Categorized | Travel

The Mountain Lands of Sicily

Posted on 17 April 2012


Beyond the Catania city the mountains close in again, and the Barbagia ex­erts its ancient spell. High among the peaks eagles and hawks wheel and swing, planning over granite pinnacles. It is a landscape of austere, wild beauty, untameable and primitive, remote and yet high and open, not subject to the restrictions of an island. And of this strange, lofty region was born the weird, savage music of Sicily. A singing that is as wild and haunting as any sound on earth. Harsh and discordant, with a sadness of immeasurable depth, it is an expression of the strength, the endurance and the uniqueness of the Sicilian people.

These mountain lands are the ancient timeless heart of Sicily, the very core of the island, and recall the words of the psalm. In the late summer heat the landscape is bared to its primeval bones. The huge tortured rocks, those immense granite monsters scarred and battered by the searing gales, are exposed in all their towering strength; unique and fascinating monuments of Gallura.

The religious rites of the earliest settlers remain obscure. They ap­pear to have centred round sacred wells, and the tombs known as domus de janas, small rock chambers cut into great boulders and decorated with incised designs, such as the bull’s horns in the Elephant Rock near Castel Sardo. The tombe di giganti seem to have been tribal burial places, constructed in stone, often cut into the ground with a ramp leading to the burial chamber. Evidence that the pagan gods of mythology had been worshipped in many places on the island continual­ly comes to light. Below the Roman amphitheatre, in the Botanical Gardens of Cagliari, a large statue of Isis was found, and at Oliena, near Nuoro, a bronze statue of a male figure, wearing a flower wreath and surrounded by winged creatures, probably represents Aristaeus, the bee-keeper, who first introduced agriculture to the island. A vase of the 5th century B.C. with Punic inscriptions to Tanit was found in a temple dedicated to Venus Astarte at Nora, near Cagliari. Also at Nora the terrible sacrifice called mol’k, took place in a special sanc­tuary, the tophet. Here the first born of the aristocracy were sacrificed to the Divinity, who was the Absolute Mistress of all things.

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