A TRADITIONAL SICILIAN RECIPE

 

“I’ll prepare macaroni with tomato sauce, eggplants, and salty ricotta.

“Can you give me the recipe? If you don’t mind.”

“I chop the green onions into small pieces and fry them for a few minutes with olive oil. Then I add salt, peeled tomatoes, and a half teaspoon of sugar. This small amount of sugar is very important, because it removes the sourness of the tomato. Finally, I season the sauce with two teaspoons of raw olive oil and some basil. Our traditional Sicilian basil has small leaves. The fragrance of this basil is unique. But the real secret is these three things: first, to have good ingredients, second, to love cooking, and third, to love those who you are cooking for. In the end, love is the basis of everything, including cooking!”

This is an excerpt from The Vibrations of Words

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

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

THE DAY OF THE DEAD IN SICILY

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Since I was a child I have visited the cemetery of my hometown, Enna, on November 2. In Sicily, the festival of the dead is one of the most awaited. When I was a child, we children believed that the night before, the dead left gifts in the nooks of the rooms.
This happened at the time of my childhood. Now this tradition has almost disappeared, having been supplanted by Santa Claus. But, seventy years ago Father Christmas didn’t exist in Sicily.
The symbolic meaning was clear. By receiving the gifts, we were taught to respect and love the souls of the dead.
On November 2, we used to eat special cakes, called ossa di murti (bones of the dead). They were white, looked like bones, and were very hard to eat, but they were delicious.
The typical flowers to offer to the dead were chrysanthemums and very beautiful cockscombs.
Today I went to the cemetery, like every year. I saw a lot of exotic flowers in the tombs but I couldn’t spot even one cockscomb. Apparently, the old Sicily is disappearing!

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 FEAST OF SAINT AGATA IN CATANIA (SICILY)

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February 5, 1939
Today, the celebrations in honor of Saint Agata, the patron saint of Catania, reached their peak. Townspeople wore white habits and ashen-black headdresses. For ten days, twelve gigantic candles on baroque-style litters were borne on the shoulders of guild members as they went along the streets. Today, the litters went ahead of the statue of Saint Agata to light up the street. The patron saint stood on a wagon dragged by hundreds of devotees.
People crowded round the statue and lit big wax candles, which they then handed a man on the wagon. There were so many candles that the wagon couldn’t hold them all. Every now and then, it was emptied of all the candles and they were tossed into a truck.
The wagon was dragged along the places where Saint Agata suffered martyrdom. According to history, the saint belonged to a noble family and wished to be a Christian, but the Roman governor wanted to possess her. She refused, and for that she was imprisoned and later executed.
I saw the procession from the sidewalk of Via Etnea. The streets were so crowded that it was impossible for me to get near the wagon. So I watched the bust of Saint Agata from a distance.
There were also many street vendors. I saw an unusual, beautiful red apple in one of the stalls. I asked the vendor what it was, and he told me it was an apple mixed with sugar, the traditional fruit of the Feast of Saint Agata. I couldn’t help purchasing and eating that apple before I headed for my lodging house.

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

HOW TO REMOVE THE EVIL EYE AND ROUNDWORMS FROM CHILDREN IN OLD SICILY

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Aunt Filippa opened the cupboard and took out a soup plate and a small cup. She put the plate on my head, asking 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 several minutes. Aunt Filippa was not convinced, and from time to time she dripped more olive oil. Then 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 drop maintained the same shape it had when it was dripped, it meant that there was no hex on me. If the drop became wider, there was a real hex. Sometimes the drop 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 many times.
“This 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 on Christmas Eve. It was a secret prayer that had been handed down from generation to generation. She 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 Aunt Filippa used to diagnose the hex. In other words, if my body vibrations were good the drops assumed a certain shape; otherwise they got broad or sometimes disappeared. However, the real reason my mother and I had come to her was not to get rid of my evil eye, but for the intestinal worms.
I looked up at my mother again and shyly asked her, “What shall we do about my worms?” Once again my mother told me to keep silent and wait.
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 prayer, the words of which I could not understand because her voice was very low. The treatment lasted several minutes.
When her prayer was over, she recommended I drink a 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 ascarids. Some of them were dead and some looked dazed.

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

SIMILARITIES BETWEEN INDIA AND SICILY

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“Before leaving Pune, I went to the Burning Ghat again. There was a pyre. This time women were also present at the funeral. They stayed at a certain distance from the pyre except the wife of the dead man, who stood closer. She broke her bangle with a stone. There was also red powder scattered on the ground. ‘Why did she break her bangle?’ I asked a man next to me. ‘From now on, she won’t wear either bangles or colored saris. Moreover, she won’t put the sindoor on her forehead. It is the spot of red powder on the forehead of Indian married women,’ he answered. ‘What color should her sari be?’ ‘It should be white.’
“At that moment, I recalled my grandmother who had worn black clothes since her husband’s death. In India, it was the same. The color was different, white in India and black in Sicily, but the essence of the love toward their husbands didn’t differ.”

This is an excerpt from The Vibrations of Words: second edition by Ettore Grillo
Ettore Grillo author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

THE FEAST OF THE PATRON SAINT IN ENNA

The pagan worship of the goddess Demeter and her daughter Kore was deeply rooted in Enna until the fifteen century. At the time, besides the Gentiles and the Catholics there were many Muslim families in Enna.

In 1412 the municipality sent a delegation to Venice to buy a statue that replaced the previous one of the goddess Demeter.

As they couldn’t find an effigy portraying the Madonna alone, they bought a wooden sculpture of Maria holding the baby Jesus and shipped it to Sicily by sea.

According to the legend, when the statue arrived at the slopes of Enna, it became so heavy that it was impossible to move it. Then, the wheat reapers came from the nearby fields and put the statue on their shoulders. With them it became light, and they took it to the cathedral. Ever since that time the simulacrum of the Madonna is carried in procession on a gilded litter only by those belonging to the peasantry. People call it ‘The Golden Ship’. The bearers are around one hundred and consider a great honor to carry the Virgin Mary in procession. The fixed, numbered places under the beams that support the litter are assigned to the descendants of the reapers who first brought the statue to Enna and are passed down from generation to generation; therefore it happens that tall and short brethren carry the litter side by side, with the result that some bear much weight and others less or almost nothing. For this reason the ‘Golden Ship’ proceeds with a slanting pace and sometimes gives the impression that it is about to fall on the crowd.

On July 2, the day of the feast, the crowned wooden sculpture of Our Lady covered with gold – rings, bracelets, necklaces, and so on, preceded by the statues of St. Joseph and St. Michael the Archangel, files between two lines of people.

According to some historians, the feast of July 2 is the same as the old one of Demeter. At that time three statues were also carried in procession. Therefore what matters is the religious feeling which does not depend on the different names you may give to the divinity.

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