Posts Tagged ‘magic’

The goats are all too familiar with the horrors that lie ahead

To all intents and purposes it could have been any other morning, albeit a rather busy one, harbour-side in Puerto de la Cruz.

I was taking five on one of the benches below the harbour wall when I became aware of a commotion. Suddenly, out of nowhere a large, wet, sand-covered goat, hotly pursued by two dogs, hurtled past within centimetres of my feet. The little old lady sitting next to me screamed and we were both left with a slight spattering of sea water on our shoes and the distressed cry of goat in our ears.
Within moments the goat was being ‘escorted’ back to the harbour, flanked either side by a tail-wagging dog.
Another attempt to re-enact The Great Escape bites the dust.

"It's for your own good..."

Yesterday was Midsummer’s Day or the feast of San Juan (St John), a time of magic and ancient ritual and a time when Tenerife’s livestock get their annual baptism in the healing waters of the Ocean.
A tradition dating back to the Guanche indigenous people who populated the Canary Islands before the Spanish conquest, baño de las cabras (bathing of the goats) in the Midsummer water is said to keep the animals healthy and fertile for the coming year.

But as far as the goats are concerned, that whole “it’s for your own good” stuff just doesn’t cut it. Clearly completely averse to water, they behave as if they’re being systematically tortured and clearly assume the intent is to drown them, in broad daylight, in front of hundreds of witnesses.

It's not just the goats who'd happily see San Juan struck off the Saint's calendar

The normally quiet waters of Puerto’s harbour are churned up by caballeros riding their steeds into the sea and dozens of goats being sacrificially dipped.

While herds wait anxiously on the beach, a constantly moving mass of panic-stricken beards and horns standing like Damocles waiting for the sword to fall, goatherds and their dogs work to contain the animals.
Once plucked from the herd, some undergo the trial stoically, the fear contained entirely within their eyes; others scream like banshees all the way in and all the way back out; and some make a break for freedom. None escape.

Anyone on holiday in Puerto de la Cruz just now might want to consider leaving it a few days before choosing the harbour beach for a spot of sunbathing and swimming. San Juan may have the power to purify the goats, but he’s not doing much to get a Blue Flag flying next to the fish wife statue.


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She stands beneath the web, seemingly oblivious to its occupant whose legs could reach around her small waist twice should it choose to move closer. In front of her, a man in a white coat with a stethoscope draped around his neck is playing with a syringe the diameter of a toilet roll. The girl stands perfectly still, unafraid and unflinching.

My latter day Alice in Wonderland is standing in La Plaza de La Luz in Los Silos and this is the last day of the Festival Internacional del Cuento – the festival of storytelling.International Festival of Stories 2007

All around the small plaza are figures from fairytales; goblins and princesses lurking beneath the trees; giant spiders hanging from webs strung between branches; strange creatures picking their noses.

Children fill every space; waiting in line to see the comedy doctor; sitting cross-legged on the ground in front of a small group with acoustic guitars who are leading them in a medley of hand-clapping, chorus-singing favourites.

There are trestle tables laden with story books and colouring books for sale. In the flower beds, children’s paintings are drying in the last of the afternoon’s sunshine. Outside a Wendy Hose, a storyteller is calling children inside to sit on tiny stools and listen to a tale from a far away land.

Since 1996 the little town of Los Silos has hosted the magical festival of storytelling to promote reading and stories. Begun by Professor of Literature and Drama, Doctor Ernesto Abad, storytellers from around the world travel to this small town on the north coast of Tenerife to tell their stories: African Voices, Nordic Tales, Through the Eyes of Women and Nights of Terror are all regular contributors.

Over a week or so in early December, stories come to life beneath the trees in La Plaza de La Luz and the magic of words reaches into young minds and teaches them to travel to distant and fantastic lands where anything is possible.

Con voz de mujer o de hombre, el narrador, se siente bajo los árboles

y parece que las cortezes se abren y empieza el milagro.

Las historias viajan desde lejos por la sabía.

Los árboles encierran sabiduría Antigua.

Solo necessitan la voz de los narradores para transmitirla.”

D. Ernesto Abad

(“With the voice of a woman or a man, the narrator sits beneath the trees

And it seems like the bark itself opens and the miracle begins.

The stories have travelled a long way to be heard.

The trees contain ancient wisdom.

They need only the voices of the narrators for it to be heard.”)

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