The origins of the snake shaped cake, made with almonds, sugar, eggs, lemon and coffee, often sugar-iced, date back to 249 A.D., when Saint Anatolia Martyr was put into a bag together with a venomous snake and came out unharmed the following day. Art works from that time depict the Saint while crushing the snake, as a symbol of the victory of good over evil.
The snake is prepared during the feast of the Virgin and Martyr Saint Anatolia, celebrated on July 10 in Sant’Anatolia di Borgorose, to commemorate her martyrdom, occurred in the town of Thiora. The recipe of this traditional cake has been handed down from generation to generation for over 16 centuries.
The village of Sant’Anatolia has a strict connection with the serpent, as, according to local ancient legends, the old village was abandoned after an invasion of snakes.
Snake shaped cakes are common in many Italian regions at the change of the seasons, symbolizing regeneration, the cycle of death and rebirth and the ancient goddess of agriculture, Ceres. It is not a coincidence that the Urobos, the snake whose head joins the tail, is a symbol of the infinite cycles of the cosmos dating back to a pre-Christian popular tradition.
Almonds, the main ingredient of the cake, also represent an interesting symbol in the Christian world, the hidden interiority inside the exteriority and therefore the mystery of Inner Light. That’s why in every tradition involving this fruit, breaking the shell means the end of a journey, a discovery.
The ritual of the Almond Snake embraces both Pagan and Christian elements.