Thursday, December 23, 2010

An Interview with the Slavic Faith Association (by the Odinic Rite)

This was a text interview from either in late 2009 or early 2010, which was not conducted by us, but was published by the Odinic Rite. However, since the OR has removed it from their press service website, and we were able to retrieve it, we wanted to post it here so it would not be lost.

It's so interesting to examine how certain pre-Christian traditions overlapped one another. For example, how the old Gallic paganism (what we call "Cernism") overlapped with Odinism in the north and east or with the British Isles. Also, in this case, how Slavic paganism overlapped with Odinism. There are many common themes and symbols.

One interesting term used by the interviewee was "native believer," or anyone who believes in their specifically ancestral faith. Also interesting is a reference to the Celtic people who lived in Poland in ancient times. Especially around Slenza mountain, as he mentioned. Celtic roots are such a common thread among European peoples, hence the Celtic solar cross found all over from the ancient world.

An Interview with the Slavic Faith Association

OR: What is the name of your organization and what is it’s purpose? What are it’s aims?

SFA: The full and official name of our organization is The West – Slavic Denominational Association “Slavic Faith” (ZZW “Słowiańska Wiara”) but we’re commonly known as “Slavic Faith” or “Slavonic Faith”. Our aim is to deepen our Slavic beliefs, to create a unique philosophy of life and sustain our heritage. Over the past few years we have created an inimitable community of people dedicated to this aims.

OR: When was your organization formed?

SFA: Unofficially the organization was formed nearly 3 years ago. First ideas had been in our minds since about 2004. It took time to find other really devoted neopagans from all around Poland. I became a native-believer about 12 years ego. And I don’t remember such a successful enterprise over the previous decade. This has taught me to be patient.

OR: What are the beliefs of the Slavic Faith?

SFA: Let me quote the first point of the Denomination of Slavic Faith, the most important of our declarations:

“We believe in the Slavic Gods. We believe in the wisdom, goodness and beauty hidden under their countenances. Slavic Gods are the founts of life, power and happiness. Belief in our Gods is the heritage which we continue.”

OR: What are the values of the Slavic Faith?

SFA: The eighth point says:

“We are the defenders of our values, families and community. We defend the right to live on our own territory; we defend the space of our civilization. This duty arises from the most obvious laws of nature.”

The whole 12 paragraphs of Denomination of Slavic Faith is available here:

OR: What are some of the symbols used in Slavic Paganism?

SFA: We have just sent some documents to the polish ministry of internal affairs (MSWiA). these include lists of Slavic pagan symbols. We want to create official documents which specify these symbols and allow us to protect them by law, like the Christian cross, the Star of David or the Crescent. These symbols in most cases have a Solar origin. Some of those aren’t widely known, for e.g. God’s Hands. Picture below:

OR: What is the relevance of the fylfot/swastika to Slavic Paganism? What about the triskelion?

SFA: Of course the swastika was widely known and has been used in Poland for hundreds of years. It has appeared on house ornaments, carvings, costumes. Before World War Two it was even used as an ornament of distinction by some polish corps. But one of the Solar symbols is specially important for us. This symbol is the Swarzyca. A carved Swarzyca symbol appeared in a wall stone on the outside of a collegiate church in Kruszwica (central Poland). We think that this stone block was part of pagan temple from around a thousand years ago.

The Triskelion has also been used in Poland. The Triskelion from the picture below comes from Plock (Central Poland) from the XII century.

OR: What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?

SFA: During the year we celebrate 5 of the biggest ceremonies in Poland. 4 of them are: the autumnal/ vernal equinox and the summer/winter solstice plus Ancestors Day which is around 1st November.

In addition to these five we also celebrate two more international festivals. The most important celebration in Slovakia is Peruns Day at midsummer and the Mokosz celebration in Czech Republic (autumn).

We also have some special events such as the swearing in of a new member of the association as well as Slavic weddings and many more. The Slavonic Faith organizes them all.

OR: What types of rituals do you perform?

SFA: Every celebration contains different types of rituals, prayers, songs and offerings.

Every stanza, every word, every gesture expressed by the priests (we call them Kaplan) has a deep meaning. It’s all based on mythology and our reflections. There is no place for improvisation. When someone is coming to our ceremony unprepared, he might only see… well I would say “poetic performance” and nothing more. But even for people without the necessary knowledge, those festivals always make a big impression.

OR: How important are your ancestors?

SFA: Two of the most important festivals in our calendar are: Slavic Spring (March equinox) and Ancestors Day. Ancestors are very important indeed and I’m not talking only about our community. For all Polish people, the memories of our ancestors is something extraordinarily important. There were so many thousands of martyrs in our history, that the memories of them are still alive. This has really nothing to compare with Western Europe. 1st November is National Ancestor Day. On this day all Polish people go to the graveyards to light candles on the tombs of relatives. If you could see satellite pictures from Poland on that day, it would looks like the whole country is burning.

OR: How important are your folk (tribe/people)?

SFA: I became a native believer because these things were the most important in my life. My community provides me with an environment where I can be a better person. I want to be a better person to help and to support my community.

OR: How are men and women viewed in Slavic Paganism?

SFA: "Slavic Faith is an Oak (symbol of male element in nature) and Linden (symbol of female element) braided together, it’s family it’s union”. Women and Men have different roles to fulfill. I’m glad there are more and more women in our community every year (it was always less women than men). In this way we pursue the full harmony. Of course we are against mixing up the natural roles of both sexes in society. We’re traditionalist.

OR: What do you believe about death and life after death?

SFA: I must refer again to the Denomination of Slavic Faith:

“We assume that the death of a man ends a certain stage. It is the condition of the transformation into a new form of existence. It is the shedding of the old, exhausted form. The noble and persistent ones will be rewarded with entering into continuously higher and higher levels of existence, more conscious, more significant and closer to the Gods.”

It’s a very complex problem (of course it is), but what we try to avoid is giving people simple answers. This is the Holy Book, read it, do what we tell you and you gonna be saved – at least that is how monotheistic religions work. We don’t know exactly what happens after death. The core of pagan philosophy is to keep trying to understand the world around us. We have to improve our knowledge. If you want achieve something you must refer to your strength and will, you won’t get anything valuable for free. That is why our religion is never gonna be very popular. We don’t give simple answers for everyone.

OR: Are there any sites which are particularly holy to Slavic Paganism? Could you tell us about them?

SFA: There is many of these places. But I wish to tell about one specific place. It’s the Slenza mountain, 30 km south of Wrocław. It is only 718 meters above see level, but it’s an absolutely magical place. It’s the pagan heart of Poland. It’s a place where you can find remnants of Celtic tribes, a place where pagan rituals have been performed for hundreds of years after the christening of Poland. And a place with a few thousand years old Solar Altar, even an armed cross carved on a big megalithic block hidden somewhere half-way up the Mountain. At the foot of the Slenza, the Slavic Faith organize ceremonies.

OR: How do you see Slavic Paganism in the modern world? Is it relevant to today?

SFA: It is relevant. Relevant for my community and in a cultural aspect relevant for my country. I would say it’s also relevant for Europe. European culture is slowly dying. Careless about heritage and our roots, Europe is becoming another cosmopolitan place. We are probably one of the last bastions of tradition and culture. And I always emphasize, that we are not pagans from Xth century. We are modern living people. We not trying to live the way people lived thousand years ago. We struggle with today’s problems and the neopagan religion helps us deal with the present.

OR: How does your faith affect your day-to-day life?

SFA: I’m one of the fifteen sworn members who are trustees. We have a lot to do. Sometimes the Slavic Faith is like a second job for me.

OR: What do you see for the future of your faith? What role will it play?

SFA: I think the future is bright for us. As an organization we are growing up quickly. We are going to buy some land which will let us organize celebrations without any permission. We want to publish books about our beliefs in the near future and also to persuade the government to enlarge the content of school books about paganism. We want to officially register the Slavic Faith as a legal entity. We also want to strengthen cooperation between pagans from all Slavic countries and also cooperate with other European native believers. (We were thinking about creating an international association to help people to cooperate all around Europe) And many other ideas.

OR: How does society react to you? You are based in a country that is known for it’s Catholicism. Does that create any problems? Have you ever had to deal with discrimination or persecution? If so how do you deal with it?

SFA: I must say, we never have any problems with Catholics. So far so good. We had one serious incident when the police didn’t allow us to celebrate the Spring Festival in a public park. (I don’t think that this was religious harassment, rather pure stupidity) But we know how to execute law, so this case is now being considered in the public prosecution service.

OR: Do you see any similarities between Slavic Paganism and Odinism? The mythology and/or Gods? The value systems? Etc.

SFA: I must say 90% of values represented by Odinism and Slavic Paganism are the same. Heroism, family, the maternal instinct, friendship, loyalty, bravery, honesty. It can’t be different, after all we descended from the same cultural circle . All differences are based on different cultural foundations. And of course these differences are very important. These differences make us unique. What is good for a Buddhist not necessarily must be good for an American. What is good for an American Indian is almost certainly wrong for a German. Monotheistic religions assume the all human kind is this same (at least ought to be). As children of one God we should learn from one holy book and have the same system of values. Sometimes it looks like some insane idea of mixing up everyone to create some amorphous cultural pulp. We should learn from each other, which doesn’t mean trampling out our own culture.

Similarities between Gods ? Well, there is so many common notions, and many of them are so evident. Thor – God of warriors, who sends thunder strokes from heaven. Slavonic God – Perun – God of warriors, who sends thunder strokes from heaven. I can give hundreds of these examples. Sometimes I’m really surprised by how much we have in common.

OR: Where can one find more information about your faith in general and your organization in particular?

SFA: Unfortunately there is no much English language literature about Slavic mythology. This is obviously the fault of the Slavs themselves. We know a huge number of really good scientific publications which have never been translated into English. As an association we have to take action; in the future we’ll translate the most valuable works into English and other European languages.

The simplest way to meet us is to click on: Here you can find the English (simplified) version of our website. For more news about our activities you can contact ours representatives via the e-mail addresses available on this webpage. We willingly provide information about our activities.

OR: Do you have anything you would like to add?

SFA: I really wish to see you one day at any of our festivals. As native believers we are a really small bunch of people. We don’t even compare to any of the monotheistic communions. That’s why it is so important to cooperate. And by cooperation I mean all kinds of intellectual, spiritual and moral support.

Slavic Faith Association

Przemysław Mrugacz – Executive Member


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Milan Cathedral: Iconic image of Milan and Lombardy

The Milan Cathedral has long been the single strongest iconic image of both Milan and Lombardy. Incredibly, it took five hundred years to complete its construction. The history of it's construction is so long, and the architecture so complex, that I will not put the entire Wikipedia page here.

From Wikipedia -- Milan Cathedral (Italian: Duomo di Milano; Milanese: Domm de Milan) is the cathedral church of Milan in Lombardy, northern Italy. Dedicated to Santa Maria Nascente (Saint Mary Nascent), it is the seat of the Archbishop of Milan, currently Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi.

The Gothic cathedral took five centuries to complete. It is the largest Gothic cathedral and the second largest Catholic cathedral in the world.

The American writer and journalist Mark Twain visited Milan in the summer of 1867. He dedicated chapter 18 of Innocents Abroad to the Milan Cathedral, including many physical and historical details, and a now uncommon visit to the roof. He describes the Duomo as follows:

"What a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful! A very world of solid weight, and yet it seems ...a delusion of frostwork that might vanish with a breath!... The central one of its five great doors is bordered with a bas-relief of birds and fruits and beasts and insects, which have been so ingeniously carved out of the marble that they seem like living creatures-- and the figures are so numerous and the design so complex, that one might study it a week without exhausting its interest...everywhere that a niche or a perch can be found about the enormous building, from summit to base, there is a marble statue, and every statue is a study in itself...Away above, on the lofty roof, rank on rank of carved and fretted spires spring high in the air, and through their rich tracery one sees the sky beyond. ... (Up on) the roof...springing from its broad marble flagstones, were the long files of spires, looking very tall close at hand, but diminishing in the distance...We could see, now, that the statue on the top of each was the size of a large man, though they all looked like dolls from the street... They say that the Cathedral of Milan is second only to St. Peter's at Rome. I cannot understand how it can be second to anything made by human hands."


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

First Ever Pagan Metal Documentary

1 of 12 parts. Keep clicking for the next segment on the upper right >>> Part 2, and so on..

Posted on YouTube channel Valmarith

From the video description:

The first ever Pagan Metal Documentary.

By Bill Zebub

Featured Bands:
Leaves Eyes,


Many times, folkish music can be a great way to reach younger people who many be looking for an identity and direction. It doesn't mean that someone really needs to be a pagan, but it can be a very deep, down-to-earth way of attracting them. The youth will be the future. Finer aspects of culture can come with maturity later, if necessary.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Minnesota: "Beltrami Country"

Although we have covered the history of Giacomo Beltrami, the famous explorer from Lombardy, it's worth noting that Minnesota has a number of place names in his honor. Like so many subjects, it always seems like we can't quite do them justice. Beltrami lived an incredible and adventurous life.

First, there is Beltrami County, Minnesota, in the north of the state. Next, there is the city of Beltrami, Minnesota, in the northwest of the state. Lastly, there is a neighborhood named Beltrami in the state's largest city, Minneapolis.

There are likely many other names of streets, parks, etc., which bear his regional iconic name. Beltrami explored the American frontier starting in the 1820s. This country wasn't very old at that time, and Minnesota was largely unexplored by Americans. It's hard to imagine that today, but it had really been less than fifty years since the Revolutionary War.

Now, as we look back today, from a "Lombardian-American" perspective, it's ironic that there was significant later immigration from Lombardy to that Great Lakes region. Places like Duluth, Minnesota and Iron Mountain, Michigan; and other places more eastward, on the American and Canadian sides of the lakes. There's a whole history that we need to dig through. We're really just painting some very broad strokes here. There were a couple of notable Lombard Catholic missionaries in the Wisconsin area, who were sent to teach and convert the local natives. One even wrote a book to help preserve their disappearing language. I don't recall their names offhand, but I can see a definite pattern, over a long period of time, of Lombards in this northern-Midwest area.

[Left: Early Duluth]

I know that I've repeated this theme a number of times, but getting information in this area of study is like pulling teeth. As patterns develop, it's both exciting and frustrating. I can say with reasonable certainty that nobody has written about Lombardian history in North America, except Lombardi nel Mondo in Italian-only publications.

One local exception is a book about "The Hill" in St. Louis, I don't recall the name offhand, which was a Milanese/Lombardian district within nineteenth century St. Louis. I had posted a very interesting article about the history of The Hill in an earlier website, which dealt with specifically Lombard culture there, but I may have lost it unfortunately. However, there is the book, and we can eventually find the information again.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ruth Buzzi

Ruth Buzzi, although not much in the spotlight today, was a very well-known comedienne and actress in the 60s and 70s mostly. Her comedic style was very over-the-top, similar to Jim Carrey. I recall, although I was too young to really understand the humor, of the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts in the 70s with some of the most famous entertainers of that time, like Frank Sinatra, Don Rickles, Carol Burnett, Angie Dickinson, and many others that I don't recall offhand. She really stood out among them too. She was a regular on all of those 70s variety shows. She was definitely famous, although it's likely that many younger people haven't heard of her, although she is still somewhat active in her career.

Ruth Buzzi is of Ticinese descent on her father's side, and I'm guessing probably standard East Coast Italian-American on her mother's side. From her Wikipedia page: "Her father was born in Arzo, Switzerland, in the Ticino – Italian section of the country. He carved the marble eagles at Penn Station in New York, the granite Leif Erikson memorial in Providence, Rhode Island, the animals seen in relief on the Natural History Museum in New York City, and made thousands of tombstones." Just the Leif Erikson memorial, carved by Angelo Peter Buzzi, is very interesting in of itself, and we should make note of it.

I came across Ruth Buzzi's Lombardo-Ticinese heritage by sheer accident. This is what I have been going on about recently, our lost heritage in America. Had her father's place of birth not been mentioned, another interesting piece of our heritage would be lost in time. I have said it before, and I'll state it again; for all of our Lombardian-American heritage, for at least well over two centuries; from Paolo Busti, to Giacomo Beltrami, to the present day; if we had just one single office space to conduct research and provide some sort of direction, then we would have something.

Ruth Buzzi (Wikipedia)

Ruth Ann Buzzi (born July 24, 1936) is an American comedienne and actress of theatre, film, and television. She is especially known for her performances on the comedy-variety show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In from 1968 to 1973.

Early life

Buzzi was born at Westerly Hospital, Westerly, Rhode Island, the daughter of Rena Pauline (née Macchi) and Angelo Peter Buzzi, a nationally recognized stone sculptor. She was raised in Wequetequock, Connecticut, in a rock house overlooking the ocean at Wequeteqouck Cove, where her father owned Buzzi Memorials, a business still operated by her older brother, Harold. Her father was born in Arzo, Switzerland, in the Ticino – Italian section of the country. He carved the marble eagles at Penn Station in New York, the granite Leif Erikson memorial in Providence, Rhode Island, the animals seen in relief on the Natural History Museum in New York City, and made thousands of tombstones.

Buzzi attended Stonington High School where she gained experience as head cheerleader performing before crowds. At 17, she enrolled at the Pasadena Playhouse for the Performing Arts and graduated with honors. She studied voice, dance, and acting, and took courses in cosmetology in case the acting career failed to attain success. Before graduation from college however, she was a working actress with a union card in musical and comedy revues. She moved to New York after graduation and was hired immediately for a lead role in an off-Broadway musical, the first of 19 such revues in her career.


Before leaving New York for a career in Los Angeles as a TV star, Buzzi appeared in a Bob Fosse classic Broadway hit, Sweet Charity, with Gwen Verdon. Between New York musical variety shows, Buzzi made numerous national television commercials, some of which won awards including the coveted CLEO.

Buzzi's first national appearance on television came on the Garry Moore Show just after Carol Burnett was replaced by Dorothy Loudon on the series. Ruth Buzzi saw her first taste of national fame as "Shakuntala" the silent, bumbling magician's assistant to her comedy partner Dom DeLuise as "Dominic the Great". They were an instant hit with the public.

Buzzi was a member of the regular repertory company on the CBS variety show The Entertainers (1964–1965). In 1966–1967, she was in the Broadway cast of the musical Sweet Charity, playing a role that was not in the film version. In the late 1960s, she was featured as a semi-regular on the sitcom That Girl as Marlo Thomas's friend and in a comedy-variety series starring Steve Allen. Her character parts in the Allen sketches led her to be cast for NBC's new show Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. Ruth Buzzi was the only featured player to appear in every episode of Laugh-In.

A versatile comedienne, she played everything from Southern belles to flashy hookers. Among her recurring characters on Laugh-In were Busy- Buzzi, Hollywood gossip columnist; Doris Sidebottom, a cocktail-lounge habituée who always got riotously smashed with husband Leonard (Dick Martin); and one of the Burbank Airlines Stewardesses, teaming with Debbie Reynolds as two totally inconsiderate flight attendants.

Her most famous character is the dowdy spinster Gladys Ormphby, clad in drab brown with her bun hairdo covered by a visible hairnet knotted in the middle of her forehead. In most sketches, she used her lethal purse, with which she would flail away vigorously at anyone who incurred her wrath. On Laugh-In, Gladys most often appeared as the unwilling object of the advances of Arte Johnson's "dirty old man" character Tyrone F. Horneigh.

In a typical exchange, Tyrone accosts Gladys and asks, "Do you believe in the hereafter?" "Of course I do!", Gladys retorts defensively. Delighted, Tyrone shoots back: "Then you know what I'm here after!"

NBC collectively called these two characters The Nitwits when they went to animation in the mid 1970s as part of the series Baggy Pants and the Nitwits. Buzzi and Johnson both voiced their respective roles in the cartoon.

Buzzi, as Gladys, later became a regular part of Dean Martin's "Celebrity Roasts", usually punishing Martin for his remarks about her unappealing looks and poor romantic prospects. In one such exchange, Gladys accusingly questioned Martin about who had been chasing her around a hotel room in the wee hours; Martin's response, "The exterminator!" earned him a beating as he broke up laughing along with the audience. Gladys then declared to the audience that, when Martin and other men looked at her, only one thing came to their minds. Martin, still laughing, could barely get out the answer, "Rabies!" which earned him an even fiercer beating from Gladys.

Buzzi starred with Jim Nabors in The Lost Saucer produced by Sid and Marty Krofft which aired September 6, 1975. Buzzi also guested as Chloe, the usually never-seen but often mentioned wife of phone company worker, Henry Beesmeyer on Alice. Martin's producer, Greg Garrison, enjoyed Ruth Buzzi's work and hired her for his comedy specials starring Dom DeLuise.

In 1986, she voiced for the character Nose Marie in the Hanna Barbera animated series Pound Puppies. She voiced "Mamma Bear" in the Berenstain Bears and did hundreds of guest voices for cartoon series. She is still seen frequently on Sesame Street in comedy sketch clips from her seven years on that show, and is often heard as the voice of outlandish failed torch singer, "Susie Kabloozy".

Buzzi was a semi-regular guest star on many television series including Donny & Marie, The Flip Wilson Show, The Dean Martin Music and Comedy Hour, the Dean Martin Roasts, The Carol Burnett Show, Tony Orlando and Dawn, and variety series hosted by Leslie Uggams and Glen Campbell.

Buzzi had a brief cameo in the "Weird Al" Yankovic video "Gump" and appeared in other music videos with the rock groups B-52's and The Presidents of the United States of America. She also appeared for seven years as a regular performer on Sesame Street (playing shopkeeper Ruthie, which also allowed her to revive her Gladys Ormphby character, and also voiced Susie Kabloozie), Saved by the Bell (playing Screech Power's wacky mother as an Elvis fanatic), The Muppet Show, You Can't Do That on Television (during its CTV-produced incarnation Whatever Turns You On), and numerous other television shows. She was also a voice actress for The Smurfs, The Angry Beavers and Mo Willems' Sheep in the Big City. Buzzi also played the role of the eccentric Nurse Kravitz on NBC's daytime soap Passions. In 2006 and 2007, she made guest appearances on the children's TV series Come on Over.

Buzzi had a successful nightclub act all across the United States including in Las Vegas at the Sahara Hotel and at the MGM Grand. She only performed the act for one year because she did not like the smell of cigarette smoke and disliked traveling all the time; her shows were all sold out and she was offered an extended stay in Las Vegas but opted out.

Buzzi has had featured roles in more than 20 motion pictures including Chu Chu and the Philly Flash, Freaky Friday, The North Avenue Irregulars, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, The Villain, and a number of westerns for the European market known as the Lucky Luke series in which she plays the mother of the Dalton Gang and other roles.


Buzzi is an inductee into the Television and Radio Hall of Fame and the Rhode Island Hall of Fame. She has been nominated by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Emmy Awards five times in several categories from comedy and variety to drama; she was recognized not only for making people laugh, but for her versatility as an actress; she is remembered for a guest starring dramatic role on Medical Center with Greg Evigan in which she played the wife of a fatally ill man played by Don Rickles.

Buzzi received the coveted Golden Globe Award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for her work on Laugh-In.

Buzzi received a Cleo Award for Best Spokesperson in a television commercial for her series of Clorox-2 commercials, and was among the few White women to ever win an NAACP Image Award. Ruth Buzzi guest starred as a music and comedy performer on dozens of nighttime television specials with colleagues such as Jonathan Winters, Carol Burnett, Jim Nabors, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lee Lewis, Wayne Newton and Anne Murray, Dom DeLuise, and was in a show created for Debbie Reynolds called Aloha Paradise to name just a few. She appeared 8 times on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson and made more than 200 other television guest appearances.

In 2009, Buzzi was a presenter at the Emmy Awards along with several members of her debut series, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In.

Pop culture references

American post-hardcore/metal band The Bled recorded a song entitled "Ruth Buzzi Better Watch Her Back" for their album Pass the Flask, and later re-released on Pass The Flask (Reissue). The title of the song comes from a line in the movie Wet Hot American Summer.

Buzzi played the wife of her close friend Kinky Friedman in the satirical music video "Get your Biscuits in the Oven and your Buns in the Bed."

She is mentioned at the end of the Conway Twitty - Loretta Lynn duet "You're the Reason Our Kids are Ugly."

Nikki Dodo once impersonated her in "Sawdust and Toonsil" on Tiny Toon Adventures.

Personal life

Buzzi lives primarily in Southlake, Texas and enjoys spending time with her husband (a retired businessman) at their 220-acre (0.89 km2) ranch just west of Fort Worth, Texas where they raise Black Angus cattle and quarter horses; she has a horse named Gladys, a cat named Ratso Rizzo, and her hobby is painting. Buzzi does not offer paintings for sale to the public, but has donated paintings to charity where they have sold for thousands of dollars. She supports children's charities including Make a Wish Foundation, the Special Olympics, St. Jude's Hospital, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wine with Tony #36: Nichelini Winery

From the WineWithTony YouTube channel:

Nichelini Winery, started in 1890 by Swiss-Italian immigrant Anton Nichelini, is the oldest continuously family-run winery in Napa Valley.

In addition to the Zinfandel it has produced since its inception, this Chiles Valley district winery ships red wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Syrah and a Bordeaux white called Sauvignon Vert.

All of the wines are produced and bottled in the winery.

Fourth-generation members of the Nichelini family manage the winery today.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

1990s PBS documentary: "Italian Swiss in California"

I may have mentioned this on a couple of entries, but I have been in search of a particular PBS documentary from the 1990s. I recall watching a documentary, probably in the mid-90s, specifically about Italian Swiss (Ticinese) in California and their descendants. Although I had it on, it was one of those times where someone was over visiting and I probably missed most of it. At the time, I remember feeling a cultural tie-in, but it didn't quite register to me at the time. I recall something fairly comparable to programs about certain ethnic groups. Like just recently, there was a documentary 'The Greek Americans', or some such title, about Greeks in America, past and present.

What I recall about it was it had many interviews, most in somewhat rural areas, with Italian Swiss descendants. It appeared to be in a number of locations in both northern and southern California. Needless to say, today I can see the significance of this and would like to find that documentary. If anyone out there has any information about it, please e-mail me at

I had heard two estimates of the number of Italian Swiss immigrants to California between the 1850s and probably the 1930s. One was 20,000, and the other was 90,000. Maybe someone can clue me in on that too. I suspect that it was closer to the 90,000 figure. There are a lot of similarities between Ticino and Val Camonica. Both are located in rural and mountainous Alpine terrain, and speak the Lombard language. In other words, both are Lombardian peoples.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Lombardian Heritage in California

Quite coincidently, just yesterday, I ran across two things which were in relation with Lombardian heritage here in California. First, a news item from the San Francisco Chronicle entitled 'Mario Ghilotti, prominent Marin builder, dies'. I've had some familiarity with Ghilotti Construction and a couple of Ghilottis, but I don't know if they were related to him.

Just to back up for a moment, Lombardi nel Mondo Nord America had released, I think fairly recently, some information about the chief areas of specifically Lombardian settlement on this continent. Listed were about ten areas, one of which was the Bay Area, and in particular the San Rafael area of Marin County (north of San Francisco). Since "Ghilotti" is overwhelmingly a surname from Lombardy, and the family was from San Rafael, it was pretty easy to make the connection. As usual, sifting through Lombardian heritage in this country is like pulling teeth. I will post those areas of settlement shortly.

One of the main problems is that individuals will, if anything, will be referred to as "Italian-American" only. "People," past and present, are what reflect the uniqueness of any particular demographic, and there is a huge void for any American with roots in Lombardy. Just for the record, there are some very strong characteristics that Lombardians often possess, which could be called positive or negative depending on one's perspective. In other words, there would be some pretty big cultural differences between an "Italian-American" family in Hobokan, New Jersey, of Sicilian origin, whose business is a pillar in that community; and an "Italian-American" family in San Rafael, California, of Lombardian origin, who business is a pillar in that community. Not to mention that Sicilians outnumber Lombardians by a huge ratio.

Later on yesterday, I watched a movie called 'Bug' (2006), which stared Ashley Judd. Ashley Judd has American-Southern roots on her mother's side (Naomi Judd), but her surname at birth was "Ciminella," which is an overwhelmingly West Lombardian name. Her father was a marketing analyst for the horse racing industry in California, and she was born and partially raised in California. Perhaps they weren't close to their father, but we can see the troubles with tracking down Lombardian heritage. I mean, I'm no celebrity-lover, but Ashley Judd at least appears to be a classy, highly intelligent, and yet very exciting figure; and especially in an industry were so many are not. She is beautiful, and yet in a woman-next-door type of way. She would be a credit to any heritage. She is married to famous race car driver Dario Franchitti.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if some of these people would actually DISCOVER their Lombardian ancestry!? In other words, perhaps to actually get some funding, do some hard scholarly research, have some meetup groups where people can better interact with others in this folk family. Like I had mentioned in prior entries, where people of Ticinese heritage in California, Lombardian heritage in the Great Lakes region or the St. Louis area, Bergamasks in Toronto, and others in other parts of the continent, can see themselves as one Lombardian folk family. That is really our chief goal here, even more than the various elements of Camunian heritage. It should be mentioned that at least small pockets of Lombardian immigrants settled in the north, mid-west, south, and west; not to mention Canada.

Our best chance to reach this goal is through Lombardi nel Mondo. We have criticized their direction in the past, but only as constructive criticism. Even their article, which I will post soon, about the main areas of Lombaridan immigrant settlement, they published it only in Italian, and only in a couple of hard-to-find pages on the internet. Even their own website is very hard to navigate, and even their North American information and history is only in Italian, even though Italian is not an official language anywhere on this continent.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Lugas: A Celtic god

I have always preferred the word "god" to the word "deity." Maybe it's just me, but somehow god is a better descriptive word. On our Cernic Rite video, we used a song by the Spanish Celtic/Pagan black metal band the Crystalmoors entitled 'Lacrimae Lugus', which was supposed to be a tribute to Lugus, not to the god Cernunnos. Lugus was a pre-Roman/Christian god in the Celtic world. The Crystalmoors were likely motivated by the fact that Lugus was an important god to the Celtiberians in ancient Iberia (Spain/Portugal). This god was also present in the British Isles, Gaul (France), and in what is today modern day Switzerland.

Wikipedia does not mention Cisalpine Gaul, so I guess this is another area of open study. I had originally written that Druidism was not present in Cisalpine Gaul, but later discovered that it was at least present in some form there. Therefore I suspect the same for Lugus. If it was present in Iberia and Switzerland, then it's likely that it played some role, albeit smaller, in ancient Cisalpine culture. After the Romans conquered Celtic lands, they cleverly assigned one of the Roman gods to each Celtic god to make assimilation more easy. Therefore Lugus became the "Gaulish Mercury." In conclusion, it seems to appear that Lugus may have been to the Celtiberians, what Cernunnos was to the Cisalpines.

Lugus (from Wikipedia page):

Lugus was a deity of the Celtic pantheon. His name is rarely directly attested in inscriptions, but his importance can be inferred from placenames and ethnonyms, and his nature and attributes are deduced from the distinctive iconography of Gallo-Roman inscriptions to Mercury, who is widely believed to have been identified with Lugus, and from the quasi-mythological narratives involving his later cognates, Irish Lugh and Welsh Lleu Llaw Gyffes.

It is possible that Lugus was a triune god, comprising Esus, Toutatis and Taranis, the three chief deities mentioned by Lucan. The "threefold death" in Celtic human sacrifice may reflect the triplicity of this god.


Celtic pantheon (Wikipedia)


'Lacrimae Lugus' by the Crystalmoors


As we've mentioned before, a search for "the Celts" on brings up some interesting books, several of them specifically about Cisaline Gaul.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Panthers prowling around northern Italy

Panthers prowling around northern Italy

Bobby Tanzilo's Blog - - August 3, 2010

The UW-Milwaukee Panthers announced a slate of four games in northern Italy this month. I held out hope they'd be going to Casale Monferrato, but it's not happening.

I often check the back pages of Il Monferrato, the Italian newspaper that's delivered to my house and for which I've written on a few occasions. That's where they keep the basketball coverage. Although Casale always has at least a couple American players, I've yet to see any with a Milwaukee connection.

When I heard the Panthers were headed to northwest Italy, I thought maybe these worlds would collide.

(There are a few other connections between Casale and Milwaukee, like the DeGiovanni family from Casale, which runs the Golosi gelateria in Oconomowoc; the Zerand company in New Berlin is owned by Casale-based Cerutti; Casale's Buzzi Unicem cement company has a small depot in the Valley across 6th Street from the Harley Museum; and Waukesha's Rose Glen School students have long had a pen pal relationship with a school in Casale, too.

The Panthers, instead, will play Lombardia of the B2 league on Aug. 18. Next they head to Livorno, on the Tuscan coast, to play that city's B2 team on Aug. 20.

Then they head back north to the region of Lombardy to face the Serie A2 team from Treviglio, a town I've only seen from the train on the way to visit my cousins in Bergamo, on Aug. 21. UWM wraps up its tour on Aug. 23 against another B2 squad, Brianza Select, from Brianza (another city in Lombardy).

Milwaukee isn't a city with a lot of Italian-Americans with Lombardian roots. For that you've got to head to St. Louis, where two of the greatest Lombardian-American sports figures -- Yogi Berra (with roots in Cuggiono) and Joe Garagiola (Inveruno) -- were neighbors as boys.

I hope the Panthers play some great basketball in Italy, but I also hope they get time to look around, taste the food, meet the people and have a great time getting to know one of the loveliest parts of the world.

And when they get back, I hope they kick some butt when their season starts.

My advice for them in Italy: while in the neighborhood, stop in and check out the Milwaukee 50's Diner in Varedo. And tell 'em we said howdy.

You can follow the Panthers' escapes in Italy via the team blog.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Evening of Ticinese Culture in San Francisco: Monday, October 19

Settimana della lingua italiana: Evening of Ticinese Culture

The Consulate General of Switzerland and the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco invite guests to celebrate the art and architecture of Ticino. Note: Presentations given in the Italian language.

19 Oct 2010 from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM Pacific Time

Practical Information:


730 Montgomery St. San Francisco, CA 94111

Free. Advance RSVP required.

In celebration of the tenth Settimana della Lingua Italiana nel Mondo, Week of the Italian Language in the World, the Consulate General of Switzerland and the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco cordially invite you to an evening celebration of Ticinese culture, hosted by swissnex San Francisco.

The program includes two presentations in Italian, "Il Ticino: terra di artisti," from by Marco Cameroni, and "Antonio e Giuseppe Sardi da Morcote - Architetti ticinesi nella Venezia del Seicento,” by Paola Piffaretti.

Questions? Contact or call 415.788.2272 ext 102.

Organized by the Consulate General of Switzerland in San Francisco and the Italian Cultural Institute, with help from swissnex San Francisco.


6:30 pm doors open
7:00 pm presentations and Q&A
8:30 pm reception
9:30 pm doors close


See above link for more information, to register online, and for directions.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cernic Rite video

This entry is in regards to the new Cernic Rite video on the Padanian-American League blog. We don't like to duplicate posts between blogs, and the video seemed more appropriate within the entire Gaulic concept, rather than only for Camunian heritage.

Because the Cernic tradition was such a big part of the Val Camonica, we always need to look at any move in this area. The video came out fairly well, with a great "Celtiberian" musical score entitled 'Lacrimae Lugus' by the Celto-Pagan Black Metal band the Crystalmoors from Cantabria, Spain. Lugus was an ancient Gallo-Celtic deity.

The video showed what was possible with some simple footage and a couple of simple props. It starts out with with some late-day footage of a wooded trail for two or three minutes, which was broken up with a couple of images of a real wild cat taken there. The fact that the cat was black with glowing eyes added to the video.

Next was some footage taken at almost twilight inside a dark heavily wooded walkway along a mountainside, which lasted a little over a minute. The lack of light gave it sort of a Black Forest effect. Actually it wasn't quite that dark, but it looked like it was from an old European horror film. The mountains in the distance weren't very visible due to the position of the sun and the dark overgrowth.

The third part, taken at twilight, was of some silvery Celtic-looking standing stones in a circle. The video shows the circle with the hills in the background, and the still visible sun just before dropping under the distant mountain. Totally unplanned, one single ray of sunbeam (at least from the camera perspective) pointed directly at the tallest stone, then the camera focuses in on a pendant of Cernunnos which was placed upon the top of that stone. That was a pleasant surprise.

The footage was then broken up by several striking images of the twilight landscape. After that, footage of tall trees against the dark twilight sky facing straight upwards, then spinning in a circle. It's easy to forget just how easy it is to get dizzy when a person spins in a circle like that. A slower spin would have done fine. This was followed by some footage of a walk through the tall trees which only came out marginally acceptable due to the lack of light, and thus the raw footage had to be cut down quite a bit.

Next some filming of the moon through the trees in a sideways direction while walking. Due to some fog and the lack of light, this wasn't as dramatic as hoped, and also had to be cut down. The footage was broken up by a few images, starting with a skunk. Only it's glowing eyes showed. There were a few flash images of the skunk, which were cut out. This was followed by a clear image of the moon through the trees.

What followed next was a scene of a flashlight in some dark woods which eventually illuminates a tree with a foot wide red Sun of the Alps symbol formed from red electrical tape. Those woods were so dark that the flashlight barely showed up, except when it was placed close to the tree trunk. The night, hills, trees, and foliage all blocked out any light. In other words, when the flashlight was turned off, there was almost 100% blackness. Sometimes, if there's some dense fog, the lights of the cities will illuminate the fog, which in turn illuminates the ground.

Following all that was a scene where the camera was coming out of the dark tunnel of brush into a grassy field, focusing and zeroing in on the moon. The tunnel effect didn't work due to the lack of light, but some good footage of the moon fighting its way through the clouds was obtained. Next were some images to brake up the footage a little. First was an image which was taken at the edge of the trail, back in civilization, of a white house cat. Only the eyes and some body outline showed up, which made the cat appear like an white owl. Actually there was much owl hooting along the trails, but it's very hard to get a picture of owls since they're rarely seen, so the ambiguous image was just left as "maybe an owl" for the viewer. Another image of the moon through the trees, and a more clear image of the Sun of the Alps PAL symbol on the tree, followed.

The video ends with the ending image of tree bark with a photo-shopped Sun of the Alps symbol and the words Padanian-American League on it. It finishes with about twenty-four seconds of the sound of night crickets, followed by about thirty-five seconds of sound from wind through the trees and a few occasional screeches from what were probably a few restless hawks perched in the trees. The video ends with one nice loud screech. Actually, the camera was rolling even though all you see is black.

Hopefully this was a fitting tribute to the Cernic tradition, which is often associated with the night forest. One can imagine, over literally thousands of years, life in the unspoiled Alpine forests. It should be noted that the Cernic tradition was part of the history of ancient Gaul, southern Germany/Switzerland/Austria, Cisalpine Gaul including into Tuscany where there was Celtic settlement, and surprisingly in a few parts of Scandinavia. Probably the most impressive and famous Cernic carvings is located on Gotland Island, which is a small island in the Baltic Sea. It would be interesting to look into Cernic influence in Iberia and the Slavic regions, and even down towards Greece. There were Celtic settlements in ancient Turkey. Apparently there was no Cernism in the British Iles.

Lastly, as mentioned, this Cernic tradition linked places like Val Camonica with Gotland Island. One item which deserves a little more study is the torc, which is depicted in the right hand of Cernunnos. Again, although usually associated with the Celts, the torc ties in with the heritage of all Cernic peoples. The famous Roman statue 'The Dying Gaul' depicts a dying Gaulic warrior, naked except for the torc around his neck.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Iron Mountain and the Settlement of the U.P. - Part 3

The following text is from a historical study by Northern Michigan University entitled Recorded in Stone: Voices on the Marquette Iron Range. It's from the webpage called Italians in Marquette County. This county is located in the northern U.P. It can be said that the vast majority of these "Italians" have been Piedmontese, Lombardian, or Tuscan in origin; despite the fact that they are presented in some ways as standard East Coast Italian-Americans. Still, it captures some essense of the soul of our people, who were true pioneers of the region. On the link, there are some good photographs, but I don't want to add them here, as I'm trying to get away from the habit of using other sites bandwidth, although occasionally it's necessary. There is some audio from interviews of very old-time residents of the county as well, which comes on automatically after you click on the following link.

Italians in Marquette County

By: Russell M. Magnaghi


Italy was a geographic description and not a unified nation until the 1870s. With the fall of the Roman Empire, Italy deteriorated into small kingdoms and city states which were dominated by France, Spain, and Austria, not to mention the Normans and Arabs. The central part of the peninsula had come under the control of the papacy and was known as the Papal States ruled by the pope. The unification of Italy began in 1861 and was finally completed in 1870. Conditions in Italy were poor for the average peasant and many sought a new life in the Americas. It was natural that with the opening of the copper and iron mines of the Upper Peninsula, Italian immigrations would be attracted to the area.

English Era

The first known Italian to visit Marquette County was Count Paolo Andreani who visited the Lake Superior country in the summer of 1791 before the region had been given to the United States by the British. Andreani was leading a scien­tific expedition to study the shape of the earth. He took measurements at various locations enroute and is considered the first known Euro­pean to circumnavigate Lake Superior at one time. Naturally he camped at least one night at Little Presque Isle which was the principal camping site for travelers along the south shore of Lake Superior. From there they would traverse across Marquette Bay and land at Shot Point or vice versa.

The Iron Era

The Marquette Iron Range was the first of the iron ranges to be discovered by William Burt on September 19, 1844 in Negaunee. Lacking a source of laborers, immigrants were encouraged to come to the Range and help extract the iron ore. The first known Italian in Marquette at this time was Eugenio Borgi who was born in Naples in 1836 and in the summer of 1860 was working as a day laborer. Also listed on the Federal census was Mary Black, a 29 year old woman from Piedmont employed as a servant. Unfortunate­ly that is the only time that we hear of these two Italian immigrants.

In the summer of 1863 Philip and Josephine Marchetti arrived at Eagle Mills, east of Negaunee with a group of Irish. These were the pioneer Italians to the iron range Philip was from Corsica, had migrated to the Italian mainland and worked in the marble quarries. Soon after serving in the Italian Legion during the Crimean War he migrated to the United States. By October 1860 the Marchettis were living in western Massachusetts where Philip worked on railroad tunnel construction. Their daughter Mary Ann was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1860. Although they kept their property at Eagle Mills and used it as a farm, they eventually moved into Negaunee where Philip developed real estate holdings. Due to these early Italian settlers, Negaunee became the focal point on the Marquette Iron Range for the settlement of these early Italians immigrants.

Another early arrival was Batista Barasa, who was born in Quasolo, Italy in 1837. He worked in France and Spain with his brother on railroad tunnel construction before he migrated to Massachusetts and eventually to Negaunee in 1871. His brother Peter (b. 1842) came to the United States in 1877 and three years later was living in Negaunee. By 1873 there were other Italians in Negaunee: John Bastedo, a wagon maker and John Mazara, a laborer at the Jackson Mine. By the late 1870s Dominic Dighera was also a county resident. These and other early Italians were attracted to Marquette County through the efforts of Barasa or what is known as "chain migration:' One immigrant would arrive in a location and then sent letters which brought his friends and relatives. The area was developing and there was ample economic opportunity.

With the development of shaft mining the earlier immigrants – Cornish, Irish, and Germans - were no longer needed on the range and most of them began moving to newly opened mining frontiers either in the Upper Peninsula, Minnesota or in the Far West. Although there were 41 Italians in Negaunee in 1880 it was seven years later that the first large scale migration of Italians began into the County. At first the Italians were from northern Italy: Lombardy, Piedmont, Venice and the Tyrol and they settled in Negaunee. Initial­ly 50 Italians arrived; followed in the spring of 1888 by an additional 100. Although they inherited the jobs at the lowest end of the employ­ment scale as trammers or iron ore shovelers, they wrote back to Italy and encouraged others to join them. The wages and living conditions on the Marquette Iron Range were a great improvement over economic and work conditions in Italy. In the 1890s southern Italians primarily from Calabria but also from Naples and Sicily settled in Ishpeming. They experienced a similar migration process. By 1910 Italians comprised 15% - 16% of the labor force on the Range. There were a great many Italians working as miners and in many of the mines a greater proportion of the Italians were working as laborers and trammers. In 1910, of the 907 Italians with occupations, 741 or 81.6% were miners. There were also 51 Italians (6%) working on the railroad, 24 (2.8%) listed as laborers, and 20 working in the iron furnaces in Mar­quette. Most of the Italian businessmen were located in Negaunee and Gwinn at that time. There were 16 boardinghouse keepers, 11 saloonkeepers, 5 merchants, 5 bakers and 3 shoemakers. This breakdown of occupations was consistent with other Italian com­munities in the Upper Peninsula.

Although Italians were centered in Ishpeming, Negaunee and Gwinn, a small group of them headed by the DePetro family resided in Marquette. The DePetro family came to the Upper Peninsula to work on the railroad in the Sault Ste. Marie area. When they heard that the Cliffs-Dow plant in Marquette needed laborers to work in the charcoal-chemical factory, they moved west. The extended family continues to live in Marquette.


Although it was usually atypical in other areas of the United States, the Italian immigrants in Marquette County successfully became involved in local politics. Batista Barasa, who became a citizen in 1879, was elected to the Negaunee City Council when the community re­ceived its charter in 1890. Felix Chiabotto, a Negaunee merchant was elected to represent the 2nd Ward in 1897. In Ishpeming, Michael Tassin was a policeman and well-known for his efforts to get his fellow Italians to become citizens and then to vote on Election Day. These activities of the immigrants were unique considering that elsewhere in Michigan, Italian-Americans did not become involved in politics until the 1920s. In the late 1980s this interest in politics continued. Frank Valenti who was born in Italy served on the county commission. Representative Dominic Jacobetti who was born in Marquette County was serving in the Michigan House of Representatives. He had served since 1954 and held the record for the longest serving legislator serving the state in public office.

Entertainment and Recreation

The Italian love for music is well known. As early as 1884 the Marquette Mining Journal noted that an Italian band provided excellent dance music in Marquette County but nothing more was heard of this group. A number of Italian music teachers appeared in the various communities such as Nettie R. Calamata who in 1906 was offering mandolin, guitar, and banjo lessons.

The Italian Band of Negaunee was organized by January 9, 1907 when it provided music for Mike Marrietti's saloon called Hogan's Place. In the summer it provided music for picnic dances. In July 1910 it was formally organized and continued to entertain the public. In 1916 the Negaunee Star Band was led by Peter Zabotti and played social dances. In July 'Professor Joseph Bangiovanni's String Orchestra was presenting "jitney dances" in Negaunee's Cleveland Park. Nine years later Joseph Violetta was the leader of the Negaunee City Band.

The most famous band in Ishpeming's history was Vampa's Band. Professor Vampa arrived in the community in 1915 and began organiz­ing the new band. He was able to get even the most musically illiterate to read music and by January 1916 his band with thirty-four members played for the first time and was an immediate success. Vampa's Band played at the Marquette County Fair, Memorial Day and Columbus Day celebrations and at other dances and festivals given by local clubs and lodges.

Then at the peak of the band's rise to success Vampa left town for Flint and eventually Italy. In March 1919 the band was reorganized with Felix Catania of Chicago as the new director. However due to a contractual dispute Catania left Ishpeming by July. In August 1920 Vamp returned from Italy and in August 1921 a new band made its first appearance at the annual St. Rocco-St. Anthony Day festa. The band also played in local theaters, at dances and one year at the L'Anse firemen's tournament. A little later Vamp joined forces with Frank Trombley to create a short-lived symphonic orchestra with between 65 and 75 members.

The local Italians directed their entertainment and recreation toward their families. Home parties were popular with an accordion and violin or guitar providing the music on a Saturday night. During the warm summer months families organized picnics while the Italian lodges also held annual picnics. The men played bocce in backyards or saloon-side courts and got into the Italian card game of morra especially for drinks in saloons. Some of the Italians fished and hunted both as recreation and also as a means of augmenting their families' food supply.

Home Life

The first Italians who arrived on the Marquette Range were usually single men who once they got settled sent for their wives or got married. Many lived in company housing, at first, but tended to purchase their own homes when this was possible. Families took in boarders from the same village or those who were family members as a means of providing housing and also adding to the family income.

Each family maintained a garden which provided the household with much of the vegetables that the household needed during the year. Besides what was planted the women and children gathered fruits and berries and made jams and preserves from them.

If possible families kept a pig and cow. In November the pig was usually butchered, prime pieces preserved in crock jar covered with liquefied lard and the small pieces were processed into sausage. Blood sausage was also made at this time. It was sometimes said that every part of the pig was used except the squeal. The cow pro­vided milk, butter and cheese for the family and if there was a surplus it was sold to customers in the vicinity. The Italian family became self-sufficient so that they usually only had to purchase items such as coffee, sugar, or olive oil. Pasta and Italian bread could be made at home but it was usually purchased.

In the late summer orders were taken for grapes and beginning in September train loads of grapes arrived at railroad sidings in Negaunee and Ishpeming. Most families made as many as 150-200 gallons of wine which would last them through the year. Some people would take the remaining grape skins and distill them into a potent alcoholic drink called grappa. Today a number of people make sausage from family recipes but the wine making tradition has declined because of the cost incurred making your own wine.

Cultural Activities

Most of the Italian immigrants who settled on the Marquette Range were literate. As a result many of them kept in touch with the news through Italian-language newspapers. Some subscribed to papers published in New York City like the ever-popular Il Progresso while others read the long-lived Il Minatore Italiano (The Italian Miner) which was published in Laurium between 1896 and the 1930s or the transient papers such as La Democrazione Italiana of Hancock (1917) or La Sentinella (The Sentinel) published in Calumet around 1906.

In Negaunee a group of Italians organized a dramatic group. During the 1920s and 1930s the group entertained the Italian colony with popular plays produced in the Negaunee High School auditorium.

Columbus Day (October 12) was a day on which the Italians affirmed their ties with their adopted nation. From the early part of the 20th century the day has been celebrated in a variety of ways. In the early days there were elaborate parades, dinners, dances and political speeches. Since Columbus Day came close to Election Day, politicians saw it as a good time to campaign and thus attended the festivities. The last major dinners were sponsored by the Lòggia della Neve, Order of the Sons of Italy in the 1980s. Today these elaborate celebrations have dramatically declined. Only the Paisano Club of Marquette County holds a dinner for its members. Usually a talk is given promoting Italian heritage.

The Italian communities on the Marquette Iron Range never had their own Catholic Church. They made up a significant portion of the congregations of St. Anthony's Church in Gwinn, St. Paul's in Negaunee, and St. John's in Ishpeming. The most prominent Italian-American Catholic clergyman and community was the late Monsignor Louis Cappo (d. 2007) who was pastor of St. Peter Cathedral parish in Marquette. A few Italians joined some of the local Protestant churches and some of their off-spring have become clergyman.

Lodges and Clubs

The mutual beneficial societies were a characteristic feature of all Italian communities wherever immigrants settled. At a time when there were no Social Security benefits nor unemployment or disability insurance or death benefits, the Italians along with other immigrants established these societies. They traditionally paid an initiation fee and then 50 cents per month. If they were sick or injured they received $1.00 per day, their families received a benefit at death and the membership attended the funeral under pain of a severe fine.

The oldest of the Italian fraternal organization in Marquette Coun­ty was Società Fratellanza e Mútuo Soccórso/Fraternal and Mutual Aid Society which was established in Negaunee in 1890 and incor­porated on February 6, 1892. Within a few years it boasted over 500 members who paid $1.00 per month for illness and accident benefits and an additional $2.00 for death benefit which was collected when needed.

The biggest activity for the lodge was the annual picnic held in July or August. In early July 1910 their annual picnic was held in Cleveland Park where there was boating, swimming and athletic events, eating contests and the card game, morra. A seven piece band was included in the 1915 pic­nic which became a common feature. During the Italo-Turkish War in 1911-1912 the lodge sent $25 to the Italian Red Cross for the widows and children of Italian soldiers killed in the fighting. Over the years the organization was active but as the immigrants died out there was no longer any interest in such an organization. On October 15, 1962 the lodge was closed and the remaining members were paid with the assets.

Over the years a number of fraternal organizations were formed in Negaunee. Società Italiana di Mútuo Soccórso Giuseppe Maz­zini/Italian Mutual Aid Society, Giuseppe Mazzini was founded on June 24, 1908 with over 130 charter members. North Italians from Lombardy and Venice on September 10, 1911 established the Società Italiana di Mútuo Soccórso Lombarda-Veneta di Negaunee/Italian Mutual Aid Society, Lombardy-Venetia of Negaunee. They were in­corporated on March 15, 1912. They first met in Scandinavian Hall where they wrote their constitution. They held their annual picnic in Cleveland Park and participated in both July 4th and Columbus Day parades and celebrations. In 1912 the Società Unità Diposero was established and on September 28, 1913 Grove No. 3 of the United Order of the Druids was formed and in 1925 a women's branch was created. Both organizations were still active in Negaunee in the 1980s. A little known organization: Alpine Italian Club flourished around 1915. There is little information concerning this lodge except that is existed and was incorporated in Marquette County.

Four of the lodges: Mazzini, Diposero, Fratellanza, and Lombardi joined in securing plots in the Negaunee cemetery. These plots were for single members without families in the community. A large monument which is still standing was surrounded by the graves of members. When these plots were no longer in demand they were sold to private individuals.

Léga Cittadina Italiana di Mútuo Soccórso/Italian Citizen League of Mutual Aid was formed in May 1918 with 50 members and incorporated on February 23, 1919. Its goal was "of having every adult Italian parentage in Marquette County duly qualified as a citizen of the United States as well as member of the League." The lodge pro­moted attendance at citizenship classes held in the high school by the Negaunee Board of Education and there were sick and death benefits. In 1920 two-thirds of its members were from Negaunee while the rest were from Ishpeming and North Lake and there was hope of establishing a branch in Princeton.

On September 23, 1907 the Italian colony in Princeton formed the Società Guglielmo Marconi di Mútuo Soccórso. They constructed their own hall where they held their meetings, dinners, and dances. The structure stood until the early 1980s although the society had been disbanded earlier.

The Italian community is Ishpeming established a number of lodges whose histories have been intertwined over the years. On August 6, 1899 Società di Beneficènza Italiana was established, followed on February 23, 1902 by Società Operàia di Mútuo Soccórso, Umberto I. The Società di Mútuo Soccórso, San Rocco was created on September 17, 1922 by uniting the Confraternity of San Rocco formed in 1918 and the Società di Beneficènza Italiana, due to the fact that the members belonged to both lodges. The name of the Società Operàia di Mútuo Soccórso was changed to Società Operàia di Mútuo Soccórso, San Antonio di Padova on April 26, 1936. The last amalgamation of these societies took place on September 20, 1942 when the two remaining were united and renamed: Società Americana ­Italiana di Mútuo Soccórso, San Rocco e San Antonio di Padova. Into the 21st century the San Rocco Society as it is popularly known continues to celebrate the feast day of St. Rocco in mid-August.

In the past the celebration was elaborate as witnessed in August 1943 when Frank Vallela was the chairman:

*9:30 a.m. music

*10:00 a.m. parade through Ishpeming to St. John's Church 11:15 a.m. High Mass, St. John's

*12:30 p.m. parade through Ishpeming

*2:00 p.m. public picnic with band music and events: women's nail driving contest, "coins in the pan," and the greased pole contest in which the lucky individual who reached the top won $5.00 which was placed there

*7:00 p.m. Negaunee City Band

*8:00 p.m. Negaunee Turners, an aerobatic and musical set 9:45 p.m. Negaunee Turners

In the late 1980s and the 1990s the St. Rocco festival was re-emerging and held a small celebration in the St. John church yard. However by the early 21st century a rather elaborate celebration had developed and attracts both Italian-Americans and the general public as a major event in Marquette County. Hundred usually attend the celebration attracted by the food, music and dance.

Italians from the Neapolitan community of Montefalcone in Beneven­to in Ishpeming formed a society of their own on June 5, 1910 which was appropriately named: Società Napoletana di Mútuo Soccórso ...Composto di Falconese. The first president was Leonardo Avella. The organization continued in existence until the early 1970s when it too was disbanded.

The Italian-American Federation of the Upper Peninsula was organ­ized in October 1909 in Calumet. Its purpose was to unite the numerous Italian societies throughout the region and over the years a number of Marquette County societies were members. Over the years a number of its conventions were held in Negaunee and Ishpeming where there were parades and grand celebrations. However over the years interest in the organization declined and in September 1982 it was formally disbanded in Iron Mountain.

With the decline and termination of most of the old lodges a new idea was brought forth by Monsignor David Spelgatti of Ishpeming. A new organization should be organized to help preserve the Italian ethnici­ty which still existed in the county. In 1964 the Paisano Club of Up­per Michigan was formed with the goals of commemorating, preser­ving and highlighting the traditions of the Italian immigrants and their American-born children. Since that time the club has flourished with branches forming in Dickinson and Gogebic Counties. In 1982 Presi­dent Leonard Altobello and Msgr. Spelgatti were successful in their efforts to secure Professor Russell M. Magnaghi of Northern Michigan University to carry out the necessary research to preserve the history of the immigrant experience in Upper Michigan. As a result of this encouragement and generous financial assistance, artifacts, photographs, published and unpublished material along with 150+ oral interviews on tape have been preserved. To date the Paisano Club is the only organization in the state of Michigan to conduct such an ex­tensive research project on immigrant history.

The last of the ethnic organizations to be formed in the county was the Lòggia della Neve/Lodge of the Snow of the Order of the Sons of Italy. It was established in May 1981 and continued into the late 1980s. It provided money for charitable organizations, scholarships and had an annual recognition dinner held in October to also commemorate Columbus Day. Thus we see that the Italian heritage in Marquette Coun­ty continues to be maintained. However the future of these ethnic organizations is precarious due to the many interests facing young people many of whom come from mixed ethnic backgrounds and do not which to call their focused nationality.


Anonymous. “The Italian Immigrant.” Harlow’s Wooden Man 10:2 (Spring 1974): 3 and 9.

Magnaghi, Russell M. Miners, Merchants and Midwives, Italians in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Marquette, Mich.: Belle Fontaine Press, 1987.

---. Italians in Michigan. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2001.

Developed for the NMU Archives on-line project. Completed 07/08/2008)


One interesting excerpt to consider was the following: "North Italians from Lombardy and Venice on September 10, 1911 established the Società Italiana di Mútuo Soccórso Lombarda-Veneta di Negaunee/Italian Mutual Aid Society, Lombardy-Venetia of Negaunee. They were in­corporated on March 15, 1912. They first met in Scandinavian Hall where they wrote their constitution. They held their annual picnic in Cleveland Park and participated in both July 4th and Columbus Day parades and celebrations. In 1912 the Società Unità Diposero was established and on September 28, 1913 Grove No. 3 of the United Order of the Druids was formed and in 1925 a women's branch was created. Both organizations were still active in Negaunee in the 1980s. A little known organization: Alpine Italian Club flourished around 1915. There is little information concerning this lodge except that is existed and was incorporated in Marquette County."

It's actually very rare to hear about any association, past or present, in relation with Lombardian heritage in the United States, so that makes this somewhat remarkable. Also, that wasn't necessarily that long ago in a historical American sense. Only about 97 years or so. Also curious was the Druidic order. That could possibly, although unlikely, be a connection to the Gaulish Druidic history. Also, names like Del Club Alpino or Alpine Italian Club seem to tie into our heritage as well.

The article also confirms that it was in 1909 that the Italian American Federation of the Upper Peninsula was formed, as an umbrella group, and disbanded in 1982. However the Paisano Club, formed in 1964, has taken up the task of recording this part of the history of the region.

One subject that we will cover soon is the resurgence of "Swiss Clubs" in California. They are mostly Ticinese of Lombardian ancestry, and wouldn't it be great to see these expressions of Lombardian ancestry in California and the Great Lakes region get together someday.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Iron Mountain and the Settlement of the U.P. - Part 2

[This remarkable Catholic church was built by Iron Mountain's Italian community in 1902. Although it looks almost contemporary, the design is based on Renaissance parish churches in Italy.]

Italian North Side - Iron Mountain

(from Hunts' Guide to Michigan's Upper Peninsula)

It's not like it used to be in this tidy, tight-knit neighborhood that grew up just after the turn of the century north of the Chapin Mine and downtown. Today descendants of Italian miners have lost their language and intermarried. There are lots of non-Italian names among the parishioners of Immaculate Conception Church, built by Italian immigrant volunteers in 1902.

[The wine press on the roof is the symbol Bimbo Constantini gave his neighborhood gathering place. The outline of the pig on the front is a clue to the porketta sandwiches made here.]

But this trim working-class neighborhood has the feel of a cherished way of life where camaraderie and shared meals still mean a lot. New aluminum siding on these modest, well-kept homes is a point of neighborhood pride. There are still a few inspiringly serious vegetable gardens maintained by the older generation, with plum tomatoes staked and cut back for maximum growth in the precious summer warmth. Some small grocery stores remain, underscoring Iron Mountain's reputation for its ethnic food.

In March of 2000 the North Side of Iron Mountain basked in the national spotlight as its own Tom Izzo coached the Spartans of Michigan State to the national collegiate basketball championship. Izzo's Awnings and Izzo's Shoe Hospital, owned by relatives, appeared in Detroit papers. Newspaper stories professed amazement at how well the little guy from the U.P. meshed with the big black players from Flint.

The press, in its common way of not looking beyond the superficial stereotype, failed to see the similarities. Like Izzo, the "Flintstones" came from strong families with working-class backgrounds that emphasized team playing. True, the U.P. is entirely white except for Native Americans and a few college students and Asian and African-American professors and other professionals. But middle-aged people who grew up in the U.P. learned to deal with schoolmates from widely varying backgrounds. Maybe that has something to do with the coincidence that Detroit Lions coach Steve Mariucci was a high school, and Northern Michigan University classmate of his friend Tom Izzo. A number of restaurants have little shrines to these famous native sons. A more lasting legacy is the state-of-the-art Izzo-Mariucci Fitness Center and meeting space on Carpenter and West, near Iron Mountain High School, built with money the coaches raised.

To explore the Italian North Side, drive along Vulcan, the north side's main street. It parallels U.S. 2. Get there by turning east onto Third at Hardee's, or onto Margaret across from the A&W.

Highlights of the neighborhood include:

• BIMBO'S WINE PRESS (L'Torchio di Vino), once a typical corner bar, became a center of local Italian-American culture and sports when the late Bimbo Constantini, a neighbor and retired teacher, purchased it. (See Restaurants.)

• CRISPIGNA'S ITALIAN MARKET is a small grocery/liquor store that uses old family recipes to make its own ravioli (sold frozen), Italian sausage, and red sauce. It carries imported Italian food, candy, and wines. It's also a Western Union office and Greyhound depot. After the Crispignas' daughter lived in Italy, she came back deciding to join the family business and help remodel it with a stylish continental rusticity. On Margaret at U.S. 2, kitty-korner from the A&W. 774-0266. Open 10-5:30 Central Time. Handicap accessible.

• The IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CHURCH is not to be missed on any north side tour. It's an authentic bit of vernacular Italian architecture, complete with big scrolled volutes on the front façade and an attached campanile (bell tower). The stuccoed interior is peaceful and rather spare, not the heavily ornamented neo-Baroque style often seen in Catholic churches of that era.

This homemade elegance is the result of the church's unusual history. Father Giovanni Sinopoli, part of a Catholic order founded to minister to Italian immigrants, came to Iron Mountain from Italy in April, 1902. Immediately he set about organizing volunteers to construct a new church. Sandstone was quarried on nearby Millie Hill, just east of the Chapin Pit. A mere nine months later the church was dedicated.

The parochial school next door, now used mainly for parish religious classes, is where Tom Izzo and Steve Mariucchi were first-graders together. 500 Blaine at Vulcan. (906) 774-0511. Front and side entrances both open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. or so, Central Time. Parking in rear off Stanton. Mass at 5:15 Tues, 12:10 Wed, 8 a.m. Thurs & Fri, 4 p.m. Sat, and 9 and 11 a.m. Sun, all Central Time. Wheelchair access: front and side entrances.


Also from the Hunts' Guide to Michigan's Upper Peninsula is a good page on Iron Mountain. What comes into focus is that the Lombardian/Piedmontese settlement seems to have been on the western portion of the U.P., both on the north and south sides.

On page 351 of the book 'The American Immigration Collection' (Foerster; 1969), we get some insight on the heritage of Calumet (in the north U.P.) ninety years ago: "In the metalliferous mines, the work of the Italians has been of almost equal consequence. In the early days of Calumet exploitation, half a century ago, some Piedmontese and Tuscan miners were employed; a recent estimate, which I take to be somewhat exaggerated, places at 8000 the number of Italians in the copper region of northern Michigan. Miners of copper and silver are, or have been, numerous in the Cobalt district of Colorado, and in several counties of California. In all these regions, their numbers have fluctuated much, a curcumstance not unfavorable in an industry whose workplaces are isolated and for whose product the demand varies broadly. In partial explanation of the decline of Italian miners in the Calumet district in the years before the war, it has been suggested that they have been unwilling to work amid the perils of the ever deepening mines. Iron miners have long been established on the peninsula of Upper Michigan, in Marquette, Dickenson, and Gogebic counties. The Iron Mountain colony follows after Calumet in age and importance."


On pages 214 to 216 of the book 'Michigan Genealogy: Sources & Resources' (McGinnis; 2005), we get further insight on the heritage of the western U.P. eighty to one hundred twenty years ago: "Italians: When the French first explored Michigan, Italy did not exist as a nation. Italians who wanted to come to the New World often traveled to France first and came under the French flag. "A number of Italians in Michigan's colonial past came as administrators, chroniclers, explorers, fur traders, and soldiers." Many of these Italians' names became "frenchified," and it is often difficult to determine their Italian origin. The first, and perhaps best known, Italian in Michigan was Alfonso Tonti, officiallly known as Alphonse de Tonty. Tonty was Cadillac's send-in-command when Detroit was established in 1701. He served as governor or commandant at Detroit from 1704 to 1706 and again from 1717 to 1728. His daughter, Therese, was the first European child born in Michigan.

It wasn't until the mid-19th century that Italian immigrants began arriving in noticeable numbers in Michigan. Many came to work in the iron and copper mines in Gogebic, Houghton, Marquette,and Menominee counties in the Upper Peninsula. "In 1860 the earliest Italians--Joseph and Vitale Coppo, Joseph Gatan, Bart Quello--were mining in the Hancock area." They had come to the Upper Peninsula from the Canavese area of Piedmont by way of Canada. Soon chain migration brought thousands of other Italians, many of them single men without their families, to the Upper Peninsula. In 1890, about 3,000 Italians lived in Michigan, but 2,386 of those lived in the Upper Peninsula. (Another 340 worked in Detroit, with the rest living in Flint, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Macomb County, and Oakland County.) "[By] 1910 there were some 10,000 Italians living in the Copper County alone." Calumet and Iron Mountain had the two largest Italian communities. Between 1890 and 1930, many Italians in the Upper Peninsula moved to Detroit due to labor unrest in the mining industries and increased opportunities in Detroit's auto industry.

Many of the Italians in the Upper Peninsula came from northern Italy. In Houghton County, for example, they came from Piedmont, especially from Canavese north of Turin; Lombardy; and Luca in Tuscany. In Gogebic County, they came from Piedmont, Tyrol, Abruzzi, and Sicily, while those in Menominee County came primarily from the province of Venice. Other northern Italian provinces represented in the Upper Peninsula included Abbruzze, Calabria, and Umbria. However, the Italians in Ishpeming in Marquette County tended to come from southern Italy.

Michigan cities in the Lower Peninsula with early Italian communities included Flint, Pontiac, Lansing, Muskegon, Saginaw, and Grand Rapids, where many Italians migrated from the coal-mining region of Pennsylvania to work in the Grand Rapids area plaster quarries.

Italians in Detroit: In 1855, there were about a dozen Italians in Detroit, most from northern Italy. More immigrated from Genoa and Lombardy, and in 1883, several Sicilians came to Detroit from Cleveland. They had worked as fruit merchants and quickly opened similar businesses in Detroit. By 1897, there were 207 Italian families--1,103 adults and 630 children--in Detroit,most of these Lombards and Sicilians. By 1910 there were about 8,000 Italians in Detroit and 16,000 in 1920. "In 1930, out of 43,087 Italians in the state, 73 percent resided in Wayne County and only 11 percent in the mining counties." Detroit's "Little Italy" was located along Gratiot Avenue, and another Italian community was near Gratiot and Harper.

Sources: Several resources are available to assist Michigan researchers with Italian roots:

* Magnaghi's 'Italians in Michigan' (2001) gives an overview of Italian settlement throughout the state, and Magnaghi's 'Miners, Merchants, and Midwives: Michigan's Upper Peninsula Italians (1987) focuses on the Upper Peninsula

* Vismara's article, "Coming of the Italians to Detroit," published in the January 1918 issue of 'Michigan History' magazine, has much information about Detroit's early settlers

* Italians of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan has census records and other information