The SIGLAS POVEIRAS (also known as MARCAS) is a proto-writing system
that has been used by the local community of
Póvoa de Varzim in
The purpose of the siglas was to record history and thus they have been ascribed as comprising Póvoa's "writing system". However, the siglas do not record sounds or specific words, and so are not considered true writing. The reason for their prominence has been ascertained to be due to a common ignorance of the Latin alphabet among the local population.
* 1 Types
* 2 Family marks
* 2.1 Inheritance
* 3 Magical-religious marks
* 3.1 Chapels in beaches and hills * 3.2 Divisas * 3.3 Marriage marks
* 4 Origins * 5 Current use of Siglas * 6 References * 7 External links
Lixa Filgueiras argued that there are two types of symbols, distinguished by their use: the marcas (marks) and siglas. The marks served as a way to register ownership and thus were commonly present. The siglas, on the other hand, were used for magical and religious concerns. The siglas, being symbols of a mythical character, were thus rarer both in their ancient and newer forms.
Reference box for the types of siglas used in fishermen marks compared to the marks on the doors in the chapels of Balasar and Santa Tecla
TYPE PóVOA DE VARZIM BALASAR SANTA TECLA
RELIGIOUS SIGLAS 18 11 11
MAGICAL SIGLAS 5 6 4
MARITIME SIGLAS (TOTAL) 47 23 20
Boats or parts 32 12 13
Fishing 5 8 4
Penas 4 1 1
Pés de Galinha 6 2 2
Family mark describing ownership of a private garage in Rua Cândido Landolt in Póvoa city center. Siglas Poveiras that serve as a base to most used symbols.
The usefulness of this system is noticed by its usage amongst merchants in their books of credit, and the siglas were read as we today read a name written in the Latin alphabet. Currency values were symbolized by rings and traces, drawn after the mark of an individual.
Nevertheless, it was on the tombs of the dead that the marks acquired a sense of personal significance. It became common and accepted to have one's mark carved onto one's tombstone.
According to a former port authority of Leixões , the Count of Vilas Boas, an individual stole a compass in Póvoa de Varzim and tried to sell it in Matosinhos , but he was unaware that the recorded "drawings" in the cover indicated the owner's name and thus the first person whom he approached (a woman from Póvoa de Varzim) managed to recognize the mark immediately. Summoning other fishermen, who also recognized the mark, the thief was apprehended and submitted to the port authority.
An example of hereditary siglas poveiras in a family of four children - The position of the piques varies in each family.
The siglas are hereditary emblems (much like tamgas or Hausmarken ), transmitted by inheritance from fathers to sons. These have unique symbolism and only the heirs are allowed to use them.
The siglas were not simply invented, but passed on through generations. The base family sigla was passed from the father to the youngest son — in Póvoa de Varzim’s tradition, the heir of the family is the youngest son — while the other children received the sigla with a trace (the pique). Thus, the eldest son would have one pique, the second two and so on, so that the younger son that would have the original sigla, inheriting the same symbol as his father.
Analyses were made to check if families have actually used the same symbols throughout generations, due to some supposed inconsistencies within some families. It became apparent that the inconsistencies had historical or genealogical motivations, and that these symbols were inherited through generations and preserved as part of Póvoa's local traditions. Hundreds of different marks were studied leading to 84 different original families.
CHAPELS IN BEACHES AND HILLS
Only very rarely did siglas have magical value or used as a religious symbol. The sanselimão sigla was used as a protecting symbol.
Useful places for the study of Siglas Poveiras are the religious temples located not only in the city and its rural area, but also in all the Northwest of the Iberian Peninsula, especially in the Minho region (in Portugal) and in Galicia .
The Poveiros, throughout generations, used to make inscriptions in the doors of chapels close to beaches or hills as a journey mark or as "campaign promises" (promessas de campanha). This has been observed in Nossa Senhora da Bonança in Esposende's beach, and Santa Trega in A Guarda Hill, Galicia. The mark inscribed would serve as a marker for the Poveiros that would come later indicating either the passage of the inscriber or the attempts to procure good luck from the venerated saint of that place.
On September 23, 1991 a sculpture honouring Siglas Poveiras was inaugurated in the festival of Santa Trega in North-western Iberia, as a means to perpetuate the ancient and lost door of the Chapel of Santa Trega known to be covered with Siglas Poveiras. After the inauguration, an expedition aboard the Lancha Poveira Fé em Deus (Faith in God) came from Póvoa de Varzim, whose fishermen went up to the Trega and prayed in the chapel dedicated to the patron saint of the hill. The hills close to the coast, by being visible by the sea, have always had an importance in the Poveiros sect traditions. Long ago, the fishing class went to this hill to pray to the saint in a ritual with chants attempting to change the winds so that they could return home.
Siglas, being used in the same way, can be found in the temples of
Senhora da Abadia and São Bento da Porta Aberta, in
Terras de Bouro ,
São Torcato, in
Representation of Siglas Poveiras in an Azulejo. The picture represents "Ala-arriba!", pushing a boat to the beach by the community.
The caught fish in a boat’s net belonged to its owner, regardless of what position he held within the Lanchão or Sardinheiro castes. The fish caught was thus marked with the sigla and delivered to the fishing net owner. These fish marks are usually blows made in sigla form in different parts of the fish.
The crew of each boat also had a sigla that was used by all the members of the crew. In the case of a worker shifting to another boat, he would have to adopt the sigla of the new boat. These boat marks were known as "divisas".
The divisas are true "arms shields", intended for the boat’s recognition; curiously, however, they were different from the boat’s owner's mark. One should notice that all the Poveiro belongings were marked with his personal mark, except for the boat. This fact seems to indicate that the boats were predominantly subject to magical-religious invocations, often adopting a protecting-saint for the boat and thus earning a mythical character and also surrounded by protecting symbols.
A. Santos Graça, Epopeia dos Humildes, pag. 146 Cinco dias depois, entrava na barra da Póvoa, uma lancha encarnada que, pelas suas divisas, sarilho, peixe e panal à proa, panal e quatro piques em cruz à ré, se reconheceu ser a lendária lancha Santa Philomena. Vinha finalmente, descansar de tanta luta e fadiga na acolhedora praia da terra-mãe
ENGLISH TRANSLATION Five days later, entered in Póvoa's sandbank, a reddish boat that, by its divisas, sarilho, peixe and panal at bow, panal and four piques in cruz at stern, was recognized as being the legendary Saint Philomena boat. Finally, it returned to rest, after much fight and fatigue, in the cosy beach of her mother-land.
The Poveiros wrote their sigla in the table of the mother church upon marriage, as a way for recording the event. This usage of siglas can still be found in Igreja Matriz of Póvoa de Varzim (the mother church since 1757) and in Igreja da Lapa .
A table in the old Church of Misericórdia that had the function of a mother church until 1757 kept thousands of siglas, the obtainment of which would aid in a deeper study of the siglas poveiras, but these were destroyed when the church was demolished.
The siglas were first studied by António de Santos Graça in his book Epopeia dos Humildes ("The Odyssey of the Humble"). Published in 1952, the book contains hundreds of siglas and the history and maritime tragedy of Póvoa. Other works of his are "O Poveiro" (The Poveiro, 1932), "A Crença do Poveiro nas Almas Penadas" (Poveiro Beliefs Regarding Dead Souls, 1933) e "Inscrições Tumulares por Siglas" (Tomb Inscriptions Using Siglas, 1942).
For Santos Graça, the siglas poveiras were related with the Castro peoples, and the author compared it and other dissimilar modern marks, found in other fishing communities, with the Iberian writing system. But, this thesis did not have sufficient proof.
After a visit to the Nationalmuseet in
The Siglas development is at least, partly, attributed to the Norsemen that settled in the town during the 10th century and 11th century. This form of primitive writing developed within the community of Póvoa de Varzim was kept due to the practice of endogamy. Also, the similarity with the Scandinavian tradition of using specific bomärken ("homestead marks") for signatures and for marking property has also been noted.
Each base sigla has a name, normally related with daily objects, but this sigla-object association occurred at a later date for both, Póvoa de Varzim and the system studied in the Danish town of Funnen. The hourglass of Funnen was drawn in the same way as the chalice of Póvoa de Varzim thus indicating that both are remnants of a later era.
Siglas have also been compared to runes, especially in the 1960s when Lixa Filgueiras called for further studies on the matter.
Comparing only identical Nordic runes: PIQUE - i-rune isaz (ice )
ARPãO (harpoon) - t-rune Tiwaz (