Benino, the sleeping shepherd

Benino, the sleeping shepherd

Among the many characters that are part of the Neapolitan nativity, there are those whose stories are handed down in a very charming and fascinating tradition.

The Neapolitan nativity scene, more than any other, is made up of symbols embodied by men and women, figures representing the people of legends that often transcend religion, sinking its roots in to a much older reality.

In the case of Benin, the shepherd sleeping in the cave at the edge of the nativity scene itself, the religious meaning is inextricably linked with a sense of the most ancient magic. The figure of Benin comes from what was stated in the scriptures: “And the angels gave the news to the sleeping shepherds.”

Benin is usually represented as a young shepherd, little more than a boy. His sleeping symbolises youth, immaturity of the spirit, in addition to the childhood of the body. It is not only a physiological state, but also a condition of the spirit of unconscious tension towards something great and irreparable that needs to happen. In this sense, the awakening is considered as a rebirth, the inevitable transition to adulthood, but also the revelation of the sacred represented the Nativity and the move to a new, more mature and more conscious life. A kind of initial sleep, then, that seems to be linked to ancient rites of passage, to which Christian experience has instilled an even greater symbolic value.

But Benino is also famous because he is said to be the one who dreams of the nativity that he stars in. An image has a very strong philosophical value, as well as a profound symbology. Sleep is not just the prelude to the evolution of the soul, but it is an act of creation itself, a kind of preparation for the scenario in which the miracle of the Nativity manifests, and with it the spiritual rebirth of the individual. A fragile and delicate balance, as is the nature of dreams.

Benino sleeps, and in his sleep, he still performs the miracle of Christmas once more. His awakening is a new order, a new beginning for everyone.