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Author Topic: Reflections on Italy (picture heavy)  (Read 2542 times)


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Reflections on Italy (picture heavy)
« on: July 05, 2016, 11:07:11 am »
I had the good fortune to spend the past two weeks in Italy with my family, visiting many of the towns that my ancestors came from. Although it was not my first time in the country of my ancestry, it was the first time that I had the opportunity to get away from the beaten path of tourism and get a glimpse of everyday lives in that country. It was also my first time traveling there since my conversion from Catholicism to Paganism, and so I had a different perspective this time around. I'd like to share a few of my photos and thoughts that I had on my trip.

The Goddess is everywhere, and her name is Mary

This is just one of many examples of shrines to the Blessed Mother I encountered while travelling. This particular shrine was actually in the parking lot of the hotel we stayed in in the town of Frascati.

This one (taken from the car as we drove by, hence the rearview in a corner of the photo) is a more common sight, a roadside shrine at an intersection. This is just one of three shrines we saw in Rocchetta al Volturno, Molise- a town with a population of about 1200.

This is one of the more impressive ones, located alongside the docks in Minori on the Amalfi Coast. The inscription under her feet carries some of her epithets: Queen of Beauty, in Perpetual Splendor, Star of the Sea

Roman and Pre-Roman Paganism has been recycled into the Church

This is a side altar in the church of Santa Maria della Rocca, in Offida. This particular church was built on the site of an old Pagan temple- a common occurrence in Italy. This particular altar was originally the altar in that pagan temple, which was dedicated to a god from whom the town is named, known now simply as Ophis, the serpent. The altar can be seen as having a groove around the outside edge, which was for collecting the blood of the sacrificed beast (likely a bull as you'll see below).

This is actually in St. Peter's basilica (the church part of the Vatican in Rome, for those of you unfamiliar with Catholicism). This is the grave and monument to Pope Innocent XI, seated in the center. On his left is a figure which the church has labelled as either Fortitude or Justice (depending who you ask) but the imagery is very clearly Minerva. Not only is she bearing the Aegis, but you can see the head of Medusa on her breastplate.

Pagan traditions are now cultural practices

Unfortunately I don't have any photos of it, as we were there at the wrong time of year, but Offida has a Carnival festival that is ripped right out of Pagan worship. On Venerdi Grasso (Fat Friday, or the Friday before Lent) the town has a festival they call in the local dialect "lu Bov Fint", the fake bull. The whole town dresses up in red and white clothes, and many color their faces black with burnt cork. The young men of the town take turns carrying a wooden bull on their shoulders down the Corso Serpente Aureo and through the Piazza del Popolo, charging at the spectators (many of whom are drunk on Offida Rosso wine) who in turn try to touch the bull on the face or horns. At the end of this event (which goes on for hours), the bull is then "sacrificed" and the horns are touched to the town hall. Here's a video from the official Offida tourism site:
Following lu Bov Fint, on Martedi Grassi (fat Tuesday) is i Vlurd, a celebration where a wicker man is paraded through town and then thrown onto a bonfire in the central piazza.

Neighboring Ripatransone has an interesting celebration as well, taking place a week after Easter, called Cavallo di Fuoco (horse of fire). A large wooden horse is loaded with fireworks, and then paraded through the streets as the fireworks shoot off over (and into) the crowd. Many of the locals wear hats made of tinfoil to protect themselves from the flying sparks.

Respect for your Ancestors is a big deal

We actually spent some time visiting the cemeteries in Offida, Ripatransone, Rocchetta al Volturno and Colli a Volturno looking for the graves of our ancestors. We had little luck in the towns around the Volturno river, for most of the graves we had been looking for would have been for people who were buried in Rocchetta Alta, a town which is now deserted and partially destroyed due to a rockslide. The people buried there had been moved to the two towns downriver, but many had missing grave markers due to the rockslide. We can only assume the graves we sought were among this number. However, we had great luck in Offida, finding the graves of my great-great grandmother and grandfather.

As you can see the mortuary stone is so old that much of the inscription has worn away (bad luck for my mom, who wanted birth dates for her ancestry project). Even though it has been over 70 years since Eufrosina passed away (and longer than that for Michele) someone has still left flowers at their grave sometime this year- probably at Easter. Many graves, just as old or older, had even fresher flowers, and the cemetery had a big bin full of watering cans at the front gate for people to use freely. Candles and religious icons were also a frequent offering found at these graves.

That's all I have for now, still pretty jet-lagged to be honest. I hope you at least found this mildly interesting, and would be happy to answer what questions I can. :)


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