The story of the lucky Indalo Rainbow Man
After more than 10 years in the southeastern part of Spain, we have learnt a great deal about the Indalo Man / Rainbow Warrior and why it is a symbol of good luck, protection and safekeeping (see examples of Indalo gifts – jewellery, ceramics, etc, in our shop online). Even today, in the small village pueblos that lie hidden behind the giant sierras that roll down to the Mediterranean shores of eastern Andalucía, the Indalo is known for its good luck properties and as a symbol of protection.
Five thousand years ago, Neolithic man decorated the walls of a cave in southern Spain with drawings of goats, deer and birds, as well as rudimentary sketches of men/women in various poses, alongside other shapes. One of these ‘shapes’ has now become famous in the province of Almería in Andalucía because it is reputed to be the inspiration behind the creation of the symbol called the Indalo.
Why and how did Indalo Man become famous?
These ancient cave paintings showing an elementary shape of what we now call the Indalo were discovered in Sierra de Maria-Los Vélez in the north of Almería province, southeast Spain, in the late 19th Century; they date back some 5,000 years. The paintings show the figure of a what is believed to be a man holding a rainbow in outstretched arms. Some archaeologists and anthropologists believe that such a figure (which is not dissimilar to other sketches and rock carvings found in other places around the world), could represent the search by primitive man for wisdom and truth in the universe – as he reaches up to the heavens for inspiration. Indeed, in North America, where a similar figure can be found in some of the drawings of the native Indian tribes such as the Zuni, the Hopi, and the Navajo, the rainbow was a link to the Great Spirit of creation – the bridge between the physical and the spiritual worlds.
However, although these ancient cave paintings in Almería, featuring the Indalo-type symbol, were discovered in 1868 (and the caves are now a site of UNESCO World Heritage), it wasn’t until the 20th Century that this shape of figure began to take on its ‘universal’ name of Indalo.
What is Indalo Man?
The accepted modern name of this ancient symbol came about because of a painter and archaeologist of Vera, Almería, in the south east corner of Spain: Juan Cuadrado (full name, Juan Cuadrado Ruiz (1856-1952) of the Levante or eastern part of the province, suggested that this symbol he’d seen in the nearby caves at Vélez Blanco (about 70kms north of Vera – and well-known to him as an archaeologist), be used in a modified and stylised form as the logo for a group of intellectual artists to which he belonged – and which included the now famous painter (and sculptor) Jesús de Perceval). What’s more, Cuadrado proposed that his group of intellectuals be named after the symbol which he himself had christened ‘Indalo’ as an adaptation of the local Almeriense name Indalecio, which itself has its origins in Saint Indalecio, the missionary sent by Rome to evangelise the southern part of the Iberian Peninsular in the 1st Century AD. Indalecio is the patron Saint of Almería and the group of artists became known as Los Indalianos.
Why is an Indalo lucky?
The phrase ‘Indal Eccius’ in old Iberian means ‘Messenger of the Gods’ (Indal is a protective God), and so the name Indalecio and therefore “Indalo” already had its roots in the ‘ethereal’, and some association with the concept of protection / safekeeping.
The ‘form’ of the Indalo – believed to be of a man with arms outstretched holding a rainbow, is ancient indeed – and can be found in many places around the world . . from different ages and in different civilisations: In particular, it is common amongst the Native Indians of North America. The shape also occurs (in rough similarity) in various spots in Central and South America including Couscous in Chile, Incamacha in Bolivia, Sardinata in northern Colombia, at Nazca, Peru and in Patagonia, Argentina. There are also ancient rock carvings with a similar basic shape in Hawaii, Egypt, and in Zambia, Africa.
The Indalo shape is not an uncommon figure ‘diagrammatically’ speaking:
Housed in the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice, is Vitruvian Man, a scientific drawing devised by Leonardo da Vinci in the late 15th Century during the Italian Renaissance. Art experts argue that it is a form of ‘divine proportion’ – the figure of a man with open arms in a circle (not unlike an Indalo) which relates man to nature. (It featured on the back of some of some 1Euro coins.)
Further north at Valtellina, Lombardy, we see the metamorphic Rupe Magna rock, with engraved petroglyphs (ancient rock carvings) that date back thousands of years, featuring hundreds of Indalo-shaped figures.
In Egypt, similar shapes can be seen in the temples at Abydos.
In Hawaii, many of the petroglyphs on Big Island feature similarly-shaped images believed to represent various aspects of spiritual life. One of these is known as ‘Rainbow Man’ and has special significance for the Hawaiian people: The arc is thought to represent a rainbow resting on a person’s shoulders and as such, is a symbol of the responsibility of each person to love and protect the earth – the ‘Aina.
It is this connection with the rainbow that is the most interesting: In South/Central America, the Mayans, Aztecs and Incas all had gods or goddesses connected to the rainbow.
But, as said, it is in native North America that it featured most: There was (and is) a strong belief amongst the Native Indians that the rainbow is a representation of the Great Spirit – the Creator. They use the expression ‘Rainbow Warrior’ to describe a mystical being that will protect them by protecting their environment. The Rainbow Man or Rainbow Warrior of North America got its name from native American Indian culture especially that of the Cree, Hopi and Sioux tribes. It features in sacred drawings of the Zuni and Navajo; and for the Indians of the Mojave desert of Arizona, the rainbow is one of the most powerful qualities of the Great Spirit, the creator of all existence. The Yukis of California also believe the rainbow to be part of the Great Spirit.
The symbol also appears in cultures in Africa, Australia and Asia.
But paramount in the significance that is imparted into this ‘Indalo’ symbol in all these locations, is the sense of protection and safekeeping that the symbol bestows – which translates into modern culture as a measure of good luck.
But in reality, the Indalo form or shape only started to become famous on the world stage because of a small coastal town in Almería, called Mojácar. The hilltop village became prominent in the 1940’s when the collection of painters and intellectuals that Juan Cuadrado (along with his fellow artist Jesús de Perceval) had created, adopted it as the logo of their new organisation. It had been accepted with enthusiasm by the whole group because, for his fellow artists, it encapsulated everything to which post-civil-war Spain should aspire – especially in Andalucía, one of the hardest hit areas of the Republican resistance to General Franco.
Perceval, as leader of the group, had wanted to re-vitalise the cultural landscape of Almería – his home. He believed that his group of artists and intellectuals would be inspired by the history, culture and even the magic of Andalucía and he wanted to capture this inspiration in a symbol. The Indalo was ideal because it originated in a prehistoric civilisation of the area and, because of its name, combined with the region’s Christian spirituality – since San Indalecio was the local saint or ‘patrón’. The Civil War was over, but feelings still ran high and, because of their Republican leanings, the artists were never truly acknowledged. However, it was felt that the Indalo symbol allowed them to find (and express) support for the Republican movement in a politically acceptable way. When his colleague Juan Cuadrado had proposed the Indalo, Perceval could not have been more pleased.
Indalo Man as a symbol of protection
Furthermore, after the ancient “Indalo” drawings were unearthed in the caves in Vélez Blanco by archeologist Antonio Gongorra Martinez (and well known to Juan Cuadrado Ruiz as a fellow archeologist), the local inhabitants of Vélez started painting the symbol on their houses, thinking perhaps that it would ward off evil and bring them good fortune. And so, coincidentally, it did! Because, a few years later, there were a series of earthquakes in the region and the coastal towns of Vera and Mojácar suffered quite badly – many people were killed. But miraculously (or so it seemed at the time), the people of Veléz were un-affected. This fact did not go un-noticed to the people on the coast – and in particular in Mojácar, who subsequently began daubing the little Indalo symbol on their walls too – thinking that indeed, it had protected their neighbours in Vélez to the north. To this day, it is seen by the locals all over the province, from the small village pueblos that lie hidden behind the giant sierras that roll down to the Mediterranean shores, to the coastal towns and cities, as a ‘good luck’ or protecting talisman.
Indalo Man in Almería
Nowadays, in Almería, you can see the symbol wherever you go – like a little guardian angel (a bit like a St. Christopher) promising good luck, and protection from harm (and strangely, evidently, from flood as well, in this, the driest part of Europe). Yes, the Indalo is a symbol of protection and by extension, good luck and it is used extensively as a lucky charm, amulet or talisman in Almería (and in some other parts of the world too). Indeed, even today, in the small village pueblos that lie hidden behind the giant sierras of Andalucía that roll down to the Mediterranean shores, the Indalo is known for its good luck qualities. Not only is the Indalo a symbol of good luck and safekeeping, but to some it is also believed to represent Man’s ethereal connection with the spirits and the universe.
So, the Indalo (or Indalo Man as it is also known), has become a recognised symbol of Almería in eastern Andalucía, Spain. (A modernised design was used as the Mascot for the Mediterranean Games in 2005 – and is very much part of the local culture and heritage – taking over from the old Sun Symbol, and making a typical souvenir of the region.) However, to many, its adopted ‘home’ is the small village pueblo of Mojácar, and you can see the lucky symbol wherever you go – like a guardian angel representing to many, the patron saint of Almería, St Indalecio, whom some say originated the Indalo name via the Juan Cuadrado connection. In 1084, emissaries of Sancho Ramírez, King of Aragon and Navarre, moved the relics of “Indaletius” to San Juan de la Peña near Jaca in the north of Spain, and some of these relics still rest in an urn under the main altar of the cathedral of Jaca. But evidently, thanks to the efforts of Bishop Rosendo Álvarez Gastón some relics were returned to Almería and placed under the altar of the Cathedral of the Incarnatio (as well as and at the Conciliar Seminary of San Indalecio de Almería). Saint Indalecio’s feast day is May 15; a holiday and ‘fiesta’ (with both joy and solemnity) in Almería city.
The Indalo and Mojácar
For some time, Mojácar, with its winding streets and the warm waters of the Mediterranean lapping at its beach front resort, has become a centre of the Indalo – offering its powers of protection to help people (and businesses) avoid bad luck. Even today, it is vehemently believed that a lucky Indalo will bring good luck and prosperity. If you visit, you will see it everywhere. For this reason, it makes a great souvenir and, of course, a convincing good luck symbol.
Throughout the rest of his life, Perceval championed the Indalo concept. He believed that it led to the recognition of his art (and of his group of Indalianos) throughout Spain. At their inaugural exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Madrid in 1947, they had a great reception from the critics, especially one Eugeni d’Ors who, during the Spanish Civil War had been the General Director on Fine Arts in the Francoist provisional government in Burgos. He became an enthusiastic supporter of the Indalianos movement.
Despite his national and international fame, Perceval continued to spend time in Almería – particularly in Mojácar. Perceval thought that the Indalo would help the Indalianos communicate their ideas to a wider audience and that it would protect them, as he put it, from the ‘one-eyed spirit’ (thought to be the ‘evil eye’ of envy or some say, of bad luck). He wrote: “We found the Indalo, both ancient and living, to be the symbol we were looking for. And it extended its protective arc over us “. Perceval said it would guard them against those who did not appreciate things beyond their own reality. In this way, for the Indalianos, the Indalo became a symbol of communication, protection and good luck – just as it had and has been over the centuries in different civilisations across the world as the Rainbow Warrior.
PS: Our business started near Mojácar in Almería, and we have a close connection with this part of Spain which is why we feature many examples of lucky Indalo charms in our Good Luck Gift shop including Indalo Jewellery, Indalo Ceramics and Indalo Gifts in general and Indalo souvenirs and gifts from Mojácar. Search for Indalo necklaces, Indalo bracelets and Indalo earrings in our shop online.
Paramount in the significance of the Indalo charm is the sense of protection and safekeeping that the symbol bestows – and the notion of good luck.