Argia

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

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

In fact already its colors, the suit symbols of nature, have their significance; are a perspicuous warning: beware, they are lethal! The poison of malmignatta (Mediterranean black widow), is indeed very powerful, about fifteen times more powerful than that of the rattlesnake. Fortunately, however, the amount of toxin that can be injected when this spider bites, is definitely low; the fact remains that when the Argia or Arza or Ardza (these are his names in Sardinian) stings a victim, the consequences can be severe enough to bring down the victim in 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 it has the appearance of symptoms of toxic type General (malaise, sweating) accompanied by neurological disorders specific: violent pains that starting from the affected area radiating to the whole body and abdomen are particularly intense, so much so simulate an acute abdomen peritonitis, or it can be part of the most uneducated referring to colic or pangs of childbirth; visual disturbances; lively with anxiety depression, crying and feeling of death; later signs of mental confusion, restlessness and particular tendency to tremble and painful spasms of the lower limbs, such as to simulate sometimes dance movements or convulsive movements; neurodegenerative diseases such as sweating profusissima, congestion of the face, urinary retention and sometimes sexual excitement. "

However, with the nickname of Argia (in Sardinia), 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 the related poison, has nothing to envy to her cousins ​​yellow and black (as also in the consequences of his sting!). In certain areas of Sardinia, the FrumigArgia is feared and respected as the spider of which the beginning and it is sometimes identified with it in myth dell'Argia, because both demanded as traditional care to their sting, the use of a particular therapy .

Let's try to move ideally in the past ......, in one of those summers in sardines, which the entire community of a country collaborated, under the dust heat wave, the harvesting and threshing of grain; it is here, among the half-naked bodies, fatigue, sweat and bare feet of the peasants, who consumed the silent assault dell'Argia, upsetting, not only the poor and hard-working farmer, but breaking a 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 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 was elevated from small spider (albeit dangerous), to be capable of possessing the body and spirit of the hit that, as part of an community that feels in turn affected in its entirety, is to the rescue with this ritual of liberation.

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

As in ancient rites related to fertility (handed down almost to the present day), fear and impotence caused the need to exorcise the threats related to the supernatural, using spells that, without neglecting the original myth, you are then reshaped on new religious experiences.

After the rise of Christianity, the invocations protective and exorcisms against this dangerous enemy, the farmer or shepherd learned to fear as children, turned to God, to the Virgin Mary, the Saints who were still united to the ancient deities related Sun and the Moon.

The Argie, in the new culture, become evil and damned souls who, by the poisonous bite, transferring their pain in the affected individual.

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

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

As a consequence of the fact that the Argia was considered to be a female, the body exorcistic 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 the behavior of exorcising were not welcome to the being who possessed the patient. The success of the ritual was being ruled by a kind of dialogue with the spider, only at the end, allowed the possessed to be within the Community.

Particularly important was then the role of the player; he had to have a deep knowledge of typical dances of various regions of Sardinia and therefore was his first task to interpret painful spasms of the lower limbs of the hit as movements of a dance, which reproduced the rhythm, searching and playing music known that he had the same cadence, in a work of synchronization made with the accordion 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 this music was proposed, for the three days of the ritual, the same way, accompanying the bizarre dance the possessed 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 "his" Argia particular and, by its recognition, differed subsequent ritual: it was prey to a Argiabambina (pippia or Pizzinna), was rocked with traditional lullabies or improvised, that were not directed at 'sick but rather the entity that owned it, which was then invited to return to his childhood games and never to return.

Who was stung by a Argia-girlfriend, or married, or unmarried, or seduced (to wife, coiada, bagadia, cugliunada), was involved in a loving representation made ​​of love songs, search for partners, marriage and childbirth related symbolic ( prentoxia-in labor); a ritual, this, with a strong erotic content in which, thanks to the alibi of possession, could emerge behaviors excuse acts violating sexual taboos which bound the life of the country.

The victim of a 'widow-Argia (viuda), was mourned as dead instead, because 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 him back.

Were more static, finally, the figures of 'Argia-old or sick (Beccia or martura), who rejected the dance, were characterized by immobility and torpor and sick were cured with the ceremony of the home or by entering into a warm oven.

Even transvestism had its importance in these rituals identification / liberation / healing; all'Argiato were made ​​to try different costumes female, until, relieve the symptoms indicated that the dress worn resulted all'Argia acceptable because it corresponded to that of the country from which he came.

Exploration techniques also included the 'interrogation exorcism in which Argia manifested by the mouth of the possessed, openly declared his identity and origin, the reasons for its sentence 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 swing between the role of therapeutic exorcism and that of the party, including the exaltation of possession and appearance carnival, having to relate to the different orientations induced by the presence or not of a Christian component .

Over time have been given different interpretations to these rituals, myths linking perhaps distant in time and space; surely, despite having points of comparison with the Apulian tarantism linked to the cult of St. Paul, the 'argismo Sardinian was clearly differentiated, often devoid of the Christian roots and that he kept, especially in the central-eastern Sardinia, ancestral features and strongly pagan 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: those who believed it was the point ...., Was a member of a community that believed.

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

All the techniques of the ritual had a single purpose: to strengthen the feelings of belonging of the individual within the community. Using a unique rhythm, a single garment and role could be described 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, the community was activated taking care of the sick and reinstating him inside.

Mario Camboni


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