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Mallorca and dimonis: a centuries-old tradition

01/02/2021

If you’re ever in Mallorca in mid-January, let yourself be swept up in the magic of fire, music and dancing of the nit mágica or nit bruixa (“witching night”) of 16th January, the Eve of Saint Anthony’s Day. A night when passions are unleashed and the feeling of belonging to the island is affirmed, when you can experience one of Mallorca’s oldest popular festivals, which is also one of the closest to the hearts of islanders, first-hand.

 

But where does this tradition, with such a dark central figure, come from?

On Mallorca, the festival surrounding the relationship between Sant Antoni (Saint Anthony) and the devil goes back to the 18th century, and draws on ancient ceremonies around fertility, crops and the protection of animals. Sant Antoni is the protector of the island’s peasant farmers, and the devil represents the temptations the Saint had to overcome.

Looking even further back in the past, historian Antoni Gili believes that fire wheels, dancing in general and round dances are reminisences of fire rituals officiated by shamans and witchdoctors to celebrate the drawing out of the days, and representing the strength of the sun and the victory of light over darkness.

 

Which is why bonfires are lit, with the romantic aim of connecting to primeval humans, whose customs were unsullied by civilisation. Fire symbolises the rebirth of the sun that fertilises the earth. In many villages the ceremony of leaping over the fire is still performed, to musical accompaniment.

On this magical night, rooted in antiquity, dimonis (demons) emerge from their “dark hiding place” to throng in the squares of many a village in Mallorca, and perform their dances around the fire. In places like Sa Pobla, Manacor, Capdepera or Artà, this is a very long-standing celebration which has boomed over recent decades. There are currently more than 50 groups of dimonis on the Balearic Islands.

 

Traditional music is at the heart of all the celebrations – the dances of the dimonis, the ancestral singing to the sound of a rumblepot called the ximbomba (*), coupled with the popular dances that customarily accompany these festivities. One very popular activity is the singing of erotic songs on this witching night and some historians say that many years ago this festival may well have ended in an orgy.

 

On the 17th of January, the feast of Sant Antoni Abat (Saint Anthony Abbot) - the patron saint of animals - and the day of the Mallorcan peasantry, most of the island’s villages hold ses beneïdes, blessings in which thousands of people take their animals to receive the holy water of Sant Antoni and in some villages, such as Felanitx, Es Carritxó, S’Horta… (not far from our hotels) floats depicting rural Mallorcan themes are prepared. Those taking part wear traditional attire, and there are two essential figures: Sant Antoni and el dimoni, the devil. The participants generally pay tribute to their patron saint by singing, dancing or reciting a few gloses (**) or improvised songs (verses on the theme of the fiesta, which are often satires on current political, social or economic events).

 

 

This extremely valuable cultural expression brings us closer to our ancestors, who worked the fields and led an extremely austere, yet noble and beautiful life, in complete communion with nature and the seasons. One could say that we experience this festival as a kind of journey into the past, identifying with the feelings of those men and women of old.

 

Make your booking at one of our Inturotel hotels on Mallorca. We will be delighted to tell you more about this and other original traditions from our region! ¡Visca Sant Antoni!

 

 

(*) “ximbomba”: An ancient musical instrument, a friction drum comprised of an earthenware pot with a round neck and a hole at the base. The top is covered with a skin that is perforated in the centre, through which a cane is passed. When the cane is massaged with a wet hand, the pot acts as a kind of sound box, producing a rumbling roar.

 

(**) “glosa” On the Balearic Islands, this is a kind of rhyming oral composition, normally improvised at the time of declamation.

 

 

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Places to fall in love with Palma
24/02/2021
Places to fall in love with Palma
Seven places to fall in love with Palma   Palma is the capital of Mallorca and one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the Mediterranean. At the same time, the essence of its history is preserved in every single nook and cranny of its streets, its neighbourhoods and its most emblematic buildings. When you stay at one of our Inturotel hotels in Mallorca, you simply must visit these 7 places in Palma - places you are certain to fall in love with.       Mallorca Cathedral The Cathedral of Santa María, also known as Mallorca Cathedral, is the most important religious building on the island of Mallorca. In the Mallorcan language, it is known as La Seu, and it boasts the biggest rose window in the Gothic world. Construction of the cathedral began in 1229, after the conquest of Mallorca by King Jaime I, who promised to build an enormous church dedicated to Saint Mary if the Virgin would save him from death after a stormy sea voyage to the island.   Almudaina Palace This imposing building, with Roman origins, is a modification of the previous Muslim fortress. Alteration work began 1281, and in the era of the conquest, the name given to the building was Zuda. In 1309 the Almudaina Palace was rebuilt by King Jaime II, following the model of the Royal Palace of Perpignan. The monarchs of the kingdom of Mallorca and after them those of Aragon held court at the Almudaina.   Bellver Castle Bellver Castle is built in Mallorcan Gothic style. It was constructed in early 14th century by order of King Jaime II. It stands on a mountain that rises 112 metres above sea level, in an area surrounded by woodland, dominating the bay and much of the island. Its most outstanding feature is that it is one of the very few circular-plan castles in Europe, and is indeed the oldest of such buildings. It houses the Museum of History of the City of Palma, which is open to the public. Take some time for contemplation here – the views of the city and the bay of Palma are impressive. This is also a place of legend, like so many places on the island. To find out more about Mallorca’s intangible cultural heritage, its legends, its traditions…we invite you to visit www.wowmallorca.com   La Lonja La Lonja de Palma de Mallorca is one of Mallorca’s masterpieces of Gothic architecture. Constructed by Guillem Sagrera from 1420 to 1452, it was the seat of the Merchants’ Association. It was here that commercial activities were regulated and protected, and upkeep of the port was organised through collection of a tax. The interior of Sa LLotja (as it is known in the Mallorcan language) is comprised of three naves of the same height separated by six helicoidal pillars without capitals, and its lofty dimensions are breathtaking.     Arab baths These baths are seen as the oldest testimony of Islamic architectural art on the island, and their construction dates back to the 10th century CE. They were built using older elements, recycling capitals from previous eras (Byzantine, Roman…) for example. They may well have formed part of the palace of a Muslim noble. Their purpose was not only the cleansing of the body, but also spiritual purification. One can still perceive the soothing halo that pervaded them. The bustling heart of the city conceals a place of tranquillity and reflection.   Casal Solleric The Casal Solleric, now one of Palma’s most important contemporary art centres, was built by the Morell family in the mid-18th century. Baroque-inspired, it is one of the last stately homes to be erected in the city. Since 1985, temporary exhibitions have been held here throughout the year.       Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró The Miró Mallorca Foundation offers one the chance to contemplate the creative environment of the brilliant artist Joan Miró, with a personal viewing of his ateliers, where he worked from 1956 until his death in 1983. These workshops give some insight into his work environment and enable us to reconstruct his creative process by viewing his paintings and belongings and work tools.      
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