04. The intimate relationship between manna and mannalùoro
The relationship between the ash tree and the ash grower (mannaluòru) materializes with the image of the wounded tree, that is, in the anthropomorphic character that marks the cultivation of manna. It is a very special relationship that translates into a language full of affective connotations.
In tradition it is the entire family of the mannaloro who, in the course three summer months and since the beginning of autumn, it is involved in the harvesting operations. The tasks of each are clearly codified: it is the head of the family who is always assigned the task of making a dent, while the women and young people take over when it is time to collect and dry the product, and younger children are allowed to collect on their own the fragments fallen to the ground (muddicagghi). The whole family monitors the state of the weather: everyone knows that too high humidity, fog, a sudden storm can take away all the product in a few minutes. All of them thus become attentive observers of the sky, and if they judge the rain to be near they rush to collect the precious manna at any hour of the day or night.
It is therefore well understood the very particular attitude of the "mannaluòru" towards a plant that gives its product only if it gets drunk, that is, if it faints. With the name "sangu", blood, is in fact designated the lymph that flows in the cortical layers of the tree: manna is only in the moment in which it gushes out and thickens.
The "mannaluòru" indicates the parts of the trunk intended to be engraved with a proper minology of the human body: the chest (u piettu), the neck (u cuozzu), the nape (u menzu cuozzu). Carving an ash or an ash tree becomes a surgical operation to be performed with the most delicate regards: make no more than one incision a day, otherwise the tree will get drunk ("mmriaca") and numb ("stuona"); alternate the annual series of incisions to allow him to regain lymph ("arrisangari"); proceed towards the "chest" with millimetric progression of notch year after year, because it is there that the ash has sap in large quantities.
After the incision of the ornella, the ash growers wash the trunk full of incisions expressing themselves as a loving mother doestowards the injured son: his face is washed to remove the dirt, relieving the burning with fresh and clean water.