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Moorheads: here's why you find them everywhere in Sicily

Sicilian Moorheads are a type of traditional decorative pottery native to Sicily, particularly the Caltagirone area, but also frequent in Syracuse.

They feature a figure of a black man wearing a turban, often painted blue and decorated with geometric motifs, but depictions of female characters can also often be found.

The art of ceramics in Sicily is very ancient and has roots in Greek and Roman culture. The production of hand-decorated ceramics is an art that has been passed down from generation to generation and is still practiced by many Sicilian artisans today. In addition to Moorheads, Sicilian pottery also includes plates, vases, boxes, and other decorative objects.

Moorheads are not only a souvenir coveted by tourists, but a true symbol of the island, whose history intersects with many legends.

Tradizionali ceramiche e Teste di Moro siciliane
Traditional Sicilian Pottery and Moorheads

The legend

The Moor's Head is thus a handcrafted ceramic product with strong cultural symbolism. The meaning of these figures is to be found in the legends that are passed on from generation to generation, and whose exact origin is unknown.

Among the best known legends we find one dating back to the year 1000, during the period of Moorish rule in Sicily. This story tells of a Moor who, having arrived in Palermo in the "Al Hàlisah" neighborhood (today's Kalsa district), fell madly in love with a young woman, who used to tend the lush plants on the balcony of her house.

The young Moor, blinded by the feeling, came to the maiden's house to declare his love for her. The woman, faced with such a passionate declaration, could not remain indifferent, and the two became lovers.

One day, however, the Moor had to reveal his secret: in fact, back home he had a wife and children waiting for him.

Wounded in her pride, the woman went mad with jealousy and cut off her lover's head, thus turning it into a pot where she planted a basil seed, symbol of sacredness. In this way she ensured that her lover would always remain with her, without having to share it with other women.

At this point legend has it that the young woman, thanks to her green thumb and the tears she poured into the pot every day, managed to grow an incredibly lush basil plant, so much so that it was noticed even by the other inhabitants of the neighborhood. Hence, the custom of commissioning pots in the shape of a Moorhead was born, with the hope of having the same good fortune.

Testa di Moro siciliana
Sicialian Moorhead

Participate in a pottery class in Syracuse

Would you like to discover the stories, legends and techniques of Sicilian pottery making?

At the hotel, you will have the opportunity to book a pottery class taught by an artist who is dedicated precisely to creating the famous Moorheads.

Contact us for information!

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