Culture
Did you know of Gozo’s ghazziela tradition that wards off the harshest of thunderstorms?
As the first post-summer rains hit, head to Zebbug and get your hands on this craft.

Jillian Mallia

The hilltop village of Zebbug in Gozo is famous for its lacework, beautiful parish church and for bearing the brunt of some of our winter’s harshest storms when they come about. Locals have long practiced a tradition unique to the village to protect them from storms while also dedicating their work and prayers to the Madonna of Ghazziela.

Behold the ghazziela tradition, named of course after the Madonna of Ghazziela. The highly original tradition which is primarily a devotion to the Madonna and also said to protect homes from the harshest of storms, sees locals producing small talisman from unleavened bread dough as early as July, in order to make enough for the entire town and end some.

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Legend has it…

According to legend, one night during a storm, a poor family that lived on the outskirts of the village had a dream that snakes of fire tried entering the home through the window. They didn’t manage to get through because of a wheel-like talisman that lit up and blinded the snake. Legend has it that when the mother of the family told the parish priest about her dream, he ordered all families to make the same wheels from a piece of dough. And the rest... well has continued through history and into the present.

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Making the ghazziela

Volunteers congregate for about five consecutive Sundays in order to make enough by the second Sunday of September which is when the ghazziela are given out, timed with the expected first post-summer rains. They are cut out into the shape of a spinning wheel which was said to be the Madonna’s craft, while also incorporating the letter ‘M’ since the town has a strong devotion towards Virgin Mary. The talisman is then baked and stored in cardboard boxes.

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When the big day arrives, the ghazziela are taken out of the boxes, the excess flour dusted off and displayed in straw baskets on the church parvis. After mass, the talisman are blessed and handed out to locals: adults receive two each while children receive one.

No one knows exactly when, how or why this interesting tradition started but it Zebbug’s first parish priest’s will (dating back to 1737) does show that left a trust fund to the community in order to continue making the ghazziela.

Did you know of this interesting tradition? If you’re heading to Gozo that weekend, make sure to head to Zebbug!

12th September 2021


Jillian Mallia
Written by
Jillian Mallia
A book lover, writer and globetrotter who loves exploring new places and the local gems that the Maltese Islands have to offer. An avid foodie and arts fanatic, Jillian searches the island and beyond for the perfect settings to write about.

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