Cocullo and the ritual of Serpari
The feast or ritual of so-called Serpari is nowadays a catholic religious celebration which takes place in Cocullo, a small village within the Apennine mountain chain of Abruzzo Region, in Italy. Briefly, Its fame derives from the massive use of snakes by the so-called “Serpari”, a dialect Italian way for calling the snake catchers. The snakes will later be placed on the statue of the San Domenico, saint patron of Cocullo and Villalago, during the procession in his honour which takes place annually on the first day of May.
The celebration It’s widely considered one of the most interesting and ambiguous sacred-profane celebrations among the Italians one and, because of that, is has been a candidate for UNESCO as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Even though the feast is done for celebrating the saint patron of the aforementioned little towns, the celebrations of snakes in that area has deep roots, dating back to the pre-Christian era. Local people, the so-called Marsi, through the celebration of snakes, worshipped Anctia Goddess( in latin, Angitia)
Because snakes were often connected with the healing arts, Anctia was probably considered a goddess of healing.
The Marsi, who considered her more a magician than a goddess, owed her the knowledge of the use of healing herbs, especially those against snake bites. Other powers were attributed to her, such as those of killing snakes with one touch.
The cultural attribution of the serpent to absolute evil is an all-Christian custom that has for years manipulated the perception of the masses towards this creature.
On the feast of Serpari, the meaning given to the snake is remodelled.
The so-called Serpari give adults and especially children the opportunity to rediscover this instinctive but not bad animal. A life being of hypnotic and engaging beauty that was once worshipped and not stigmatized as pure evil.