A reportage by Ernesto De Martino (anthropologist) shot in in the late 50s in Salento.

De Martino is the author of "La Terra del Rimorso", the first comprehensive book on "Tarantismo" , a phenomenon discovered while he was traveling in Salento - Puglia in 1953-54 with Diego Carpitella and Alan Lomax; the latter, a pioneer in Ethnomusicology studies, in the photographic book "The Happiest Year of my Life (L'anno piu' felice della mia vita)" captured a multitude of snapshots representing the most diverse folk music cultures of Italy. The research confirmed a theory which is still valuable: the way people sing and play in a particular area is defined by environment, work style and degree of social and sexual freedom.

The following film shows the healing process a "Tarantata" had to go through in order to free herself from the mythical spider's venom, definitely a sort of exorcism.



 La Taranta is the mythcal spider Lycosa Tarantula, apparently harmless, that with its symbolical bite causes physical turmoils and emotional upheavals.

Tarantismo is the desease of a past that periodically comes back hunting for more victims or to torment the same ones.

Anthropologists and ethnologists found its origins between A.D. 800 and 1300 when it is believed that a contamination between ancient orgiastic and pagan rites happened.

During the XVIII century, varoius stories have been recorded about these healing or bacchanalian rites until the Catholic Church decided to take in her hand the hope of liberation of those possessed with St Paul's iconographc presence.

The victims - mainly working class women, although there are records showing that the Tarantula chose also men and female members of the aristocracy-  were affected by heightened excitability and restlessness which followed an initial state of boredom.

The cure consisted in a frenzied dance which the victims would perform at home and in the church of St Paul in Galatina. Here Tarantate, dressed in a white gown as "brides of St Paul",  would gather for the final stage of the cure: a complete and desperate agitation of the body coming from within, a crisis cry uttered in various modulation coming from the deepest part of the trapped soul.

From the end of the 1800s until the end 1900s the Spider had to slowly hide because the mainstream culture had to be abruptly changed: the Savoy royal establishment invaded and conquered the South of Italy, kickstarting a cultural revolution aimed at cancelling and cleansing local traditions, languages and most importantly the economy of the South, probably that is why the Taranta had an aggressive come back durng the first half of the XX century.

During the late 1970s, few professionals and common people alike noticing that the local identity had become an insignificant mixture overwhelmed by mass culture, decided it was time to refresh the indigenous memory: equiping themselves with a tape recorder they started a field research collecting hundreds of work, love, healing songs and music.

In 1998, Unione Comuni Grecia Salentina, a confederation of municipalities where the other official spoken language is Griko (direct emanation of the Greek language), created "La Notte della Taranta", a festival aimed at revitalising Pizzica and Taranta folkloric tradition. Every August since then, the Festival travels through the towns of Grecia Salentina presenting traditional music from Salento and around the world.




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