For centuries the people of Cocullo, a small town in the mountainous district of central Italy, have celebrated St.
For centuries the people of Cocullo, a small town in the mountainous district of central Italy, have celebrated St. Domenic Day with a display of locally caught snakes.
On the day before the first Thursday in May (this year 3 May), the "Serpari", snake catchers, scour the local countryside in search of a wide variety of reptiles, some venomous, others apparently harmless.
In the past, the reptiles were in the manufacture of medicines. Today, the majority of captured snakes wind-up as fashion aids in the form of expensive footwear.
After their capture the reptiles are kept in closed earthenware jars until the procession is about to begin. Then, when the statue of the Saint is brought form its shrine, it is wreathed in snakes. Remaining snakes are carried by hand in the procession.
For countless generations, the men of cocullo have been expert in the art of catching and handling snakes. Few are ever bitten and there has not been a snake-bite fatality in living memory.
This villagers regard reptiles as the symbol of evil and temptation.