Tarantina Taran

Tarantina Taran

The femminielli are a traditional and ancient figure, whose presence is attested in Naples already in sources of the sixteenth century, but probably dates back much earlier. A figure of a man characterized by markedly feminine attitudes, often by transvestism, and that in folklore has an almost sacred connotation, as a hermaphrodite of ancient Rome or Greece.  In Naples, according to tradition, the femminiello brings good luck: he is made to hold a newborn child in his arms to transmit positive energies and it is always him who throws the numbers in the traditional game of tombola. It is a character present in literature, in theater, but also in religious tradition: every year, on February 2nd, there is the famous pilgrimage of men “who live and feel like women” to the sanctuary of the Madonna of Montevergine, near Avellino. Today the word femminiello is lost in a more modern categorization: in Neapolitan dialect the word remains, but it is often used to define, sometimes in a derogatory sense, sometimes ironically, a homosexual or a transsexual. Its original essence has been dispersed and many traditions and rituals are in danger of disappearing. It is no coincidence that in Naples was born AFAN, Associazione Femmenell Antiche Napoletane, which aims to preserve the historical memory of this figure.

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