Sunday, February 26, 2012

Festivals of Fertility : Wedding of the Trees and La Barabbata

In May each year the towns of Northern Lazio  celebrate  the fertile season  with a series of ancient festivals. One is the Wedding of the Trees  celebrated on May 8 in Vetralla which dates back centuries and is probably the first and most genuine ecological   or "green" festival.


Costumed dancers follow the music of the town band, flag throwers perform and horsemen (and women) bearing bouquets of yellow broom gallop around the  clearing in the forest atop Monte Fogliano.
 The symbolic "wedding"  between two giant oaks decorated with veils and garlands is performed and a notary's document is read and signed.
veils and garlands of yellow broom decorate the  wedding of the trees

Viva  la Madonna!!
On May 14th the  village of Marta  on Lake Bolsena  hosts the Barabbata festival, prototype of all May fairs. Here the goddess Maia
 (the month of May, mother Nature) is honored  by the exclusively male participants.

The origins of the ritual, officially dedicated to the Madonna del Monte, are lost in time but athropologists  explain that this magic-popular-pagan feast is an earthy celebration of fertility rites dating to pre-Etruscan times.

 Led by horsemen, the slow  procession of fishermen and farmers carrying  the tools of their trades ( nets, guns and farmer's rakes) winds  through town and   up to the hillside sanctuary-Madonna del Monte-  which is decorated  for the occasion with garlands of fruits and flowers straight out of a Renaissance painting.

home made floats  carry fruits of the land and lake

 White buffalo help pull the homemade floats known as fontane that are piled high with  artistically arranged cheeses, flowers, fruit  and lake fish.
a team of oxen  pull  a float  
At intervals the participants roar out songs and cheers to the Madonna while the  girls and women oberseve from the balconies and throw down flower petals  on the handsomest members of the groups.

Learn more about the area's  festivals  in  "Etruria: travel, history and itineraries  in Central Italy"  which can be ordered  directly from my website .  

Thanks to John Ferro Sims of London and Rob Mari of California  for  the photos.

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