In Galicia, there are many traditions and rituals that are unique to the region. One of them is the Galician ritual of Queimada. Queimada is a strong alcoholic drink that is normally served at family gatherings or celebrations. There are two times of the year it is most popular. St Johns Night also referred to as Witches night fall on June 23rd around the Solstice. The other occasion Queimada is served falls on Halloween Night also known as Samhain in the Celtic calendar. So if you are walking the Camino at Halloween or around the Solstice in June you might be lucky to experience this tradition.
The Origins of the Queimada Ritual
Queimada is served as part of a unique Galician ritual or ceremony to ward off evil spirits. The ceremony was believed to be an ancient Celtic tradition that was passed down through the ages.
Though some would say that this ‘tradition’ was only established in the 1950’s when Tito Freire designed the clay pot that is now used for this ceremony.
The spell that is widely used today was written by Mariano Marcos Abalo in the 1960s. Hence adds to the speculation that this is not as old a tradition as you might think. However, many Celtic traditions are oral traditions so would not have been written down and would have had their own localisations to any ritual. Adding to the argument that this is an ancient Celtic tradition!
Queimada Ceremony – A Galician tradition on your Camino
Now imagine, it is night time, you have enjoyed a wonderful hearty meal of traditional Galician dishes and are enjoying the crisp night air. The night sky is clear; the stars are bright as is the moon. A cloud slowly covers the moon dipping the night into further darkness. Anticipation can be felt in the air as you gather around. Now is the time for the Queimada!
The Queimada clay pot, representing Mother Earth, is filled with the potion of Orujo to represent the element of water and the tears of Mother Earth. To then make them bittersweet like many tears are coffee beans, lemon peel and sugar are added.
The master of ceremonies, embodying the role of a Druid priest, then takes the long-handled ladle and fills it with the potion, and sets the contents on fire transforming it to represent the element of light.
Slowly moving the ladle back down to the potion in the clay pot the flame will spill over the edge of the ladle and the potion catches fire. A bright blue flame dances on top of the liquid. The ladle is lifted high above the clay pot spilling the liquid back into the pot only to be dipped back in again and again. Creating a fountain effect of blue and amber burning liquid that mesmerises as the spell is recanted.
Halloween in Spain – Esconxuro Spell
As silence falls a lid is put on the clay pot which makes the flames die and closes the connection with the other world! Left behind is a warming drink to be shared among those present for those that are not. It is claimed that the first sip of the Queimada purifies the soul by banishing out evil spirits. The second sip will cleanse the mind of prejudices, and the third will give rise to passion. So drink with caution!
If you are lucky you may get to experience this wonderful Galician ritual on your Camino. However, if you want to perhaps experience this at home, try the Queimada recipe.
Note: This drink is not for the faint of heart, drink with caution.
Spend some time on the Camino at Halloween
Discover the Camino at Halloween and enjoy this Galician tradition for yourself. Our team at Follow the Camino have loads more top tips for your Camino, from choosing the best route to what to pack and how to prepare.
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Originally published on 27th May 2015