« Panormus conca aurea suos devorat alienos nutrit »

« Palermo, Conca d’Oro, devours its people and feeds its foreigners »

That’s the inscription underneath the sculpture of the Genius of Palermo, mysterious pagan god protector of the city, probably dating back to pre-Roman times, standing in the staircase of the City Hall. The expression maybe could let us think about a connection between the Genius and Kronos or Saturn, god of time and agriculture, devouring his own children and symbol of fullness and abundance.

Although the one at the city hall is the oldest one, it is not the only example existing: there are in fact other 7 scattered around the city. Among them, the one situated in Garraffo Square, near Vucciria market, also called “u granni” (Palermo the Great), in contraposition to “u nicu” (the small one) at Pretoria Palace.

From the greek “ghenos”, meaning birth and from the Latin “genius”, creator of life, this divinity is almost always depicted as a venerable old man with a beard sitting on a throne and crowned, accompanied by a snake in the act of biting or sucking his chest, sometimes surmounted by an eagle or a dog at his foot or, even, holding a scepter.

The symbology of the snake can have different meanings: being associated to land and water becomes a symbol of fertility, rebirth and renewal but also a symbol of prudence and knowledge for its dark and hidden nature.