Riti arborei - Rotonda

Arboreal Rituals

The sacred and the profane, along with man and nature, characterise the unique “marriages” which have been celebrated in Basilicata from time immemorial: those of a trunk, the “husband”, and a tree-top, the “bride”.

These arboreal rituals enshrine the traditional union between two trees, in an archaic hymn to the fertility of the land and to renewed life.

The "Maggio" in Accettura

Riti e Tradizioni

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.


Read more on Miti e Riti di Basilicata


"l'Mash-kr", The Masks of Tricarico

The masks of Tricarico, “l’Mash-kr” in local dialect, epitomise the "bull" and the "cow".

A wide-brimmed hat covered with a scarf and a veil, both white, decorated with multicoloured ribbons down to the ankles, is the "cow". A black headdress decorated with long red ribbons is the "Bull".

The main protagonists of the Tricarico carnival give rein to their cheerfulness on 17th January, on the occasion of Sant’Antonio Abate, and on the Sunday before Shrove Tuesday.

At the crack of dawn a dull and deafening sound wakes the population from their night slumber: it’s the bells, being rung loudly disguised figures announcing the start of the carnival celebrations.

The masks, operated by a "massaro" or "vaccaro" reach the church of Sant'Antonio Abate and from here the tour continues to the old town and the streets of the town, stopping at the historical districts of Rabatana, Saracen and Civita, in a procession that commemorates transhumance, seasonal migration of herds of animals.

Arranged in two rows, according to an ordered pattern, the mimic the gait of the beasts, until the "bulls" rise up, escaping the control of the "boss", and stage a mating with the "cows", a legacy of ancestral cultures, linked to fertility rituals.

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“U’ Masc'” in Pietrapertosa

Riti e Tradizioni

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 dynamic, colourful displays feature a procession of masked figures and floats created by young, local papier mâché craftsmen, who are custodians of this secular tradition, which move along the city streets.

The Montese Carnevalone and Carnival stand out for the stunning carnival processions and the considerable number of figures who process. The Carnevalone of Montescaglioso has its origins in the peasant world of tenant farmers, shepherds and farm workers.

The costumes are made every year from animal skin, canvas and jute, with plastic bags for the wheat seeds, paper, cardboard and fabric from old clothes. The Carnevalone is a large, elderly gentleman, wrapped in a black cloak with a large hat on his head, who parades through the town, riding a humble donkey, followed by a colourful procession. The distinctive masks and the carriers of the cowbells stand out amongst the group of figures along with Quaremma, the wife of Carnevalone, dressed in black with a newly born child in her arms. The newly born child is Carnevalicchio, who is born when Carnevalone dies on the bonfire.


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The "Horned" Masks Of Aliano

Every year on Shrove Tuesday, characteristic figures roam the streets of Aliano: they are the "horned" masks that enliven the carnival.

“They were jumping and shouting like maddened beasts,
drunk with their own hue and cry These were peasant masqueraders.

Carlo Levi also mentions “Fras” in his "Christ stopped at Eboli"; an improvised comedy, in dialectal form recounting facts and personages of the local area, whose bizarre horned masks are the protagonists.

They evoke demonic, clumsy creatures, whose threatening character is tempered by colourful hats that decorate their heads.

Forged from clay and papier-mâché, with the skilful work of the local craftsmen, the masks are painted and at the front there are pronounced horns and huge crooked noses. On top of the hats is a hole decorated with a rooster’s feather, while all around strands of coloured paper drop like curls.

The participants parade through the village moving to the sound of accordions and cupa cupa. Unique in their strangeness, the Aliano masks reflect a tradition that has remained unchanged over time.


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The "du’ Masc'" festival of Castelmezzano

Riti e Tradizioni

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

Riti e Tradizioni

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

Riti e Tradizioni

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.