BELLRINGERS TO REPELL THE DEMONS
(TRADITIONAL ANCIENT CARNIVAL IN THE PYRENEES)
VALLEY OF BAZTAN, Navarre – For three days this little spot located on the banks of Ezkurra river, in the north of Pamplona, gets inmerse in a very peculiar carnival celebration.
The date is unknown, but since long ago, every year, on the last Sunday of January and the two following days this masquerade is celebrated as part of the winter solstice.
There is no written record of the origins or its function, but this celebration has many similarities with some other rituals performed along the old Europe and although nowadays, in some places they have Christian connotations, it seems clear that comes from pagan traditions, and they would have the function of driving away demons and evil spirits and helping to awaken to the earth from the lethargy in which succumbed to the winter.
A youg girl is getting dressed up as bellringer during the celebration of an ancient traditional carnival. January 28, 2014 (Gari Garaialde / BostokPhoto)
The joaldun or bellringer is the main character of this celebration. Each participant carries two huge bells tied to his back, which makes them sound with a reguler rhythm while leaves dangling a sort of brush made from horsehair, which resembles the tails of animals. On the top of the head, they have a conical cap, adorned with lace and color ribbons. Traditionally used to involve only men, but it is 25 or 30 years since a group of women dared to parade among male bellringers. Now girls also play cowbells.
Somcowbells being tied around a bellringer’s waist. February 2, 2016. (Gari Garaialde / BostokPhoto)
When carnival season arrives, almost every inhabitant on the valley participates on the ritual. Towards middle morning, men and women from Zubieta and Ituren gather in inns to have lunch together. After eating and drinking to recharge themselves, the ritual begins: The inn gets full of sheep furs and the sound of rattles invades the atmosphere. The bells have to be tied very strongly to the body of players, so that helps to make the moment of dressing them very intense. When everithing is ready, they line up and go to meet the other two companies.
On carnival Monday the joaldun of Ituren await the arriving of participants from Zubieta so they can march together towards Ituren and parade with its hypnotic rhythm through the streets, with some other Carnival characters called mozorro in Basque language. These other characters are are getting modernized and are taking modern life Iconographies, but usually have a close relationship with the rural world, forest occupation or hunting.
On the folowing day, on Tuesday, they repeat the performance but are the Joaldun from Ituren who visit Zubieta repeating the march to the sound of cowbells and its rhythmic motion. When in downtown, Chaos erupts, with young mozorros that shed entrails of dead animals and smear visitors with flour or ashes, while the group of joaldun parade among them.
This is carnival in Ituren and Zubieta.
People dressed up in ‘joadunak’ costume perform during the celebration of the carnival on January 26, 2015. (Gari Garaialde / BostokPhoto)
A masked litle boy with a cow head, performs during the celebration the carnival. February 1, 2016. (Gari Garaialde / BostokPhoto)