Sicilian Cunningcraft: Testa di Moro  September, 2023

Sicilian Cunningcraft: Testa di Moro September, 2023

During my recent trip to the Island of Sicily, I became obsessed with something called the Testa di Moro or the Head of the Moor.  All over the Island, you find two beautiful ceramic “heads”; one of a man and one of a woman, and they are usually planters of some kind.  They are colorful and intricate works of art! The Testa di Moro are literally everywhere.  On buildings, depicted in art, as magnets and they are also at every tourist store, beginning at the airport.

I needed to know more.

I learned that there are two legends regarding this pair of star crossed lovers.  And lovers they were, that is the one fact that appears in both tales.

The first story or folktale, tells of a beautiful young girl living in a village near Palermo and every day she attends to her plants on her balcony.  One day a handsome Moor came to her village, saw her, became enamored and professed his love for her, which she reciprocated.  After a time, it came to pass that the young Moor was to return to his homeland - to his wife and children.  The young woman was of course heart broken and plotted her revenge.  Her plan? Well, as you may have guessed it, she decapitated him while he slept and used his head as a planter. 

Sicilian women and guns!  

I digress.

The head became a vase, where she planted Basil.  A plant linked to the divine and usually associated with sacredness.  After that people noticed that her basil grew almost magickally and her plant became the envy of her village.  People started to enlist the local artisans to craft some pots of clay with the same shape. It is said that your plants will flourish when using the Testa di Moro.

That version did not explain how she lost her head.  Therefore, after further research, I discovered a more “plausible” story.  

It begins much the same, a beautiful young Sicilian girl - this time she is of nobility.  She falls in love with a young Moor.  You can see where this is going, no? Tale as old as time.  Rich girl and the boy from the wrong side of the tracks.  It’s Pretty in Pink in the 1100’s.  So, they are clearly NOT meant to be in love.  Their families would never approve.  Yadda, Yadda, Yadda…

Sound familiar?? 

This story seems to fit the depictions of the ceramic heads today. When looking at the pairs of heads, it's clear that they are an interracial couple. Whether that is evident by the facial features or by the outright difference in the color of their skin.  

Back to our couple. Since no good ever comes from sneaking around because they find out, they always find out.  The ‘power that be’ did find out and they were both decapitated.  Their heads were put on display as a gruesome ‘reminder’ to the village at the time.

Yep, dark.

I wondered, was this the origin story of Romeo and Juliet? Did Shakesphere make it more palatable? 

Also I thought about the magickal implications of utilizing these “heads” in your magick practice.  I often look to the ‘folktales’ of a particular area, as it gives you great insight into magickal practices.   Protection, love and herbal magick all seem to have a stake in energetically using the Testa di Moro as a tool in your witchcraft practice.  I can see using one of these planters for a protection ward for your entrance or in Love magick workings.  It has endless possibilities.  

Let me know how YOU think you could use the Testa di Moro in your practice.  I will let you know how it goes, as I have of course brought my own beloved versions of these star crossed lovers home for just that purpose! 

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