On this Easter weekend, I ask for a pair of goat horns from Es Vedrà.
On this Good Friday of Pascua, as the cloaked, sombre procession takes place on top of Tanit´s mount, D’alt Vila, I call out for a pair of goat horns from Es Vedrà.
El Torre d’es Savinar
Those who have climbed up through the juniper bushes to the old defense tower, el Torre d’es Savinar, and who keep climbing upwards over the rocks, find themselves at a point seemingly at the top of the world. Hurtling into the depths down below, the ancient Phoenician quarry Sa Pedrera reveals its strange inverse cuboid forms; up to the North, the coastline softly curves its way towards Santa Agnès – and there, out to sea, stands the dark, angular cathedral of Es Vedrà.
Looking down from here, the roof of the pirate tower is a circular stage of warm yellow stone teteering above the sharp, craggy points of the island, otherwise surrounded by endless blue. They say someone ended their life here, on this platform – gazing out to Es Vedrà, they set themselves on fire.
Goat, Es Vedrà
This time last year, I stayed at the monastery of Es Cubells, tucked away in the pine forests a short walk away from the village, with its white-washed church – founded by the carmelite monk, Francesc Palau. Here, a dazzling, sunny and photogenic viewpoint featuring the quintessential on-trend Ibiza colours of white and blue – from outside the village bar I watched endless attractive couples wearing designer clothes park their hire car, take some photos, then drive on.
There are some steps around the church leading to a pathway that weaves down the cliffs towards his cave – Francesc Palau´s spring. A small chasm filled with mosses of infinite textures and shades of green, and freshwater trickling into a series of terracotta pots. And back in the hermitage, where the nuns offer bread and pour wine with a fiercely intelligent twinkle in their eyes, there is a cool, dimly-lit reading area with whole volumes dedicated to the monk Francesc Palau’s writings about his extended stays, in the late 1800’s, on the otherwise uninhabited, and uninhabitable, island of Es Vedrà.
the Carmelite monk Francesc Palau (1811-72)
He lived in complete solitude in a cave on that rocky crag, drinking freshwater that flowed in through a crack in the rocks above, and dedicating himself to deep meditation. In those years in the second half of the 18th Century, the Carmelite monk Palau reported repeated encounters with “women of light and celestial beings.”
And in the centuries that followed, no one lived there. As airline radar equipment malfunctioned in the skies above, and nautical navigation systems went a-kilter onboard boats in the surrounding waters, no one ever lived on Es Vedrà. As Catalan boys forged illicit night voyages to the rock in sea kayaks, foraging for gemstones, no one since Palau resided night after night on the island.
Apart from the goats.
…Up there, dotted upon the steep slopes, munching dozens of varieties of rare, threatened fauna – one of which, in buried island folklore, had magical powers, and caused two ibicenco brothers to trick and overcome a giant – el gegant des Vedrà – in order to safely forage the plant to turn into a life-saving poultice for their sick father.
And as Easter weekend approaches, we remember that lesser-known ritual carried out annually amongst the vedraners – the rock´s local land-owning family community – on the Eve of Pascua, Easter Sunday. A rites-of-passage trial in the solemn build-up to the resurrection of Christ, young men would forge their way out to the island of steep rock which has no mooring place, to hunt and kill an Es Vedrà goat with their bare hands, to be feasted on the following day.
In February 2016, island officials moored on Es Vedrà and killed the goat population of Es Vedrà, after prolongued concerns that they were rapidly extinguishing the various varieties of rare and endangered fauna common only to this rocky islet.
Now only their bones, their horns, and the scribbled visions of a Carmelite monk remain as testament to those beings who lived for more than a night and a day on the uninhabitable rock of Es Vedrà.
So, as the Eve of Pascua approaches, I ask whether anyone feels that same urge of the vedraners to take up a small boat, or perhaps sea kayak, and head out to forage for goat horns…
…for the sake of a mystic, magnetic rocky crag, and the tales it has yet to tell.
Theatre of the Ancients, Ibiza
Good Friday, 2018.
‘The Goats of Es Vedrà’, puppet designs by Theatre of the Ancients