Teste di Moro: A Legend of Love, Passion, Treason and Decapitation aka The Sicilian “Romeo & Juliet”
A Moor and a Sicula (Sicilian lady) fall in madly love and the story ends with his head on a vase…There are many legends and tales as part of the whole island’s heritage. The Sicilian answer to “Romeo & Juliet”:
All over Catania (and the rest of the island), Walking through the streets, you might notice many balconies enriched by the “Teste di Moro” (Moor’s Head), known also as “Graste” in Sicilian. Their origin comes from the millennial tradition of working with artistic ceramics and these works date back to ancient legends; Actually a shitload of them. We will focus on one for now.
It starts around the year 1000, in the Golden Era of Arab domination in Sicily. A young Sicilian girl used to take care of her balcony full of plants and flowers daily. Legend has it that her love and care of her plants enabled her to gain a beauty out of the ordinary, which was the beginning of a passionate and overwhelming love with a young Moor.
It was love at first sight. A love so intense that just kept growing exponentially with every day that went by.
One day the young girl discovered a secret about her beloved: the man had left a wife and two children in his country in Middle East and sooner or later he would have to go back. She was then hit by a furious spell of jealousy at the thought of losing him and the secret had certainly disappointed and irritated her. One night, while the lover was sleeping, she decided to do something to prevent him from returning home: she cut off his head, so that she could have him by her side forever!
The Moor’s severed head became a vase in which the sicilian sweetheart put a bud of Basil, and exposed it on her balcony … the neighborhood was doused in a such intense scent of basil, never smelt before!
There are many variants of this story from almost every city in Sicily but this is my favorite. oh, guess what? They all finish the same way: A dead head in vase, pretty much always the Moor’s head.
…Therefore young men, with this little story you will surely remember one thing in your stay in Sicily: never cheat on a young Sicilian girl!(or any girl for that matter)
And be wary of “Teste di Moro” with basil in it.
N.B: The Moor’s Head happens to be part of many flags including that of Sardinia. Read more on wikipedia about it