From Flames to Freedom

Written by Susie Saldanha McCormack

In the heart of Ibiza lies a realm where time surrenders to the rhythm of ancient traditions, unveiling a mosaic of culture that transcends the ages. The fascinating essence of Ibiza is the space where past and present dance with a timeless allure. 

The traditions, folklore and culture of Ibiza hold a profound significance. They are a testament to the island’s  roots and legacy of ancient civilisations such as the Phoenician, Carthaginian and others, preserving its identity and connecting generations. Through these cultural expressions, locals and visitors alike gain a deeper understanding of Ibiza’s history, values and way of life. They provide a sense of belonging and nurture a community spirit and collective appreciation for the island’s heritage. Bridging history and contemporary times, they remind us of the importance to honour and preserve cultural legacy for future generations to celebrate and inherit. 


Renewal and Rebirth: 

As the sun sets on the longest day of the year, Ibiza ignites with the festivity of Sant Joan. On the 23rd June, the island comes alive with ‘la nit de Sant Joan’ (St. John’s Eve), where bonfires and fireworks illuminate the island. In the quaint village of Sant Joan de Labritja, the atmosphere gets boisterous with concerts, food stands and a bonfire jump as a ritual of purification and cleansing. Participants symbolically shed the burdens of the past and welcome new beginnings, guided by the transformative power of the flames. Rooted in the island’s history, this event originated from the Christianisation of a pagan festival dedicated to honouring the sun during the summer solstice. On the 24th of June, the festivities commence with a mass followed by a lively procession that winds its way from the church to the heart of the town centre. Today, the festivity of Sant Joan stands as a testament to the island’s ability to merge cultural influences, preserving the essence of ancient rituals while embracing the spirit of the present. 

Rhythms of Ancient Origins:

In Ibiza, music and dance are the language of the soul. Far from the nightclubs, the heartbeat of the island resonates with the percussive beat of centuries-old ‘ball pagès’, the peasant’s dance based on ancient courtship rituals. These traditional dances showcase the unique characteristics of the villages that dot Ibiza and Formentera. Within the dance, men exude agility and masculinity, bouncing and leaping as they cast large castanets. Women wear twelve underskirts, moving gently yet deliberately, emphasising curves and creating circles within which the men dance. The profane nature of the dances is evident, particularly when performed near wells and fountains, a tradition that begins on Sant Joan and continues throughout the entire summer season. While the exact origin of the ball pagès remains a mystery, these traditional dances are deeply rooted in age-old customs and hint at their origins in ancient rituals of immense significance.


Guardians of Tradition:

The charming town of Santa Eulalia has a unique Sant Joan tradition: the ‘Fameliars’. It is said these mythological creatures appear below the town’s bridge on the night of Sant Joan. They are keepers of local legends and folklore, embodying the spirit of Santa Eulalia. There’s a delightful walk along the scenic river path, beginning your journey at the town hall and traversing the historic bridge where the enchanting Fameliars are believed to dwell. Follow the marked trail all the way to the majestic Puig de Missa where a breathtaking panorama unfolds before your eyes capturing the essence of Ibiza’s natural beauty.