The Sunday prior to Mardi Gras, the streets of Satriano di Lucania (Potenza) fill with walking trees, bears on two feet and pale women dressed in black.
These three typical masks from the ancient local carnival tradition are Rumit (the hermit, that is the tree-man covered in ivy), Urs (the bear), and Quareseme (Lent, that is the woman in mourning).
One particular interpretation claims this tradition is rooted in the first half of the 15th century: in 1421, a beautiful aristocratic girl was raped by a group of young men from Satriano dressed in goat skins. The girl was a protégée of queen Joanna II of Anjou-Durazzo, who ruled over Naples from 1414 to 1435 and took revenge for the offense by having the whole town destroyed.
The three masks are symbols of those events: the crime perpetrated by the young men dressed in animal skins (the bears) and its consequences – widespread poverty (the hermits) and sadness (the women dressed in black).
Yet symbols change meaning over time, and today those organizing the carnival have the 131 tree/hermits peacefully invading Satriano – one for each municipality in Basilicata – to promote environmental awareness, by touching the doors of each home with a branch of holly on a stick.
The event is held on Saturday, February 25 and Sunday, February 26 2017.
Photos via: ©Simona Fossi