Poverty In Sicily – Part 3

Interview with Nonna Nedda continued.

“If a man falls ill, his wife prays to Our Lady and implores her to cure him. She makes many vows to the Madonna. Sometimes, a wife will say: ‘Santa Maria, leave me my husband – take one of my sons in his place.’ Then she makes a solemn promise: ‘Blessed Lady,’ she says, ‘if you’ll make my husband well, I’ll go down on my knees and lick all the stones right from the church door to your altar.’

If Our Lady cures her husband, she carries out her vow on the following Sunday. She walks to church barefooted, and when she kneels down and begins to lick the stones, the people say: ‘Make room for her – she’s come to church to thank the Madonna,’ and they weep as they watch her.  My daughter-in-law licked the stones when Our Lady cured my son.

This is what you do. You kneel down outside the church, and start licking the stones which are covered with dust and mud and filth. When you’re inside the church, you crawl forward on your knees, licking each stone as you go. The church is always crowded – people move from place to place and spit, and the little ones do pi-pi.  When your mouth’s so sore that you have to stop for a bit, you raise your head and say, ‘Blessed Mother, I thank you’ and then you crawl on, licking and licking. Then, when you’re almost at the altar, you get up, hold out your hands to Our Lady and thank her with all your heart.  You raise your voice so that everyone will hear you, and you praise her for the grace she’s shown you. As you praise her, the tears stream down your face, and all the people, men as well as women, young and well as old, weep too. When you’ve finished thanking the Madonna, you wet your handkerchief, and wipe your tongue which is cracked and sore and bleeding and you dry your eyes.

It’s not only here that women lick the stones – they do it at Romitello and Tagliavia, too. We made other vows to the Madonna when I was young – this one didn’t become the custom till five years ago.”

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Alex Jones on August 28, 2014 at 09:11

    I miss your Chat reviews, but this is equally funny ๐Ÿ™‚


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