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    Abhika Testa di Moro

    Significance and history of Sicilian Moorish heads

    The age-old story of the Palermitan "Moor's head" is not racist, but bloody. It was once about love, murder and gardening.

    The Moorish heads in Caltagirone ceramic are now a symbol of Sicily, but they have a very ancient and important history behind them, typical of a Sicily immersed in a magical atmosphere between ancient traditions, myths and legends that tell of thwarted loves, passions and jealousies.

    No – it is neither racist nor culinary to speak of a "Moor's head" (Testa di Moro) in Palermo. The history of the Moor's head begins in the 'Kalsa' shortly after the end of the Arab occupation of Sicily. At that time, the Kalsa was Palermo's district of the "rich and beautiful". The houses had large balconies, which were maintained with horticultural passion.

    One day, a young, good-looking "Moor" (so the highly esteemed (!) Arabs then called in Palermo) under the balcony of a Sicilian beauty. The two young people saw and fell in love at first sight.

    After days of passion, the young woman discovered that his wife and child were waiting for him in her lover's homeland. She realized that he was going to leave her forever and thought of revenge—bloody revenge. She waited until her lover had fallen asleep, fetched a sword, and unceremoniously decapitated him. So now she had the "Moor's head" as an eternal memory.

    Following her passion for gardening, she made a vase out of it and planted basil in it. It grew so splendidly that the neighbors became jealous. They immediately commissioned their potters to make vases in the shape of human heads, and so the balconies of the Kalsa were filled with one "Moor's head" after another.

    An ancient legend tells that around the year 1100, during the reign of the Moors in Sicily, in the district of Kalsa of Palermo*, "a beautiful girl with pink skin, comparable to peach blossoms, was at the height of her flowering. She had beautiful eyes that seemed to reflect the Gulf of Palermo".

    The girl was almost always at home and spent her days tending to the plants on her balcony. One day, a young black-skinned man found himself under her balcony. When he saw her, he immediately fell in love with her and decided to get her at any cost. In order not to waste time, he entered the girl's house without hesitation and immediately declared his love for her. The girl, enraptured by her ardent love, returned the young man's love.

    Her happiness seemed to disappear and sadness overcame her when she learned that her lover would soon leave her to return to the East, where a woman with two children was waiting for him. The girl felt deeply offended and wanted to take revenge on him. She waited for the evening and for him to fall asleep. Without hesitation, she killed him and cut off his head. She made a vase out of the young black-skinned man's head, in which she planted some basil, and placed it outside on the balcony. In this way, he, who could no longer run away, would stay with her forever.

    The basil* grew luxuriantly and aroused the envy of the neighbors. They believed that this was due to the shape of the flower pot and had pots made of terracotta in the shape of a dark brown head. Even today, on the Sicilian balconies you can see the heads of Moors, often called "Testa di Turco*", i.e. the Turk's head (which is a direct translation here and is not to be considered racism. Comments that accuse me of racism here will be deleted without reply!!). A nice warning to all husbands! And more relevant than ever.

    In fact, these richly decorated pots are still produced today in the small craft workshops. They are really beautiful and hand painted. However, such a piece of jewelry is not cheap, after all, it is handmade and therefore each pot is a unique piece.