By Elizabeth Prata
Fratelli Alinari are the Alinari Brothers of Italy, who founded the world’s oldest photography studio. They have been documenting important works of art, sculpture, costume, and life in towns and cities since 1852. Their archive holds over 5,500,000 pictures.
Recently the company posted the following photo with the title: La festa dei Serpari – San Domenico – a Cocullo (L’Aquila). (C) Armando Bruni / Bruni Archive / Archives Management Alinari, Florence
I wanted to learn more, so I researched the Feast of the Serpent.
Cocullo is a town in the province of L’Aquila in the region of Abruzzo. It’s a sleepy medieval town of about 50 souls, but on the first Thursday of every May, the town is jammed with people who watch or celebrate the local festival in honor of the town’s patron saint, Saint Domenico di Sora. (b. 951 – died 1031). He was an Italian Benedictine Abbott who founded abbeys and hermitages throughout Italy. He was known for his miraculous ability to heal poisonous snakebites. The area was rife with many species of poisonous snakes. Many people died from the bites.
Each year the people of the town of Cocullo drape their statue of Domenic with snakes, (nonvenomous, thank goodness) caught by serpari, or young boy snake charmers. The Alinari photo depicts some of the serpari boys.
In the past, the snakes used to be sacrificed, nowadays the snakes are released at the end of the festival.
The day begins with a Catholic Mass, and continues with people performing old traditions such as pulling a bell with their teeth to ward off toothaches, or taking a pinch of earth from a cave behind the Saint’s niche for superstitious use.
The people head into the town square and are encouraged to touch the snakes, so as to develop a unification or understanding of a relationship between the human world and the animal one.
The Saint statue is brought out and the serpari cover it with all the snakes. Priests lead a procession with the saint close behind and women dressed in traditional costume, carrying circular bread. This is supposed to represent the snake biting its own tail.
In former days before Domenico adn Catholicism came along, the goddess locally worshiped was Angitia. The peoples of central Italy venerated her. She was associated in antiquity with snake-charmers who claimed her as their ancestor. As the Catholic religion overtook the region, the old pagan traditions were absorbed into it, and worship of snakes transferred from Angitia the goddess to Domenico the monk.
Of course satan loves to be worshiped. That is his main goal in life, after all. (Isaiah 14:13-14). Having inhabited a snake in the beginning to dupe Eve, he is forever identified as the serpent, the dragon of old. People have been worshiping the snake for eons, as this essay I wrote about the cult of Asclepius shows.
Isn’t it a shame that people will exchange the glory of God for creeping things of earth. Even the Israelites ground slowly down and ended up worshiping Moses’ brazen snake and called it Neshutan, rather than the God who delivered them from the Egyptians…and the desert…and the enemies…and the snakes…
As for cult worshipers,
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:21-23).
In this essay I am attempting to show you that Catholicism is a pagan religion no different than worshiping Zeus or a tree.
One day, Jesus will crush that old serpent under his heel. All false worship will come to an end, and the only one left standing will be Jesus, in all his glory. Praise Him who conquered.