The Sun Deity

Real Mallorcans do not much value or even, worship the sun. Far from it. They fear and respect the sun for its unforgiving strength and harsh impact on the land, the crop, plants and animals. On the island, country houses used to be built with few windows and small ones in size at that, just to keep the heat out.

Once a year, though, the sun is celebrated, almost as a deity. That will be tonight, the Nit de Sant Joan, when the sun’s Summer solstice is celebrated, or Midsummer Night. There will be fires on some beaches, such as in Cala Sa Nau. In Palma, there will be a Correfoc (Fire Run) at the Parc de la Mar. The Festival de Sant Joan (Festival of Saint John) is really tomorrow, June 24th. It will be celebrated in style at 06h30 at the Santuari de la Mare de Déu de Consolació just outside of the pueblo of Sant Joan, in the middle of the island, in an act called El Sol Que Balla (the dancing sun). If you go there you might be invited for a drink of hot chocolate and even, a freshly baked ensaïmada.

The photo was taken near Petra, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: March 30th, 2012. The time was 07:41:13.

The Sun Deity

The Twin Peaks of Alaró

The Puig d’Alaró and its twin peak, the Puig de s’Alcadena between Alaró and Orient are two rocky prominences of incredible, almost unreal characteristics. Surely, the two peaks look pretty out-of-place; there is no other rock formation on the island quite like these two massive protrusions. Or is there?

The explanation for these strange peaks would seem to lie in the geological formation of Mallorca’s Serra de Tramuntana. I was told that, millions of years ago, these two rocks were actually one mountain unit. There are a number of geological fault lines in the Tramuntana mountain range. Near this area of Alaró there is a fault line but an inverted one. Also, a torrent bed exists there where over hundreds of thousands of years, every once in a blue moon, heavy rains and low temperatures would cause a slow but significant gnawing into the fabric of that very mountain, limestone, the main skeleton of the entire Serra mountain range. Believe it or not, these floor movements caused substantial parts of the mountain to cave in and be swept away. Over time, a canyon-type land formation was created.

As recently as 2008/2009, a number of such slope movements occurred in the Tramuntana mountains. Mallorca was at that time affected by a period of intense rainfall and low temperatures which triggered numerous rock avalanches, some of which seriously affected the road network. On the night of December 19th, 2008, a rockfall on the eastern slope of the Puig de s’Alcadena took place, generating a rock slide with a length of 650 m. The rock avalanche destroyed the pine wood in its path, leaving a tongue of blocks, some of which had a volume of over 1,500 cubic metres with several tonnes in weight (see photo below). Fortunately, no serious damage occurred and no human life was lost.

The photo (top) was taken near Alaró, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 21st, 2012. The time was 18:17:23. The photo (bottom) and the graphic sketch were borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of eprints.ucm.es (Departamento de Geodinámica. Universidad Complutense de Madrid).

Muchas gracias.

The Twin Peaks of Alaró

Santa Úrsula and the Virgins

Tomorrow, October 21st, Spain and the rest of the Catholic world celebrate Santa Úrsula and the legend of the 11,000 marauded virgins. In the Spanish speaking world, the October 21st is called the Día de las Virgenes (in Mallorca, Dia de les Virges).

Here, in Mallorca, the night before the day is especially important, i. e. tonight, the Nit de les Verges. An endearing tradition has it that on the night before the virgins’ day, young men would present themselves in front of houses where the girl or young maiden they admire lives. These men either sing a song or else, are accompanied by a group of friends with instruments (flutes, guitars, drums, perhaps a bagpipe) to offer an instrumental piece. If the girl/virgin/maiden addressed is inclined to listen to the serenade, she would invite the man or group into her house and serve bunyols (buñuelos) and some sweet wine such as Muscatel or Malvasía. The male visitor would probably present a twig of mistletoe.

As things have changed in Spain and everywhere over the last twenty or thirty years, no proof is needed now that the adored young woman passes as a virgin. Suffice it to say that she is unmarried and has not borne a child.

If you live in any of the pueblos of Mallorca, you may hear some traditional music tonight played out in the streets. That’s the sign that the custom of the Nit de les Verges is still alive and well in your community. I am told that Mallorca is the only area in Spain still following this habit. We may be the last generation to witness this tradition.

The legend of Santa Ursula and her entourage of maidens goes back to the 4th or 5th century and a supposed massacre that occurred in Cologne (Germany). A stone carving at the Church of St. Ursula in Cologne reads as follows, to this day (consult with an online translator of your choice):

DIVINIS FLAMMEIS VISIONIB. FREQVENTER
ADMONIT. ET VIRTVTIS MAGNÆ MAI
IESTATIS MARTYRII CAELESTIVM VIRGIN
IMMINENTIVM EX PARTIB. ORIENTIS
EXSIBITVS PRO VOTO CLEMATIVS V. C. DE
PROPRIO IN LOCO SVO HANC BASILICA
VOTO QVOD DEBEBAT A FVNDAMENTIS
RESTITVIT SI QVIS AVTEM SVPER TANTAM
MAIIESTATEM HVIIVS BASILICÆ VBI SANC
TAE VIRGINES PRO NOMINE. XPI. SAN
GVINEM SVVM FVDERVNT CORPVS ALICVIIVS
DEPOSVERIT EXCEPTIS VIRCINIB. SCIAT SE
SEMPITERNIS TARTARI IGNIB. PVNIENDVM

The image was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of ixent.org, showing a painting with the title Exhortació de Santa Úrsula. The Gothic painting is on display in the Església de Sant Francesc in Palma. The work is ascribed to a Maestro de Palma, possibly dating from the late 13th century. The quoted inscription from Cologne is borrowed from wikipedia.org.

Thank you very much, and

Moltes gràcies.

Santa Úrsula and the Virgins

The Pomegranate (Punica granatum)

Now is the season of the Pomegranate (Latin: Punica granatum, Catalan: Magraner, Castellano: Granada), a fruit which has been naturalised in the Mediterranean region for thousands of years. The fruit was featured in Egyptian mythology, praised in the Old Testament of the Bible and also, hailed in the Babylonian Talmud. In the Greek myth of Persephone, the pomegranate is called the fruit of the underworld, whilst in the Muslim Qu’uran it is called the fruit of paradise.

Pomegranates have been consumed by man since the beginning of history. We are now beginning to understand how beneficial this product’s juice may be to human health. Its juice is tangy, sweet, rich and full of flavour. This juice can be used as the base for sauces and flavorings for drinks, savory dishes, and sweets, while the whole seeds are a simple delight when eaten fresh or used as a colourful garnishing accent.

This ancient gorgeous fructus with its sensuous crimson coloured seeds is one of my favorite fruits. In June and July, its flower is equally delightful and pleasing for its paradisiacal beauty.

The photo (top) was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: September 28th, 2010. The time was 12:42:00. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of treknature.com and the photographer, Aimilios Petrou.

Thank you and efcharisto.

The Pomegranate (Punica granatum)

Robert Graves And The Mediterranean

The 10th International Robert Graves Conference kicked off yesterday in Palma de Mallorca and will continue until Saturday, July 10th. These conferences are biannual events which are staged alternately in Oxford (UK) and Mallorca where Robert Graves had lived during most of his adult live.

Robert Graves (1895-1985), as you all know, is one of the great figures of 20th Century English Poetry and Literature and is probably best known as the author of I, Claudius.

The five day symposium is held at the CaixaForum and is organized by the Fundació Robert Graves (Deià) and the Robert Graves Society (Oxford), in co-operation with the Universitat de les Illes Balears, the Fundació “la Caixa” in Mallorca and St John’s College Robert Graves Trust in Oxford (UK). Last night, there was a reception at the Castell de Bellver offered by the Ajuntament de Palma (Palma Town Hall) plus a Chopin recital by the Mallorcan pianist Andreu Riera, sponsored by the 2010 Any Chopin Committee.

In Palma, the CaixaForum is housed in what used to be the Grand Hotel, where Robert Graves and Laura Riding stayed on their arrival in Palma in 1929.

Tomorrow afternoon, participants of the conference will have the opportunity to visit Ca N’Alluny, Robert Graves’s home in Deià, and its lovely garden.

If you cannot participate in all or part of the conference, you could still make your way to Deià and visit the Casa de Robert Graves which is set up as a museum for the great man, known in Mallorca at his time as Señor Roberto. Ca N’Alluny is open during the Summer months (April to October), Monday to Friday, 10h00 to 17h00, and Saturday, 10h00 to 15h00. The museum is closed on Sundays. Different times apply during the Winter months. Admission fee is charged at 5 € for adults and 2.50 € for children under the age of twelve.

The photo (top) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of robertgraves.org. The photo had been taken in 1968 in front of the Ajuntament de Deià on the occasion of Robert Graves being honoured as the town’s Hijo ilustre (Adoptive Son).

Thank you very much.

Robert Graves And The Mediterranean

Cockfights in Mallorca

cockfight

The other day I went back to a place in Manacor where I had watched a cockfight some 30 years ago. Cock fighting is a blood sport between two roosters, held in a ring called coliseo or arena palenque (cockpit) with seats for spectators. Cockfights are now illegal in Spain with the exception of the Canary Islands, and in most of Europe, as far as I am aware. I have a feeling that it was illegal in Mallorca already in the late seventies as well, but it was practised regardless whereas nowadays, one can no longer ignore the law. As you can see from my photo, the Manacor coliseo is now in a very bad shape and quite obviously, is totally abandoned.

Cockfights are still widely popular and a legal sporting event in much of Latin America and South East Asia, including India and China. Advantage is taken of a cock’s natural and strong will to fight against all males of the same species. Roosters are specially bred to increase their aggression and stamina; they are given the best of food, care and consideration. The cocks are often equipped with gaffs tied to their legs as a reinforcement of their natural spurs.

The fight is not intended to result in the death of one of the animals but it may end that way because the birds never stop fighting till the very end. Of course, gambling is always involved in cockfights, as it was in Mallorca when I witnessed one all that time ago. No, I did not place any bets at the time, and sadly, I did not take any photographs then, either.

pellea

I had been invited to attend the Manacor spectacle by Francisco, a local farmer whose speciality it was to breed fighting cocks. On one occasion he invited me back home to his finca to proudly show me his gallos. I can’t imagine that Xisco is in the breeding business any longer. He must be in his seventies by now and well into his retirement.

The photo (top) was taken in Manacor, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: April 30th, 2009. The time was 17:38:38. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet; the cocks are fighting somewhere in Thailand. My thanks go to Sanuzbord.

Cockfights in Mallorca

A Year of 13 Moons

half_moon_waning

Today, January 18th, we can contemplate a Half Moon, waning.

In a Year of 13 Moons is a movie by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. 2009 happens to be such a rare year with 13 moons, believe it or not. There will be two Full Moons in December of this year, as long as you live in the Northern hemisphere.

Mallorca is pretty much governed by the moon, in literature, in mysticism, in mythology and in agricultural traditions. Also, the moon, or rather the half moon, can be found in many heraldic coat of arms of Mallorcan families, such as the one shown here. Ramon Llull had one half moon in his family heraldry, the Berga family has five half moons in their coat of arms, the Verí family, shown in my photo, has three half moons, the Burgues clan even has a crest with 10 half moons.

I took the photo in the patio of Can Sureda d’Artà, in Calle Verí, in Palma. The building is now known as the Pelaires Centre Cultural Contemporani.

The photo was chosen from my archive. It was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Balares, Spain. The date: September 19th, 2008. The time was 16:49:05.

A Year of 13 Moons