They use snakes in the celebration of St Domenico
In the small picturesque town Cocullo in the Abruzzean mountains in Italy,snakes are a very natural part of everyday life. There are snakes everywhere, horses and cows graze among them,farmers scare out hundreds while ploughing and housewives find these nice "pets" in beds and cupboards.
The people of Cocullo isn’t very afraid of the snakes though, most of them are not dangerous and the children play with them like other children play with dogs and cats. And kids are taught the difference between the poisonous ones and the rest long before they learn how to walk.
After school the boys go snake hunting, When they detect one they throw themselves after it. More often than not the snakes get away, but the boys catch some as well. The snakes are grasped just behind the head so it cant bite, if the boy is lucky that is. If not he might get bitten making the blood flow, but who cares as long as the snake is caught.
The people in the town believes that the snakes has magical powers and they are treated accordingly. Fransesco, the towns snake expert is regarded as the best of "medicine men". What he doesn’t know about the medical uses of snakes isn’t worth knowing.
On St Domenico’s day people come to Cocullo from the whole surrounding district with the magic snakes in their hands. And in the front, the small boys, the master snake catchers who after the religious sermons auction away their snakes in the town square making heaps of money.
Fransesco, the towns snake expert checking the goods at the snake market on St Domenico’s day. He has caught thousands of snakes in his younger days and is an expert on their medical uses.
From the Swedish magazine "SE"
No 34 – August 17th 1950
The snakes also play a large part in the towns religious sermons. A benedict monk, St Domenico,who lived in these mountains more than a thousand years ago and who was sainted even during his own lifetime, protects the people in the town from the snakes.
The towns largest annual religious celebration is dedicated to St Domenico in return. St Domenico’s day is celebrated in May, his statue is hung with snakes and it is carried through town. After the sermon, snakes are sold at the town square, large example can catch as much as 4.000 lire, about four and a half dollar.
Vanity starts at an early age – have you seen a nicer necklace. Even the youngest in the town know the difference between poisonous and safe snakes.
The almost 2 meter long play mate can take a little bite of course and it doesn’t seem to mind the unkind treatment.
No more fun, something else catches the little one’s attention and the snake is thrown aside as would any other toy have been.
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