Cocullo and the ritual of Serpari

One of the most ambiguous and ancient Italian religious celebration that sees the massive use of snakes.

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.

An enormous mass of people observes the statue of San Domenico surrounded by the snakes just put up. The snakes are always placed and removed just outside the church. In Cocullo, Italy, 2019
An enormous mass of people observes the statue of San Domenico surrounded by the snakes just put up. The snakes are always placed and removed just outside the church. In Cocullo, Italy, 2019

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.

A man is holding one of the many snakes captured by the Serpars. A lot of people can't wait to take a picture with snakes on them.
A man is holding one of the many snakes captured by the Serpars. So many people can’t wait to take a picture while holding snakes or while they are around their necks.

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.

A snake places a snake on the child's neck to make him take a souvenir photo. The environment is peaceful, people smile. The initial fear of children soon turns into play and appreciation.
A snake places a snake on the child’s neck to make him take a souvenir photo. The environment is peaceful, people smile. The initial fear of children soon turns into play and appreciation.

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.

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