The “Devil’s dance” is a ritual performance held every year in Prizzi (PA) in Sicily, on Easter Sunday. From the morning of that day, the Devils and Death (masked men in scary costumes) wander through the streets of the town harassing the people they meet and taking them hostage, inside houses or taverns, from which they can only be freed by redeeming themselves with cash offers or offering food to the macabre figures. The Devils are two men dressed in red who wear monstrous iron masks bearing horns, covered with goat’s coats (one white and one black) and equipped with pieces of iron chains with which they make dizzying noises. Death is instead a figure dressed in yellow, wearing a leather mask similar to a skull and an instrument symbolizing a crossbow. The crucial moment of the day is in the afternoon when two different processions, one accompanying the statue of Christ led by two figures (the Angels) and one accompanying the Madonna, depart from the two opposite sides of the same street in the town to meet in the center, in order to represent the reconciliation and Resurrection of Christ. The Devils and Death, accompanied by the village band, stage wild dances and movements, to prevent the encounter between the two sacred figures. Christ and Virgin Mary try to meet, but are hindered by the Devils and by Death; the third time the Angels “kill” the demons with swords and the two religious figures finally manage to meet.

This celebration, strongly felt by the population, blends numerous sacred and profane elements, which presumably have their roots in the Middle Ages. “The dance of the devils” is a festival that contains within it many syncretic elements connected with the annual cycles of nature and rebirth. The irruption between the human of Death and the demons with their monstrosity and their din, recall the regression to a primordial world and the creation of Chaos, which every year is subjugated to restore order and represent rebirth, which takes place in the Christian symbolism of the Resurrection. It is no coincidence that the festival takes place on Easter day, a celebration of rebirth par excellence, which takes place in spring, when nature returns to flourish and give men its fruits, necessary for the survival of society. The “dance of the devils” stages the dispute between good and evil, and represents the cyclical and necessary victory of Life over Death.


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REIS - Libro delle Celebrazioni, delle Feste e delle Pratiche Rituali - Il Ballo dei Diavoli