Europe,  Spain

Bonfires, spells and traditions in Spain

Sanxenxo Coast


We are running late! As usual.. After washing off the salt from a day at the beach, me and Nuria leave the house in a hurry to meet other friends.

In the air there is a smell of bonfires, it reminds me so much of the winters in my childhood at my grandparents village.

Tonight, families and friends gather together to celebrate the Saint John’s night around a bonfire. We head to the beach, Cangas, north of Vigo in Galicia.

It’s nearly midnight and we arrived! The scenery we see is heartwarming… The beach has a bonfire every few meters, some wilder than others. Around the fire friends happily gather chatting, singing, drinking, dancing…

bonfire at the beach

We walk through the beach looking for Nuria’s friend, he also has a bonfire.

Once settled, it’s time to make the QUEIMADA – I could describe it as a cocktail… but traditionally it’s made like this:
In a clay pot mix

  • Aguardente (a strong alcoholic brandy);
  • Sugar q.b.
  • Slices of lemon and orange’s skin;
  • Raisins
  • Apple cut in small pieces
  • Grains of coffee.

Mix well and set it on fire… while the QUEIMADA burns, Nuria reads the spell out loud… and it goes like this (in galician):

Mouchos,coruxas,sapos e bruxas.Queimada
Demos, trasgos e diaños,
espiritos das nevoadas veigas.
Corvos, pintigas e meigas,
feitizos das menciñeiras.
Podres cañotas furadas,
fogar dos vermes e alimañas
lume das santas compañas
Mal de ollo, negros meigallos,
cheiro dos mortos, tronos e raios.
Ouved do can, pregón da morte,
fuciño do sátiro e pe do coello.
Pecadora lingua de muller casada cun home vello.
Averno de Satán e Belcebú,
lume dos cadáveres ardentes,
corpos mutilados dos indecentes,
peidos dos infernales cus,
muxido da mar embravescida.
Barriga inútil da muller solteira,
falar dos gatos que andan á xaneira,
guedella porca da cabra mal parida.
Con este fol, levantarei as chamas deste lume
que asemella ó do inferno,
e fuxirán as meigas a cabalo das suas escobas,Reading the spell
índose bañar na praia das areas gordas,
Oíde! ¡Oíde! 
os ruxidos que dan as que non poden deixar de queimarse no augoardente, 
quedando así purificadas.
E cando este brebaxe baixe polas nosas gorxas,
quedaremos libres dos males da nosa alma e de todo embruxamento.
Forzas do Ar, Terra, Mar e Lume
A vos fago esta chamada!
Si é verdade que tedes máis poder que a humana xente,
eiquí e agora, facede que os espiritos dos amigos que estean fora:
Participen con nós desta Queimada!

The fire is put out and the little glasses are filled with this hot mix. We cheer to this ritual which is said to protect from the evil spirits.

DSC04394

I am with the spanish when they say: “I don’t believe in witches, but do they exist? Yes, they do!”

Tonight is about tradition and so tradition says you are to burn all the bad things of the year, in order to make the bad things disappear. So some people burn their school books!

I throw a piece of paper in the fire on which I wrote a few things that I wanted to “burn”. Then I jump over the fire in hope that Saint John will make the bad things disappear like the fire made the little piece of paper turn into ashes, dust and nothing.

So here we stay till sun starts preparing for a new day, lighted up by the fire, warmth by the QUEIMADA and wrapped in the magic of the night…

bonfire at the beach 3

bonfire at the beach Galicia

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