On 24th June, every year, on the occasion of the birth of St. John the Baptist, corresponding to the summer solstice, an ancient festival of archaic and pre-Christian origins is held in the village of Alcara Li Fusi, in the province of Messina. According to Christian tradition John the Baptist was sentenced to death by Herod who had him beheaded.

The festival begins with a religious procession in which the faithful carry two different effigies of the saint along the streets of the town: the intact statue of the saint and a simulacrum of his severed head, which represents the decapitation of the saint himself. The festival continues with secular celebrations that see the participation of the whole community. All the unmarried women of the various districts of the town create a Muzzuni, a cylindrical object open at the top, it can be a gutter, a bottle or a vase with a severed neck (in memory of the martyrdom of the saint) wrapped in a muccaturi (handkerchief) of silk, on which the finest jewels chosen from the hope chest are hung. Outside the houses, tables decorated with colored carpets and precious fabrics are set up, on which the vases (Muzzuni) are placed. The propitiatory symbolism and the link with the fertility of the earth are expressed by numerous elements that adorn the Muzzuni: the jewels and the ears of wheat, which emerge profusely from the containers, as well as by the phallic shape of the object itself.

In the evening people crowd the tables under the gaze of some playful women dressed in white who watch over the Muzzuni like priestesses. During the festival, songs with a love or country theme are sung and traditional dances are performed; young people announce their engagements, enmities are dissolved and solemn promises of friendship (comparatico) are tied, which constitute a relational bond equal to that of kinship.

The festival has its roots in the ancient pagan cults of the divinities of the earth and in particular of Demeter and Adonis. The summer solstice was also an important time in the Roman ritual calendar, and was replaced in the Christian calendar by the Feast of St. John.

The term Muzzuni can be traced back to the expression “mozzato” (cutted), with reference to the jug without a neck or to the decapitation of the saint. Another accredited etymological interpretation connects the expansion to wheat mowed and collected in bundles locally called “mazzuna“.


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REIS - Libro delle Celebrazioni, delle Feste e delle Pratiche Rituali - Festa del "Muzzuni" https://reis.cricd.it/reisicilia/details/2/184