Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/293

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The Da7icing-Toiver Processions of Italy. 249

pantomirne camel, the fabled steed of Grifone, performs his gambols through the town, and into his gaping jaws are thrown loaves of bread, joints of meat, and flagons of wine. On August 15th the secular festival becomes a religious one, and the " Vara," or " Bara," comes forth on its annual progress, borne on the shoulders of the members of the religious confraternities. This Macchina Triomphale of the Madonna of the Assunta was one of the most remarkable creations of human ingenuity fired by a zeal for religion. It is a revolving pyramid of great height, composed of four or five platforms. On the lowest the Virgin appears exl "nded on her death-bed surrounded by the weeping apostles, above are prophets, singing patriarchs, the sun, moon, stars, signs of the Zodiac, and the spheres, blue spangled with gold. On the summit, suspended in mid-air by means of an iron bracket, the Soul of the Virgin, formerly represented by the most beautiful girl in Messina, clings to the extended hand of the central figure, who is described by some writers as the "Padre Eterno," by others as his Divine Son. Of late years these two important characters have been replaced on their gidd}- height by card-board figures, but on the extended rays of the great luminaries and on the vertical and horizontal wheels which represent the celestial spheres, real babies, gilt-winged and rose-crowned, play the part of angels. These wheels are in constant motion, like the swings or steam-horses of an English fair, and fortunate (if there be degrees in ill-fortune) are the inhabitants of the higher tiers, since violent sickness is the not unfrequent result.^

iPitre, Feste Patronali in Sicilia (Biblioteca delle Tradizioni Popolari Siciliane, vol. xxi.). Signorina Maria Pitre, in a work entitled Le Feste di Santa Rosalia in Palermo e delta Assunta in Messina, gives no less than eighteen accounts from various witnesses of the procession of the Bara or Vara. The earliest, by P. Brydone, was in 1770; the most recent, taken from Vlllustrazione popolari, in 1888; a note, p. 158, mentions the pro- cession as having taken place in 1897. The accounts differ in detail, but agree in the more important particulars.