Believed to be a gathering place of witches and other mythical creatures, radiocarbon dating confirms the tree may not live for much longer.
In the heart of the Grosseto Maremma, just outside the town walls of Magliano, Tuscany, stands an awe-inspiring natural wonder that has captured the imagination of locals and visitors alike.
Behind the 15th-century Church of Santissima Annunziata lies the incredible Olivo della Strega, a monumental testament to the mysteries of the past.
This ancient olive tree, believed to have existed for more than 3,500 years, stands as one of the most ancient documented examples globally.See Also:Safeguarding Italy’s Millenary Trees
The name Olivo della Strega carries with it a rich tapestry of legends that have been handed down for centuries.
According to these tales, during the Middle Ages, the tree was believed to be a gathering place for witches from the Maremma region.
Accompanied by mythical creatures such as fauns (half-human and half-goat) and centaurs (half-human and half-horse), witches would convene on the night of St. John’s Eve, June 23rd, amidst pagan rituals linked to the summer solstice.
During these mysterious gatherings, the legends say a powerful witch would dance around the ancient tree, compelling it to contort itself into its present form. Then, as the ritual reached its climax, the witch would transform into an enormous cat with fiery eyes, becoming the tree’s guardian throughout the night.
The Olivo della Strega is a remarkable testament to the passage of time, with its weathered trunk and branches preserving the stories of ancient rituals and supernatural transformations.
According to ancient oral traditions, pagan rites were performed around the tree, and the invocation of priests would elicit otherworldly responses, causing the olive tree to twist into eerie and unsettling forms.
These mystical transformations led to the association of witchcraft with the tree, earning it the evocative name of the Olivo della Strega.
The legends further tell of Maremma witches who gathered beneath its branches, engaging in their Sabbatic rituals and invoking the devil. The image of a witch dancing around the tree on Friday nights, shaping it to her will, has become ingrained in the collective memory of the region.
Once again, the ritual was said to conclude with the lead witch transforming into a cat to serve as the guardian of the tee until daybreak.
Amidst the allure of these legends, the Olivo della Strega stands as a cherished symbol of Magliano in Tuscany’s ancient heritage.
Although partially petrified, its weathered trunk continues to produce olives each year through a small shoot. The carbon dating analysis confirms its current decline, estimating the age of the new growth to be 290 years old, with approximately one-third of the original structure remaining.
Regrettably, the tree is on a path to extinction, projected to die within the next 90 years. Yet, its continuous presence serves as a testament to the enduring fascination with supernatural tales and the mystical forces of nature.
Visitors from far and wide are drawn to this living monument, captivated by the stories that have unfolded beneath its ancient boughs for countless generations.
The Olivo della Strega holds a special place in the hearts of the locals, a symbol of the mythical heritage of Magliano in Tuscany.
As it continues to stand tall, it invites all who witness it to ponder the enigmatic past and marvel at the mysteries that surround it, preserving the magic of bygone eras for generations to come.