Argia

A few years ago, the local press, the news appeared that the black widow, the infamous poisonous spider that was believed extinct for decades, enjoyed excellent health and instead is quietly reproduced in the Sardinian countryside.

Why so much interest in a spider a few millimeters in size, with a protruding abdomen glossy black dotted with red spots?

In fact, its colors already in the silent symbols of nature, have their significance; are a perspicuous warning: beware, they are lethal! The venom of Malmignatta (Latrodectus tredecimguttatus), is in fact quite powerful, about fifteen times more powerful than that of the rattlesnake. Fortunately, however, the amount of toxin that this spider can inject when biting, is definitely low; the fact remains that when the Argia or Arza or Ardza (these are his titles in Sardinian) stings a victim, the consequences can be so serious as to fall victim to seizures and altered consciousness. Jervis writes: ".. the bite can not be felt, or be neglected, which facilitates the identification of the cause of non-interference. A few minutes from the bite itself has the appearance of a toxic type of general symptoms (malaise, sweating) accompanied by specific neurological disorders: violent pain that starts from the affected area to radiate throughout the body and is particularly intense in the abdomen, so as to simulate an acute abdomen peritonitis, or it can be part of the most uneducated labor pains or colic related to childbirth; visual disturbances; lively with anxiety depression, crying and feeling of death; following signs of mental confusion, restlessness and particular tendency to tremor and painful spasms of the lower limbs, such as to simulate sometimes dance movements or convulsive movements; profusissima neurodegenerative diseases such as sweating, facial congestion, urinary retention, and sometimes sexual excitement. "

However, with the name of Argia (in Sardinia), it is also meant another arthropod: the Mutilla, a small solitary wasp, carnivorous, wingless, conspicuously colored, which can be seen wandering around the anthills in search of victims. Equipped with a sting of five millimeters and of its poison, it has nothing to envy to her cousins ​​yellow and black (as well as the consequences of its sting!). In certain areas of Sardinia, the FrumigArgia is feared and respected as the spider at the beginning and which is sometimes identified with it in the myth dell'Argia, because both required, as traditional care to their sting, the use of a particular therapy .

Let's try to move in the past ...... ideally, in one of those summers in Sardinia, which the entire community of a country collaborated, under the dust heat wave, the harvesting and threshing of the grain; it is here, among the half-naked bodies, tiredness, sweat and bare feet of peasants who consumed the silent assault dell'Argia, upsetting, not only the poor and industrious farmer, but a shattering moment of communion and collaboration from which depended on the survival of the entire community. E 'in this context, I believe that the Argia has made ​​the leap, becoming a myth to solicit special rituals practiced until the '60s of the last century and that now remain in the social and cultural memory of Sardinia.

In a cultural context in which primitive supernatural entities regulated and dominated the life of the community, Argia has been elevated by small spider (albeit dangerous), to be capable to possess the body and the spirit of the hit that, as part of a community that feels itself struck in its entirety, is to the rescue with this ritual of liberation.

It seems that, in the popular imagination, the Deity-Spider, occupied a prominent place among the dangers real or imaginary who threatened our ancestors, as if, in addition to painfully hit the body of the victim, could also tormentarne ' soul.

As in ancient rituals related to fertility (handed down almost to the present day), fear and helplessness caused the need to exorcise the threats related to the supernatural, by means of incantations that, without neglecting the original myth, you are then reshaped on new religious experiences.

After the rise of Christianity, the protective invocations and incantations against this dangerous enemy, the farmer or the shepherd learned to fear since childhood, turned to God, the Virgin Mary, the Saints who were nonetheless united with the ancient gods linked to the Sun and the Moon.

The Argie, in the new culture, they become evil and damned souls who, through the poisonous bite, they transfer their pain in the affected person.

The Argia, which presence and threat to the community, it was always a female who could belong to different types of class and status, often also came from another village therefore foreign to the social life in which he insinuated (istrangia). Conversely, mostly male was the case histories of the cases of possession.

The liberation was an exorcism ritual aimed at identifying the characteristics dell'Argia guilty. This ritual included the performance of music, song, costumes and interrogation in the presence of the community, involved in the carnival dances and jokes, for a period of three days; ended when the parasite, now unmasked, abandoning their victim.

As a consequence of the fact that Argia was considered to be a female, the body exorcism included the presence and participation of women only (three or seven), while the only male figure was that of the player.

The group intervened with different methods in order to explore the Argiato since when music, sounds or behavior of exorcising were not welcome being who possessed the sick. The success of the ritual was decreed by a sort of dialogue with the spider, but in the end, allowed the held to fall within the Community's sphere.

Particularly important was the role of the player then; he had to have a deep knowledge of the typical dances of various regions of Sardinia and his first task was therefore to interpret the painful spasms of the lower limbs such as the movements of a dance hit, which reproduced the rhythm, researching and producing the music that he had known the same cadence, in a work of synchronization achieved by the organ or launeddas.

If these sounds were typical of a country or territory different, this was identified by the popular interpretation, as the area of ​​origin dell'Argia and the music was proposed, for the three days of the ritual, in the same way, accompanying the bizarre dance Holdings dancing alone or supported by other dancers.

The music was essential also in the characterization of the state civil dell'Argia.

Who was possessed dancing and personified the "his" and Argia particular, its recognition, the resulting ritual differed: it was gripped by a Argiabambina (pippia or Pizzinna), was rocked with traditional lullabies or improvised, that were not addressed to 'sick, but rather the entity that possessed him, which was then invited to return to his childish games and never to return.

Those who came from a point-Argia girlfriend, or married, or unmarried, or seduced (to wife, coiada, bagadia, cugliunada), was involved in a representation made ​​to love songs of love, partner, marriage and childbirth related symbolic ( prentoxia-parturient); a ritual, this, with a strong erotic content in which, with the alibi of possession, they could act out behaviors pretext to violate the sexual taboos that bind the life of the country.

The victim of a 'widow-Argia (viuda), was mourned as dead instead, as the parasite required an interpretation of grief and tears to one's spouse, preparatory to the next ritual of rebirth that was intended to bring it back to life.

Were more static, finally, the figures of 'Argia-old or sick (or Beccia martura), who refused to dance, were characterized by immobility and torpor and the patient was treated with the ceremony of the home or entry into a warm oven.

Even cross-dressing had its importance in these rituals of identification / release / healing; all'Argiato were made ​​to try different women's costumes, until, relieve the symptoms indicated that the dress worn resulted welcome all'Argia because it corresponded to that of the country from which he came.

The exploration techniques also included the 'interrogation of exorcism in which Argia manifested by the mouth of the possessed, openly declared his identity and origin, the reasons for his punishment and esternava his claims. This phase concluded the three-day ritual, molded on the actual physiological duration of the poisoning.

It is important to note how the ritual symbolism described above, can oscillate between the role of exorcism therapeutic and that of the party, between the exaltation of possession and the look carnival, having to relate to the different orientations induced by the presence or absence of a component Christian .

Over time, many interpretations have been given to these rituals, myths linking perhaps distant in time and space; certainly, despite having points of comparison with the Apulian tarantism linked to the cult of St. Paul 's argismo Sardinian was clearly differentiated, often devoid of Christian roots and that he kept, especially in the central eastern Sardinia, features and ancestral pagan strongly with uproar, pantomime , orgiastic rituals, in apparent contradiction with the function and symbolism of healing.

In addition to the concreteness of the poisoning, the myth that had developed sull'Argia did not correspond to any objective reality, even if it did not matter: who was the point .... he believed, was a member of a community that believed it.

The Argia fell nell'atavico system of supernatural beings, guardian spirits or evil, magical animals that permeated daily life and ritual that required that, in addition to helping the contact with the divine, established a harmonization between the individual he performed the rites , and the social sphere in which he acted. Possession Argiatica in fact, created a state in which the patient spoke with and through the Argia, while the people who attended, it was allowed to have a direct relationship and a dialogue with the deity Possessor.

All of the techniques of the ritual had a single purpose: to strengthen the feeling of belonging to the individual within the community. By means of a single pace, and as a single role, it constituted a pattern of behavior consistent in every detail, in other words, you realized the transition from chaos to 'order in which, in a context of strong social relations, the community was activated caring for the sick and reinstating him inside.

Mario Camboni


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