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.
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.
Lake Pergusa is the only natural lake in Sicily. It has neither tributary nor distributary. Perhaps its water comes from an underground spring or from the rivulets that run through the surrounding hills when it rains.
This lake is mythic, for Kore was abducted by Hades in this place.
These days, the myth has given way to a modern car race circuit which rings the lake. Since motor racing is less frequent, the racetrack has become a paradise for runners and cyclists. The air in the area is unpolluted, for the lake is surrounded by trees.
Today, early in the morning I went there. I covered the five kilometers of the circuit by running slightly. Every now and then, I stopped on the shore of the lake, near the reeds, and did some physical exercises.
Holistic disciplines claim that body and mind are connected. I agree. By taking care of your body, you also take care of your spirit.
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
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
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
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
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.
Now I am at Arambol Beach in Goa (India) for my winter holidays.
How did I spend the last day of the year? At dawn, I went jogging on the beach, saluted the rising sun, and helped some fishermen that asked me to give them a hand to beach their heavy boat.
At night, I walked along the seaside where thousands of people were waiting for the stroke of midnight.
On the first day of the new year, I went to the beach at daybreak again. There were a few cleaners that were collecting the garbage littered by those who had celebrated Happy New Year all night.
I jogged and then saluted the rising sun as usual. It was the same sun as yesterday. Seeing me, the fishermen waved their hands from a distance. Nothing had changed! We humans divide time into days, months and years, and make wishes whenever a new year comes, but in nature there is only an uninterrupted flow of happenings without beginning or end.
Ettore Grillo author of these books: – A Hidden Sicilian History – The Vibrations of Words -Travels of the Mind http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo
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?
Although Enna is in Sicily, an island with a temperate climate, its weather is quite inclement during the winter. It is windy and above all foggy. The citizen of Enna have nicknamed the fog la paesana (the fellow citizen) for it envelops the city like a cloak quite often. Seen from below, the fog looks like a wide hat on the head of the plateau. Actually, the fog is nothing but low clouds. Once, the snow used to fall on the city, but these days, due to global warming, it has become more and more rare.
The plateau is not completely flat. There are three a bit elevated areas that gently slope down to the center of the city. Seen from above, the area looks like a triangle. On one tip is an old castle, called the Castle of Lombardy, which is still accessible even though a few towers have fallen into ruin. On the other tip, is the Franciscan monastery of Capuchin of Montesalvo, and on the third tip is the cemetery which lies on a hillock.
The Castle of Lombardy stands in the highest part of the city. According to some authors, it took this name from a garrison of Lombard soldiers who defended the castle during the Norman period. The best preserved tower is called the Pisan Tower. It was built by Frederick II of Swabia. It was so named because it was defended by a garrison of soldiers from Pisa. It was considered an impregnable castle. Later it was converted first into a prison and then into an open-air theater. It was called the theater closest to the stars. These days there is neither the prison nor the theater, but tourists come and visit it and the Pisan Tower. From the top of the tower it is possible to admire valleys, mountain ranges and Mount Etna.
The Monastery of Montesalvo is near the center of Sicily. An obelisk symbolizing the center of the island stands just a few meters away from the monastery. According to some, in ancient time the pagan feasts of Ceres, Kore, and Dionysus were celebrated in this place. Then, around the year 1300 a Catholic church was built to replace the pagan festivals with the one in honor of The Most Holy Mary of Visitation. The monastery is adjacent to the church. Once it teemed with Franciscan monks, but nowadays its many cells are almost all empty except for two or three where monks still live.
The cemetery is large enough to look like a town. It has broad streets and tall tombs. Many tombs are similar to small houses. They have a room inside with walled niches and an altar to celebrate Mass on November 2. My grandmother used to keep in her family tomb a few chairs for herself and for her families, relatives and friends that came to visit the tomb or passed by.