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The Nymph’s spring: the Genius Loci of Gratteri

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

According to ancient descriptions, in fact, Gratteri takes its name from some craters present on 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 one of the Grotta Grattara, from which the village would probably take its name. As the legend claims, in fact, in this fairy cave, lived and still lives today, a thousand-year-old woman, guardian of the cave, the Old Woman, who, according to the Author, must 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 god: 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, and has 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 children. 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 depicted naked in the stone by him, for revenge. 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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