Monday 11 January 2016

Italian Midsummer Magic and Divination with Lead

Are you already looking forward to winter being over? I know I am - and an email I was sent got me thinking of maybe holidaying in Italy in the summer months.

After I blogged about a Finnish New Year's Eve tradition of doing divination for the year to come by by lead, I got an interesting email from an Italian witch, Annarita Ressa. Apparently the technique of dropping molten lead into cold water and analysing the shapes formed has been used in Puglia, Italy, for centuries - but at Midsummer Eve, not New Year's Eve. Annarita wrote:
I read with interest your article regarding the molten lead and I would like to add that this practice is very popular in my part of Italy, Puglia, particularly in the area of Bari, where I come from.

My grandmother used to collect lead throughout the year and this was then used to predict for a girl, the job of her future husband. Bearing in mind we are talking about a very ancient lore used in times where the job of the future husband meant wealth or scarcity for the whole family!
Now, the divination has to be done on Midsummer Eve, also St John's Eve (San Giovanni) and I do still keep the original words used for the spell (in Italian, of course). It looks like it will not work without the original wording...(this might sound familiar!)
Sir Frazer also mentions the "Compari di San Giovanni" (Sweethearts of St John) in his The Golden Bough although in a different context (the worship of Adonis in Sardinia) .

Well, I felt I wanted to contribute somehow to the article, as Southern Italy and Finland are quite far apart and I was not aware about this link. 
Thanks for your blog, it is very useful.

All the best,
I replied saying that I would be fascinated to learn more, so long as the words for the spell weren't an oathbound secret. Annarita wrote back:
Those words are not a secret any longer,in fact they are used in public events on St John's Eve in my birthplace and still for the same reason! 
If you go to Puglia on Midsummer Eve and visit a little village near Bari, called Bitritto, you will attend a lovely festival which develops all around the old town's narrow streets. You will encounter people divining with the molten lead...and you will also hear those words:

"San Giuann,San Giuann
Tu che sa' tutt d tutt quann,
da cuss chiumm senza c'lur,
d' sta uagnedd andvin la v'ndur"


"St John, St John,
who knows everything about everyone,
through this colourless lead
please foretell the future of this girl"

The original version, of course, keeps the rhymes and the musical pattern used for the spell.
That tradition sounds lovely - many thanks to Annarita for telling me about it.

Last year, I blogged about another custom from Puglia, a good luck charm called a pumo. It is a ceramic bud or pine cone frequently used as an ornament. To touch the pumo is supposed to bring good fortune. Puglia sounds such a magical area, I would love to visit.

The picture at the top shows the Italic Temple - Canosa di Puglia by Habemusluigi Luigi Carlo Capozzi, from Wikipedia The picture to the right shows my New Year's Eve attempt at divination with molten lead.

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