La Biscia

Une fois n’est pas coutume, c’est dans le nord de l’île, plus précisément dans la partie orientale de la commune de Palasca, que se portera aujourd’hui notre regard sur le patrimoine oral. C’est sur ce territoire que se développe la legend de la Biscia, monstre semant terreur et désolation chez les habitants de la basse vallée d’Ostriconi depuis tes temps immémoriaux. Preuve que le myth est ancien et ancré dans les esprits, le linteau gravé de l’église pievane Santa Maria Assunta, de style roman, a fixé dans la pierre l’image que les populations locales du Moyen Âge se faisaient de la Bête.

Contenus

La Biscia

the Biscia Santa Maria Assunta

 

The ornate lintel of Santa Maria Assunta

L’histoire du serpent monstrueux émergeant des marais pour dévaster les campagnes et porter la mort sur les troupeaux et les bergers est en fait assez classique en Méditerranée. Parmi les exemples les plus connus, on mentionnera l’histoire de la Vouivre, mais aussi et surtout l’un des Douze Travaux d’Heraclès. Le héros, arrivé à Lerne, cité tapie au fond du golfe de Nauplie (Argolide, Greece), fut ici contraint de tuer l’Hydre, un terrifiant serpent aux multiples têtes dont l’haleine était mortelle pour qui la respirait. A la mort du basilic, le calme revint et la région put prospérer à nouveau.

These different tales are quite clearly interpretable. The alluvial plains of Corsica (Ostriconi, Liamone, Tàravu, etc.) are placed in direct contact with deep valleys and drain suspended silts in varying proportions depending on the season. During the summer, the flow of these rivers is considerably reduced, which no longer allows them to carry the product of the erosion they carry to the sea. Arrived in the plain, the rivers are slowed down by the modification of the dips.

This geomorphological stress is rebalanced by the principle of anastomosis, which causes the creation of numerous meanders and other loops, the shape and position of which are very sensitive to short-term changes in the climate. Abandoned beds participate in the formation of marshes and lagoons. Thus, the rivers lengthen their route by draining parts of the plain which were previously blocked. By taking a little height, the result of the anastomosis appears as a winding network whose multiple ramifications lead to the sea and the ponds.

Liamone

 

Aerial view of the lower Liamone valley. In yellow, current price; in red, old courses revealed by photo-interpretation

Symboliquement, la décroissance du débit des cours d’eau insulaire, qui s’amplifie de façon considérable à partir du mois de June, engendre donc le développement d’un tracé serpentiforme dont les multiples têtes sont les marres d’eau stagnantes. L’haleine fétide et nocive se déversant de la gueule de l’animal est dès lors interprétable comme l’odeur nauséabonde qui émane des étangs, mais surtout à la prolifération des moustiques porteurs du parasite plasmodium, vecteur de la malaria. On rappellera que ce fléau était encore d’actualité dans l’île dans les années 1940, avant que les marais ne soient traités chimiquement.

In this sense, the American soldiers who practiced this treatment therefore continued the work of Heracles who, to eradicate the problem of the hydra, stuck embers in his neck so that his heads did not grow back (metaphor of the hydra). drying up of the Argolida marshes during the Bronze Age?).

Beyond the undulating shape of the rivers in the dry season, the evocation of the serpent and its representation on the lintel of Santa Maria show, since Eve, the recovery by the Church of an older symbol of evil. crawling, in a region whose very name (Ostriconi evokes the production of marsh oysters) recalls the presence of larger ponds than those visible today (Cannuta and Foce ponds, between which stands Santa Maria). The holy dragon slayers, moreover often present near the mouths, are also there to perpetuate the image of Heracles.

Another testimony to the Christianization of the myth can be deduced from the fact that the Biscia did not leave its pond until the Sunday, to the sound of bells, to devour a loyal, that is to say three structuring elements of a completely Christian semantics which emerge from a probably recent version of the legend.

The story ends with the descent into the valley of the valiant Count of San Colombano, tutelary figure of the courageous knight of the post-medieval imagination of the region, as are Orlandu in Casta or Rinucciu in Alta Rocca. Determined to slay the monster, he himself rang the bells to dislodge it from the Cannuta swamp.

When Biscia arrived, he cut off her head with a single blow of the sword. Splashed by the blood of the beast, this new Heracles died shortly after her from an excess of pride, in a way punished by God for his arrogance. We can clearly guess here the subliminal propaganda instilled by the clergy to limit the influence of the lords, then accused of interference, on the parish organization.