The intention behind this project was to reactivate memories from the origins of Indo-European Culture, by focusing in their vestiges present at most of the cultural performances spread through the European Continent and Islands.
The project is based on the believe that the diversity found on these performances results just from superficial particularities, underneath which there is a possibility of uncovering a common matrix, identical to all its countries, based in agrarian religions/mythologies which underline and reveal their main preoccupation.
Some of its basic topics, are for example, the rituals related to the Equinoxes and Solstices, like the fears of the Winter demons and their exorcism, the magic to increase Spring's fertility and to restore sun's power, the celebrations of Summer's abundance, etc., identical in all Europe, but different from other continents.
The understanding of a cultural identity, stemming from a common origin and connecting all these events, may contribute to a cohesive process on the construction of the new European reality.
2. THE PROJECT
The production of a video series (5) informing about the cultural European identity, as it can be observed through cultural performances, on the Azores Islands (Portugal) and other European countries, took place under an agreement established among a Private Cultural Organization, the Azorean Television and the Azorean Regional Government.
Although sometimes distorted by evolution, or by the impositions of Catholicism, it is still possible to observe many of the former means and intentions, as these performances follow the archaic cosmic calendar. The isolation of the Azorean Archipelago during the starting of the industrialization era, which allowed the maintenance of agrarian occupations in their “pure style”, as they were practiced when introduced in the Archipelago, with a first settlement on the middle of the XV century, may be considered as one reason (among others) for this permanency.
The Project did focus on the recovery of images from the archaeological domain which display pertinent aspects (throughout Europe), restructuring the old mythologies and allowing the interpretation of their reflex in the popular festivities.
Each video documentary lasts about 50m and follow a text about each one of the referred mythologies, documented by images from the past (found in archaeological remains and different supports, like painting, sculpture, etc.) alternating with those rituals and performances from the present captured in several European Regions. The celebrations of each Solstice and Equinox provide the basis for the common treatment of the thematic among the various countries and the Azores.
The creation of a data base with information from the entire European continent concerning these same traditions will prove the existing similarities among them. It is believed that, once started, the process will spread through the entire continent, collecting memories from other countries, thus contributing to the recovery of these memories, as basic elements of the European culture.
The objectives are to facilitate means for observing the present rituals under the light of their former conception, giving to these events a logic that they have lost. It is understood that by reinforcing information on this line, not only the new European cultural identity would become clearer and stronger, but better equipped to fight tendencies of massification, resulting from the globalization process.
It is also understood that the attention dedicated to the origins of these festivities will give more dignity to their performances, counteracting the natural process of degeneration and extinction.
The texts and complementary information about the calendar of the traditional festivities will be accessed by a site on internet, with also links to Tourism Agencies, Ethnographic Institutes, Folklore Associations, etc., as well as to other regional entities from each of the countries interested on the process.
4. THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONS
Theoretic texts are based on research from Wilhelm Mannhardt (1858), James Frazer (1931) Van Gennep (1947), Mircea Eliade, (Leite de Vasconcelos, Veiga de Oliveira, among others, for the Portuguese case). Anthropological, Ethnographic, Folkloric and Archaeological documentation are the domain of this information.
Following the logic which comes from the celebrations of the Solstices and Equinoxes, the scenes are be divided in big thematic areas, concerning the agrarian year, each one of them presenting material exemplified as follows:
a) the cult of the dead (preceding and around the time of the Winter Solstice), including celebrations of the birth of the sun (Christmas?)
b) the exorcism of the Winter, legends of demons, practices of exorcism, songs, says, etc. and the preparations for the sowing, purification rituals of the Lent, stimulation of the energies of life, as in some Carnival performances (Spring Equinox)
c) the celebration of the harvests and summer festivities of abundance (Summer Solstice)
d) the preparation for the critical time of Winter/rebirth, as a metaphor of the possibility of an eternal life of the soul, as was expressed through the Eleusian Mysteries (Autumn Equinox)
AUTHORSHIP AND REFERENCIES
The Project’s author is Antonieta Costa, Ph.D. In Social Psychology by the ISCTE, Lisbon, former Assessor of the Regional Direction of Culture and eventual Professor at the University of the Azores (Azorean Ethnography)
VIDEOGRAPHY AND PRODUCTION – Teresa Tomé, from the RTPAzores, Bachelor in History, and well known film maker, with a vast curriculum.
Regional Government of the Azores;
RTP - Portuguese Television on the Azores;
SATA – Air Company;
FLAD –Lusiade American Foundation for Development