At the Benediction of the Animals, Festival of San Anton, Chelva, Spain, January 2017
The Festival of San Anton (St Anthony) is a traditional January festival across Spain. Originating in pre-christian rites relating to fire, purification and the protection of working animals (Naturaleza y cultura en los rituales de San Antonio In Revista de Dialectología y Tradiciones Populares, 2009 vol. LXIV, issue 1, p 237-276 DOI: 10.3989/rdtp.2009.028), the festival has adapted into a modern form which blends religious observation and community celebration.
The blessing of animals is a central part of the San Anton festivities. With farm animals on the wane people now bring their pets to be blessed by the local priest. The photos submitted are portraits of people and their companion animals taken immediately before the benediction of the animals at San Anton in 2017. Domestic animals are an important component of day to day life in Chelva and the photos try to capture some of the bond between humans and animals. They form the first episode of a wider project to document aspects of the life of a mountain village in modern Spain notable for its social cohesion in the face of rural decline, and a historical record of tolerance between Christian, Jewish, and Moorish communities.