Taranella, the legend and dance of the ancient spider

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    Taranella, the legend and dance of the ancient spider

    Mary Santangelo / Toni B [toni_b11156@yahoo.com] 

    The dance is about as old as humanity itself. We find evidence of this on cave walls of man adorning animal headpieces while dancing. It has carried itself over to modern times and although our reason for dancing may have changed, the desire for dance has never left us. Today there are many forms of dance that individuals practice both for pleasure and for spiritual awakening.

    One form of spiritual dance is called “trance dance”. Trance dance has been practiced for thousands of years and can be found in many lands. The reason for trance dance was to enter an altered state and commune with nature, the gods or to heal. Through trance dance, the dancer entered another world – a world between worlds and in this state was able to “see” things a bit more clearly. It was another form of prayer, probably one of the original ways man prayed.

    Trance dance is another name for spirit dancing. It was going within in order to reach the higher self. Each person is his or her own universe equipped with a co-creator inside. If we can reach this divine being within, then we can tap into something quite remarkable. However in order to do this, one must surrender to the spirit within. Meaning, you must surrender to the ego, and let spirit take over. Many are fearful to let go of the ego and the outer self because society tells us the ego is important. It isn’t. It gets in the way, and makes us separate from the rest of humanity. It denies us from being of service to each other and realizing that we all belong to the family of human.

    Every ethnic group has their own “dance”. To the Italians, it is the Tarantella. The Tarantella is a spirit dance. If you have ever been to an Italian wedding, it would not be complete without the Tarantella. It is one of the most popular dances can even be heard at non-ethnic weddings as well. It is a lively dance performed mainly by women with handkerchief in hand. I have seen many Italian women dance this, both young and old, and it does invoke the spirit of each woman.

    As with every legend, there is always more than one version, therefore the Tarantella has more than one story of creation. Here I will give the most popular version. It is said that during the 15 and 17the centuries the town of Taranto in southern Italy was stricken with an epidemic called tarantism. Apparently, the victims being bitten by the poisonous tarantula spider were only peasant women.

    Once the spiders choose its victim (the tarantata), the woman would enter a trance state. The only cure was for the tarantata to go into a wild dance. Both the tarantata and the musicians playing their guitars, mandolins and tambourines, would experiment on the beat of the music to find the proper rhythm. As the musicians played their tune, the tarantata would move with different gestures according to the music. Once the music was in sync with the gestures a cure was inevitable and the dancer was purified of all poisons.

    The word Tarantella itself means “little spider”. It was originally called pizzica tarantula – pizzica meaning bite, bite of the spider. Some refer this to the bite of love, a time when a woman represses her feelings and desires when she reaches puberty. I guess in the old days they didn’t think of taking cold showers. At any rate, in order to eradicate those repressed erotic desires, or release the feelings of unrequited love, abuse or depression, the women danced if off – again a dance of purification and release.

    In many parts of the world, including Greece, North Africa, Spain and Southern Italy, many women who experienced illness sought a cure through dance and music. We are no different today than our ancestors. Music does do wonders for the soul and trance dancing is another way to connect with the Stregha soul. It does not matter whether you are male or female, music touches all of us in different ways.

    Release yourself to music and let the ancient wind speak to you…



    All rights reserved, Mary Santangelo / Toni B [toni_b11156@yahoo.com]
    Forums at The Chalice and Serpent
    Yahoo! Group: Traditional Stregheria http://groups.yahoo.com/group/traditional_stregheria/ 
    Do not reproduce without written permission by the author.

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