Updated: Friday, 02 May 2014 02:31 | By Agence France-Presse

Snakes paraded in Italy at May Day village feast

Dozens of snakes were paraded during a traditional May Day religious celebration in the Italian village of Cocullo in the Apennine Mountains on Thursday.

Snakes paraded in Italy at May Day village feast

A statue of Saint Domenico covered with live snakes is carried by the faithful during an annual procession in the streets of Cocullo, in the Abruzzo region, on May 1, 2014 - by Tiziana Fabi

Thirty non-venomous snakes were draped onto a statue of Saint Dominic in the yearly ritual to celebrate the saint's supposed healing powers.

The statue was then paraded around a town square packed with thousands of people, where some held up more snakes captured in the weeks preceding the rite.

The Feast of the Snake Catchers traces its origins back to pre-Christian history and celebrates the skill of those who can find the snakes after the snows melt in spring.

The reptiles -- mostly Four-Lined or Green Whip snakes -- are fattened up with a diet of live mice and eggs and are then released back into the wild after the celebration.

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