Mallorcan Culture: A very short introduction: Giants, big-heads and demons
In Mallorca Markets and Festivals we want to introduce you to some elements of popular Mallorcan culture. In this article we will talk about festivals and specifically some festive elements with ancient origins that have been inherited to the present days. These are the giants, big-heads and demons
The giants (gegants) are a traditional party element from Catalonia with an origin dating back to the Middle Ages. The first giants in Mallorca date from the XVII century, concretely of the year 1630, in the procession of Corpus of Sóller.
Giants of Majorca are a distinctive element of the festival of the towns, each giant presides over their party and sometimes visits another town because of an special occasion like a fair or a festival.
In Majorca can be found more than seventy giants, and they can be classified in several ways: the most common are pairs of peasants (pagesos), who have their own names: Antoni and Margalida (Sa Pobla), Tòfol and Francinaina (Palma), Abdó and Maria (Inca) or Antoni and Catalina (Sóller) are some of the best-known pair of giants.
Also noteworthy are giants that show typical workers of the village, not necessarily linked to agriculture. Among them we find giant shoemakers in Inca, the couple Roc and Esperança in Capdepera, fisherman and “llatadora” respectively or Marc, blacksmith and María Àngels, fig collector, in Sineu.
There are other types of giants, those based on real characters. That’s the case of King Jaume I and Violant of Hungary in Calvià, Jaume II and Esclaramonda de Foix in the Consell Insular or Barba-Rossa in Llucmajor.
The last great group of giants are the fantastic ones, based on characters from mallorcan folk tales "rondalles". Pere Teleca, Fada Morgana, Banyeta Verda, Na Tomassa or Queen Catalineta are some of these fable characters who have also become giants.
The big-heads (caparrots) appear as party figures complementary to the giants, although they often play a role even more important. This is the case of Sa Pobla, which has two groups of big-heads, classic ones and "minyons" (played by children up to 12 years old), who dance in the village square the night of Sant Antoni.
The big head is a beloved figure, popular, fantastic and comical, ideal for the party. They can be based on famous people, be the result of imagination or even pay tribute to a local neighbor, as is the case of the Miguel de Forn de sa Pelletería big-head, a popular baker with its own big-head that can be found at Sant Sebastià festivities in Palma played by the collective Orgull Llonguet.
As for the demons (dimonis) are the soul of popular festivals. They are redbigheaded, with horns and picaresque attitude in their essence. Demons have fun scaring and chasing children and adults.
Everything indicates that its origin is pagan, but the party was adapted to Christianity when the religion was consolidated. Demons are feared, but they are also provoked and tried to poke fun. They also dance: in village’s squares, streets and even in bars. The figure of the devil participates also in the dance of the cossiers, one of the oldest that are preserved.
It is necessary to distinguish between the demons of the party and the groups of demons of correfocs. The second ones come from Catalonia and arrived to Mallorca at the end of the s. XX, starring shows with fire and pyrotechnics that have been integrated in many popular festivals.