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Destinations

The Nymph’s spring: the Genius Loci of Gratteri

The first stop- over to start your mysterious tour in the enchanting village of the Madonie, could be to find yourself in the Main Square where it is located today, in a small villa in front of the Mother Church, a stone shell that would probably contain the very history of the ancient village “of the craters”.

According to ancient descriptions, in fact, Gratteri takes its name from some craters present in its territory, formed by the perennial dripping of calcareous rocks that would form springs of purgative and restorative water: “oppidum a Cratere ob perennem stillantem aquam celebri dictum” (R.Pirri, Sicilia sacra…, Vol.II, p. 829, Palermo 1644).

This shell should certainly be linked to that of the Grotta Grattara, from which the village would probably take its name. As the legend claims, in fact, in this fairy tale cave, lived and still lives today, a thousand-year-old woman, guardian of the cave, the Old Woman, who, according to the Author, is to be linked to a primordial priestess who dispensed oracles through the spring of the Nymph, an indigenous Naiad ,guardian of the mountain waters.

In the past, in fact, all the traditional and sapiential cultures were animated by a sacral interpretation of the territory. The Greeks and the Romans for example, bound each place to a particular deity: the “Genius Loci“. Thus, every spring, every valley, every mountain had its own protective god, the spirit of that place, very often represented by Nymphs that lived in fountains, streams or the sea.

However, the myth of the Old Lady has been handed down over the centuries, turned today into another legend, the one of the ugly witch who would dwell in that Cave, to come down to the village on the last night of the year to distribute her gifts to the little ones. However, there is also a folk history, reported in the past by the two local historians, Scelsi and Ganci Battaglia.

Nymph was a girl from the village who, because of her refusal to correspond to the love of a local squire, was by him for revenge depicted naked in the stone. In fact, it is said that in the past this fountain was surmounted by a marble statue of a completely naked virgin that spurted water from her udders.

The young woman recognized herself completely naked and because of the strong shame and the rumors in the village she didn’t eat anymore until she let herself die. Then the statue above was mutilated with her head and consequently removed. (I. Scelsi, 1981; G.Ganci Battaglia, 1930).

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