Art and culture

Tales of the cat witch

April 29, 2011

Today we see the “masche” [witches] on television. Once upon a time when there was no television, the people believed there were witches. And now they are no longer. Once they had books and with books they could show any kind of pretext, they could play any kind of “désdesi” (trick).

For those who lived in the Sucòt farmhouse, a farmhouse not far from here, the witches of the night even came to steal away children from their beds. A cat would arrive and with its paw it took hold of the swaddling cloths and carried away the child. Once the head of the family thought to himself: “Now I want to stay and see what happens”. The next night, he took care, he armed himself with a hatchet and he kept his eyes wide open. At a certain point he saw a cat coming near the bed who was trying to carry away the child, lying between them, with its paw. The man struck with the hatchet and cut off the paw. When he went to pick up the paw he saw that it was instead a hand. He said “I would like to know whose hand this is”. He needed to settle some accounts with his mistress and so he went to settle them.

His mistress had her right hand hidden in her clothing. He said to her “And why is it that you are not using your right hand, but the other one? ” – “It is hurting me” his mistress replied. “It is hurting you? But of course it is hurting you. Try using the other one, if you are capable!”. It was his mistress. The witch was his own mistress. He gave it a blow and struck off the hand. And so she was paid. She never again went to steal away the children.

There was a man who was having trouble dying, he was old, but dying he was not dying. They went to the parish priest and they asked him, “Dying he does not die, he is always saying that he wants to leave something behind, but one doesn’t understand what”. “What can we do then, what can we tell him?”. And the priest went and said to him “The belongings that you have, leave them to the fig tree. There is a big fig tree and this inheritance is good for it”. His sons didn’t want it, they did not want that inheritance. The priest went away and he left his inheritance to the fig tree which then fell to bits.

My father once went to the mill in Cossano. When he went down he saw his mistress in the middle of the road, then, going up, she was no longer there, but instead there was a turkey-hen doing cartwheels in the middle of the road. “Where did you go, handsome youth? Take care to have a good trip” it said to him.

Marietta – Maria, 96 years old (Loc. Piave – Fraction of S. Donato di Mango).

Based on: D. Bosca, B. Murialdo, L. Carbone – Racconti di Masche [Witch Tales] – Famija Albeisa 1979

Photo by Bruno Murialdo (