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Queimada: Galicia's Alcohol-Fueled, Devil-Be-Gone Ritual

by Susan Greenwood Oct 24, 2009
You’ve stumbled onto a circle of people stirring a fiery liquid while slowly chanting about demons. Don’t panic – you are just witnessing the ancient Celtic ritual of Queimada (kay-MAH-da).
A Ritual Still Alive

This pagan ritual dates back to the eleventh century when Celtic tribes roamed the north western Spanish providence of Galicia. Made from a recipe that’s been handed down from generation to generation, this fiery liquid is still made today at Galician festivals, parties, and community gatherings as a way to drive out evil spirits who patiently wait to curse poor, unsuspecting souls.

Packing The Punch

The drink is prepared in a clay pot, which represents the earth. Galician aguardiente de orjuo, a distilled wine with extremely high alcohol content, represents water (or the tears of Mother Nature) and becomes the base of this drink. The aguardiente de orjuo is mixed with herbs or coffee, sugar, lemon peel, and coffee beans.

A flame is ignited over the cauldron and the alcohol begins to burn, representing light. Sugar is scooped from the bottom of the clay pot, creating a beautiful cascade of blue fire as it caramelizes. When the flames finally subside, a hot, tan colored beverage is left to be ladled into clay cups.

A Spell to Ward Off Evil

As the flames rise from the burning sugar, a dark incantation is chanted in Spanish. This incantation or spell is actually a poem called “conxuro” (con-SHU-roh) and protects the soul from evil spirits that are near; it includes such significant lines as:

With this bellows I will pump the flames of this fire which looks like from Hell, and witches will flee, straddling their brooms…and when this beverage goes down our throats, we will get free of the evil of our soul and of any charm.

Forces of air, earth, sea and fire, to you I make this call: iI it’s truth that you have more power than human peple, here and now, make the spirits of the friends who are outside, take part with us in this Queimada.

More Than Just A Good Buzz

Legend says that the first sip of the Queimada purifies the soul by banishing out evil spirits, the second cleans the mind of prejudices, and the third gives rise to passion.

Community Connection

Feeling ghoulish? Learn how to make sugar skulls for Dia de los Muertos. Drinking internationally? Check out our tips for drinking in Prague and Iceland.

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