Castelsaraceno on Radio1

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Once again Castelsaraceno becomes a protagonist. This time on the frequencies of Radio 1 during the Mary Pop programme hosted by Maria Teresa Lamberti in connection with Umberto Broccoli. The latter dwelt on the origins of the name in which it is easy to find the Saracen roots of a stronghold that stood perched on the slopes of the mountains. Broccoli then focused on a typical ritual of these lands: the ‘ndenna festival.

What is the ritual of the ‘ndenna?

A rite that has survived over time thanks to its strong roots in the local population. The festival takes place on the first three Sundays in June each year, and each 

consists of three distinct moments, each with its own ritual. On the first Sunday, the cutting of the ‘Ndenna is celebrated.

After the celebration of morning mass, people gather in Piazza di S. Antonio and, using various mechanical means, go to the Favino forest on Monte Alpi in search of the straightest and most majestic beech tree. Once the tree has been found, all the people approach it and proceed to cut it down. Then other smaller beech trees are chosen, their branches removed and transported along the road by “paricchi” (a pair of oxen) and tractors. These are the so-called ‘proffiche’, varying in height from 6 to 10 metres, which will be used to raise the ‘Ndenna’.

In the early afternoon, the descent towards the village begins. First the proffiche are paraded and deposited in the small square. Lastly, two pairs of oxen carry the ‘Ndenna, which makes its triumphal entrance accompanied by people singing traditional songs and sounds at the moment of deposition.

The second stage of the ritual is the cutting of the Cunocchia, the crown of a fir tree, which is cut down on the second Sunday in June. Once again, people gather in Piazza di S. Antonio and head for Monte Armizzone, to the sound of accordions and bagpipes.

Once the tree has been identified, everyone stands in a circle and strikes the trunk with an axe until it falls to the ground; the lowest branches are removed and part of the trunk is cut off. Then it is transported by force of arms, amidst sounds and songs, to a clearing, where the elders, with a solemn air, tie the branches together to a long thin trunk, rolling it and tying knots at each turn; some young people follow the process carefully, with the intention of learning the right knotting technique. Afterwards, they go down to the village where the Cunocchia is picked up by the young people, who carry it on their shoulders through the village. There are constant stops, and the pannodde play their part. 

At the end of the day, the Cunocchia is deposited in the small square in a corner.

Arboreal marriage

On the third Sunday in June, the ‘Cunocchia’ is joined to the ‘Ndenna’. Early in the morning, as if to symbolise the intimacy of the union, the two elements are firmly joined together with iron clamps and bolts.

In the afternoon, after having tied numerous wooden tags, the ‘tacchetti’, to the branches of the foliage, each of which is matched to an offering, the lifting begins with the appropriate proffiches arranged as a trestle and with the guidance of ropes.

Usually, the lifting is carried out by dozens of people, the most experienced in the village, supported by the cheers and applause of the crowd. The operation ends when the trunk is perfectly vertical and the proffiches are all on the ground, while the base of the trunk is buried in a special hole, which is filled with stones and soil.

Once the raising operations are complete, the climbing of the ‘Ndenna begins. The young person who is able to reach the Cunocchia first takes all the prizes. The climb is done with bare hands and sneakers.

The ‘Ndenna remains upright in the square throughout the summer, becoming more and more bare, waiting for autumn, until it is pulled down by the winner.

 

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