Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Incontri Tra/Montani: Acknowledging the importance of our shared pagan past

As covered here before, Incontri Tra/Montani ("encounters between the mountains") is a meeting group between the main cultural organizations of both the Val Camonica and the Valtellina (Sondrio), for discussion regarding the logistics of forming a "Camuno-Valtellina province" including Val Camonica. It also forms a political voice for this rural mountain region.

This group formed in 2009, and their activities and ongoing meetings are covered on their website if you can either read Italian or wish to translate it. I have found it too difficult to actually translate word for word for posting here. I found one article regarding one of their 2009 meetings in which the shared pagan history of both valleys was considered. This short article was published by the Val Camonica Distretto Culturale, and also involved the Camunian cultural group Circolo Culturale Ghislandi.

This Camunian-Valtellinese shared cultural history is significant not only because it ties the two valleys together since time immemorial, but also in that there was a shared spiritual experience. I think it was at the Tonale Pass that the Pagans---Camunians, Valtellinese, Chiavennaschi, and Bergamaschi from the Alpine stretches---would all gather for the eight seasonal festivals. Presumably each would last for several days of rituals.

If I could time travel to witness one historical event, I imagine myself at perhaps a Midsummer gathering... maybe a thousand years ago. Standing with my ancestors along the high mountain pass, feeling the warm summer breeze blowing against me, amid the ominous colors of a golden glowing moon against a darkening blue twilight sky, and observing the rich colors of the high Alps as they are slightly illuminated by the dusk sun.

Perhaps this is the chief ceremony, and a high priestess is standing at a high point with an upraised staff with a small sickle attached to it. She is speaking loudly in an old dialect that I can't begin to recognize, but I somehow just know that she is of my family. I'm standing about 25 yards away. Her face is mostly shadowed, but I can see her beautiful long grayish hair draped over her robe. Although I cannot understand her words, I sense that it has something to do with the great Almother who is watching over us and this earthly paradise.

Back to 2009, this meeting was also attended by representatives from neighboring provinces, including the Swiss canton of Ticino. Among the subjects covered at this meeting was a new book entitled 'Ci Chiamavano Streghe' ("they called us witches") by Giuseppe Laterza. If I understand correctly, the idea of "duel awareness" regarding this and other shared history was emphasized.  This inquisition of the church against local native pagan culture was also present in the Valtellina.

From the article: Just remember that between May and June 1518 in Pisogne, Breno, Edolo, Cemmo and Darfo were prosecuted between 100 and 150 people, of which some 70 the judges of the Inquisition issued a death sentence, then regularly performed. Most of these people, about two-thirds, were women. It went on to say that "witchcraft" was really a scapegoat for a general fear of even the remotest speck of female "deviance" according to church doctrine. I'm guessing that could be something as simple as dancing, as pagans often did. The church and state worked together to this end. In this case, the Venetian state and local Vatican authorities.

This period was described as a "clash of cultures," between the urban (church and state) and the rural (Christian-Pagan harmony). Oddly, we see this cultural-political conflict in the United States even today. This internal crusade ("witch hunt") was a European cultural civil war. An estimated 110,000 "authorities," over the course of three centuries, conducted an estimated 60,000 executions. As we're beginning to see pretty clearly today, there are many millions of people today who would love to do this again worldwide... in the name of another supremacist religion.

Book details:
Title: 'They Called Us Witches'
Authors: Various Authors
Preface: Pier Luigi Milani
Curator: Andrea Richini
Editors: Giuseppe Laterza
Publication date: 2009
Price: Euro $25.00


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