Madeiro in Proença-a-Velha
for Cristina and Filip
One warm sunny winter day (which is an exotic combination for a Polish man) I was driving on the way from Fundão to Monsanto. I drove through picturesque mountains, passing calm villages, abandoned houses and olive trees.
I passed through a village which name I didn't notice. Through the car window I noticed a man sitting in the main square, and I kept this image on my mind.
After several hours in the way back, I saw the same view again – the same man sitting at the very same place with the very same position. I decided to stop.
I took my heavy Ukrainian camera and asked permission to photograph him – he agreed. I took my photo and suddenly I noticed two happy ladies with bunches of flowers. That was the beginning of an avalanche, more and more women arrived with flowers...
They invited me to join them. I followed them far away from the village, where I saw ox-carts full of big dry logs, and men preparing food. I was warmly invited. They gave me fresh bread, sardines and wine.
With sardine in one hand and camera in the other, I tried to document what was hapening there. The wonderful hospitality of friendly people, who invited with full heart a stranger hardly speaking Portuguese.
That's how my first Log in Proença a Velha was, and I hope this will not be the last.
Text by Marcin Górski
The Log of Infant Jesus is a millenarian tradition that's still alive, in this bleach of the 3rd milenium, in many places in the country-side and in all parishes of Idanha-a-Nova, as the presented photos, taken in December 2005 in Proença-a-Velha, are a good example.
Log, strump, trunk, andiron, "galheiro", fire, or simply Christmas fire, are names by which continue to be known in Portugal these vestiges of sacred rituals, that in antiquity were made in Winter solstice, when our ancestors lit fires in homage and prayer to the Sun, so it shine again strong and sovereign, after a period where cold, blackout and darknesses seemed to toke care of nature.
Pagan rituals that survived several centuries of social, religious and political transformations, and that still last today, in these borderer lands, in a full integration with christian rituals and traditions, as if they originate from it!
It's on Christmas Eve, in the night of Christmas supper, that the Log is lighted, so that the just-born God (the Sun of primitive peoples, Jesus of actual Christians), can be heated in this cold and frozen night, while young boys, around the fire or scouring the village streets, celebrate and sing hymns in Its glory!
But, if it's true that's in the night of 24th that the old Log is lighten, that it should light until New Year's Eve, this is not, however, the Day of the Log! In the great majority of these villages the Day of the Log it's the 8th of December, the day where ceremoniously it enters the village, with people adhering in an enthusiastic form, applauding and celebrating its passage, incorporating and participating, as if this was a procession!
The entire population participates, but the organization of the Log belongs, according to tradition, to the single boys, young men of "lucks", those that in that year give their name to join the national troop! And, if is in troop that boys became men, as today people still say, we're here, without a doubt, in presence of an iniciation ritual, a fire and force proof of these "influents" of the Log, as they are called in Proença, in their passage to the group of men! Rituals of other ritual.
In this forgotten and desert interior, due to the lack of "lucks" boys, the oldest assume the organisation responsibility, so that the ritual is kept and tradition persists!
"Festum Osirid Nati" in old Egipt, "Wakening of Melqarth" in old Phenitia, "Natalis Solis invicti" in old Rome, are the ancestors of our actual "Log", as also are the "Ceppo" of Italy, the "Tréfoir" of France, the "Yule Clog" of England, or the Christmas fires of Letonia! The fire, the heat and the light of men, as an homage to fire, heat and Celestial light!
Text: João Adolfo Geraldes
Translation: Sofia Quintas
exhibition: Dia de Madeiro em Proenca
dates: 9.12.2006 till 7.01.2007
place: Galeria de Exposicao do Nucleo do Azeite, Proenca a Velha, Portugal
book: Madeiro - Retratos de uma Tradicao Milenar
authors: M. Górski, J.A. Geraldes, J. Mugeiro
editor: Proencal, Magno Edicoes