A Legend of Revenge

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An odd, yet popular decoration seen on terraces, garden balconies, topping gate-pillars, and sometimes as the base of lamps – as pictured here, are ceramic busts of kings, queens, and moors. The owners fill the majolica vases with flowers or other plants, or in this case, electricity. I’ve always found this to be creepy because, as you might have guessed, it represents a decapitated head. So, here’s the story of how this folk-art tradition originated: Legend is that a stunning young woman who lived in the Kalsa district of Palermo (the center of life during Arab domination of Sicily) each day carefully attended flowers on her balcony. A Moorish man took a liking to her, greeting and flirting with her each day as he passed on the street below. At first, the virtuous woman resisted, but eventually, she fell for the Moor and his charm, and the two became lovers. One day, however, the man confessed he had to leave Sicily to return to his homeland to care for his wife and children. Well, needless to say, this news was not well received, and during their final night together, while the Moor slept, the young woman took a sword … and well, the next day she made a vase out of his head, which she placed on her balcony. Her flowers never bloomed so vibrantly. Neighbors took notice, and they wanted their flowers to flourish beautifully as well, and so, the tradition of the ceramic bust was born.

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