ANOTHER SICILIAN TOMB

I stumbled upon a tomb of a friend of mine. We had been classmates in middle school. Her name, Katia, was quite uncommon in Enna. Her voice sounded like the chirping of a chick. I’ll never forget her. She had short black hair. Her eyes were as black as coal, but her complexion was as white as snow.

Katia and I followed different destinies in our lives. I was always looking for my soulmate, without being able to find it, while Katia married a doctor soon after she earned a degree in modern literature at the University of Catania. Her marriage didn’t last long, for she divorced her husband two years later.

After graduating, Katia got a job as a middle school teacher. She also wrote a book of poems. Unfortunately, at the age of fifty, while driving her car on a foggy road, she ran into a truck and died after slipping into a coma for a month. The tombstone in her tomb had been engraved with a poem of hers:

Love is a wandering knight.

He appears to you only once in your life.

Don’t let him go.

When he goes away, it is too late.

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 EPITAPH ON A SICILIAN TOMB

It was getting late. The keeper of the cemetery came and kindly asked her to head for the exit. Angela nodded. She took a sheet of paper from her bag and handed it to the keeper. It contained the epitaph she had written:

Death is a melter.

He gathers souls here and there.

Souls of the rich, souls of the poor,

Souls of the noble, souls of the plebeian.

Then he put them into its crucible where

All souls become ONE.

“Tomorrow, would you mind giving this sheet of paper to the stonecutter, please? He has already been informed. He will carve this epitaph on the marble wall above the altar,” Angela said.

The keeper of the cemetery bowed his head and said, “It will be done, my fair lady.”

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

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

November 2 The Day of the Dead in Sicily

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November 2 is a special day in Sicily. The Day of the Dead is considered an important festival, when children receive gifts from the dead and eat special bone-shaped cakes. Cemeteries are overcrowded with people walking in the avenues, placing flowers at gravesites, and lighting candles in their tombs. Many Sicilian tombs look like small houses: They contain a room, an altar, and marble-walled niches.

Mario Chiaramonte goes to the cemetery on this day. Besides visiting the tombs of his relatives and friends, he strolls throughout the graveyard. On his walk, he stumbles on some special tombs. A few have an epitaph carved on the tombstone or above the altar.

The tombs he visits house the bodies of a Mafia boss, a literary man, a poet, a nobleman, and more. Mario recalls the salient moments of their lives, and at the same time sees himself from a different detached perspective.

Romance, adventure, life, death, the Mafia, good and evil, racism, and impermanence are themes throughout the novel. November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily is thought provoking and captivating from beginning to end.

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

CEMETERIES IN THE WORLD

 

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Before the Napoleonic edict, the dead were buried in the churches. Later, this custom fell into disuse.
In the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, the friars used to embalm the dead. Still now it is possible to visit the underground cemetery of the monastery where the embalmed corpses are displayed. Through this practice, the Franciscan friars wanted to draw attention to the frailty of human life.
The Franciscan friars of Rome did something similar in the Capuchin Church on Via Veneto. In the crypt are displayed the bones of about four thousand Capuchin friars. With the bones, the friars made chandeliers, chairs, tables, decorations on the walls and other objects in the Baroque style. Also in this case, the Capuchin friars aimed at making people meditate on the impermanence of life.
In Korea there were no family vaults. They set the dead into the ground and then made a womb-shaped mound. They called it the womb of Mother Earth, the final abode of the body. But, cremation was also practiced in Korea.
In some tribes I have visited in Tanzania, the dead were buried in front of the house where they had lived. But, before being set in the underground niche, the dead person was placed on a chair in front of his house for some time. This way the relatives and friends could offer condolences to the family,
In America I couldn’t spot any chapel in the cemetery of Arlington in Washington DC. I just saw a vast expanse of graves. Even the president of the United States had been buried in a grave. What impressed me for its simplicity was the grave of Robert Francis Kennedy. It was located at the foot of a grassy hill. On it was just a cross on one side and a small tombstone with the name Robert Francis Kennedy and the dates of his birth and death on the other side. At that time, I meditated for some minutes in front of the graves of John and Robert Kennedy. They were my idols when I was a boy. When I was about to leave the cemetery, a guard approached me, saluted me, and then shook my hand. I was shocked! Did the Kennedy brothers order the guard to treat me as a special guest?

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo