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Key words
tarantism, ritual, South Italy, spider’s mythologem, dance, disease, folklore, religion
About the Author
E-mail: Tel.: +7 (495) 938-17-80
32а, Leninskiy av., Moscow, 119991, Russian Federation
PhD (Philology), senior researcher, Institute of Slavic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences
Tel.: + 7 (495) 939-51-19
1, Leninskie gory, Moscow, 119234, Russian Federation
Leading researcher, Institute of World Culture, Moscow State University

The object of the article is the phenomenon of tarantism (a form of hysteric syndrome, popularly believed to result from the bite of the spider of the species “Lycosa tarantula”), which existed in Southern Italy (the region of Apulia, the province of Salento) until the 60s of the 20th century. This phenomenon marked the beginning of the folk dance “tarantella”. The article analyzes this phenomenon, possible folklore sources and parallels in other cultures. Based on this analysis, a conclusion is drawn about the mythological nature of this tradition, which is characterized by researchers as “musical-choreographic-chromatic exorcism”. In connection with the key fi gure of the tarantula in this ritual, the spider’s mythologem is analyzed, which leads to a conclusion about the divine nature of the spider, its direct connection with life and death, with illness, and also with music and dances. Thus, the mythological symbolism of the spider turns out to be crucial in the occurrence of the ritual. Mythological image of St. Paul is also interesting in this context, he is of paramount importance for the development of tradition. The phenomenon of tarantism is considered in the diachronic aspect — f rom its development and attenuation to contamination with folk dances and, ultimately, to degeneration into a theatrical form.

As a result, the conclusion is drawn that the tradition has gradually shift ed from the sacred to the profane, and recently there has been a tendency to re-sacralization. Probably, this can be explained by the fact that the folk tradition needs the trochaic magic and mystical rituals


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