"Ecology of the language, the folklore and the traditions"
Our page of Ecology this week is about the popular
culture and the ecology of the language ("Cultura popular i ecologia
del llenguage," Gabriel Janer Manila,
"Berrugets" is a word deeply rooted in the
Island's oral traditions, which we all often use when we speak about
Eivissa's popular culture.
Because of this, we have had several e-mail asking us
to clear up the nature of this word and for more information about these
Gary Hardy, our editor, has asked me - as the only
Ibicenco on this weekly on-line-publication - to write more about them.
I will present it as part of the Ecology, as I
understand Gabriel Janer, in his interesting essay, says the ecology of
the language is a necessity of the oral traditions and the popular
culture for the survival of our ancestor-islander society. If the
language of our oral traditions dies, a good part of our culture, if not
all, will disappear with it.
"Barrugets," "Follets" and "Fameliar"
are, basically, the only three familiar spirits that appear in the
Eivissa-Formentera mythological culture. To others they are all
different forms and appearances of the same "Barrugets".
The "Berrugets" is, without doubt, the most
popular and representative of them all in our short mythological space.
They are responsible for most of the fantastic and magical facts and
affairs of the Balears Islands.
They haven't been seen by anybody that we know of,
but until not long ago the "Barrugets" were part of our everyday
life, like our home-made bread, sobrasada sausages, cheese or
wine. They were known and familiar to all the island society, in the
merchants' and bureaucrats' houses of "Vila"
(Eivissa's Capital) and by all the peasants and fishermen of both
Islands of Ibiza and Formentera.
Sitting around the table, during family celebrations
or in the old black kitchen by the fire, in the long winter nights,
peeling the almonds or twisting the already battered, long esparto
leaves to make string and rope, the grandmother, or the eldest of the
family, used to tell histories or sing songs, ("Rondaies") about
"Berrugets" and the happenings.
Even in our little islands, it is amazing to see the
amount of "histories" and tales about "Berrugets", though these
histories can be the same ones happening in different places.
For example, in "Balafi" or Sant Llurens, they can
tell us a history of barrugets that happened in Sant Antoni and in Sant
Antoni we can hear the same facts, the same story of what happened in
"Balafi" or Sant Llurens. But there is always somebody who swears to
know exactly the family and the house and where and what happened.
The "Berrugets" live in a parallel world with
us, in the houses, best in the rainwater cistern or in the coal-hole, in
the stables with the horse and mules, in the holes of dry-stone-walls,
in the forest or in little caves by the seaside.
can't be seen, unless they want to be. (The ones who swear they've seen
them talk about a very small man, less then a foot, but stronger then
four big men together, moving and dancing very fast, with long arms,
hair and beard, a very big mouth, with deep, loud, rough voice and a
funny sarcastic giggle). And they don't interfere in a human's life if
they don't get pushed into it, or they see something that they dislike
in the house or in the behaviour of someone in the family. Sometimes
they feel and act just like real hooligans, without an understandable
reason, just for the sake of it and this is when we know of them.
But "Barrugets" are not really evil spirits.
They don't do real harm; at the most, they molest women when they try to
get water from the rain-cistern. If there is one in it, he will hang
from the bucket's rope, giggling and laughing, and she won't be able to
pull up the bucket with the water. Sometimes there are several buckets
and jars left in the bottom of the cistern because of this.
They can take the bedclothes off the bed by night, so
she will catch a cold, they chase young children to make them cry,
especially at night, keeping everybody awake. Also they can really
create a disturbance by hiding, mixing and changing things out of place
(the coffee-pot, always kept in the kitchen, disappears, nobody knows
where it is, until it appears later hanging from the water-cistern rope.
The tools and furniture of the kitchen are found upside-down, all over
the place. Sugar and the red pepper is all mixed up. The wool-clew and
the knitting needles appear hanging from the roof by the sobrasadas.
The pot, left under the bed by night, is found upside down in the
morning, with the urine all over the floor, etc., etc.).
The Barrugets also had the power to change
themselves into other animals, when they want to show themselves in
front of people without being noticed. Goat and buck used to be the most
Whenever something not very serious happens in the
house or at work, that hasn't got a logical answer, something that
nobody can explain away and why it happened, the Ibicencos always say: "Pareix
cose de Barrugets" (this looks like a Barruget's job) and
then everybody understands. If it is a Barruget's job, it is
completely useless to try to find a logical answer for it; there is no
answer. Only the Berrugets knows it. So we accept it, then we can
forget about it.
Sometimes they keep on molesting so much that the family has to move
into another house, if they don't know the formula to stop them.
To calm the "Barrugets", to stop all their
annoying activity, the formula is to leave at night a slice of bread and
cheese nearby where they live, the coal-hole, the well or a hole in the
wall. Then peace returns into the house and the family can rest.
But, where do the Barrugets come from? How did
they get into the Island culture, into our society?
Don Isidoro Macabich, the Ibicenco priest and
historian, was the first to investigate the word and the origin of this
phenomenon. He wrote in his "Historia de Ibiza" in the chapter "Costumbrismo,
Del folklore Ibicenco. Espiritus familiares" and also published
in the local paper "Diario de Ibiza" in 1943-44:" "Barrugets" are
spirits exclusive of the "Pitiusas Islands" (Eivissa-Formentera) most
probably where brought, with other names, to the Islands by the Romans.
There are quite a few similarities with the evil and bad spirits of the
Roman mythology, the "Lares" and "Lemurs", especially with
the first one, "Lares" spirits that live in the houses. In some
parts of Spain, they still keep the word, "Lar," "Llar" or
"Llares," but as a good spirit, protector of the family and the
house. The "Lemurs" in Roman mythology were the spirits of dead
relatives that remained in the house and they had their own feast, the 9th,
11th and 13th of May, called "Lemuria". At
the time, there were about 30,000 Gods, Goddesses and good and bad
spirits in Rome."
To other historians, the roots of these spirits is
much older, before the Punic (Carthaginian) era, there is in the old
Egypt a mythological being "Resef" with more similarities to our
Berrugets then anyone else and the Phoenician and Egyptians were
coming to the Islands much before the Romans did.
There are also with our Barrugets plenty of
similarities with the European "Gnomes" which are popularly known in
several countries of this continent. "Lecluy" and "Polevick"
are also two similar spirits of the Slave mythology.
Probably the biggest problem we found to know more
about Berrugets and its origins, were the religious restrictions,
especially in the previous centuries. Berrugets are not mention
in the Bible, so they only could be evil superstition.
Don Isidoro Macabich, says in one of his last
articles on Barrugets: "I started these articles about
Berrugets as a folklore curiosity, in September 1943, reaching a
much longer extension and far more people than I expected. Because of
this, for the enormous interest of the readers about this subject,
according to higher opinions then mine (most probably the opinion of the
Bishop of Eivissa) there is the danger that these articles can be a
motive of insane superstition for someone"
"Follets" are also familiar spirits of the
Islands' mythology, but as there is less character to of them and they
are not as powerful as the Barrugets, there is not much known of
them. "Follet" - rather then being a body by itself - is a very
ethereal spirit, always related to the winds and the water. It is a
spirit that can possess the human body and mind, turning them very noisy
and dynamic. This spirit is normally more related to the children. When
we see a hyperactive child, running, jumping and shouting non-stop, we
say "aquest al'lot te Follet" (this young child is possessed by "Follet").
This could happen if we leave the children's clothing hanging outside
Joan Castello says in his book "Rondaies" that
the "Follet" is related to the Catalan and French "Follet"
and also to the Italian "Folletti"
"Fameliar", is the third of our familiar
spirits. If the Berrugets and Follets can be understood as
"bad", rather restless, mischievous and noisy spirits, the "Fameliars"
are definitely "good spirits".
"Fameliars" are in our world to help us to
work hard. Very hard, in fact. Every time they get released from the
little black bottle where they are kept by their possessor, they start
shouting: "Work or Food! Work or Food!" And they will not stop until we
give them one or the other. But not just an ordinary meal or job; when
he starts eating, he can eat more then six men together and when he
works, he does it harder and faster then ten. As soon as he finishes
with a meal or a job, he starts again: "Work or Food! Work or Food!" To
keep them quiet we have to keep them eating or working all the time,
until they are sent back to their little black bottle. To put them back
into the bottle, the possessor had to say a little prayer, but nobody
remembers the words nowadays.
There are a few big jobs attributed to the
"Fameliars" on the Island, such as an old house, "Cas Prats"
about two kilometres from Sant Antoni on the way to "Es Broll".
This house was build over one night by one "Fameliar". In "Can
Roix" in Sant Josep, a "Fameliar" also did the
dry-stone-walls, with stones so big that five men were needed to embrace
them, over night. They could reap in a night the entire fields of a big
"finca", as it happen in "Fruitera" by Santa Gertrudis, etc.
is an infallible formula to get your own "Fameliar". You have to
go under the old bridge of Santa Eularia River, the night of Sant Joan
(23rd June) or the first night of the year, (1st
January) with a little black bottle. Under the bridge grows a little
herb known as "Herba des Fameliar", which only blossoms with a
very small flower these particular nights. You have to put the herb into
the bottle and leave it open and alone almost all night, then, before
the sun comes out, you go back to collect the bottle and put the top on.
The bottle will be then much heavier, which means that the "Fameliar" is
already in it. There is still far more to say about these
fantastic creatures. Most probably we will go back to them in future
editions. Until then, be as happy as you can and keep away from the
To know more about "Barrugets"
Joan Castelló Guasch, "Barrugets Fameliars i
Institut de Estudis Eivissencs 1993.
Marią Torres Torres, "Antropologia d'Eivissa i
"Mitologia, creences, costums i festes" Volumn 1
Editorial Mediterrįnia-Eivissa 1998.
de les Illes Balears
Red Cap (Gorro Rojo)
Fänkenmanikins y Norgg
All Pictures © 1998 Marią Torres Torres - Antropologia
dEivissa I Formentera Volum 1