Magic has always fascinated human beings. They are afraid of it, but at the same time they can't resist it. It's not rare to run into the old popular wisdom that dictates that through spells and prayers it is possible to heal, to ward off or to cast the evil eye, that is to say the so called "affascino". Massafra, for example, has built a fame on this popular tradition and for this reason it's called "terra dei masciari" (the land of sorcerers).
|Ravine of Madonna della Scala|
Who are the masciari?
They are wizards, witches, people who collected and used medicinal herbs to heal different illnesses. The fact that folklore has given them esoteric power, that's another story. Surely, we can't say that it doesn't arouse curiosity.
It's linked with this lore a legendary character, with his daughter, that is very dear to the people of Massafra: he is Greguro the wizard, who apparently was an alchemist. Someone might have heard his name connected with that one of the ravine of Madonna della Scala, or of Roses, of Massafra, where people say the wizard lived, in a complex of caves also called Greguro's pharmacy, which actually exists.
Its access may be a bit difficult for someone, although there is a staircase: the entrance is on the top and is quite narrow. Some time ago, it was necessary to lift oneself in the cave with a rope, a practice that definitely isn't for everybody. Then, this was the destination of curious and daredevil children who ventured in the ravine and climbed in the wizard's house (I admit it, I did it too...and who could resists??). Once inside, you have in front of you a maze of 12 rooms dug in the rock, all connected among them, and in the wall the holes for those that the legend says were potions and unguents, a legend that, obviously, I can't miss to tell you and it sees as main characters our sorcerer and his daughter Margherita, also dearly called Margheritella.
The legend of Greguro the wizard and Margheritella
In the year 1000, Greguro and Margherita lived in the Ravine of Roses. They dedicated their days to the treatment of medicinal plants to create healing unguents, an activity that made people of Massafra think that they practised witchcraft.
Raw materials were offered directly by the ravine, a place where herbs grew, and still grow, lush. Margheritella had the task to get down from the paternal cave and to collect them. Seen the very unflattering fame that the two had gained for their work, the girl made her duty during the night, fomenting rumours. We must say that the maid also was a really beautiful girl and every men of the town courted her, in vain, arousing the awful anger of wives and mothers, who held up the poor and innocent Margheritella as a witch, who had seduced their men with sorcery and potions. In haste she was taken to trial and sent to the stake.
Fortunately, while they were tightening the rope and putting her on the pyre, Igumeno Anselmo, the Superior of the Byzantine monastery of Massafra, saved her. If you're wondering what the men who said to be crazily in love with her were doing, they just stayed there, looking at what was happening to the poor girl.
At that point, Greguro would have painted a Madonna on a rock of the ravine as a sign of gratitude, the same Madonna that, according to another legend, is conserved in Madonna della Scala Shrine.
And that was the legend of Greguro the wizard, main character on the town of masciari. Nowadays some place names make reference to this tradition, as for example "il rione degli Ostinati", "le Forche", "la Gravina della Zingara" e la "Grotta del Diavolo".