Un any de mil dimonis

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Or, what I did on my holidays…

Mallorca is a funny old place: beautiful mountains and sweeping valleys, azure blue seas and glittering beaches, sun scorched fields and plentiful lemons…and quite fantastical. Throughout the summer months, in the heart of the country at the dead of night the portals to hell open up to release a cacophony of fire and demons, known locally as ‘corrafoc’ (or ‘fire run’)

A song and a parade of the good and the great, the saints and the wannabees until a herald appears from the darkness – imposing , shrouded and sinister – to denounce the sins of humankind and warn of impending doom.

‘… a nastier sound by far interrupted Loam’s laugh so that he strangled it with a kind of screech. Coming at them from the ruined belfry of the church was a white shape that seemed to hoot and howl as it came… Loam dared not look twice at the creature that descended upon them like a blast of cold wind moving through the night…’

…and then a shout. A figure appears, another, another and, like horned rats, they scuttle, creeping and crawling across walls and down the dark dusty lanes lolloping, leaping, licking even…

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‘Correfoc’ is a relatively recent phenomenon- it was established after the downfall of Franco, who had stamped out all traditional Catalan folk festivities. Once he was gone, the Catalan people rushed to reclaim their heritage and hit upon the ‘Ball Di Diables’. First recorded in 1150, the Ball Di Diables was a traditional parade in which the fight between good and evil was depicted with locals dressed as demons clearing the way for the good people in the procession.

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*B

Wanting to make their new festivities more colourful and dramatic, the demons became equipped with fire and exposive fireworks and so the ‘correfoc’ was born. But these aren’t the evil demons of contemporary thought, they are the demons of the id, of pre-Christian thought when a demon was more a naughty figure, a trickster who delights in the tease and tickle. These annual festivities were a chance to let chaos reign, to let loose and exercise the darker side of humankind having spent the rest of the year waiting, whispering, rutting to be free…sam_1444_1

 

…a spark, a spangle and an eruption of fireworks and noise, a wild cacophony of leaps and bounds and jigs and twists…

 Take the flame inside you, burn and burn below

Fire seed and fire feed to make the baby grow.

Take the flame inside you, burn and burn belay

Fire seed and fire feed make to baby stay

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…and they’re everywhere these demons, tickling and teasing and licking your cheek. A rocket screams by, its white hot flecks of sodium heat speckling your face. The drums beat louder and the maniacal laughter rages against the darkness.

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The sky erupts and, all power spent, the demons’ time on earth has come to an end.

The natural order is restored, for another year at least.

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*C

‘The good people of Summerisle wandered home tired after their holy day. The flambeaux men stayed with the bonfire to see it was all reduced to ashes. Carts were arriving for a collection of the residue; it would be diligently spread in the wake of the plough when the time came for the new fruit tree planting that year.

Summer was icumen  in.’

Credits

  •  All photographs (except *A, *B and *C) taken by AN Stuart.
  • *A, *B and *C taken from the exhibition ‘Un any de mil dimonis’ which is touring Mallorca throughout 2016.
  • Quotes taken from ‘The Wickerman’ by Robin Hardy and Anthony Shaffer
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