Catania has a female patron, a protectress. The figure of the ‘Ntuppatedde is connected to Sant’Agata due to the fact they want a claim of freedoom and women emancipation from male control like Agata did. She protected her legit right to say “no” to the violent proconsul Quinziano. But, what does ‘Ntuppatedda mean? Who are the ‘Ntuppatedde? It’s a word that comes from “tuppa”, the Sicilian term to say the veil closing snails. These women were characterized by their disguise: a veil with just 2 holes to see.
They were a group of women that in Medieval times, on February 5th and 6th, were free to go out and accept gifts from men; at that time it was unusual that a woman could leave the house without being accompanied, so this gesture was considered a symbol of freedom… for the rite of Sant’Agata, these women had the possibilty to go out being master of themselves. At the end of the 19th century, Cardinal Dusmet first and the public force later, put an end to the custom. The ‘Ntuppatedde are also mentioned in literature, in Giovanni Verga’s short story “The devil’s tail”, where he describes them as women who claimed their rights to freedom against male exploitation. They were seen as “tempting witches” and he depicts them as masked women who only let glimpse their gaze, which they used to look at or to “give the Devil” men. This is the main reason why they covered up, because if someone had discovered their identity their reputation would have been tarnished.
The ‘Ntupatedde today no longer dress in black, they wave a red flower, symbol of passion, to celebrate life, but, most importantly, they encourage women to be mothers, wives, daughters. Well… they simply encourage women to be FREE WOMEN.