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Tanit, goddess of Ibiza and the ancient sunset ritual

What's so special about the Ibiza sunset? It's all in the pagan roots. Introducing Tanit, goddess of Ibiza who is not, as you will see, to be trifled with!

There are many places to view that most sublime of Ibiza visions, the magnificent sunset. From Benirras in the north-west, to Cala d'Hort in the south-west, the entire west coast is bathed in a beautiful and some say magical glow that has been inspiring visitors for quite literally, thousands of years. Interesting that today, this fascination with the sun continues, with visitors from all over the world coming to the west coast of Ibiza to experience a small slice of this daily cosmic moment.

Rewinding to a few hundred years before Christ, the original settlers of Ibiza, the peaceful, prosperous and pagan Phoenicians worshipped the sun. The male sun god was Baal and his female partner, associated with the moon was Tanit, a warrior goddess of dance, fertility, creation and destruction. She's the protector goddess of Ibiza and there was once a temple dedicated to her on the same site the cathedral now stands. It's for this reason, dear reader, that you find all manner of businesses on the island named after her: Tanit Autos, Tanit hotels, Tanit souvenirs etc. She's still very much here on the island in spirit as you will see if you look out, there are references to her goddessness all over the place. Here she is keeping an eye on this Ibiza bar.

Rather apt too, don't you think, is that an island presided over by the goddess of dance should be home to the World's biggest and most influential electronic dance music scene. Coincidence?

Some say that Tanit, protector of women still watches over Ibiza island and that her place of residence is the west coast, home of the sunset, in particular the area around Atlantis and the mystical Es Vedra. However, since 1980, the year Café del Mar first opened its doors and Jose Padilla began his now legendary chilled-out sunset grooves, the modern sunset strip was born - on the rocky west coast around San Antonio.

So Ibiza has come a full, historical circle and once again we gather in our 1000s, every evening during the summer months to salute that great giver of the life, the sun, just as the Phoenicians would have done over 2500 years ago, albeit without the sound-systems!

This is also one of the ancient meanings behind those frequent Ibiza full-moon parties. The time of the full-moon is when the Earth's satellite has the greatest influence on our planet and its people. Taking advantage of this, worshippers of Tanit would gather at the full-moon to dance in her honour and to ask for any help that may be needed.

It is said there are many island residents who still to this day, worship Tanit, who was once described cheekily as ‘a good time girl with a gun.'

There is a story that tells of a time a few decades ago, before Ibiza was ‘discovered' by the hippies and Vietnam war deserters in the 1960's, and the island's economy was based on fishing, salt and agriculture.

Local tradition dictated that all the most valuable land was passed down to the male children. At the time, this meant that the boys got all the best farmland, located generally in the middle of the island. The coastal lands, considered to be useless for growing crops and thus of very little value would be passed to the females.

Word has it that a whole bunch of island women got together, one historic full-moon, to dance for Tanit and ask for her assistance with what they saw as the unfair distribution of family wealth that effectively forced them into either poverty or marriage.

It wasn't long afterwards that the hippies began to arrive, tourism followed quickly afterwards and hey presto, there was a real estate boom and guess what? Suddenly coastal lands belonging to the females were the most sought after and leapt in value. Whereas the agricultural land in the centre of island owned by the males dropped in value as the economy shifted to focus onto tourism. Another coincidence?

Coincidence or not, the result is that in Ibiza, you will find a rather higher than normal proportion of mature, wealthy, unmarried women! And the moral of the story is, of course - don't mess with Tanit!

So next time you're sat gazing at the Ibiza sunset and marvelling at the colours in the sky and the spontaneous applause of the island's adoring visitors, we hope you'll tip a nod to Tanit, goddess of Ibiza. And if you need a favour, you know what to do!

More about the history of Ibiza and Formentera here. Watch this space tomorrow for the low-down on where to find your perfect spot on the strip to enjoy a stunning Ibiza sunset.

WORDS | Jane Charilaou PHOTOS | Jane Charilaou

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