Cervera already has everything ready for the 34th edition of the Aquelarre party, the “witches' reunion”

On the 26th, 27th and 28th of August the old streets of Cervera will be filled with mysterious figures, magicians and witches in a colorful dark-arts festivals. The capital of the Segarra county (in Western Catalonia) hopes to have 30,000 visitors between Friday and Sunday.

CNA / Oriol Bosch / Caitlin Smith

August 26, 2011 10:40 PM

Cervera (ACN) .- The city of Cervera, in Western Catalonia, almost has everything ready for 34th edition of the Aquelarre party or the 'witches reunion', which will start on Friday night and end on Sunday. The festival dates back to the Middle Ages although it wasn’t introduced into the town in its current format until 1978. On the 26th, 27th and 28th of August the old streets of Cervera will be filled with mysterious figures, magicians and witches in what has to be one of the largest and most colorful dark-arts festivals in all of Spain. The artistic direction of Aquelarre 2011 is being run by the local Alea Theatre group with around 300 local people organising the festivities. The theme is nature from a magical, timeless perspective. Nymphs, Elves and Druids along with other fantasy friends will join the traditional devil and witch characters. The costume of a male goat is worn by the main character, embodying the devil. Around 30,000 visitors, both locals and an increasing number of tourists, are expected to come to revel in the weird and wonderful concepts, costumes and concerts that delight the old and the young each year.

The square will be the centre for most of the festivities including music concerts, fire runs and the final party on Saturday night. During this, the square will be lit up, there will be parades of mythical creatures and finally the character of the male goat will appear, shooting water from a cannon onto the crowd. Adding to the quirky character of the festival, the cannon here depicts (quite clearly and humorously) the devils ‘male attribute’ from which he metaphorically spreads his seeds.

Fire runs, called ‘correfocs’, are a particularly popular tradition in Catalonia and will feature heavily in the festival. They involve a group of locals dressing as devils whilst carrying metal posts that have sparkler-like fireworks attached to them. Essentially becoming human sparklers, they run and chase one another through the streets, pausing at set locations to dance with the fire. It is a tradition that has been celebrated in this area for 600 years. In fact, 2011 coincides with the 600th anniversary of this tradition being celebrated in Cervera.

This year, the organisers have invited the Riberal, a group of devils from Northern Catalonia (Southern France). They were invited to show solidarity with similar organisations in France, which have been prevented from carrying out fire runs with the excuse of European fire directives. Aquelarre is one of only five places remaining where fire runs can be experienced at night.

According to the organisers of Aquelarre, this season they wanted to develop a new route for the festivities. As such Cervera’s Mayor, Ramon Royes has said that the consensus was to hold the reunion where it all began in 1978: the Witches Street. Nowadays, this popular street in the capital of the Segarra county no longer hosts the fire runs during Aquelarre as they pose a small danger to an audience in such a confined space. However, this does not mean that the festival will loose its charm. On the contrary, the alleyway will be reserved for other traditional activities such as palm reading while the fire will be taken into a larger space.

The Great Buck Fair, another highlight of the festival will take place for the 14th year in the University of Cervera. Here, you can browse rows of natural medicines and shop for local crafts. There is also a conference space which hosts classes on everything from the art of seduction to the practice of massage.

More conventional talks, (although this word seems to offend the unique nature of this festival) are also scheduled. This year Natxo Tarrés, lead singer of Gossos (a Catalan pop band) will speak on how to transform your way of life. For younger members of the audience, the fair will also feature a magic show aimed at children between 9 and 14.

This year, Aquelarre's budget is 104,500 euros, 3% less than last year. However, Royes stressed that the administration would give its full support to ensuring that the parties come as close as possible to embodying the fantastical and extravagant spirit of the festival.