"Memorie dal sottosuolo". Una prospettiva di indagine sul simbolismo rituale delle feste religiose "tradizionali"

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 1945, writing about the procession of Our Lady of Viggiano, Carlo Levi presents us a peasantworld characterized by archaic beliefs and ritual practices, another world « where seasons runon peasant fatigue, [...] like three thousand years before Christ », a world « veiled with black veils,fiery and earthly [...] which you do not enter without a key of magic ». If that other world ofthe peasants seems to have come to an end today, the beliefs, practices and ritual symbols of reputed“pre-Christian” precedence or in any case alien to the official liturgy, as witnessed by Leviand many other narrators and demoanthropologists from the 19th and 20th century are not,however, definitively left to the past, nor are they rare or isolated. Today there are still severalplaces, not just in the South of Italy, where devotional modes which preserve “traces” of Italic,Greek-Roman cults or even of more remote origin are perpetuated despite the economic andsocial transformations since World War ii, between functional and semantic “erasures” and “rewritings”more than morphological ones. In these cults, we can observe a “strong continuity”of ritual structures and symbolisms of agro-pastoral matrix, such as evergreen branches, bonfiresand torch processions, offering collections, formalized food consumption, saints’ dancesand races, ex-voto made of bread, etc. Considering this picture of the situation, we return toask ourselves : can material and immaterial tokens of the past, even the remotest ones, help usunderstand what we observe in current festive contexts and, conversely, can current expressionsof folklore give a contribution towards a clearer understanding of much older rites ? Do themeanings and functions of the rites, the motivations and the expectations of the worshippersof the present and of the past have anything in common ? Can a conscious use of the historicalcomparativemethod and of diachronic research help us understand the expressions of contemporarypopular religiosity ?
Original languageItalian
Pages (from-to)135-166
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Cite this