MY HOMETOWN ENNA (SICILY)

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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.

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

A TASTE OF SICILIAN HISTORY

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Enna is a small city on a plateau in the center of Sicily. Its foundation 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 and one hundred meters above sea level. Like all Greek cities, Enna was a city-state that had 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 of 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-figure and black-figure vases. Sometimes in the mouth of the skeleton has been found a coin. The Greeks believed that to get to the Hades (the kingdom of the dead) the soul of the dead should pay a coin to Charon who ferried the dead across the Styx and the Acheron, rivers 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 Verres, he was so surprised by the religiosity of the city that he had a feeling that the inhabitants of Enna were omnes sacerdotes (all priests).

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 MYSTERY OF LOVE

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“The mystery of love is contained in the myth of Eros and Psyche. Psyche was a very beautiful girl. Eros fell in love with her. In the nighttime, he met her in a house in the middle of the forest, without ever revealing his appearance. ‘If you don’t see me,’ said Eros, ‘our love will last; otherwise, it will vanish like snow in the hot sun.’ But, Psyche couldn’t resist the temptation of seeing her lover. So, one night, while Eros was sleeping, she saw the extraordinary beauty of her man in the light of an oil lamp. Yet, a drop of hot oil from the lamp fell on Eros’s shoulder. Suddenly, he woke up and disappeared. Psyche couldn’t see him anymore! The meaning of the myth is clear. You can’t understand love or observe it too closely. If you try to know what love is, it will vanish. You just have to live love without ever asking what it is. Love is a mystery! Just live the mystery!”
“For me,” said Mario, “there must be something rational in love. Someone says that love is an art that can be learned and understood.”
“I don’t think so,” replied Lorenzo. “If love were an art to be learned, lovers would have realized how to make their love last forever. Yet, it is not like that. Almost all loves end up extinguishing sooner or later, like fire that flames at first, but with time burns out.
“Someone thinks that it is possible to use some techniques to make a person fall in love. I don’t think so. Love is attraction and feeling. I think no technique can make a person love somebody. The biggest mistake one can make is to consider love as a safe haven to live happily and serenely for all life. Love is unstable!
“However things are, it is certain that you can’t buy love. Even the rich and the potent can’t buy it with their money and power. So, love is the peak of justice because it doesn’t make any distinction between the rich and the poor, the weak and the potent.”
“Nevertheless, I will keep traveling and looking for my ideal soul mate. I won’t give up, even if I can’t find her until the end of my life. I will always cherish in my mind the hope that somewhere I will find a woman who suits me. Someday, my eternal love will appear to me definitely,” Alberto said sincerely.
“Don’t search for love outside yourself! You won’t find it!” said Judge Cangemi. “Love is a state of your being! If you become love, everything is love. If you are not love, you can’t find love outside. To find the real eternal love is illusion! You’d better try to become love yourself!”
“I agree with Judge Cangemi,” concluded Uncle Salvatore. “Yes, love is important in our life, but I think the most important journey is to search after the immortal soul and the source of our frail but precious life.”
For about fifteen minutes, the lounge of The old Club of the Noblemen fell silent. No one had any intention of standing up. The theme ‘love’ had stirred up their buried emotions. They were all old men. Many years had gone by since the first date with the loved girlfriend, the first kiss to her. But, time couldn’t wither their hearts. Love has no age. It is timeless and boundless. Love is the source of life in the universe.
The keeper of the club came near the small group of members.
“Sorry to disturb you all. It’s time to close,” he said with submissive voice.
“Yes, let’s go home!” said Uncle Salvatore.
Everybody stood up and headed for the exit of the club. The keeper lowered the shutter. The last part of the day was painted with a conversation about love. Tomorrow, another story of life would be continued.

This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind 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

NOVEMBER 2, 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:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind

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

MY REVIEW OF LOVE, SEX, MARRIAGE IN ANCIENT GREECE

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If it had been possible to rate this book six-star or even seven-star, I would have done it, definitely. Actually, reading Love, Sex, Marriage in Ancient Greece by Nikos A. Vrissimtzis is like being projected into life in archaic, classic, and Hellenistic Greece. It looks like reliving those eras!
Nikos A. Vrissimtzis describes the habits of the ancient Greeks in a simple way, and upholds his narrative with detailed reference to Greek literature and archaeological finds. Superb is his narration about symposiums where hetaeras took part. They were prostitutes of high rank, learned and above all of extraordinary beauty. Even Pericles fell in love with one of them, called Aspasia, and had a child from her.
Some commonplaces are debunked. There is no evidence that the famous poet Saffo was a lesbian. In my opinion she can be considered as the archetype of modern feminism.
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind

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

OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE, MOTHER GODDESS TONANTZIN, AND DEMETER

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The place where the basilica now stands was a holy place long before the Spanish conquered Mexico. It is called the Hill of Tepeyac. At the site there was a temple devoted to the mother goddess called Tonantzin. Later, the Spanish destroyed the temple and built a nearby chapel. But the destruction of the temple couldn’t prevent the natives from pouring into the site.
Ten years after the Spanish conquered Mexico, a local peasant named Juan Diego, who had recently converted to Christianity, had a vision said to be Our Lady in the same area, who asked for a chapel to be built in the place. People from all over Mexico rallied to the chapel to worship the shrine, and it is reported that many miracles occurred. Nevertheless, the natives kept calling Our Lady by the name of Tonantzin, the ancient mother goddess revered by the native population. This gave rise to the doubts of the Franciscan friars, who were convinced that the veneration of the holy image was a pagan cult.
Something similar also happened in Enna. In  fact, Our Lady, who is the patron saint of Enna, replaced the ancient cult of Demeter, who was the town’s mother goddess. The celebration in honor of Our Lady happens on July second every year, the same time when the old pagan cult of Demeter was celebrated. People of Enna today still invoke the name Kore, who was Demeter’s daughter.
In my opinion, it doesn’t matter the name you give to God; what matters is the spiritual feeling that radiates from the worshipper. So you can call God Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, or Shiva without losing the purity of your heart. Jesus and the Virgin Mary are beyond time, as they existed before time, long before coming into human history. They also existed in the pagan era and were worshipped differently.
The Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego in the form of a crossbreed maiden, and in the same place where the Spanish had destroyed the temple dedicated to the goddess Tonantzin. That means that nobody is allowed to destroy others’ temples, even if they are considered pagan. In fact, religion and spirituality are not related to a particular cult. Over the years people have given various names to God and worshiped Him in different ways, but it doesn’t entitle anybody to resort to violence to make one religion prevail over another.
As for the holy image imprinted on Juan Diego’s cloak, it was kept for some time by the Franciscan friars until it passed under the custody of the diocesan priests. With the passing of time, possibly in good faith, the original image was retouched in some spots. For instance, the crescent on which the Virgin Mary stands was painted with silver. Apparently, nowadays the retouches have discolored naturally, while the original image is still unaltered.

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

TRAVELING FROM ENNA (SICILY) TO BANNEUX (BELGIUM)

 

our-lady-banneux-statue-source-inside-sanctuary-belgium-125672172[1]When we arrived in Banneux, the bus stopped next to a square. At the end of the square there was a street that led to the sanctuary. The atmosphere in Banneux was different from other Marian sanctuaries. It was much simpler and there weren’t many shops. We walked towards the chapel and found a water basin on the right, which was where little Mariette had dipped her hands. We too dipped our hands and drank some of the water.
After visiting the chapel, we walked through the woods that bound the water basin. While we were walking, I realized why Our Lady had called herself The Virgin of the Poor. We well-to-do people tend to underestimate the issue of poverty. It is one of the most serious social problems.

Here amid the woods of Banneux, in my mind I saw all the jobless, poor Sicilians that had migrated to Belgium to work in the coal mines after the end of the Second World War. Many of them died trapped underground, while those who survived contracted an illness called silicosis, which was a progressive disease caused by the inhalation of dust in mines. My mind went to the immigrants that try to reach the Sicilian coast packed in precarious boats, which sometimes wrecked, causing the deaths of hundreds of people, whose only fault is to be poor and searching for a better place to live.

I recalled a butcher in Enna who had a large family. My father used to go to his shop to buy lamb at Easter. Over time, many butcher shops sprang up in Enna, so that butcher couldn’t match the competition and became poor. He took on debts to feed his family, hoping he would be able to pay them, but things didn’t go well. He fell into despair and couldn’t find a way out. One night he left his home and told his wife that he had to cut a few lambs’ throats, but things went differently. He pulled down the shutters in his shop, and instead of cutting lambs’ throats, he cut his own. The following day his blood still leaked through the chink of the shutter, flowing into the street.
There are many tragedies caused by poverty that we don’t know about. Sometimes, even when we know about them we ignore them instead of doing something to try to overcome the scourge of poverty.
Here, where Our Lady of the Poor appeared, I saw in my mind’s eye how many conflicts were sparked off by poverty. Indigence gives rise to social malaise, and then to a Mafia, terrorism, and war. It is not by chance that terrorists and members of the Mafia are recruited from the poorest classes.

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