Here’s a bit of language for you. Steeleye Span’s ‘Gaudete’ is surely the best known version of this sacred song. The word means rejoice and it comes from the Latin verb ‘gaudere’. It doesn’t take a linguistics genius to figure out that the Catalan verb ‘gaudir’ comes from the Latin.
This means to enjoy, although at a stretch one might suggest that it retains a sense of the Latin original. The Council of Majorca might like to believe that this is so; gaudir’s enjoy is a rejoicing underpinned by the sacred and the spiritual - a meaning of Mallorca.
‘Gaudeix’, in the same way as ‘guadete’, is a command. It is the imperative form of ‘guadir’. ‘Guadeix l’illa’ is the title of the Council’s tourism promotion initiative that is aimed at island residents - Enjoy the island. Rejoice in all that the island offers - sport, gastronomy, nature, culture and heritage.
At a mundane and administrative level, this campaign entails discount vouchers for staying at designated accommodation. Essentially a response to Covid, the aims are obvious enough. A suffering tourism sector is to be given a boost, a modest one valued at 2.5 million euros in terms of discount subvention, but a boost nevertheless.
Every little bit helps. But it is also about making a connection with the island, or making a re-connection: a rediscovery of Mallorca in its various facets. In accordance with a Council mantra of sustainability and tourist product diversification, ‘Guadeix l’illa’ is removed from an overall tourism strategic approach only in that it is directed inwardly and not to foreign tourists.
This is not a sun-and-beach tourism, as the emphasis is very much on the interior. Agrotourism, rural hotels, village hotels are the chief beneficiaries. While there is a hard-nosed business edge to the initiative, it is more than this, and the more resides with this rediscovery.
One says rediscovery, but in my experience most Mallorcans are very much in touch with what the island has to offer and what it means. Apart from the food, the hiking and what have you, there is an underlying appreciation of the soul of Mallorca, that for which there is a rejoicing but one which can at times appear to have been camouflaged by all that surrounds the bread and butter of resort beach tourism.
There is what is held sacred, that which has a spiritual and subconscious hold. In this regard, nature, culture and heritage coalesce, and they have been recognised by the two quite different Unesco declarations - those for the Tramuntana and the Sibil·la, the Song of the Sybil.
The latter is obviously associated with Christmas, but it is a sacred song which transcends a specific season because of the recognition and of how it marked the transition from a Latin culture to one that was both Catalan and Mallorcan. Never a rejoicing along the lines of ‘Gaudete’, the Sibil·la versions were to nevertheless embrace the same context of the birth of Christ. In so doing, they became a rejoicing of a heritage, which is exactly what Unesco has understood.
A codex manuscript of the fourteenth century is the first known evidence of the existence of the chant in Mallorca; and crucially, it was in Catalan rather than Latin or indeed Castellano. By the start of the sixteenth century, there were versions in the Catalan of Mallorca, i.e. Mallorquí. Perched on top of the Puig de María in Pollensa, the small monastery of Augustinian nuns is where a Mallorcan version was written. No one knows for certain when this was or if it was the first, but the setting was one that linked, for all time, the Tramuntana to the chant.
As much as there is the heritage linked to religion, there is that which can seem sacrilegious. As one researcher has put it: “The demon is part of our intangible heritage. I don’t think you have to say anything more. If you ignore or destroy this heritage, we destroy ourselves. It is a guarantee of continuity, a connection to strengthen and promote the practice of other traditional customs.” Another says that the Mallorcan people have a “thorough, iconic and deep knowledge” of the dark side. Unlike other societies which seek to hide these darker forces, the Mallorcans openly acknowledge them.
The contradictions of religious and sacrilegious thus run deep. There is a rejoicing of both. A rediscovery of the island through ‘Gaudeix l’Illa’ is more a reaffirmation, which clearly - purely in terms of a couple of nights stay in a rural hotel - owes only so much to cultural philosophy typified by Unesco awards and demonic activity but which is nevertheless indicative of this island rejoicing.