The Pizzica Video that Tore My Heart

Just as the reality of coronavirus lockdown descended (even on those of us who live in lightly populated areas), two differnt Facebook friends linked to this YouTube video, released on April 17th. The location is the Piazza Sant’Oronzo in the southern Italian city of Lecce, at the heel tip of the “boot.”

The dance is a traditional style called pizzica. I had learnt about it only recently, when I met an Italian scholar living in the US, Giovanna Parmigiani, who published an article in The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies about how some residents of that region were, in a sense, re-paganzing the dance, but in their own unique way, reflective of their regional history and their understanding of tradition.

While the opportunity exits, you can download her article, “Spiritual Pizzica: A Southern Italian Perspective on Contemporary Paganism,” for free. Just visit the linked page and click “PDF.”[1]If this free download does not work for you during the summer of 2020, please contact me.

Based on conversations with Giovanna, reading her work, watching videos, I realized that the Lecce dancer’s performance turned the pizzica tradition on its head.

  1. Instead of being at a crowded festival, the dancer is alone.
  2. Instead of wearing white, she is wearing black.
  3. Instead of having live music, she dances to recorded music.
  4. Instead of being in a crowd, she is alone.
  5. She is alone.

The newspaper La Repubblica picked it up and placed the video on its own YouTube channel, commenting

A dancer dressed in black dances the pinch in the heart of Lecce. In Piazza Sant’Oronzo, on what is the symbol of the city: the coat of arms of the She-wolf, on which the woman moves almost as if she wanted to awaken everyone from slumber. The video that appeared on Facebook has become a sort of exorcism, in the days of quarantine due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The taranta of evils to be chased away at a mad pace is known, and this is the message launched by the dancer. Who, assures those who filmed it by turning off the social controversy that have not missed, lives 40 meters from the square, and then moved within the limits imposed by the [lockdown] decree [Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator].

I get the “exorcism” part, but watching this late at night sent me into a horrible dystopian place, a real tragic place, where the dancer and the few passers-by (and the cop at 2:39) were the last people in a deserted city, not exorcising but defying their inevitable deaths from . . . .whatever it was.

When I remember the spring of 2020, I will remember this video as much as I remember the equally deserted Main Street of my nearest little town.

For even though my daily life has “social distancing” built in and even though I do have easy contact with nonhuman nature, and thank the gods for that, I know that I am still connected to the collective unconscious and the world soul, not to mention the internet.

And so I have had some really chilling dystopian dreams, right down to masses of people committing suicide becasue there was nothing left to live for and no way to survive. That particular dream might partly have been launched by reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road the week before at the urging of a friend.[2]His own son is named Cormac — what does that tell you? Bad choice. But without the pandemic, I doubt it would have lodged itself in my psyche.

On a happier note, Giovanna is expanding her paper into a book, The Spider Dance: Tradition, Time, and Healing in Southern Italy, which will be published in Equinox Publishing’s Pagan studies book series one of these days. Dance on!

Notes

1 If this free download does not work for you during the summer of 2020, please contact me.
2 His own son is named Cormac — what does that tell you?

This is Going to Upset Some Writers on Dreaming

The often-retold story  story about the ring of snakes and the benzene ring in chemistry may be not so true.

By claiming to have made two major discoveries with the help of dreams . . . Kekule shrewdly avoided sharing credit with deserving foreign colleagues. . . . . In a recent article in the British scientific journal Ambix, Dr. Wotiz and Dr. Susanna F. Rudofsky concluded: ”Psychologists have cited the Kekule dream account in support of their preconceived theories, rather than deducing any important novel theories from it.”

Miniver Cheevy.

Russian Seasonal Dream Rituals

I missed Orthodox Christmas by  a day, but here is an article on Russian Pagan dream practice.

 Here I’ll try to give the “taste” of the authentic Russian tradition of dream work that has very deep roots in pre-Christian culture.  Mainly the Russian tradition tells about highly practical dream incubation and tuning.  The tuning rituals are connected to certain calendar dates and periods all over the year, days of the week, and time of the day.  There is also very rich practice of using ‘magic’ objects and creating special situations for powerful dream incubation. My experience in teaching dream work shows that three days intensive in the nature is not enough to try at least either summer, or winter rituals.

Dr. Taverner and the Dreamer’s World

Not Sherlock Holmes, it's Dr. Taverner

Robert Moss, novelist and noted writing on dreaming, has a series of posts on his blog about Dion Fortune’s Secrets of Dr. Taverner.  Supposedly, the occultist/psychiatrist Dr. Taverner is based on a real doctor whom Fortune knew in the early twentieth century, and the “secrets” are retellings of actual cases.

 In my opinion, she succeeded beyond her ambition. The Taverner stories are both gripping and entertaining, and a valuable source of practical guidance on psychic protection and spiritual cleansing and many other facets of psychic well-being that are missed in our standard approach to healthcare and therapy. In its fictional wrapping, The Secrets of Dr Taverner is a practitioner’s casebook, of the greatest value to subsequent practitioners. It is perhaps the most accessible of all Dion Fortune’s works for the contemporary reader.

I once suggested to Stewart Farrar that he adapt them for television—how perfect for PBS’ Mystery seriesand he agreed that they would work well on “the box.”

Only, he said, the current leadership of her Society of the Inner Light was very protective of the copyrights. Too bad. Stewart would have brought both his writing talent—which had included dramatic scriptwriting—and a Witch’s experience to the job.

The Unsettling Wisdom of Dreams

As some of my readers know, my oldest sister died in February. She was living in Lithuania, and I had not seen her for two years, although we were in touch by letters and email until just a few days before the end.

In fact, one thing keeping me from working more both on this blog and other writing has been my new part-time job as her executor and trustee of her family trust.

Some time in March (I forgot to write it down), I did dream of her. I pay attention to dreams about the recently deceased. There is a special quality to them. At times they seem to carry a definite message from the Other Side.

I tossed a couple such dreams into “Ghosts,” an essay about my parents that I wrote partly to show my creative-nonfiction students that such work could be sold for money.

The dream about my sister, however, was not as clear-cut as those I summarized in “Ghosts.” In it I was following her across down a sidewalk at a small shopping center, carying my cat Victor in my arms. For some reason, I wanted to show him to her.

Today, as the Brits like to say, I’m gobsmacked. I had it all wrong. I thought the dream was about her, but it was not.

It took a message from a friend in Arizona to enlighten me. Her dog may have terminal cancer, and she was talking about how animals will sometimes tell you when it’s time to go.

Victor had been sick in late December, including a Christmas Day visit to the 24-hour emergency vet. Because we could not leave him at home alone, with the cat-sitter dropping by every other day, we canceled our planned trip to Arizona.

In April, his medical problems returned. With him sprawled on the metal table in the examining room, clearly in pain, M. and I made the tough choice between more treatment and euthanasia.

But not until my Arizona friend wrote to me about her dog did I understand the dream from weeks before. It was not just about my late sister.

A month before the vet gave him the injection, I had already carried him in my arms to the Land of the Dead.