Gods and maios

Manuel Ángel Bugallo Otero and Crist ina Villaverde Ruibal tell us in “Gods and maios” about a place with a lot of history in the Sierra del Cando that has a series of sculptural interventions.

Laxedo, located at the foot of the Sierra del Can- do, is not simply a geographical space. We find ourselves before a place that tells its story with the blow of a chisel and hammer. Don Manuel Barreiro Cabanelas, one of its most illustrious neighbors, promoted at the beginning of the 20th century a series of sculptural interventions by the hand of his cousin Alejandro Cabanelas Araujo that would change the perception of this rural nucleus for life. We will talk about one of these interventions and its link to the territory.

Sculptural elements that conform the group of “Gods and maios” Demeter, Hermes, Pandereteira and Gaiteiro Photography: By the authors

On Manuel Barreiro Cabanelas avenue there are a series of sculptures located on the gables of various roofs that represent clearly recognizable figures such as: Hermes, Demeter, a tambourine and a bagpiper, accompanied by a sculpture of the count that presides over the central square. What role does your location serve? Is there a relationship between the sculptures? Through a deep landscape and sculptural analysis we establish the hypothesis of its possible link with the cycle of the seasons. The first relationship that we find is established between the divinities, through the myth of the Rapture of Persephone. This tells how the only daughter of Demeter and Zeus was innocently picking flowers when, suddenly, Hades, god of the Underworld, emerged from a crack in the ground and kidnapped the young woman.

Before the kidnapping of her daughter, Demeter was so sad that she abandoned the protection of Earth, which caused drought and famine throughout the world. Zeus, faced with such a situation, sent Hermes to her rescue, who forced Hades to return her.

Sculpture of the count Cabanelas that presides over the main square of the nucleus Photography: By the authors

The only condition she established for her release was that she did not eat anything upon her return, but the god of the Underworld tricked her into eating pomegranate seeds, which would force her to return to his side for most part of the year. For this reason, the land remains barren during the absence of the young woman and awakens upon her return, with the arrival of spring. This succession of rooms corresponds to the rhythm of the seasons and the rebirth of vegetation. What connection could the sculptor establish between the two divinities with two characters as symbolic as the tambourine and the bagpiper from the rural Galician, who link agriculture or the countryside with tradition and music? The answer is the “May Cycle.”

Situation of the set “Gods y maios” Photography: Authors’ image worked on the DigitalGlobe (GoogleEarth) 2019 orthophoto

In Galicia, the so-called “Ciclo de maio” includes a series of events aimed at celebrating the end of winter through songs, representations or dances around the maiosplant structures traditionally inspired by tree figures -, celebrating the appearance of the first fruits and achieving a bountiful harvest. It covers a period of time between mid-April and midMay.

The festival has a strong relationship with the tambourine and the bagpiper, as these are two of the most emblematic festive and musical characters of the Galician imagination.

Last but not least, we can find the figure of Manuel Barreiro Cabanelas placed on a large pedestal. Apparently, every time he came from Rio de Janeiro and his schedule allowed it, he would dedicate time to work and do chores, never forgetting his humble origin. This fact was perfectly captured by Alejandro Cabanelas in the carving and the symbolic elements that accompany the figure, such as the sacho or hoe and animal excrement.

The entire sculptural ensemble presents a scene in perfect harmony, is oriented towards the nascent place of the nucleus rich in the use of cereals – mainly corn since its introduction from America – and establishes a clear link with the star king and the cycle of the seasons.

Detail of a maio made in the Galician city of Ourense Photography: Courtesy of Galician Garden