A crocodile in the aisle
Fantastic animals. Where least one expect it to be, that’s where the crocodile is. Attached to the ceiling of what was once a grocery store of the historical food market Vucceria. Snout half open and two red light bulbs where the eyes once sat. An original way of attracting clients or a clever device to scare delinquents?
Various stories and poems date the animal back to the sixteenth century. The monster, the cuncutrigghiu, in Sicilian has uncertain origins.
Probably the animal was caught near the river ‘Papireto‘ in the city. The name ‘Papireto’ refers to papyrus. For years it hung in a nearby church. God knows why.
The reptile has recently been restored. It hangs in an art gallery, in the Vucceria. Light bulbs made place for LED.
Do you know the griffon? The legendary creature, tail and back legs of a lion and head and wings of an eagle? That is not the one that lived in Palermo. Mount Griffon hosted a colony of gyps. How they disappeared? Now that’s a sad story. To protect lambs and chicken from wolves, shepherds and farmers left poisoned meat laying around. Easy peasy. But the majestic birds feed on the carcasses of dead animals. Finding ready cut meat was too good to be true. Mid nineteen sixties the last birds died.
The idea of the Greek Cyclopes, the one-eyed giants, also comes from Sicily. But once again…
Sicily used to host elephants. Not imported by circuses or armies. They walked all the way from the African continent when the sea level was low, very low. Due to climatical and environmental issues, the animal suffered from insular dwarfism. Hence the baby elephants. They are long extinct. The Greek living in Sicily found some skeleton. A big hole right in the centre of the skull was believed a socket. And there you have it: the birth of Cyclopes myth.
A fantastic beetle
Wondering on Monte Pellegrino, a question came to G. E. Hutchinson’s mind. “Why are there so many kinds of animals?“. I seem to remember asking me that same question while having a picnic in the park. He was a zoologist and limnologist. He wrote a leading paper on the subject, I refuse to have lunch sitting in the grass any longer.
With this question he upset the so-called ‘competitive exclusion principle’. Two similar animal can live together he concluded. An ecological earthquake.
The genie and the snake
One of Palermo’s oldest protectors is the Genie. He outdates Christianity and even Roman deities. The exact origins are still discussed.
With some diligence you will find several statues and representations in the city. All of them feature the Genie nurturing a snake. The snake unites water and earth, rebirth and renewal.
The latin words: ‘Panormus conca aurea suos devorat alienos nutrit’? Palermo golden basin devours his own (inhabitants) and nurtures foreigners. And interesting point of view we’ll get in to soon