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Home » Cocullo’s Snake Festival

May 1st is upon us and once again, snakes will abound in the village of Cocullo nestled in the mountains of Abruzzo. This unusual festival is dedicated to Saint Dominic, the town’s patron saint.

cocullo-snake-festivalSaint Dominic was born in the province of Foligno in the year 951 and dedicated his life to Benedictine spirituality and the creation of monasteries and convents scattered between Lazio and Abruzzo. He is considered a protector of the dangers of nature and embodies the perfect mediation between the earthly world of dangers and the man forced to defend himself against them.

He lived in Cocullo for seven years and left one of his teeth and his mule’s horseshoe behind. On the morning of the festival the faithful pull a chain with their teeth to bring good health and then get in line in order to scoop up earth that’s been blessed so they can spread it in the fields to prevent future ills.

Meanwhile, in the main square a snake-handling crowd awaits the procession. The snake hunt by the locals begins as soon as the snow begins to melt at the first signs of spring. The serpents are kept alive in wooden boxes and fed mice and hard-boiled eggs until the day of the ceremony. They are not poisonous, thank goodness, and are freely handled by the enormous, enthusiastic crowd. After the festival, they are released, unharmed, back into their natural environment in the surrounding mountains.

cocullo-snake-festival-processionAfter the procession, the statue of the Saint is hoisted up on the shoulders of four men and topped with wriggling snakes as the crowd reaches out to touch it and appeal for protection.

It is a celebration that combines pagan customs and Christian tradition and although it may seem unusual, and at times creepy, it attracts a large number of people from all over. Cocullo’s locals enjoy a few moments of notoriety for this folklore attraction. It’s a deeply rooted, meaningful festival for all those who experience it.


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