A wild, irreverent and uncontrollable weekend

More than 30,000 people filled the streets during the 40th anniversary of the iconic Aquelarre in Cervera

Diables (devils) at the Aquelarre in Cervera 2017 (by ACN)
Diables (devils) at the Aquelarre in Cervera 2017 (by ACN) / ACN

ACN | Cervera

August 28, 2017 02:57 PM

Imagine yourself immersed in sparks, intense drum rhythms beat all around you, your feet are aching from jumping and dancing, the creatures are getting closer, and fireworks light up the sky. For the 40th year in a row, Cervera hosted the iconic “witches' Sabbath”, Aquelarre, attracting 30,000 attendees, which tripled the town’s population during the weekend.

380 kilos of gunpowder

As in most Catalan traditional festivals, fireworks were the center of the festivities celebrated in the main square of Cervera, a town of around 9,000 inhabitants located in the exact center of Catalonia. In fact, Catalan folklore would not be the same without fireworks. Fireworks are so popular that at the Aquelarre they used a total of 380 kilos of gunpowder.

One of the main centerpieces of the fireworks show is the Diables (devils). They are people disguised as devils dancing around with sticks in their hands lit up with huge noisy sparklers. People on the street run under the sparks to dance and jump along with them. The Ball de Diables (devils dance) is a traditional dance  originating in Catalonia, although it is also observed in the Valencian Community and the Balearic Islands. It is not certain where this tradition comes from, but it is believed to originate from medieval street theater.

Theatrical performance   

Theatrical performance was precisely one of the key elements during this weekend’s celebration in Cervera. This year, the staged “witches’ Sabbath” was dedicated to death and soul purging and exploring the duality between good and evil, between earthly paradise and the underworld. Around 50 actors and actresses, percussionists and members of different entities participated in the show directed by Albert Parra from the local theatre company Alea Teatre. The show was designed to be enjoyed from a 360-degree angle with moving elements creating a dialogue between the performance and the audience.

A wild, irreverent and uncontrollable weekend

The traditional festivity in Cervera is one of Catalonia's wildest, most irreverent and least controllable traditions. The climax—literally and figuratively—of the festival came late Saturday night with the appearance of one of the most popular characters, the “Mascle Cabró" (male goat, but with demonic overtones) who sprays his jubilance over the exultant crowd.