Rent a house or a Room in Gozo, Malta
The Legend of Zgugina is very old and set in Gharb, a remote and 'mysterious' village.
Gozo woman in Faldetta, Gozo traditional dress
It is not surprising that dark stories of mystery and imagination like Zgugina grew up round the village of Gharb. In the days of old when there were hardly any made-up roads and little means of transport, even in a small place like Gozo, the village of Gharb seemed remote and almost unreachable.
Down from the village of Gharb is Wied il-Mielah (Salty Valley) leading down to the sea, a place reputed to be a nocturnal landing place for pirates and corsairs who in those days infested the sea between Gozo and Sicily. It was not the first time that in the dead of night these wicked seadogs landed secretly and pillaged and stole whatever they could lay their hands on.
The legend goes that a lady called Zgugina lived in a small house not very far from Wied il-Mielah. She was very poor and her only possession was her loving son Mattew (Mathew).
In Maltese the 'poem' goes like this: Dik Zgugina mara Ghawdxija, Kienet toqghod l-Gharb 'l gew; u fid-dinja kull ma kellha; tifel biss jismu Mattew.
It so happened that one dark night a boat-load of these men armed to the teeth with knives and swords found their way to the woman's abode and stole her son Mattew.
In Maltese again: Darba wahda gew it-Torok; lil Mattew mal-lejl serquh;
They carried him stealthily away and bundled him in one of their boats. His poor mother only missed him when she woke up early in the morning and she realised at once what had happened.
St Demetrius on horseback
Grief stricken as she was, with tears streaming down her cheeks she hardly knew how she made her way to the little chapel dedicated to St. Demetrius. There she knelt, her face to the floor in front of the titular painting of the saint.
"St. Demetrius please bring me back my son, please, please. He is my only possession and my only purpose in life. Please, bring him back to me, dear St. Demetrius.
I know you can. Go on your horse and bring him back. Please save him from those fiends and I will light some oil for you in thanksgiving every day until I die".
And thereupon, San Dimitri taking pity on the poor faithful woman tore himself from the painting and riding his gallant red steed galloped down the aisle, left the church and disappeared in a mysterious cloud of dust. Zgugina could not believe her eyes. The horse's hooves made so much noise in the confined space of the little chapel. She could even see bright sparks flying from under the horse-shoes as they hit and skidded on the hard-stone flags.
But of course it was all a dream for when she looked at the titular painting, St.Demetrius was still there astride his horse as he had been for as long as she could remember.
On the other hand, her heart was full of hope and she strongly believed that her dear Saint would not foresake her. So she continued to pray and wring her hands in grief. She would continue praying and pleading until San Dimitri would hear her prayers.
Moments later another fascinating thing happened. How was this possible!
She could distinctly hear a horse outside, neighing, snorting and stamping as if it had just returned from a long hard jog. She turned around to gaze at the church door but it was so flooded with bright light that the poor woman could not see anything and she had to shield her eyes.
Then to her great amazement, out of the glare, smiling and with arms outstretched she saw her son Mattew come running towards her.
"Thank you St. Demetrius for bringing my son back to me", Zgugina kept saying repeatedly all the while hugging and covering her son with kisses.
I knew He would hear me, Zgugina told her son. Dear St. Demetrius, I love Him so much.
When eventually the mother and her son left the chapel they noticed that St. Demetrius had miraculously left an imprint of a horse-shoe in the soft limestone a few paces away from the chapel as a memento of the favour He had granted to Zgugina, the lady from Gharb, Gozo.
The mark of the horse-shoe can still be seen to this day. Folk from Gharb recount that on dark and moonless nights when the sea is calm, a ghostly light can still be seen shimmering in the depths of the sea and they believe that it could only be Zgugina's oil still burning in honour of St. Demetrius.
You can read other Legends and Short Stories (later) set in Gozo and may I recommend "The Promise" - - an original short story about another miracle but with a funny twist.
Rent a house or a Room in Gozo, Malta