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The «pizzica» and the myth of the taranta

29-04-2021 10:53

Greetings from Puglia

Symbols , puglia , illustration , cultural heritage , pizzica , tarantism , culture , traditions , folklore ,

The «pizzica» and the myth of the taranta

The evolution of the pizzica and the phenomenon of tarantism


Who has visited Puglia, has been able to listen to its melody and improvise some steps to the rhythm of the tambourines. Many have been fascinated by the spectacle that the dancers, guided by its notes, produce. Someone else appreciates the energy that this music is capable of infusing. However, describing pizzica simply as a dance would be an understatement.


In fact, the evolution of the pizzica has deep roots linked to the phenomenon of tarantism, that is the popular belief according to which music could placate the effects caused by the bite of the tarantula, a large spider present in the Apulian countryside. It was therefore a ritual which, through the decisive contribution of the musicians and their instruments, induced the victim of the bite - usually a woman - to expel the poison through the sweat, produced as a result of a convulsive dance.


This belief was already widespread at the end of the 1400s and was associated with the figure of Saint Paul, the apostle who according to the sacred texts of the Christian religion was able to survive the attack of a viper by throwing himself into the fire, without being injured. It is therefore no coincidence that in the past the church of San Pietro e Paolo di Galatina, in Salento, was

the destination of anyone who had been bitten by the tarantula, in order to obtain the intercession of the saint and the healing of the sick.


Thanks to the studies conducted in the 1950s and 1960s by the anthropologist Ernesto de Martino, it was possible to ascertain that, in reality, the phenomenon of tarantism was associated with the discomfort that women from the lower classes felt to because

of their family and working conditions. The spider, whose bite was painful but not lethal, was merely an attempt to justify a far more serious social malaise.


However, today the pizzica represents the evolution of tarantism and, having abandoned the belief in its thaumaturgical power, it has become a joyful and, at the same time, intense dance. If you liked the article, visit the shop section where you will find various articles enriched by illustrations that pay homage to Taranto and Puglia.

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