The ploughing of the land and the towing of wagons was done by oxen. The animals were always coupled two by two in a yoke carved from a fig tree. The yoke was placed across the necks of the beasts and secured to the horns with straps. In addition to being equipped with a sling to prevent sideways movement, the yoke had at its centre a special slot in which the tiller – usually made of wood – was inserted. Some long pins made out of boxwood, acacia, or sorb were used to tie the yoke to the tiller. Over time, the tiller was replaced with a metal version and a more resistant pin, the caveja, proving more practical for braking and towing.
Initially, cavejas were rudimentary pieces of forged iron with a simple ring, devised to help pull the tiller. When the oxen were in motion, the ring emitted a rhythmic tinkling: people connected this sound with all the superstitious and religious energy attached to rural necessities. In given circumstances and through particular gestures and rites, the tool was transformed into the “Caveja Cantante”, a multifunctional instrument whose sound is magical, conciliatory, and protective.
The caveja was used in sound rituals (even in complex representations) as a way of identifying the sex of an unborn child, to calm storms, to bless wine; it served as a sign of restriction during Holy Week, was used to predict the arrival of messengers, to protect a marriage, as a pledge, to quell nightmares, to uncover adultery, incest, and rape; to bless wagons, to heal curses, to summon bees…
Two complex representations
You must wait patiently until some of the bees in a hive housed in the hollow of an elm or a mulberry tree, separate from the rest to create a new colony. This new swarm flies around until it reaches a nearby
branch, surrounding it like a golden grape. The farmer now intervenes, playing the caveja forcefully, shaking it as he walks around the trunk of the tree. He then spits white wine onto the bees and the rings of the caveja repeatedly, until night falls. After this, he imprisons the new swarm inside a sack, cuts off the branch to which it was attached, carries that over to the hollow of a tree close to his house, and hangs the singing rings of the caveja on it.
You pour water into a pottery dish and hand it to the person thought to be possessed. Then, from a height of about 15 centimetres, you dispense three drops of oil into the dish; if the drops remain intact it means that the person is not possessed; if they break apart, the presence of the demon is confirmed. If there’s a demon, the dish is rinsed with wine vinegar, red ribbons are attached to all the doors of the house, and the possessed person is made to stand on the fireplace hearth (which becomes the altar),
with his shoulder blades facing the flames. Family members are gathered in front of him in devotion, and a child is asked to light a fire of blessed olive branches on the ground. A caveja ring is then placed on the head of the possessed, crowning it. There is silence, followed by the shaking of the other rings: through their sound they are asking the devil to enter the crown. This procedure is repeated several times. Then the crown is removed and put on the patient’s chest, over his heart. Finally, the ring is thrown into the fire with force, together with some salt, and everyone looks into the flames to observe the face of the devil drifting away.