A VISIT TO A DISUSED SICILIAN CLOISTERED CONVENT

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!

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 SICILIAN REMEDY TO GET RID OF ROUNDWORMS

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,

Easter Sunday.

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.

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 SICILIAN NATURAL REMEDY TO CURE LUNG DISEASES

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!

 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

Cuccìa, a Traditional Sicilian Dish

December 13, 1934

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

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 AMATEUR LULLABY FOR THE DEAD

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.

AN AMATEUR LULLABY FOR THE DEAD – YouTube

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 by Ettore Grillo is thought provoking and captivating from beginning to end.
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

TRAVELS TO DEFEAT ANXIETY AND PANIC ATTACKS

Travels of the Mind is set in the lounge of a club of noblemen, in a small Sicilian city. It is the first book I have written. This is the second edition.

A few members of the club of the noblemen, sitting in the lounge, tell each other their travel stories. They also discuss topics related to their travels, like love, understanding the mind, afterlife, and so on.

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Besides being a travel guide, it is also a self-help book. The main character in the novel got over his anxiety and panic attacks thanks to the help of people he met during his travels. One of these is a mystic woman, named Natuzza Evolo, who lived in Calabria, a region near Sicily.

The book tells real travels to Tanzania, Tokyo, London, New York, etcetera. Overall, it is enjoyable and easy to read.

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

A HISTORICAL NOVEL ABOUT THE AFTERLIFE

A Hidden Sicilian History is a historical novel based on an old manuscript which was found in the city library of Enna, Sicily.

In the second edition, I have improved the style and added a few details about Sicilian culture and Marian Sanctuaries.

The Sicilian proverbs and prayers are written not only in English but also in the Sicilian language.

The background of the book is Sicily and other countries: India, France, Portugal, Belgium, Russia, Australia, and Mexico.

Vincenzino, the main character in the novel, travels across the world to find an answer to the eternal human question: is there life after death? In the end, he will find a way out of his dilemma.

A Hidden Sicilian History will give the reader useful information about traditional processions, prayers to remove roundworms and hexes, life in the sulfur mines and in the public whorehouse, and so on.

I am sure you will enjoy this book.

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

THE NIGHT OF SAINT JOHN IN OLD SICILY

Equinox and solstice come from the Latin words aequinoctium and solstitium. Since time immemorial, people have celebrated solstices and equinoxes. The winter solstice is related to Jesus’s birth, the summer solstice is related to St. John the Baptist’s birth. They were second cousins. The former was the son of Mary and the latter the son of her cousin Elisabeth. The birth of John the Baptist preceded that of Jesus by six months. On the summer solstice, herbs have a special energy. There are many practices related to the magic night of St. John. On that day people start bonfires, which are the symbol of purification, and pluck special herbs, above all, the hypericum also called Saint-John’s-wort.

In Sicily, it was believed that on the eve of Saint John’s day it was possible to make predictions about the future.  Girls of marriageable age performed some rituals to get to know the man they would marry and his job.

One of the rituals was the following:

The evening before the night of Saint John, they took three broad beans. They then peeled one, left another intact, and peeled only half of the third broad bean. Before going to sleep, they put the three broad beans under their pillows. The morning after, as soon as they woke up, they took out one of the broad beans under their pillows at random. If it was the peeled one, they would marry a poor man; if it was the one half-peeled, their marriage would be so-so; finally, if it was the unpeeled broad bean, they would have a happy marriage!

Do girls perform such rituals these days? I don’t think so. Perhaps, even marriage has become an obsolete institution!

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

Historical Novel Travels Back to Sicily Through the Ages

Life and death pose a timeless mystery in the powerful fictional work A Hidden Sicilian History: Second Edition.

“Countless people over the years have wished to know their destiny and future. For that reason, there have been astrologers, magicians, wizards, and oracles to consult.” There have also been written histories to contemplate.

At the public library in Enna, Sicily, a young man notices an ancient scroll drift from a shelf to the floor. It appears to have slipped from between two volumes about the Spanish Inquisition.

Although he expects the scroll to be related to life in Sicily at the time of Spanish rule, instead it tells of a drama performed long ago at the deconsecrated Church of Santa Croce in Enna. It also hints of many other things.

The young man translates the lost manuscript into English and publishes it. Throughout its pages flow descriptions of traditional feasts, tips on how to remove hexes, and describes life in Enna’s public whorehouse. But one theme is common throughout: the yearning to understand the meaning of life.

When the Second World War was over, most women in Enna didn’t work outside the home … You saw ladies dressed in black in the streets … If a child had been lost, the woman dressed in black for five years. If a sibling had passed away, his or her sister dressed in black for three years. If the dead person was the husband, the widow dressed in black the rest of her life … As for men, the duration of mourning was much shorter than that of women. They usually wore black suits for a few days.

“This spellbinding story ponders the question: Is there life after death? The scroll found in the book spans many years of Sicilian history and cultural traditions, but the book is also a murder mystery,” said Lynn Eddy, VP of Acquisitions, Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Company.

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

PUBLIC BROTHELS IN OLD SICILY

There was a public whorehouse in Enna until 1958. Afterwards, all brothels were suppressed throughout Italy by an act of the national parliament. Enna’s public whorehouse was located in the upper town, which looks onto the nearby town of Calascibetta, but it was not far from downtown. Of course, Enna is a small city lying on a plateau, and the distances between one side and another are not long.

The brothel was run by a brothel keeper, but the building belonged to a wealthy Enna family and had been leased to an ex-prostitute who had made enough money from her “work.” Brothel keepers were often called “queens”, and were usually unmarried. If it happened that one of them was married, her husband was called the “king.”

One room of the whorehouse was left for a police officer, who had the task of keeping order and checking the personal documents, above all the ones regarding the customer’s age. In fact, entrance was forbidden to young men under eighteen years of age. Nevertheless, the brothel keeper controlled everything in advance and kept order. She was always present at the entrance, and was very strict with both the prostitutes and the customers.

The brothel’s main door was kept ajar till late into the night. A wide red curtain separated the entrance from the rest of the house. Over the curtain there was a hall. The queen’s room was on the right, and on the left two steps led to a corridor. At the bottom was the room for the policeman; on the left there were two wide bedrooms, and on the right two waiting rooms.

From the hall, a staircase led upstairs where there were three more rooms for the girls, the medical room, and another waiting room reserved only for high-class people or someone that wanted to hide his identity, like a priest, a monk, or a married person. The entrance to this waiting room was regulated by the queen, who ordered the doors to all rooms shut, except the one reserved for the police, in order to let in the person that had asked to remain anonymous.
The meeting between the girls and…

This is an excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History

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