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The Spider Dance

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Based on an ethnographic research among contemporary Pagan communities in Southern Italy (Salento, Apulia), The Spider Dance challenges ideas of historicity, healing, place-making and the experience of time among persons engaged in reviving, continuing, or re-creating traditional Pagan practices. The Spider Dance looks at a specific Pagan group, the sisters of the cerchio (circle), and their ritual practice and interpretation of the traditional dance and music called pizzica. Pizzica, both in the history of Salento and in the scholarly tradition that studied it, is associated with tarantismo, a phenomenon present in that area for centuries and attested until the 1980s. Affecting mostly (but not only) women, tarantismo has been described in the form of malaise and physical suffering—sometimes also as a form of “possession”—thought to be provoked by the bite of tarantula spiders, and cured with pizzica music and dance. At the turn of the century tarantismo disappeared and new forms, called neotarantismi, emerged. Not specifically linked to suffering and healing anymore, they have been interpreted mainly as forms of identity politics. The Spider Dance describes a novel “spiritual” form of neotarantismo, whose relevance is not limited to a description of the cerchio and their Pagan practices. It also makes some key practical and theoretical contributions to the study of contemporary religions, of “historicities,” and to scholarly debates around “well-being,” in Italy and abroad.

Published: Jul 1, 2024


Section Chapter Authors
Introduction Giovanna Parmigiani
Chapter 1
The Fool Giovanna Parmigiani
Chapter 2
The Magician Giovanna Parmigiani
Chapter 3
The High Priestess Giovanna Parmigiani
Chapter 4
Justice Giovanna Parmigiani
Chapter 5
The World Giovanna Parmigiani
Conclusions Giovanna Parmigiani