of the sun.

And of course, Demons, distant echoes of ancient shamans and warlocks that with fire rituals were directing the tribe to which they belonged towards fertility to ensure their survival, and also towards the good harvests. A very primitive component of this ritual is to jump over the fire, believed that this act involved the magic achievement of fertility. Even today, in accordance with certain cultures, people still jump over the fire as a symbol of fertility and good luck.

An important Demon element, rather warlock, is the garrote, a sort of cudgel or walking stick. In the villages of Mallorca during the jump ceremony over the fire, demons carry their most characteristic emblem, the “canya fel.la” (cudgel), stick with sexual symbolism, representative of the male sex organ, evidence of etymology word meaning “phallic cane”. It is no coincidence, indeed, the very popular Mallorca´s tradition of singing erotic songs during these magical nights where we can still perceive the tone in the current festivity a certain “orgiastic air” that today doesn´t go beyond the rowdy singing and a nice tipple, and it must be assumed that once had become an authentic and wild orgy. Just have a look at the most popular musical instrument, the “Ximbomba” (kind of rustic drum), is there a more phallic musical instrument than a “Ximboma”?…Or is there another more ?erotic way? of playing an instrument?

Obviously, all this information is part of the manuscripts on the history of Mallorcan traditions and can be read and found in good bookstores, but as histories in all cultures, there are always different versions.

The fire and demons tradition in Mallorca is an ancient traditions that goes from generation to generation.

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