Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/290

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248 The Dancing- Tower Processions of Italy.

with the return of their bishop St. Paulinus (a.D. 353- 431) from a missionary voyage, and the giant "lilies" represent the flower-trophies brought out in his honour by his enthusiastic followers. Paulinus was a scholar, he had also a knowledge of mankind. May it not therefore be conceived that, taking advantage of a moment of popular enthusiasm, he converted the celebration of the return of Dionysos after his capture by pirates into a perpetual memorial of his own efforts -to convert the Saracens . For the scenes of revelry which now honour the memory of the Christian bishop find their counterpart in the decorations of the painted wine-jars for which the city has long been celebrated.^

The Festival of " La Vara " at Messina.

The festival of La Vara has a twofold significance. On its secular side it commemorates a famous sea-fight, when the Norman Count Roger delivered Sicily from the yoke of the infidel ; as an ecclesiastical function it celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the patroness of Messina, On August 13th two huge pasteboard giants, mounted on horseback, are conducted through the city, the people thronging to kiss their feet and hands. The male giant, " a handsome Moor, bearded, and with rolling eyes," wears armour and has emblazoned on his shield the arms of Messina ; the female, " somewhat larger, flaxen haired, and very like a Nuremburg doll," is magnificently attired, with a star on her forehead and a flowing blue mantle. The people call them Mata and Grifone ; she is the beautiful lady of Messina, he a fierce heathen warrior whom she married and civilized. But they have various names, and Mata is it would appear the goddess Cybele or Rhea, Grifone her earthly consort. On the following day a

^ E. Neville Rolfe, Naples in the Nineties ; Murray's Guide to Sotdhern- Italy ; and informalion furnished b}' an eyewitness, Mr. R. H. Hobart Cast,, from whose photographs of the scene Plates XXI. -XXII. are reproduced.