Jan 31 12

Portuguese – a tribute to you all


The Rising

One day

Your soul will call to you

With a holy rage

“Rise up!” it will say …

“Stand up inside your own skin.”

Unmash your unlived life …

feast on your animal heart.


Unfasten your fist …

let loose the medicine

in your hand.

Show me the lines ….

I will show you the spoor

of the ancestors.

Show me the creases …

I will show you

the way to water

Show me the folds …

I will show you the furrows

for your healing


“Look!” it will say …

The line of life has four paths –

one with a mirror.

                                                                —–        Ian McCallum

I have felt that rising, have you perhaps?  Are you ignoring it still?  The sailors of times gone by felt it too.  They took on the flat earth in front of them.  A word of thanks to my Portuguese ancestors that came before me and conquered their fears to ‘discover the world’.  They gave courage and bravery new meaning.

the Caravel used by Bartholomeu Dias

During the ‘golden age’ Portugal amazed the world with it’s great voyages of discovery.  It was therefore appropriate that an epic poet of the time should record the achievements of his contemporaries for posterity.  That poet was Luis Vaz de Camoes (1524-1580), the prince among Portuguese poets and creator of the timeless epic, Os Lusados (The Lusiads).  In this heroic poem, Camoes, through his brilliant depiction of the Adamastor, creating an enduring myth.

Vasco de Gama’s grim battle against the howling south easter off the Cape in November 1497, undoubtedly inspired the poet more than half a century later.  The similarity between Camoes’ fatal love for a lady-in-waiting at the royal court in Lisbon and his consequent exile to the East, and the Adamastor’s love for Thetis and his exile to the southern tip of Africa, seems to be more than co-incidence.  When Sao Bento the galleon in which Camoes sailed to the East in 1553, rounded the Cape, the sea was particularly stormy and the south easter caused heavy clouds to hang over Table Mountain,  This frightening personal experience had a profound effect on Camoes, and the giant Adamastor probably took shape in his agitated mind.  Camoes tried to return to Portugal after his exile in the East but on account of illness and poverty had to spend the years 1567 to 1569 in Mocambique.

In his epic poem Os Luisados, describes the initial phases of Da Gamas voyage, the first clash between the Europeans and the Cape people, the Cape storms and the appearance of the monster Adamastor.  When Vasco da Gama and his fleet approach the Cape of Storms, a dark terrifying cloud appears overhead, taking the shape of a powerful, monstrous being.  This mishappen bearded figure has an evil, menacing expression on his face, his hair is covered with mud and his teeth in his black mouth are a dirty yellow.  In a hollow fearsome voice, the giant threatens the mariners who sail the seas over which he has long had solitary way.  The Adamastor has a grudge against the Portuguese, because he envies them, their freedom of movement, their boldness, their excellence.  He predicts disasters, shipwrecks and loss of life for those who dare to sail around the Cape of Storms.

the Adamastor

Admastor tells of his revenge of Dias for being the 1st navigator to sail these waters, the grave he has prepared for D’Almeida and the fate that will overtake Sousa de Soupelveda and other castaways on the SA coast.  Bartholomeu Dias (1450-1500), the 1st victim of Adamastor’s vengeance, was to perish in 1500 as a member of Pedro Alvares Cabral’s expedition to the East during a mighty cyclone in the South Atlantic Ocean.  Francisco de Almeida (1450-1510) founder of the Portuguese empire in the East, viceroy of India and second victim of Adamastor’s vengeance, went ashore at present Saldanha Bay on his return to Portugal in 1510.  Manuel de Sousa de Sepulveda (1505-1553) was the 3rd.

While Admastor, the terrifying monster of proportions so huge that one is astounded by his fearful size, continues his prophecies about the misfortunes awaiting the Portuguese, Da Gama interrupts him brusquely and asks him who in fact he is.  Adamastor rolls back his black eyes, his mouth becomes distorted and with a mighty roar in a voice heavy with bitterness, replies that he is the great hidden Cape called the Cape of Storms.  The monstrous creature then tells the terrified sailors that he is one of the giants, a child from the marriage of Titan & Earth who rebelled against the Gods of Olympus.  He tells them the pitiful tale of his love for Thetis, the seductive sea nymph whom he wooed, but who spurned him because of his repulsive appearance.

Because of his rebellion against the Gods of Olympus and his illicit love for Thetis, Admastor was punished by the Gods.  They changed him into a rugged mountain at the southern tip of Africa, where he has to guard the southern seas and bring death to the sons of Luso who want to sail past him.

In Admastor, Camoes created a new mythological figure, the only figure added to mythology since the classical period.  By placing him at the Cape of Storms, the poet brought South Africa into the realm of classical Gods.

The Adamastor myth represents , according to Antonio Figueiredo, the triumph of the Portuguese over the untamed force of nature, as well as their reward which lay in them becoming the ruler of the oceans.  Perhaps one day they can rule the soccer fields as they did the oceans.


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