Dimonis – the devilish side of Mallorca
If you’ve been to a fiesta in Mallorca, you’ve almost certainly seen the devil. Or more likely, a whole troop of them, along with assorted demons and beasts of fire! But despite the satanic make-up, the dimonis of Mallorca are mostly friendly, mischievous little critters with a deep and fascinating history going back many hundreds of years.
It would be difficult to visit Mallorca for any period of time without at least coming across a fiesta or two. There are many throughout the year ranging from international occassions such as Easter (Semana Santa), to the more obscure such as the ceremony of the burial of the sardine on Shrove Tuesday. We have a list of Mallorcan fiestas on our website here – Fiestas and public holidays in Mallorca.
Regardless of the occasion, they ususally include a balance of traditional historic, cultural or religious references, often by way of readings, song or dance, mixed with entertainment, diversions of one sort or another and plenty of food and drink.
And, more often than not, there will be demonis, troops of demons accompanied by devils and fire-breathing beasts, dancing with fire, and fireworks, in a fashion that would have a British health and safety officer break down in tears.
Dimonis are undoubtedly a great attraction. But behind the spectacular and entertaining shows they stage, lies a deep and closely-held history. One suspects that, had there never been a tourist in Mallorca, the demonis would still be there, passionately celebrating the element of fire as is their way.
The Federation of Demons, Devils and Beasts of Fire of the Balearic Islands
It’s serious business! There’s now a representative organisation – The Federation of Demons, Devils and Beasts of Fire of the Balearic Islands, whose website gives some insight into where these beasts and their customs originated. The roots are, unsurprisingly in the element of fire which, as well as having its practical applications, became a focal point for socialising and festivities. They reference the Sant Antoni and Sant Joan, where bonfires literally light up the old towns across the whole of the island.
They go on to outline the origin of the fire-accompanying devils as being in Catalonia, deriving from medieval street theater and representing the confrontation between good and evil. The first reference was written in 1411 in Cervera with further references following through to 1981 when, what appears to be perhaps the first coming together of different demoni groups or “troops” happened in Arboç, Catalonia.
The modern dimoni
In Mallorca, the modern expression of the demonis was born of a group called Iguana Theatre in 1988, drawing on the pagan heritage and medieval traditions of troops across Catalonia. The first “Night of Fire show” combined spectacular fireworks, with “the transgression and insolence of the traditional Mediterranean demon”.
This, in turn, led to the establishing of more troops across the island. They are many and varied, each having their own look, dances and ways of performing. They are now so popular that they are, perhaps, the defining feature of fiestas in Mallorca.
For a more in-depth look at these mischeiveously fun and friendly creatures from the other side, the Federation website is well worth a look. There’s more historical detail, a history of correfocs, along with notes on the Iguana Theater and the different groups and beasts of fire across the island.