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Two Our Lady and three friends

VERSIONE IN ITALIANO  Cataforio (RC), 1st of September; the road to Polsi is really difficult, the camper cannot face it, fortunately some friends from St. Agatha Valley give me a ride. We arrive when it is already dark. Polsi di San Luca is a little village in the province of Reggio Calabria in the very heart of Aspromonte, when you get there you don’t believe to your eyes. The smoke from the grills in the stalls clouds the hole valley, a theatre crowded with believers who listen to the word of God, on the opposite side of the sanctuary a lot of rote blend the sounds of their drums beaten heatedly, the couples of dancers, chosen by the indisputable mastru du ballu, alternate one another; someone will dance all night long because of a vow to Our Lady. Faces of every kind, funny faces. Sometimes they are all men. Inhuman screams telling numbers echo through the valley, they are the morra players. It is a real show that, at first, puzzles and scares, but behind those striking and choked screams used to intimidate the opponent, a smile or a more human expression emerges as soon as the game ends and everything is back to normal. .. if the word “normal” can be associate to Polsi! Inside the sanctuary the song of the elderly women in veneration to Our Lady breaks the repeated sound of the non stopping tarantella;people sleep on the ground piled up in the corners, someone eat, someone despairs or cheers up, someone kneels and proceeds towards Our Lady crossing themselves and kissing the Virgin.

In the meantime the rote keep on turning and the megaphone on the outside of the sanctuary tries to challenge that sound in the total unconcern of musicians and dancers who never stop. It is a duel between the sacred and profane, it is a beautiful madness. At 5 am exhausted I decide to go to sleep, my mind is heavy and I’m so tired I cannot even see, I choose a stone less angular than the others, I borrow a dirty towel to protect me from the cold and I fall into a deep and humid sleep. I have nightmares caused by the uninterrupted morra players cries; at this time of the night, their voices are broken and strident, in an unreal falsetto, but they continue to echo everywhere. When I wake up with a start at 8 am with the sun in my face, nothing has changed apart from the light. Morra and tarantella everywhere and the megaphone of the church declaring the start of the procession. Then the silence ... and Polsi is back to its quite sleep that will last one year.

Cataforio (RC) 4 am on Saturday September the 12th; the camper of the Cammino della Musica is parked in the only place available for cumbersome means, that is the big curve of the only road passing through the village of Sant'Agata Valley. I’m inside resting before leaving for the pilgrimage that will lead me to the Basilica of the Hermitage where there is the picture of Our Lady of Consolation patroness of Reggio Calabria city; a journey of 10 kilometers. The meeting is fixed at Cataforio church where devotees and non devotees rumour gleefully before the departure. I like very much the idea of sharing this experience with the group: to walk all together to achieve a common goal in the middle of the night listening to the songs for Our Lady alternated by  the last gossip of Cataforio blabbed by the women of the village. We are many, most are women. Agata, the friend who convinced me to face the very early rising is deeply moved, she is away from her native village since a lot of time and in the last years she has never managed to join this Day. She is the one supporting the songs intonation. We get there when it is dawn, I had the unfortunate idea of walking with slippers, on the arrival I find myself barefoot...the square of the Hermitage is already crowded of people, some of them arrived the night before and they have been playing and danced the tarantella until now.

There is no way to enter in the basilica, so I stay in the churchyard trying to make good shots. When the heavy painting comes out, the people scream his admiration to Our Lady; someone says  it weighs 12 quintals, the men who raise it, the carriers, are 114. Thus began a procession of 9 kilometres that will bring the painting of Our Lady to the Cathedral of Reggio Calabria, where it will be kept until the next November 21st and then will be back to the Hermitage. The priest leading the procession implores the crowd to make way, someone could seriously get hurt. When the painting will reach its destination, the pagan celebration will begin, the rota of the tarantella will create a magic circle in the middle of the square of the cathedral and all around there will be a celebration for other two days.

MORE PICTURES

VERSIONE IN ITALIANO

Thanks to: Agata, Marco Bruno (for technical, musical, mechanical assistance , board and lodging!), Demetrio Bruno, Piero Crucitti, Zi' Peppino Serra, the Folk Group of Cataforio, Bruno’s family, Giusi and Simone, Carmelo di Lallo, Mario, the  Trattoria Lallo  of Cataforio, the whole Cataforio.         Subtitles by Barbara di Fede

 

 
 
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