Older than Easter

The tiny village we live in on the slopes of the Alpi Apuane keeps traditional customs.  One of them is the Easter Procession on Good Friday evening, when the figure of Jesus is taken from the church and driven along the road, accompanied by music, to the grotto just above our house in the olive grove, where the priests say a mass.

In the grotto is the Madonna of the Rock, a female figure with a halo of stars, her hand raised to bless.  She reminds me of figures of the Goddess found by archaeologists dating back tens of thousands of years. This one is Celtic - found in Scotland recently.

The shrine of our 'Madonna of the Rock' is kept stocked with flowers and candles all the time by the women of the village. This veneration of the sacred female figure is obviously older than Christianity - the paths here date back to the Etruscans and the siting of the shrine - outside the village on a prominent viewpoint - seems significant.  I'm not religious, but seeing her shrine lit up in the middle of the night, and the perfume from the lilies and stocks placed in it, gives me the strangest feelings of connection with something older and more primitive.

The route of the procession is lined with lights and twelve crosses erected by the side of the road.

Since Easter has a lot to do with fertility rites, it seems fitting that someone has sprayed a love message on the road beside the grotto - 'Amore, ti amo' - Beloved, I love you.


  1. Of course the Church learned from the success of the Roman religion, appropriating the rituals of what went before.
    The nice thing about that is the hints we get of truly ancient beliefs.


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