Symbols and rites of a renewing tradition

by Chiara Carpinteri

Individuals reproduce and reaffirm their individual as collective identity through parties, summering the ideological values that substantiate it and repeating the ceremonial practices that display it.
Buttitta from an anthropological point of view underlines how, until today, it is possible to notice ceremonial behaviours that seamed to have been definitely consigned to the past, together with the traditional forms of production and their relative social structures. Fortunately, traditional folk culture is today still so alive and firmly rooted: different are the ways it shows out, for example “dances and racings of the Saints are today still visible in Sicily in some festivities as in some cyclical ceremonies, as for those of the Holy Week”.
Among these, the “Gioia” festivity in Scicli, also called “Omu Vivu” (Alive Man), celebrating the Holy Saturday and the Easter Day and characterized by very particular behaviours. The celebrative modalities of Scicli’s rite have undergone significant changes in the last century. The procession of the “Omu Vivu” was for long time a ceremony only for men (therefore called “Festa di l’omini”, that is “party of men”) and especially for the vuccèri, sellers of meat and butchers. “These were convinced that, while holding up the Risen Christ, a particular state of grace, granted by heaven, wrapped them in a sort of magical cloud and dispensed them from any religious duty or any duty of public policy”.
The festivity of the “Alive Man”, Angelo Aprile writes, is made with joyful pride due to the great victory of the population on Muslims in 1091 – when the Madonna appeared, dressed as a warrior on a horse, to save Scicli – and for this reason in this day the women stopped and stop carrying mourning signs on their dresses, the men were and are jubilant, throwing up in the air their berets; all this continues to happen with unusual folklore, typical of the place. This extraordinary event involves children, women, men – workers: an army of curious, humble, pious and sufferings, who immediately raise the “Alive Man” to their King.
Buttitta writes:

“run and dance regenerate space and time; there’s no doubt, for example, that the circular movement printed to the statue of the “Gioia” recalls the circle of time, the wheel of life that needs to get underway. The ideal and real centre of the rounds, the rotary motion is the Saint’s simulacrum: never as in this case its value as founder and protector of the community is more explicit”.

There is no dance without music: the bringers of the “Gioia” are followed by the Busacca band, so called by the Scicli’s benefactor, Pietro de Lorenzo Busacca. Buttitta highlights how body rituals need rhythmic sounds in order to express themselves; and on this inseparable union the ceremonial process bases its scans and through it gives an order and a unique sense to the apparently disorder of the party participants. The only apparently uncontrolled, but actually codified by tradition, movements within the run of the “Gioia” are expression of vital energy. Not by chance, traditionally the young single boys, full of unexpressed energies, are those that run and dance on the roads of the village. Altered by the effort of continuous evolution, clouded by wine and noise, exited by the pain of pushing and squashing, they seam to lightly touch ecstatic states, disperse as individuals in a sense of total participation “to the events that rule the world”.
Wherever it takes place, the run and dance of the Saint has youngsters as protagonists and it is full of ritual symbols referring to regeneration and fertility of nature, to the cyclic re-foundation of the cosmos.

About Andrea Scarfò

Mi divido quotidianamente tra la scienza del codice e l'umanistica delle immagini. Amo il web dove creo con Wordpress, Gantry Framework e CSS. Fotografo con gli occhi, leggo con il cuore e progetto con la testa.
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