I rituali del fuoco in Molise, tra sacro e profano

The fire rituals in Molise, between sacred and profane

Fire, in addition to being an indispensable element for the development of civilization, contains a multitude of meanings: power, energy, freedom and meditation. Meanings that fluctuate between the sacred and the profane, between the history of religions and anthropological investigations. Since its flame burns, it is also a symbol of purification and regeneration, as well as light. Molise, with its agro-pastoral culture, boasts several rituals and ceremonies that see fire as their protagonist. Let's find them out together.

Sant'Antonio among the streets of the Molise villages

Saint Anthony the Abbot is the Saint of fire par excellence. In many countries of Molise, on 17 January, the protector of livestock, pets, peasant work, fire and skin diseases is celebrated (herpes zoster is in fact known as Sant'Antonio fire). In many Molise centers, in respect of tradition, fires and bonfires are lit to pay homage to the Saint.

In Campobasso (about 70 km from Termoli), fire is set in the square in front of the church dedicated to the saint. On the churchyard, in the morning, the fire starts the celebrations, with the blessing of the parish priest. On the evening of the party, we meet around the fire lit in the square, to cook boiled broad beans, sausages and torcinelli.

In Colletorto (50 km from Termoli), the fires in honor of Sant'Antonio Abate attract many tourists from outside the region every year. The whole country is mobilized: young people have the task of obtaining wood, the elderly instead prepare bonfires as a charcoal, to facilitate lighting the fire. Every neighborhood, from Earth to Hill, is wrapped in flames and sparks that change its appearance. Among elderly women, the custom of returning home the stinks of sacred fire that, according to ancient popular traditions, drive away the evil ones still persists. On the other hand, young people, to exorcise the dangers of fire, cross the burning embers, creating strange and original jumps. The appointment with the bonfires is accompanied by wine, songs and dances that go on until late at night.

In Acquevive di Frosolone (85 km from Termoli), a district of about eighty families, the celebrations begin on the afternoon of January 16th. Children and young people of all ages sing the song dedicated to the saint, house by house. In the evening, the children's songs give way to groups of musicians and singers who, armed with accordions, accordions, guitars and tambourines, wish health and well-being. In the evening a large fire is lit to pay homage to the companies of singers from neighboring countries. The fire is set on fire throughout the day of the 17th, with groups of friends and relatives entertaining each other between songs, dances and grilled meat.

Even in Pescopennataro (about 100 km from Termoli), the celebrations in honor of Sant'Antonio see fire as the main protagonist. The party involves everyone, young and old and the embers of the fire become a convivial moment in which to taste meat and typical local dishes. Here too, the gastronomic celebrations are preceded by the religious ceremony in the Madonna delle Grazie church where the statue of Saint Anthony is kept.

The 'Ndocciata di Agnone is a heritage of Italy

The biggest fire festival in Molise is celebrated in Agnone (90 km from Termoli). But the celebrations are not in honor of Saint Anthony. It is in fact an over millennial tradition, of pagan origin, linked to the winter solstice. 

The 'Ndocciata is a ritual dedicated to the Sun and over time has become a tribute to the God who is born. The 'ndocce' are large torches made with fir wood and bundles of broom. On the evening of December 24, hundreds of porters illuminate Agnone with a spectacular river of fire, reproducing scenes of peasant life.

Wrapped in large black cloaks they perform under the enthusiastic eyes of the spectators, who crowd the streets of the town. In ancient times, these huge torches served to illuminate the path of the peasants, who moved from the countryside to the village to attend the Christmas mass. Since then, the custom is repeated every year respecting tradition and represents a symbol for Agnone, as well as being an unmissable appointment for thousands of tourists from all over the world. A show to be seen at least once in a lifetime and for which words are not enough to describe its magnificence. Fire as a symbol of fertility, creative force and man's prayer to the unknown, reached by the flames of these huge torches.

The 'Ndocciata is a ritual that has been repeated for millennia and for this reason it has been recognized as "Heritage of Italy for tradition". A tradition so strong and felt that it attracts thousands of Agnonesi scattered throughout Italy and the world every year, proud to participate in one of the greatest fire shows in Europe.

What we have proposed are just some of the winter festivals that attract thousands of tourists to Molise every year. The selection takes into account only the places that can be reached in no more than an hour's drive from Termoli, and therefore from our hotel. They are also the destinations that have most fascinated our winter guests. But we are convinced that Molise has so much to offer, to fill an encyclopedia. You just have to come and discover "the region that is not there"!



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