Tuesday, May 27


Well, I Guess I Can't Make Fun of Pentecostal Snake-Handlers Anymore

From one of our alert readers:
Snakes cover a wooden statue of St. Domenico at the beginning of the St. Domenico procession in Cocullo, central Italy, May 1, 2008. Every year on the first Thursday of May, snakes are placed onto the statue of St. Domenico and then the statue is carried in a procession through the town. St. Domenico is believed to be the patron saint for people who have been bitten by snakes.
COMPULSORY NOTE TO FRIGHTENED PROTESTANT READERS: Before you say anything else, you guys do the same stuff, too. Well, some of you. Okay, like maybe three out in the Ozarks. So it can't possibly be pagan. (Like three-piece suits). Plus, the snake-catchers in the area remove the reptiles' teeth beforehand, which sort of reduces the stunt value, though probably gives Providence a well-deserved break. Unlike Pentecostal snake-handling, there's less audience participation, and they also hand out pancakes to the festivity-goers, which really makes sure it's a good Catholic event. Maybe that's the pagan part.

That being said, this is not so much Catholic weirdness as Italian weirdness, and by no means is this sort of thing mandatory or even encouraged outside of Cocullo, even if, on some level, it's still kind of awesome. (You are not going to see this ritual at the local St. Astrodome's.) Still, I prefer my kitschy wooden processional statuary covered in dollar bills the way God intended.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: San Domenico is not the same as our St. Dominic of Dominican fame; he's a local abbot who died in the early eleventh century and did the usual mix of penitence and preaching one comes to expect from Italian monastic saints. I gather he must have done something snake-related to be the celestial equivalent of poison control, or at the very least, had a pet mongoose, but the web isn't terribly helpful in that regard.

(Anyone want to commission a drawing of the good saint? On the other hand, perhaps better not to induce yet more nightmares in my patrons.)

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