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 fantastic beings.
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.
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.
They 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 common.
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
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
"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.
There 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 "flu".
|To know more
Joan Castelló Guasch, "Barrugets
Fameliars i Follet, Rondaies"
Institut de Estudis Eivissencs 1993.
Marià Torres Torres, "Antropologia d'Eivissa i Formentera"
"Mitologia, creences, costums i festes" Volumn 1
Editorial Mediterránia-Eivissa 1998.
Red Cap (Gorro Rojo)
Fnkenmanikins y Norgg
All Pictures © 1998 Marià Torres Torres - Antropologia d'Eivissa I Formentera Volume
José P Ribas