Interesting curiosities about Ibiza: about names
Why is Ibiza called the White Island?
In the early 20th century, Catalonian artist Santiago Rusiñol first renamed Ibiza as the White Island after his trip during the summer of 1912. It was so successful, that it was used as the slogan to promote the island. The islanders’ traditional use of whitewash to cover the façades of country houses and churches was what probably inspired Rusiñol to think up the slogan.
Why are Ibiza and Formentera called the Pityusic Islands?
The Greek called the two neighbouring islands the Pityusic Islands due to the abundance of pine trees, as the Greek word pityusic means “covered in pine trees”. The writer and soldier Plinio el Viejo documented this in the 1st century B.C. when these islands were considered apart from Mallorca and Menorca and these were known as the Gymnesian Islands.
Where does the name of Ibiza come from?
Etymologically, Ibiza comes from the Phoenician word bsm (ibosim) that means “island of Bes”. But, who was Bes? Bes was an Egyptian god who was said to protect humans from snakes, which hadn’t populated the island until the 21st century. According to the article published in Diario de Ibiza, Los secretos de una palabra (The secrets of a word), the Phoenicians attributed the absence of snakes to Bes and that is why they called the island after this god.
Why are (practically all) the villages in Ibiza called after saints?
Without going into the singular historic administrative division of the Ibizan quartons, the véndes and the casaments of Ibiza, which would need its own post, the easiest and quickest answer is the way Ibiza’s people lived until mid 20th century. The islanders were always known for their self-sufficient farms that were broadly scattered around the island, which made it hard to an keep administrative control and access to religious services. To solve this problem, the first Bishop of Ibiza, Manuel Abad y Lasierra, promoted the creation of churches to encourage the scattered population to gather around the churches in the way of the traditional villages on the Peninsula.
Although his proposal didn’t thrive and the population preferred to stay on their lands, the families did go to the new churches to socialise and attend mass. Each church was usually devoted to a different saint and so they ended up taking their names for the dispersed communities, many of which later became villages in the late 20th century: Santa Gertrudis de Fruitera, Sant Carles de Peralta, Sant Rafel, Sant Joan de Labritja, Sant Miquel de Balansat, Sant Jordi de Ses Salines…
Interesting titbits: the magical and spiritual world
What are the fameliars?
A fameliar is a small goblin with a big bald head who has a huge amount of energy and strength. According to Ibiza’s myths, the farmer who finds a fameliar can benefit greatly from it if they keep it working and keep its fierce hunger away from the larder. To find a fameliar, you have to go to Pont Vell on the night of the summer solstice to find a grass that blooms very briefly just before dawn and keep it in a black bottle. When you take the stopper off, a goblin will come out of the bottle asking for feina or menjar, that is “work or food”. You can learn more about this goblin by following the self-guided track down the River Route, in Santa Eulária des Riu.
Why is Es Vedrá known as a magic island?
There are many people who assure that the Ibizan islet of Es Vedrá radiates a special energy and magic. Late 19th century, Carmelite missionary Francisco Palau assured that during his retreats on the islet, he had seen celestial beings and ladies of light. Beyond what could be a mystical metaphor, in 1979 a strange case revived the legend of Es Vedrá: the Manises case. On that occasion, the pilots of a commercial plane that was flying over the area between Ibiza and Denia asked the control tower of Barcelona airport for information on an airship with red lights approaching their plane. When the controllers said that there were no other flights on the route, they decided to take an emergency landing at Valencia airport as the red lights were coming closer.
Main picture: © Vicent Marí / Consell d'Eivissa