Tarantism: The Ritual Setting

“From a description that dates back to the first half of the eighteenth century, we learn that the choreutic-musical-chromatic exorcism could be held at home or outdoors, in either case with the ceremonial observance of several distinct particulars and sometimes even the artificial preparation of the surroundings in the manner of a real ‘sacred space’. Here is a description by Nicola Caputo, a doctor and scholar from Lecce:

They customarily adorn the bedroom dedicated to the dance of the tarantati with verdant branches outfitted with numerous ribbons and silken sashes in gaudy colors. They place similar drapery throughout the room; sometimes they prepare a sort of cauldron or tub full of water, decorated with vine leaves and green fronds from other trees; or they make pretty fountains of limpid water spout, capable of lifting the spirits, and it is near these that the tarantati perform the dance, seeming to draw the greatest delight from them, as well as the rest of the setting. They contemplate the drapes, the fronds, and the artificial rivulets, and they wet their hands and heads at the fountain. They also remove damp bands of vine leaves from the cauldron and strew them all over their bodies, or–when the vessel is large enough–they plunge themselves inside, and in this way they can more easily bear the fatigue of the dance. It often happens that those who go dancing through the towns and hamlets accompanied by the usual music are brought to an orchard, where, in the shade of a tree, near a pond or brook offered by nature or prepared through craft, they abandon themselves to the dance with the greatest delight, while groups of youths in search of pleasure and pranks gather near. Among the latter mingle more than a few who are approaching old age and who, contemplating with serious curiosity the melodic frolicking, seem to exhort the youths with unspoken admonishment…”

Ernesto de Martino, The Land of Remorse: A Study of Southern Italian Tarantism, p. 87.

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Spell to Santa Lucia for eye problems

santa-lucia-via-resalibera-23
An edicola votiva to Santa Lucia in her hometown of Syracuse.

When someone gets something in his eye, or his eyes suffer from a draft, this well-known spell is used in Grottole:

Santa Lucia minze o’ mare steva 
pponte d’altare recamava
Passò o figghiuolo de Maria
–Dimme, ce fa do, beata Lucia? 
–Ce vol’esse maestro mio? 
Na furia a l’uocchie m’è calata: 
non pigghie ripose non notte non dì 
–Va’ al mi’ orto, ca ngè pove è finocchie: 
co le mie mane l’agghie chiantate;
co le mie pede l’agghie pestate; 
e co le mi’ uocchie l’agghie
benedisciute. 

(Saint Lucy was in the middle of the sea
she was embroidering altar lace.
Maria’s son passed by:
–Tell me, what are you doing here, blessed Lucy?
–What am I supposed to do, my master?
Blood has gone into my eyes:
I don’t get rest day or night.
–Go to my garden, there’s some fennel powder:
I planted it with my own hands,
I pounded it with my own feet
And I blessed it with my eyes.)

Ernesto de Martino, Sud e Magia.