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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Brood of Vipers

In group Lectio Divina, we were discussing John the Baptist calling the Pharisees and Saducees "Brood of Vipers."  Vipers meaning poisonous snakes.  This led to Father Rocco telling us a story of when he went to visit his mother's birthplace of Cuocollo, Italy.  The town is in the mountains of northern Italy.  In fact, it was one of the last holdouts to fall to the Romans and then one of the last to fall to the barbarian hordes.  In fact, there is still a mix of pagan and Christian customs and traditions.  The higher up the mountains you go, the more you leave the Christians.  Whether high or low, the place has a lot of snakes, and they are a mix of poisonous and non.  They're pretty big, too.

A perfect example of the mix of the pagan and Christian, or the profane with the sacred, is the Festival of the Snakes.  In pagan times, the pagans worshipped the goddess Angizia.  She offered protection from the snake bites. 

When the Christians came the snakes were still there and the people still wanted protection.  The village priest, Dominic Abate offered Masses and devotions for protection.  After he died and became a saint, the festival began.  A statue of San Dominico Abate of Cuoculo is carried through the village covered with snakes.  Before the festival, the villagers capture the nonvenomous snakes to be carried in the festival.  The snakes are freed back into the wild, after the festival.  

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