The "Maggio" in Accettura

Arboreal rites

Accettura is “the” symbolic town of the “marriages of the trees” that are celebrated in Basilicata. These are ancestral and propitiatory rites, in which a trunk (Maggio) and a tree top (Cima)—the “groom” and “bride”—are joined together and lifted up to the skies in a symbolic union.

The spotlight is on the Maggio Festival in Accettura from Pentecost Sunday, when the future bride and groom begin their journey toward the town square; but the whole event takes place every year from the Octave of Easter to the Sunday of Corpus Christi, and is dedicated to the Patron Saint, San Giuliano.

The selection of the two plants that are “tied” together in matrimony takes place in the first and second Sunday after Easter respectively. The husband, the ‘Maggio’ is a large Turkey oak that originates from Montepiano Woods, felled on Ascension Day. The bride, the ‘Cima’, is a holly plant from the Gallipoli Cognato forest. As in most traditional weddings, before joining together in matrimony, the future “spouses” proceed separately in Largo San Vito, accompanied by their respective entourages: “maggiaioli” and “cimaioli”.

The two processions proceed slowly, to the rhythm of music, songs, and dances, with breaks for refreshments – good wines and typical products. The carrying of the Maggio and the Cima is a moment of extraordinary theatricality, accompanied by cries of encouragement and shows of physical strength.


Once they reach the Amphitheatre, in Largo San Vito, the wedding ceremony is complete: the Cima is joined with the Maggio and together they are raised up. Meanwhile, the procession of the Patron Saint, San Giuliano, continues.


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“U’ Masc'” in Pietrapertosa

Arboreal rites

The “marriage” between a Turkey oak and a tree-top, which takes place in this beautiful town in the Basilicata Dolomites, is one of the tree rituals that has been celebrated for centuries in the region.

The “U’ Masc'” festival in Pietrapertosa coincides with the celebrations in honour of Sant’Antonio on 13th June, and the ritual ends on the following weekend. The two trees are chosen and cut a few days before the feast, in the woods of Montepiano, right in the heart of the Park of Gallipoli Cognato.

Here, the “massari” (farmers) await the first light of dawn, when the “groom” and “bride”, carried by pairs of animals (paricchij), begin their long march. The evocative “union” of the plants takes place in front of the bell Tower of the Convent of San Francesco.

The event takes place before the crowd, which waits apprehensively for the raising up and the spectacular tree-climbing by a “maggiaiolo”, who, clinging to one of the ropes used to raise up the Maggio, climbs up to the top filled with prizes, moving and dancing to the rhythm of the music with his head down.

Over the next few days, the Maggio is cut down and demolished loudly on the street.



The "du’ Masc'" festival of Castelmezzano

Arboreal rites

Castelmezzano is one of the Basilicata municipalities that celebrates the ancestral tree ritual consisting of a real “marriage” between plants: a trunk and a tree-top.

Every year, on 12th and 13th September, coinciding with the celebrations in honour of Sant’Antonio, a stout Turkey oak trunk, “the bridegroom”, also known as the “Maggio”, is chosen from among the woods of the regional park of Gallipoli Cognato and Piccole Dolomiti Lucane and pruned by local woodsmen, before being dragged by pairs of oxen up to the centre of the town.

At the same time, while improvised dances and banquets take place in the woods, a similar ritual occurs with the top of a holly tree, “the bride” or Cima. Once they reach the square in Castelmezzano, the two meet and are placed on top of each other, then raised up to almost touch the sky, under the sweet and approving ‘gaze’ of Sant’Antonio of Padua and the whole town.

After the mutual “I do”, the Maggio is ready to be scaled in order to win the symbolic prizes.



“L’a Pitu e la Rocca” in Viggianello

Arboreal rites

This ritual of pagan origin, which over the course of time has combined with Christian tradition, is held annually in Viggianello; it is an event not to be missed, due to the solemnity of the occasion that sets it apart.

The arboreal rite is repeated three times a year in three different locations in the town: in the first week after Easter in the newest part of the Pedali district, and in the last week of August in the old town, where the celebrations coincide with religious services in honour of the Patron Saint, St. Francis of Paola. During the second weekend of September the “marriage” between the two plants takes place in Zarafa, in the name of the Madonna del Soccorso (Our Lady of Salvation).

Spectators who are lucky enough to be in these places when the events take place have the opportunity to attend an ancestral rite, during which a beech tree or Turkey oak, ““l’a’ pitu”, and a fir tree, the “rocca”, are chosen and cut down in the woods the Pollino National Park and then transported by robust animals in a procession that winds through the streets of the territory of Viggianello.

As in all other arboreal rites of Basilicata, also in this case the most intense moment is the union of the two plants, a symbol of the celebration of nature and its indissoluble mysteries.


A Pit’ in Terranova di Pollino

Arboreal rites

This is one of eight arboreal rites of Basilicata which are renewed among the regional park of Gallipoli Cognato and the Pollino National Park, among the sacred and the profane.

Unlike the others, that of Terranova di Pollino does not celebrate the “marriage” of the trees. It remains faithful to the script during the process of tree cutting, with the highest and straightest fir tree being cut down in the days before the festival, in the town of Cugno d’Acero. This is then transported on the shoulders of local men with the help of strong bullocks.

This extraordinary ancestral ritual coincides with the feast of Sant’Antonio of Padua on 13th June, and in the afternoon of the same day, after the religious celebrations, the majestic fir—”a pit”—already pruned, is raised up and then climbed by brave men.

In the background of the various stages of the ritual of Terranova di Pollino are dances and folk songs that resonate in every corner of the town.


The “‘ndenna” and the “cunocchia” of Castelsaraceno

Arboreal rites

The “Marriage of the trees”, in Basilicata, is also celebrated in Castelsaraceno during the first three Sundays in June, on the occasion of the feast of Sant’Antonio.

The “‘ndenna” and the “cunocchia”, a beech tree trunk and the top of a pine tree, “meet” for the first time on the third Sunday in June, when their marriage is enshrined in front of a few “witnesses”, as a symbol of the intimacy of the moment.

The first Sunday in June is the day of the “Antenna”, when men drive their tractors toward Favino, at the foot of the Alps in the Pollino National Park, and find the most beautiful beech tree, before cutting it down with by chainsaws.

Equal honour is given to the “Cunocchia”; in the midst of songs, dances and lavish lunches, it is chosen and cut on the second Sunday in June on Mount Armizzone. In both instances, lots are cast to decide who will have the honour of carrying the “groom” and “bride”, respectively, before the Saint.

Then, on the third Sunday of June, in the square of Sant’Antonio, the sacred and the profane come together in the magic of faith. Through strenuous and fascinating maneuvers, the tree-top is placed on top of the beech. Standing straight, the “’Ndenna” appears as a giant emerging from the ground.

The tree, cut down on the Feast of the Mountain—another interesting event celebrated in Castelsaraceno—goes to who wins when the lots are cast!




“L’a’ Pitu e la Rocca” in Rotonda

Arboreal rites

Every year from 8th to 13th June the people of Rotonda celebrate the unique marriage “of the trees”, one of the most impressive arboreal rites in Basilicata, linked to an ancestral Lucanian tradition.

The “bride” (the “rocca”), and the “bridegroom” (the “l’a’ pitu”) are a fir and a beech, one uprooted from the woods of Terranova di Pollino, the other from Piano Pedarreto, among the beautiful scenery of the Pollino National Park.

In the days that follow, just as as a bride and groom would, the plants “meet”, and on their “wedding day”, as in most of the Basilicata arboreal rites, the secular festival merges with the sacred, with the procession of the Saint, Sant’Antonio, through the streets of the town.

Singing, dancing, and good food enliven the ritual, just as in any self-respecting “wedding”.


The Maggio in Oliveto

Arboreal rites

Solemnity and joy are the leitmotif of the arboreal rite of Oliveto Lucano, which is celebrated from 10th to 12th August each year, among the sacred and the profane.

The two “spouses”, the Turkey oak (‘maggio’) and the holly tree-top (‘cima’), are chosen from among the most beautiful and lush plants in the forest of Gallipoli Cognato. One is usually cut on the first Sunday of August, while the other is selected and cut on 10th August.

Their first meeting takes place at Piano Torcigliano, down from Monte Croccia, and the future “bride” (the Cima) is led on an eight-kilometre journey by very fit young people who punctuate the tiring journey with dancing, singing and frugal banquets, accompanied by lots of good local wine.

The same ritual is carried out for transporting the Maggio, which used to be carried by pairs of oxen, as still happens in most tree rituals in Basilicata; however nowadays it is transported on tractors.

Meanwhile in “via del Maggio” everything is ready; this is where the tree-top is united with the Turkey oak, symbolising the propitiatory meaning of fecundity and fertility that envelops the rite.

The long-awaited moment of the union takes place under the gaze of san Rocco, the celebration of which coincides with the “marriage”, in an atmosphere of heightened spirituality that confirms that the Saint is venerated equally as much as the patron saint of the town, San Cripriano.