LIFE AND DEATH IN A SICILIAN CEMETERY AT NIGHT

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While we were climbing the stairway to my tomb, an owl with a mouse in its claws fluttered its wings towards a cypress tree. Life was suddenly over for the little rodent. That is life! It is based upon violence. Without killing, carnivores cannot survive. The fish in the sea must eat the small ones so as not to depopulate the oceans. The eagles in the sky must bring some small animals to their nests. Otherwise, their species become extinct. There is a fragile balance in nature. The life of one being passes through the death of another. Once, a Jehovah’s Witness said to me that there will come a time on Earth when lions will live peacefully together with lambs; there will be no death, diseases, and violence. When will this time come? Surely not in a world like that in which we are living now. It would be another Earth.

What about human violence? There was a great philosopher named Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel who considered war unavoidable. Was he right? I can just say that wars have never ceased since the world started. Man kills just like animals. There is not much difference between animals’ violence and man’s violence. Both of them kill not only to survive, but also to protect their territories, because of hate, jealousy, and even just for the sake of killing.

At the end of the stairway, we turned left and arrived at my tomb.

This is an excerpt from November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

November 2 The Day of the Dead in Sicily
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

WALKING IN A SICILIAN CEMETERY AT NIGHT

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It was midnight when we arrived at the hole in the cemetery fence near the graveyard of the poor. At that moment, four bluish lights hovered in the air over the graves. My hair stood on end. I was terrified. I thought I saw blue lights moving toward me, and then they went back to the starting point. They kept hovering over the graves for about two minutes until they vanished into thin air.

Luigi passed through the hole without caring about the lights, while I remained outside the cemetery. I felt petrified, as if those bluish lights had cast a spell on me. I couldn’t move. My legs quaked as if there were an earthquake under my feet.

“What are you doing? Why are you standing outside like a statue? Come in. Don’t be silly!” Luigi cried out to me.

“Didn’t you see those lights over the graveyard?” I asked in a trembling voice.

“Yes, I did. They are nothing more than will-o’-the-wisps. Did you think they were souls of the dead wandering in the cemetery?” Luigi replied, shaking with laughter.

“What does it mean, will-o’-the-wisps?”

“It means small flames kindled by gas emanating from bodies in an advanced state of decay. You’ll see this phenomenon only in the graveyard of the poor, because here the bodies are buried under the bare earth inside coffins that have not been sealed with zinc. So keep calm. Don’t worry. You won’t see blue lights beyond this area.”

Absolute silence and peace reigned in the town of the dead. Only feeble lights came out from the candles in the tombs. We walked under a sky dotted with stars. The Milky Way was visible. My grandmother called the Milky Way Saint James’s Stairway. According to her, the souls of the dead climbed up and down Saint James’s Stairway when they came to our planet, and then they left Earth, bound to faraway planets and stars.

Walking in the cemetery, I didn’t sense any ghostly presence beside me. Luigi was right. There were only bones and decaying corpses in the cemetery, nothing else.

This is an excerpt from November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

November 2 The Day of the Dead in Sicily
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

THE OLD SICILY

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My Christian name is Mario, my family name is Chiaramonte. I am light-skinned, about one meter and seventy centimeters tall. The color of my eyes is between green and light brown. I was born in Enna at a time when the old Sicily was still alive. It was the sunny island where some women knew the secret to rid children of their intestinal worms and of the evil eye, through arcane practices. It was the old Sicily where goats walked in the streets, and the shepherd milked them in front of the houses and sold milk to the housewives. What a fresh product it was! Apartments didn’t exist and people warmed up their houses by using braziers. Fruit and legumes had a natural taste, hens brooded their eggs,  ate wheat, bran and leftovers, and were free of scratching around. It was the old Sicily where fields were plowed by oxen, the wheat was reaped by farmers’ hands, mules and horses trampled the spikes in the threshing floor, the wind separated the chaff from the grains of wheat, the television had not been invented yet, and people gathered in the houses to chat about this and that. It was the old Sicily where people breathed unpolluted air, the water of the sea, lakes, and rivers was clean, and the words like plastic, pollution, climate changes, global warming, and hole in the ozone didn’t exist in dictionaries.

This is an excerpt from November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

November 2 The Day of the Dead in Sicily
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

MY REVIEW OF RUNNING TO RESURRECTION BY CLARK BERGE

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All great masters teach that the secret to get enlightenment is to live life here and now, neither in the past nor in the future. Running is not different from the walking meditation of the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, on the condition that you are alert and watch yourself while you are walking or running.

A marathon is also a metaphor of life. Clark Berge took part in the Half Moon Bay International Marathon, California, when he was 58 years old. It was hard to complete the marathon, but he finally arrived at the finishing line in time.

What I appreciate a lot in this book is Clark Berge’s homily to the baboons he met while running in South Africa. “There is something beautiful about just being a baboon, just being who you are,” he says to the baboons.

What a difference between a baboon and a man! The former cannot have split personality, while men often show themselves differently from what they are. Don’t you think that being sincere, honest, consistent with oneself, natural, and spontaneous is the real finish line which we should run for?

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind


http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

SAN BENITO OF PALERMO, THE PROTECTOR OF COLORED PEOPLE

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Walking in Antigua, his attention was drawn to the many ruined churches. Although the places of worship had been built well and with good materials, they didn’t withstand the earthquakes. In Guatemala, the ground shook quite often.

He went to Saint Francis Church every evening and meditated for a few minutes in front of the statue of San Benito of Palermo. The Franciscan saint was popular in South America. He was considered the protector of colored people. In fact, he was a refugee from Ethiopia, who was later adopted by a Sicilian family. Staying in front of the statue of San Benito of Palermo he felt at home. He had a fellow citizen who protected him in this faraway land!  Even though he lived in another continent, Sicily was always in his heart.

This is an excerpt from November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

November 2 The Day of the Dead in Sicily
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

CEMETERIES IN SICILY

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Enna’s cemetery is large enough to look like a town.  It has broad avenues and tall tombs. Many tombs are similar to small houses. They have a room inside with walled niches and an altar where once was celebrated Mass on November 2.

I dare say that the cemeteries in Sicily are unique. I have visited some burying places while traveling around the world, but they were completely different than the Sicilian cemeteries, for every population on earth has its own way of treating the dead, depending on its culture and traditions.

In Italy, before the Napoleonic edict, the dead were buried in the churches. Later, this custom fell into disuse.

My maternal grandmother, Paolina, used to keep in her family tomb a few chairs for herself and her family, relatives and friends that came to visit the tomb or had the chance to pass by it.

This is an excerpt from November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

November 2 The Day of the Dead in Sicily
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

AN OLD COURTROOM IN SICILY

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The day of the discussion of the case came. The courthouse was located in an ancient palace that had belonged to Andrea Chiaramonte, one of the most powerful noblemen in Sicily, who lived in the fourteenth century and fought against the Spaniards to preserve the independence of Sicily. But he was allured into a trap and captured. After the Spaniards captured him, they beheaded him in front of Palace Steri, his prestigious residence in Palermo.

The ceiling of the courtroom was frescoed with figures depicting the glories of the Chiaramontes. The bench of the judge was carved with the motto ALL MEN ARE EQUAL BEFORE THE LAW and the figure of the blindfolded goddess of justice holding a balance in her hand.

The table for the defendant and that for the plaintiff were in the center or the courtroom. Behind them there was a wooden barrier beyond which the public stood.

This is an excerpt from November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

November 2 The Day of the Dead in Sicily
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

THE DAY OF THE DEAD CELEBRATION IN SICILY

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PRESS RELEASE
Now Available for Kindle, iPad, and other e-Readers

Novel Captures The Day of the Dead Celebration in Sicily

November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily is a thought-provoking story that captivates from beginning to end. The Day of the Dead is an important festival in many cultures, originating 3,000 years ago in Mexico with the Aztecs. Visiting Spaniards in the 1500s adopted the celebration, taking it home to Europe.

It is a day when children receive gifts from those who have died, and they eat special bone-shaped cakes. Cemeteries are packed with visitors placing flowers at gravesites and lighting candles in their tombs, which can look like small houses.

On such a day on the isle of Sicily, Mario Chiaramonte goes to the cemetery to visit the graves of his friends and relatives. As he strolls through the graveyard, he sees some special tombs, including those of a poet, a nobleman, and a Mafia boss. Mario also discovers some truths about living, its goodness and evil, and ultimately comes to see his own life in a different perspective.

Expect romance, adventure, life, death, and a rollicking good read, including this cultural note:

“In some tribes that I visited in Tanzania, the dead were buried in front of the house where they had lived, but before being placed into an underground niche on the side of the pit that had been dug, the dead person was put on a chair in front of his house for a few hours. This way, the relatives and friends could offer condolences to the family.” Such is life … and death.

About the Author: Ettore Grillo was born in 1946 in Enna, Sicily, where he was an attorney for 37 years. This is his fourth work. His previous books are Travels of the Mind, The Vibrations of Words, and A Hidden Sicilian History.

“The cultural heritage behind the fascinating celebration The Day of the Dead is explored in this finely honed novel. We are pleased to be the publisher.”Lynn Eddy, VP of acquisitions, Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Agency

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

November 2 The Day of the Dead in Sicily
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

THE CITY OF ENNA (SICILY)

Night view of Enna town in Sicily, Italy

Enna is a small city on a plateau in the center of Sicily. Its founding dates back to time immemorial. It is called the navel of Sicily. It is part of the Erei mountain chain and is located at an altitude of about one thousand meters above sea level. Like all Greek cities, Enna was a city-state with its own government and its own mint. It coined a coin called ennaion.

With Greece Enna shared the same language and the same religion. The main worshiped goddesses were Demeter and her daughter Kore. Nobody knows exactly where the temples of Demeter and Kore stood, but it is certain that the main temple of Demeter in Sicily was that in Enna. Being Demeter the goddess of the crops, she was invoked to have a good harvest. It is said that during time of famine, even the Senate of Rome used to send a delegation to Enna to propitiate Demeter.

The people of Enna buried the dead by digging small rooms in the rock, usually facing south. In the room, painted terracotta vases were placed next to the corpse. Tombs have been excavated with well-preserved skeletons and red- and black-figure vases. Sometimes in the mouth of the skeleton was found a coin. The Greeks believed that to get to the Hades (the kingdom of the dead) souls had to pay a fee of one coin to Charon who ferried the dead across the Acheron, river that divided the world of the living from that of the dead.

Enna has always been a city devoted to religion. When Cicero, the great Roman orator, came to Enna to collect evidence against the governor of Sicily, Verres, who had snatched away gold and statues from the Sicilian temples, he was so surprised by the religiosity of the city of Enna that he had the feeling that its inhabitants were omnes sacerdotes (all priests).

When the Arabs conquered Sicily, they changed the Latin name Henna into Catrum (castle) Hennae (the genitive of Henna) which in the Arabic parlance became Castro Ianni, and then Castrogiovanni in the Italian language. This last appellation lasted until December 6, 1926 when Castrogiovanni was elevated to capital of province and was given back the ancient name of Enna. It essentially just dropped the H, which however is always silent in the Italian language.

This is an excerpt from November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

November 2 The Day of the Dead in Sicily
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

THE TOWN OF CALASCIBETTA (SICILY)

Sunset view of Calascibetta village in central Sicily, Italy.
Sunset view of Calascibetta village in central Sicily, Italy.

A short distance from Enna stands the town of Calascibetta. As the crow flies, the distance between the two places is about two kilometers, but the winding road that connects them is about seven kilometers long. They both are located on the summits of two small mountains. While Enna has an average height of 1000 meters, Calascibetta is a bit lower, about 900 meters above sea level.

They have almost the same climate, cool in the summertime and cold in the winter. The fog, which is caused by low clouds, envelops them very often. A valley dotted with olive groves and almond trees lies between the two mountains. It is green for most of the year and golden yellow during the summer months due to the lack of rainfall and the scorching sun.

The geography of the two places is quite different. While Enna stands on a plateau with sheer cliffs, Calascibetta rests on the slope of Mount Xibet.

Both of them have been inhabited since very ancient times as it was evidenced by archaeological findings. But it is believed that the real foundation of Calascibetta took place during the Arab period. As Enna was an impregnable stronghold, the Arabs settled a military camp on Mount Xibet, waiting for the right moment to launch an attack on Enna, which was occupied by the Byzantines. The siege lasted for a long time. While the Arabs remained camped on Mount Xibet, they boosted the tiny town situated there, developing the commerce and agriculture. Furthermore, they built mosques and palaces.

Seen from Calascibetta, Enna appears inaccessible. The steep rocks conceal some paths through which you can walk up to the top of the mountain. It is said that the Arabs were able to break the siege thanks to the help of a traitor banished from Enna, who showed them one of those concealed, dangerous, narrow paths through the rocky slopes, in the nighttime.

A further growth of Calascibetta took place during the Norman period. As the Arabs had done two centuries ago, the Normans also camped in Mount Xibet during their thirty-year siege on Enna, which was an Arab fortress this time.

The Normans built churches, monuments, a castle and the city walls in Calascibetta.

The Aragonese came to Calascibetta after the Normans. King Peter II of Aragon, who became  the king of Sicily, built the Royal Palatine Chapel in 1340. He loved Calascibetta and died in this town in 1342.

This is an excerpt from November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

November 2 The Day of the Dead in Sicily
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo