The Irpinians are the Italians from the Avellino area, like me. We come from an old Indo-European population that migrated to Italy across Greece more than four thousand years ago: the Pelagi. They mixed their culture with natives, giving birth to autochthonous tribes, but this is only a half of our blood. Thousand years later the Osci populations migrated from Armenia to Central Italy and melted with the above-mentioned new indigenous, creating the Osco-Pelagi.


As many other tribes, these people were polytheist and one of the gods they were devoted to was Mamerte, the Oscan Mars. Ver Sacrum (Sacred Spring) was a recurring event in Iron Age and consisted of human and cattle sacrifices in honor of the god. It might seem cruel but it wasn't that much barbaric, after all the aim of the ritual was to deduct colonies. The animals were effectively killed to have the blessing of Mamerte, but human sacrifices were actually the offspring born from the 1st of March to the 1st of June and raised as sacred


Once adults, the chosen ones had to emigrate in order to found their own colony, but where? To these predestined the way was often revealed by a guide animal, a totem from which the new tribe would have obtained its name. Legend has it that the Irpinian path was led by a wolf (hirpus in Oscan, hence the name "Irpini") along the Southern Appenninian mountains. At last they settled in a pretty vaste zone that included the cities of Aeculanum, Aquilonia, Abellinum, Compsa and river Ofanto springs.


According to Varro, Festo and Strabo, the Oscan hirpus means wolf. Festo wrote: "Hirpini appellati sunt nomine lupi quem hirpum dicunt Samnites; eum enim secuti agros occupa vere." (Irpinians are named after the wolf called hirpum by Samnites; in fact after following it they occupied that land). But it might not be true. The linguist Marcello Durante was inclined not to attribute to the word hirpus the meaning of wolf, but that of goat from the Oscan hircus. For Durante Varro is the only historical source on which Festo and Strabo based their writings. The literatus deduced this word from religious ritual language and from the legend itself, not as fantasy but as an historic event. Another interesting connections with this interpretation of the word can be found in the Lupercalia (from latin deity Lupercus, protector of sheep and goats from wolves), a purification festival that consisted in several sacrifices of goats in honor of Pan. 


The identity of Irpinians has been strong since the beginning of our tribe. Our ancestors travelled around half the globe. Our blood is made of a mixture of different cultures. After all we are creatures of the land like goats and sheep and survivors like wolves; these are the people I want to tell about.


It was a rainy day when I met Mirella Beatrice, the so called Pearl of Laceno, a lake upon the mountains of Bagnoli Irpino. She introduced herself as "a particular person who likes being among people who understand her", and she couldn't be more right. Mirella is a tireless worker that drives around the lake in her Fiat Panda to tempt tourists with the products of her land. We've spent half an hour talking about fusilli pasta, cheeses, chestnuts and jams and in the end she insisted on gifting me with her incredibly delicious prune jam.

Before saying goodbye Mirella told me one last story that showed me how big her heart is. She took from the back of her car a cap decorated with chestnuts and explained me that during festivals she uses to masquerade to entertain kids and make photos with them.

Needless to say that she invited me to come over again to see her house in the best weather to show me her amazing garden. Then she got back in the car and tried to turn it on without success. I asked her if she needed help pushing the car, but after a couple of attempts she managed to get the engine back to work and waved goodbye with her hand. 


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