Saturday, August 12, 2017

Candida Of Llucmajor

In terms of land area Llucmajor is Mallorca's largest municipality. Given its size, you might think it would be responsible for one of the island's grander fiestas. But Santa Candida tends to get a bit lost amidst Moors and Christians roaring around the north of Mallorca and the mid-August bangs and wallops for Sant Roc and the Mare de Déu d'Agost. In fact, it is said that Santa Candida is a somewhat solemn affair, which isn't entirely accurate. It has its night parties like other fiestas, but it is true that the religious aspect does carry rather greater weight than others.

This is due to Santa Candida herself, about whom there is - not untypically for saints - a spot of confusion. Being an August fiesta, this isn't one for Santa Candida María de Jesús, whose feast day is tomorrow. That Candida is a modern saint, who died on 9 August 1912 and was canonised in 2010. The Llucmajor Candida is very much older and her story is, in some ways, similar to that of the patron of neighbouring Palma, for whom there are altogether more riotous fiestas in January.

Palma's Sant Sebastià was, like many other saints, a victim of the Emperor Diocletian, whose contribution to Christian genocide outstripped more or less all the other pre-Christian emperors. Candida similarly fell foul of Diocletian. Also like Sebastian, there is a saintly relic, more than the one in fact. While Sebastian's bone supposedly brought about an end to the plague in Palma, Candida's relics are not known for having had any notably miraculous powers.

Three hundred years ago, on the day of Sant Bartomeu (Bartholomew), i.e. 24 August in 1717, the succentor of Palma Cathedral, one Josep Cardell, brought from Rome what were apparently relics of Candida. Well, there were those around who were prepared to authenticate them. Two days later, they were donated to the parish of Llucmajor, Sant Miquel (after the the archangel Saint Michael). Candida was thus installed, along with her relics, as the town's co-patron; Miquel is the other, and the original primitive church named after him dates back to 1235.

So the story goes, Candida was married to Arteme (or Artemis). He was a jailer in Rome. The couple had a daughter, Paulina, who was apparently possessed by demons. An exorcist, called Peter, was called in. His main advice to Artemis was to worship Christ as God. This would help to drive out the devil in Paulina. And this, more or less, is what is meant to have happened. Paulina, no longer possessed, joined her parents in converting to Christianity, an act that was to seal their fate.

A magistrate, acting under persecutory imperial orders, demanded that Artemis hand over a whole load of prisoners who had converted to Christianity and had been allowed to escape. Artemis didn't. Which was just one mistake, where the magistrate was concerned. And he, the magistrate, was doubly infuriated by the fact that Peter avoided an awful fate thanks to an angel who freed him. Artemis was beheaded. Candida and Paulina were thrown into a dry well and buried alive because of heavy stones placed over the well.

This jolly tale is therefore the background to Candida's relics, to her having attained co-patronage status in Llucmajor and to the fiestas. And the fiestas shouldn't actually take place in August. Candida's day is in fact 6 June. So, what prompted the fiestas to be allocated to around the second Sunday of August? Farming is the answer, and Llucmajor even now, courtesy of its grand land area, is highly agricultural, even if it is more known for accommodating part of the resort of Arenal and the headquarters of Air Europa.

The second Sunday of August was (is) between some crucial harvests, e.g. apricots and almonds. It is not the only fiesta for which the date was governed by agricultural activity. For example, Santa Margalida's La Beata (Santa Catalina Thomàs) being on the first Sunday of September owes a great deal to historical local farming activity.

Tomorrow, Sunday (13 August), is therefore the big day for Candida. But it won't be riotous. There will be giants, there will be pipers, there will be ball de bot. And there will also be the dances of the cavallets cotoners. As a tradition, these dancers faded away before being revived in 2000. They are in fact one of the very oldest of Mallorca's folk-dance traditions: Llucmajor's cavallets rival Arta's and Palma's in this regard. They were a Franciscan import from Barcelona in the mid-fifteenth century, and their name is derived from the Guild of Cottonmakers in Barcelona, to which ownership of that city's cavallets was ceded in 1437.

Santa Candida - fairly solemn but not overly, and certainly highly traditional.

* Photo of the cavallets cotoners from Viquipèdia.

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