The Marsi, Paeligni, and other Oscan-Umbrian peoples of central Italy worshipped Angitia as a goddess.
She was connected to snake-charmers in antiquity, who said she was their ancestor. Her Marsian importance has likely been obscured by Roman interpretations. The mythology about Angitia are diverse. Angitia was one of Aetes’ three daughters, along with Medea and Circe, two of the most well-known sorceresses in Greek mythology, according to Gnaeus Gellius (late 2nd century BC). Medea ended herself in Italy, where her son reigned over the Marsi, thanks to Circe’s use of transformation spells, as is well known from the Odyssey. Living close to the Fucine lake, Angitia was an expert at treating snakebites.
Since snakes were frequently connected to the healing arts in antiquity (see the rod of Asclepius, for example), Angitia is said to have primarily been a goddess of thaumaturgy. She was skilled in the art of miracle and herbal healing, especially when it came to treating snakebites. In the ancient world, witchcraft, magic, and medicine were all considered complimentary. She was said to possess a variety of skills over snakes, including the ability to instantly kill snakes with a touch.
The origins of the Festival of the snake-catchers in honor of Saint Dominic can be traced back to paganism and have roots in an ancient celebration in honor of the goddess Angitia.
Featured image: Terracotta statue believed to depict Angitia, in Marsica, Italy
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