THE RAPE OF KORE (PERSEPHONE)

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The temples of Demeter and Kore don’t exist anymore. In Enna, the cult of Mary replaced that of Demeter. I can take you to Lake Pergusa. It is not far from downtown Enna. According to myth, Ades, the god of the underworld, came out of one of the caves scattered in the woods which surrounded Lake Pergusa, with his chariot pulled by four black steeds. At the same time Kore was plucking flowers with her mother Demeter and some nymphs by the lakeside to weave them into garlands.

“To allure her, Ades disguised himself as a splendid narcissus. Kore was enchanted by the color and scent of that beautiful flower and walked away from her mother and the nymphs to pick it, but suddenly the narcissus turned into Ades who grabbed Kore, put her on his chariot, and abducted her. Then, Ades lashed his steeds which, as fast as the wind, immediately headed for his underground kingdom.

“Demeter was desperate. She looked for her daughter everywhere without avail. Then, she turned to Zeus, who knew where Kore was kept, but he seemed not to be incline to displease his brother Ades who had got a wife at long last. After Kore became Ades’s wife, she was given a new name, Persephone.

“Demeter was the goddess of agriculture and fertility. As an act of revenge against Zeus she made the vegetation on Earth wither. Things were getting complicated even for Zeus, the king of gods! But, Ades persisted in his refusal to give back Persephone to her mother. However, he couldn’t help complying with Zeus’s wishes, who wanted to break the deadlock between Ades and Demeter.

“Zeus suggested a solution acceptable to both parties. Persephone would stay for six months with her husband Ades in the underground and for six months with her mother Demeter on the earth’s surface. So it happened!

“The myth symbolizes the alternating of the seasons on Earth. In Autumn and Winter, when Persephone is in the underground, vegetation is lifeless, while in Spring and Summer, when Persephone stays with her mother Demeter, plants and trees are flourishing.”

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

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

A QUICK LOOK AT THE MAFIA

 

A man with a beard in a hat, tie. Logo for barbershop, men's store
A man with a beard in a hat, tie. Logo for barbershop, men’s store.

Once,  the Italian public television interviewed a mafioso from Corleone, a town in the province of Palermo. He served his life sentence in a prison in Sardinia. During his captivity he painted oil paintings. Seen on the small screen, his paintings looked beautiful. Then, the interviewer asked him if it was true that he was still a Mafia boss and wielded power from prison.

“Every time a Mafia murder occurs, the authorities charge me as the mandator in the murder. This is absurd! I have been locked in this prison for many years. Do you think I can keep control over the Mafia from my cell?” replied the Mafia boss.

In my opinion he was right. If a lifer can still have influence over a criminal organization while he is locked in a prison, it means that the prison administration is inefficient.

Actually, some murders were charged to that life convict from Corleone. I can assume the reason. When a serious bloodshed happens, the general public wants a culprit. Why not give people an easy-to-find culprit, that is the indistinct Mafia, which has neither name nor surname, or a lifer?

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 TOMB OF A MAFIA BOSS

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About one hundred meters away from Gerlando Sferrazzanetti’s tomb there was that of Antonio Colinari, who was reputed to be a Mafia boss. He was killed in an ambush while on his way to his farm. In the world of criminals, even the bosses cannot feel safe. He had a gun in the glove compartment of his car, but he didn’t have time to pull it out. Two masked men on motorbikes came abreast of his car and shot him dead. According to the investigators, he was killed by order of another faction of the  Mafia hostile to him.

Was he a mafioso? Was he killed by the Mafia? I cannot know. I only say that there is an official truth, which comes from the authorities, and the real truth. The two truths not always match.

To say that it was the Mafia that killed him is equivalent to say that nobody killed him. The Mafia doesn’t have a name like a person. It is something indistinct. With the alibi of the Mafia, criminals go unpunished. It would be more honest for the authorities to say, “We are unable to find the killers,” rather than say, “It was the Mafia that killed him.”

The Mafia recalls the myth of Odysseus and Polyphemus. When Polyphemus’s friends asked him who had been the one who had blinded him, he answered, “Nobody”. The same goes for the Mafia. When the authorities are unable to detect a culprit, they say, “The culprit was the Mafia,” that is nobody.

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