Sant Antoni

In the popular tradition Saint Anthony is the patron of domestic animals, but he also protects people from erysipelas accompanied by high fever, painful eruptions and in the Middle Ages also by death. This disease, also called “fire of Saint Anthony” was caused by the fungus infection of corn called “ergot,” and the religious order of the Anthonites founded in honor of the saint made great efforts throughout the Middle Ages to fight it off by producing seed-grain cleaned from the infection and distributing it among peasants. According to the custom, the order received from the grateful families bell-bearing pigs that had the right of grazing wherever they pleased and that were then roasted and distributed among the poor on the day of the saint, January 17th.

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In the feast of Saint Anthony in Sa Pobla of Mallorca, besides the blessing of the animals, the fire, the pig-roasting and the common banquet the demons come on the scene as well who, while the saint lived a life of hermit in the desert,

appeared in the form of various beasts, and with their claws and corns were cruelly tearing him. And when he implored for the help of Our Lord Jesus, immediately a great light shone upon him, and all the demons ran away.

It is late evening when we arrive to the village. In the road-crossing we walk round about huge stacks of wood. The fire is already blazing in front of the church, the brass band has just finished the festive concert. The figures of giants and monsters of the procession are still waiting at the gate of the churchyard. The ceremony starts, the sermon and the several strophes long songs all praise the merits of Saint Anthony. The lecture is about the column of fire that led the people in the desert.

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After the ceremony the column of fire indeed departs and leads the people to the main square in front of the town-hall. The demons appear too, with drums, clappers and torches. The singers of the village, accompanied by ximbomba, take turns at reciting the never ending song on the temptation of Saint Anthony that begins like this: Saint Anthony and the demons sat down to play cards.

Saint Anthony and the demons (4'35")

In the meantime the demons form a circle, pattering and clattering here and there on their stilts, and menacing Saint Anthony who is turning in the middle of the circle. The dance is gradually joined by the other monsters and a number of other grotesque figures as well, like the clown, the pharmacist, the Turk, the Saracen.

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And then suddenly all hell breaks loose. The building of the town-hall starts rumbling, fire breaks out from the chimneys. The demons are raging with might and main, spending all their fury for having not been able to give a short shrift to Saint Anthony in this year either.

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As the smoke is subsiding, the crowd begins to disperse, everyone is heading to their own bonfire. In each road-crossing another company of neighbors or friends are roasting their dinner. The flats and garages are transformed into occasional inns: wherever the long red flag with the blue cross is put out, there guests are welcome. The singers on the main square platform still continue reciting for long hours the song of Saint Anthony: the story takes more and more improbable and profane turns, interweaving the cuckolded husbands and nasty stories of the village. The amplified singing echoes in all the village, and at the bonfires new, local versions are improvised on it. The troops of humiliated demons ramble all over the streets with loud drumming and shouting. At the end of the village they give a last, furious concert and then they go to have a dinner, too. When we set to home from the village before dawn, we have to find our way by driving in zigzag among the fire-blocked road-crossings until we get to the road leading to Palma.

Sa Pobla, máglya az útkereszteződésben