Our Lady, who is the patron saint of Enna, replaced the ancient cult of Demeter, who was the town’s mother goddess. The celebration in honor of Our Lady happens on July second every year, the same time when the old pagan cult of Demeter was celebrated. People of Enna today still invoke Kore, Demeter’s daughter.
In my opinion, the name you give to God is not important, what matters is the spiritual feeling that radiates from the worshipper. On the other hand, Jesus and the Virgin Mary are beyond time, for they existed before time, long before coming into human history.
They also existed in the pagan era and were worshipped differently.
These days, there are no processions in Enna, for the reason everybody knows. Hopefully, next year the pandemic will be over. Everything will return to normal and the citizens of Enna will continue to celebrate their feast in honor of Demeter which dates back to almost three thousand years ago.
Aunt Filippa opened the sideboard and took out a soup plate and a small cup. She put the plate on my head and asked my mother to hold it fast. Then, she poured some water into the plate and olive oil into the small cup. Finally, she dipped her finger into the small cup of olive oil and dripped some into the water.
I remained with that plate on my head for a few minutes. Aunt Filippa was not convinced, and from time to time she dripped more olive oil. Finally, she scrutinized the shape of the drops.
The drops could take different forms. They could remain as they were, become wider, or even disappear completely. If the drops maintained the same shape they had when they were dripped, it meant that there was no hex on me. If the drops became wider, there was a real hex. Sometimes the drops disappeared completely, and that meant that there was a lot of hex. In my case, the drops disappeared, and for that reason Aunt Filippa dripped olive oil several times.
“This cute little boy has a lot of hex,” she said, “but I’ll take it out of him. I swear!”
To do that she made special signs around the plate and said a special prayer, which she had learned from her mother one day on Christmas Eve. It was a secret prayer that had been handed down from generation to generation. Then she asked my mother to look at the plate carefully.
“Look, Rosa Maria! If the drops of oil combine to form one large drop, it means that the evil eye has been removed; otherwise, that is, if the drops remain separated, another treatment is needed, and Vincenzino will have to come back here next week,” said Aunt Filippa.
Fortunately, the drops of oil merged together as if attracted by a magnet. Aunt Filippa then concluded, saying that I was now hex free thanks to her prayer.
At the time, I barely understood her method of removing the hex, but with passing time I realized that what Aunt Filippa had done probably had a scientific basis. Words, thoughts, and feelings have vibrations. Everything vibrates in the universe. It means that each kind of vibration affects both organic and inorganic matter, including the shape of the drops that AuntFilippa used to diagnose the evil eye. In other words, if my body vibrations were good, the drops assumed a certain shape; otherwise, they got broad or sometimes disappeared.
This is an excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History.
Long ago, there were many cloistered convent in my hometown of Enna (Sicily). Over the years, they have been closed due to lack of vocations. Ten years ago, the Convent of St Mark was also abandoned. It was the last one left. The Carmelite nuns had lived there since the thirteenth century, but in the end they gave up, for they were too few to manage the large building which stood on an area of about five thousand square meters.
Yesterday, it was possible to visit a small part of it with a guide. I took some photos and tried to figure out life in a cloistered convent.
Nowadays, the world has become more and more atheist. People don’t even go to church, imagine if they lock themselves up in a convent.
Once, about one hundred and fifty Sisters lived in this place. After they crossed the threshold, they couldn’t get out anymore. Even after they died, they remained in the convent. In fact, there was a kind of cemetery in the basement where the bodies were placed on stone seats and decayed.
A long time ago, it was not easy to become a cloistered nun, for a dowry was needed. Usually, the nuns came from wealthy families and brought with them silverware and other goods.
I saw a lot of gratings in the convent. The nuns looked at the world only through the gratings, just like inmates.
Only one room on the top floor was surrounded by windows without gratings. The view was very beatiful. You could admire all of Enna from up there. A bell hung in one of the windows. Who knows what that bell was for? The guide said that the nuns came to this room to meditate. Was their life wasted? I don’t think so. A life spent searching for God is never wasted!
The Kingdom of Sicily, which later would also include the whole southern Italy with Palermo as its capital, was given the privilege of ruling over the clergy in Sicily. This happened in 1098, during the pontificate of Pope Urban II who appointed Count Roger I as head of the Catholic Church in Sicily to reward him for the victory over the Arabs.
This royal prerogative was called the Legatio Apostolica (Apostolic Legate) according to which the Kings of Sicily were entitled to rule over the Catholic Church in Sicily. The pope had no power over the clergy and his acts needed to be ratified by the king to be effective in Sicily.
Over the years, the popes tried to put an end to such a prerogative, but to no avail. Even King Vittorio Amedeo di Savoia, who was appointed King of Sicily according to the Treaty of Utrecht, jailed the priests who sided with the pope. At the time, in my hometown of Enna, four priests sided with the pope, others with the king.
The Legatio Apostolica lasted until 1864, a few years after Sicily became part of the kingdom of Italy.
Aunt Filippa removed the plate from my head and put it, along with the small cup, on the near table. She then asked me to lift my T‐shirt and bare my belly. Finally, she made certain arcane signs on my stomach and at the same time said a special secret prayer in a low voice, which she repeated three times. Since I was a curious boy by nature, with very fine hearing and an excellent memory, I heard and imprinted in my mind the secret prayer to cut roundworms, which I now disclose both in the original Sicilian and in English:
RAZZIONI PPI TAGLIARI I VIRMI
Tagliu li virmi ne stu curpu
Tagliu uttu e tagliu novi.
Tagliu li virmi ne stu cori.
Luni santu, Marti santu, Mircuri santu,
Iuvi santu, Venniri santu, Sabbatu santu,
A duminica di Pasqua.
Mori lu vermi e ‘n terra cadi.
PRAYER TO CUT ROUNDWORMS
Cut the roundworms in this body
I cut eight and I cut nine.
I cut the roundworms in this heart.
Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday
Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday,
The roundworm dies and falls onto the floor.
When her prayer was over, she recommended I drink a small glass of olive oil with squeezed lemon and raw mashed garlic the following day in the early morning. I followed her instructions, and I have to say that I actually excreted a lot of roundworms. Some of them were dead and some looked dazed.
This is an excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History.
The book of Revelation, or Apocalypse, tells of an angel who plays the trumpet. There is closeness between religion and music. Famous is Saint Augustine’s saying, he who sings prays twice. It means that if one praises God by music or songs, his prayer is more effective than prayers made of spoken words.
Music is a universal language. Everybody can understand and feel it. Even with the extraterrestrials we can communicate through music. Music is a path toward God. I can’t imagine paradise without music.
As I searched for an answer to my basic question, is there life after death? I couldn’t miss this important path to God, music. But what to do? At that time I was sixty-three years old. My hands and brain were too stiff to play a musical instrument. Nevertheless, I wanted to study music. So, I started learning the piano.”
This is an excerpt from the autobiographical novel The Vibrations of Words
Today, while I was buying ricotta at a farm, I had a peep at the sheepfold. I saw about two hundred ewes and a few rams. A man with a baby in his arms was also standing in the middle of the fold.
While I was waiting for ricotta to be ready, the sheep left the fold but the man remained there. He was well dressed and looked like a distinguished gentleman.
“What is he doing?” I asked the shepherd.
He replied, “The baby girl in his arms is suffering from whooping cough. The fumes of the dung will heal her. The fold is the best place to cure lung diseases, flu, fever, and more.”
At that moment I recalled the great philosopher George Ivanovic Gurdjieff. He treated the writer Katherine Mansfield, who was suffering from tuberculosis, in the same way. He send her to sleep in the stable.
Gurdjieff couldn’t cure Katherine Mansfield, for she died a week later, but according to the Sicilian shepherd, many children got over their diseases by standing in the sheepfold. Try it to believe it!
Today is the feast of Santa Lucia, a saint from Syracuse who was martyred under the emperor Diocletian. She is the patron saint of the blind and people with limited eyesight.
As usual, there are processions on her day, and the statue of the saint is carried on a litter along the streets of Enna. On this day, many families in Enna make a special meal called cuccı̀a. It is a ritual meal that was made in ancient Greece on the day of the commemoration of the dead. Nowadays in Sicily, the cuccìa is cooked on the day of the Feast of Santa Lucia. It is made from boiled wheat seasoned with chocolate or sweet ricotta, honey, and pieces of candied fruit.
On this day, my sister Carolina cooks cuccìa in a big cauldron and then invites all our neighbors to taste it. Even though I don’t like cuccìa, I really enjoy the coming and going of our neighbors who crowd my home all day long.
This is an excerpt from the diary of Vincenzo Chiaramonte in A Hidden Sicilian History