'U Tiru
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  Versione Italiana



(for the studying and spreading of Andreolese culture)


From the late Latin Tirus, probably deriving from the Greek Therion with the meaning of wild animal, beast, poisonous snake.
The Tir - as recited by Pulci - having spotted the sorcerer/ he ensured he would not listen to his words/ by putting one ear on the ground/ and corking the other with his tail. (Loosely based translation).

In Asia Major it was known as one palm snake from which it was produced Tiriaca or Triaca, better known as Teriaca, Utriaca, Otriaca. In the province around Enna (in Sicily) a cute green lizard is locally known as Lacerta Virdis.
Teriaca, from the Greek Theriake, meaning antidote, is the primary rescue remedy that in very ancient times was used to fight venom especially the one injected by poisonous beasts. Giordano from Pisa must have been terrorised by this kind of monster although he would praise the beneficial effects of Traica: ‘The fine Utriaca, infallible towards all poisons of snakes, is made by a revolting snake called Tiro that is abundant in Holy Land and especially in Jericho. According to the legend Mitriade King of Ponto invented this famous antidote called originally Mitridato and was later perfected by Andromacus the Elder, doctor of Nero, who added to the recipe of Mitriade the flesh of viper as he was convinced it would have increased all virtues and strength. In time, the concoction underwent several adaptations: from the philosopher Avicenna who died in 1073 to Gio Battista Capello, pharmacist in Venice in 1751, the antidote was used for some eighteen centuries throughout most of the 1800s.

In Sant’Andrea nothing has ever been known of all these potions, scariduli and murgiulati (diuretics and murky mixtures) but the dread of the Tiru has remained: the invisible, terrifying monster, who would suddenly appear and gobble up children before disappearing into the darkest and deepest blackness. 
‘ I am frightened by these imaginary monsters’ - wrote D’Annunzio - that live in the dark and are ghosts impossible to capture’. We also were afraid; petrified by the continuous presence of the Tiru that would follow us everywhere especially when we would stray away from the village. 

This fantastic creature modelled on classic tales was the deterrent, albeit not always capable, to persuade us not to go too far from the inhabited centre, especially to the countryside to pilfer tangerines, lattughi, favi, ficazzani (lettuce, broad beans and figs) and whatever edible stuff we could find according to the seasons. At the end of the 1950s, children between the ages of six and twelve were in the hundreds, so many that was necessary to have double shifts at primary school. We would spend afternoons at the oratory between catechisms, football (soccer) pitch, recreation rooms etc.
During school vacations and with catechistic activities temporarily suspended, we would come together in small groups and wonder around with no specific purpose ‘e matina a sira (from morning to night). That year Ciccio (nickname for Francesco), with tears in his eyes, had regretfully deserted us to go to work in the Marchesato with his mother and sister to pick up sugar beet: although only twelve he was already working hard to earn his crust. 

In the summer we were mostly barefooted, some for choice while some simply because did not possess shoes. At night, the calcagni (heels) were so ‘ntajati (encrusted with filth) that no homemade soap (‘e casa) or lissia (laundry water) could be any use in revitalizing them. Because of the continuous attroppicara (tripping up) and hitting our bare toes against stones in the streets, our big toes were permanently scoppulati (peeled, pulped) and the underneath always infected with puss. When the toe became yellow and abbuttatu (swollen) with the substance, we would perciare (pierce) with a sciolessi thorn (a very pointed thorn from a locally grown bush) or with some very pointed aggeggiu (tool), we would press with our finger so to extract ‘a materia (puss) and then we would disinfect it by urinating on the injured toe. 

“If you cut yourself or get hurt, pisciatilu (piss on it) so ‘on ti chumpa!” (it won’t get infected). This was the suggestion given by our own mothers. 

Some of us had so many patches and colourful rinacci (mending stitches) that our carzi curti (shorts) had lost their original feature and some other of us, almost always without knickers, would wear shorts with a slit aru culu (on the backside) ready to cacara (shit) without bothering undressing. After emptying our tummy from the residues of our digestion we would clean our behind with whatever was at hand: grass, leaves, stones, small branches; on the outside loo of the houses sometimes you could find hanged on a nail few strips of newspaper cut in rectangles.

Always in the outdoor, entertaining ourselves playing a Fole’, a Carozza, aru Mastru, a Uno al Monte, ara Lepra, a Uassu Mastruazzu, a Zurru-Zurru, a Ppa’-Ppa’, ara Sgrozza, ara Mmuccia, aru Ligniaddhu, aru Strumbu, a Tagghjuali, ara Ndindula, ari Cciappi, ara Merca, a d’Animiaddhi, a Landjuddhi, a Figuriaddhi, ari Carti, ara Murra, aru Palloni, aru Ruaddhu. (All boys’ favourite games). The girls, always in separate groups, would play instead aru Permessu, ari Vici, a Cummari.

In the evenings we would listen to the sombre tales do’ Papalutu, do Lupuminariu, do’ Zinnapotamu, da Magara, do’ Lupupampinu, do’ Turruviu (all imaginary animals meant to scare children) with the intent of discouraging us to wander too much during the day.

‘U Tiru was described as a terrifying, horrible animal that popular superstition, would liken to a vicious beast similar to a huge sized snake with enormous fire red eyes and pointed, sharp teeth capable of crashing the hardest stones. The scary and dark tales the elders used to tell about this terrible animal were frightening. They used to say that its best trick was to suck a child from the ground from quite a distance within its enormous jaws before swallowing him without hope of escaping. 

‘U Tiru do Ferraru (a local neighbourhood) had selected as its den an old stone caseddha (rural country house) balanced on the trempa (precipice) do’ Vaddhuniaddhu (another local district); it was a small rural house with an arched low entrance, half buried in the ground and hidden behind enormous puddhicari undergrowth (local wild bushes). Occasionally a big stone would become detached from the main building and would roll down a track below that went to Macca (a local area). Tiresa ‘e Laguni (a local woman) would say that if you found big stones in the middle of the vijaulu (lane) it meant that the starving Tiru, had leaned out to check if there were any children to eat and when he could not stand hunger any longer he would roar alarmingly and would wonder frantically around the house as if it were crazy producing an acute hissing noise that would make “’ntanassara u sangu” (your blood curdle).

In the month of June, the pumiceddha (tiny apples that ripen in June) were at the vaju (ideal) of their crunchiness and flavour and Palulu (Paolo, Paul) da’ Surdiddha (nickname), who had a strip of land close to the monster’s den with several trees carrichi (loaded) of exquisite little apples made golden by the sun, when he spotted groups of young lads wandering around the area he would hide and would produce piercing, terrifying howls so to discourage them from bad thoughts as he was convinced that sooner or later those rascals would end up in his property to stuff their belly. Catharini (Caterina) ‘e Verza (nickname), who was ferruzzijandu (pottering) in her catuaiu (warehouse) and had heard the frightening shrieks, went out of the door in a haste and after having mentioned an enculu (list, inventory) of saints and souls together with merciful and beseeching prayers, said to the furracchijuni (scoundrels) waiting like cane da gucceria (dog waiting for the distraction of the butcher around the abattoirs) the disappearance of the master in order to flee with stolen goods: ‘Jativinda (go away, get lost), didn’t you hear the screaming of u Tiru? Do not venture in that lane ca vi tira (will suck you up) and vi mangia (will eat you). 

Of course, for that day no one dared crossing the security line, but the appointment with the pumiceddha (little apple) was just postponed.


The group of study ELPIS ZEROUNO


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