Sicilians - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Christianity was introduced to the Island soon after the origin of the religion. Almost all Sicilians are Roman Catholic. Devotion to Mary in her maternal role is particularly strong, and she, as well as saints such as Joseph, Agatha, Anthony, Lucy, and Rosalia, are revered as intercessors. Many people engage in reciprocal exchange relations with these supernatural patrons, through vows that promise lighting of candles, participation in processions, or pilgrimages. Recently, Protestant denominations have been attracting converts.

Religious Practitioners. Roman Catholic priests are the major religious practitioners.

Ceremonies. Each town has a patron saint, whose feast day ( festa ) is considered the most important local holiday, the symbol of town identity. As migrants return from the north, markets or fairs are held and public entertainment is offered. On this date and for major church feast days, images of the sacred figures are taken out of the church and carried through the streets to the people in lengthy processions. On 19 March in many communities, women make elaborate altars of food in their homes to honor Saint Joseph.

Arts. Traditional Sicilian arts included puppetry and Peasant carts brightly painted with historic scenes. Itinerant story-tellers also kept themes of chivalry and honor alive. Sicily is known for its elaborate pastries and sweets, formerly made in some places by convent nuns. Women still embroider and make fine lace linens not only to dower their daughters, but also for sale. Noted Sicilian writers include Giovanni Verga, Luigi Pirandello, Giuseppe Tornasi di Lampedusa, and Leonardo Sciasela.

Medicine. Most Sicilians now have access to modern medical facilities. Folk healers may still be consulted by some People, often to supplement modern medicine.

Death and Afterlife. After death, the soul journeys to purgatory, and then to heaven or hell. In the funeral, the casket is carried through the town to the cemetery on a bed of rose petals. Periods of wearing black in mourning are rigidly prescribed by degree of relation to the deceased, and widows may wear mourning clothes for the rest of their lives as a symbol of family identity.

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