Legend of the Moor's Heads
According to legend, around the year 1000, in the height of the domination of the Moors in Sicily, in the Arab quarter of Palermo "Al Hàlisah" (which means the pure or the elect) today called Kalsa, a beautiful young girl lived her days in a sweet as solitary quiet, devoting his attention to the loving care of the plants of his balcony.
From the top of her flowered balcony, she was noticed one day by a young man, a Moro. Overwhelmed by a violent passion for it, the young Moro did not hesitate for a moment to declare his love for her. Struck by the promise of love received, the young woman welcomed and returned the sentiment of the courteous suitor with passion.
Yet the young man, who had made no scruple in abandoning himself to the sweetest love profusions, concealed a heavy secret in his heart: his wife and children indeed awaited him in the East, in that land where he was now to return. The girl destroyed in learning such news and embittered for that betrayed love that was now about to abandon her, was seized by a fatal anger that pushed her inexorably to take the road of revenge. She thought of seizing the moment of greatest vulnerability of man to reciprocate the merciless disloyalty previously suffered.
So in the night, while he fell into a deep sleep and rested unaware of his fate, she seized the right moment and mortally hit him. The dark-haired man who had loved her and was about to leave now would never abandon her. He also decided that the face of that young man, albeit dear to her, should remain by his side forever, so without hesitation he cut off the young man's head creating with it an object similar to a vase and placed inside it a sprout of basil. The choice of planting basil was sanctioned by the fact that, as she well knew, this fragrant plant from the Greek "Basilikos" has always been accompanied by an aura of sacredness, representing in fact the herb of the sovereigns; in this way, despite the terrible act accomplished, she pursued the senseless loving aim of continuing to take care of her beloved.
Finally he laid his head on his balcony, dedicating every day to the care of the basil that grew in it. Every day the tears of the young woman bathed the royal plant, which thrived and became more and more flourishing and flourishing. The neighbors, pervaded by the scent of basil and looking with envy at the plant that vigorously matured in that particular vase in the shape of a dark brown head, had terracotta pots made which reproduced the same features as that lovingly guarded by the girl.
According to another version of the legend, the Sicilian girl would have been of noble origins, and lived a clandestine love with a young Arab, but this impossible love was soon discovered and the dishonorable act punished with the beheading of both young lovers . The shame of this love would also have been proclaimed by the posting of both heads (turned into vases for the occasion) on a balcony. The havoc, exalted by these heads placed at the mercy of passersby, would thus have been an effective warning against any other possible improper passion. For this reason, Turco's heads would be made in pairs, in memory and in honor of the two murdered lovers.
The legend that explains the origin of the precious Teste di Moro, also called Teste di Turco (in Sicilian the word "Turchi" is generally used to indicate people of color, regardless of the region of origin and was used to indicate oriental origins of the young Moro), has nourished the creativity of the Palermo artisans over the years, spreading later among the creations of the master craftsmen of the rest of the island whose masterful works today adorn many of the Sicilian balconies.
In particular, the Teste di Moro di Caltagirone are renowned, the main place for the production of high quality ceramics. A production that has become the pride of the city over the centuries, also due to its rich past of Greek, Byzantine, Arab, Genoese and Norman dominations, which led (especially during the Greek and Arab presence) to the development of the precious art of the Sicilian potters.