Robert V. Kozinets - 2007 - Brand New Worlds
This is a spooky tale of branding horrors that is going to continue for a few days. Are you ready for it, kiddies, cuz it ain’t gonna be pretty…..
During my recent travels in Europe, I had the opportunity to stay with a good friend in the small, old, beautiful town of Poschiavo, Switzerland, in Italian Switzerland, at the base of the Alps. It’s part of the whole region also called Poschiavo, or the Valley of Poschiavo, branded as Volpasciavo. A few years ago, following the major success of the St. Moritz region and their sunshine logo and branding campaign, came up with the logo above and branded themselves. So far, so good. The place has a ton of natural beauty, great hiking trails and access to skiing in Winter, some wonderful old churches, great restaurants with Swiss-Italian food (great pizzas!), and access to the Bernina Express train line through the Alps, one of the most scenic train rides in the world.
It also has some very cool features that you’re not likely to read about in any tourist book or pamphlet, and that’s what this blog is about today. My family and I were very fortunate to have our good friend, who is also a tourism official and local politician, as tour guide. He provided all kinds of insider information that made me wonder: why doesn’t anybody else know this?
Here’s the first part of my touristic tale. It starts with dinner out on our first incredible evening in the Albici hotel, an old and elaborate Manor called piazza del Borgo, owned by the 18th Century Baron De Bassus with ties to the strange and powerful mystical movement termed the “Illuminati.” Here’s some great detail that I found on the wonderful “Conspiracy Archive” website which draws upon the work of one of my favorite modern mystical writers, the late Robert Anton Wilson:
The baron Thomas Maria Freiherr De Bassus was born in Poschiavo, Switzerland, in 1742. He studied jurisprudence at the University of Ingolstadt. Weishaupt (code name Spartacus), who founded the Order of the Bavarian Illuminati, on the 1 May 1776, was his schoolmate. De Bassus practiced for a year as an Adviser of court to Münich in Bavaria. In 1767 he became Patron [Podestà] of Poschiavo, a task already taken from his father Giovanni Maria. . . .At the premature death of his father, he inherited the palace of piazza del Borgo in Poschiavo, known today as the Albrici Hotel, in addition to his wealthy possessions in Valtellina and in Val di Poschiavo. . . .
Entering the Order of the Bavarian Illuminati with the code name of Hannibal, De Bassus had the assignment, like the pseudonym suggests, to spread Illuminism beyond the Alps, above all in the Three Leagues (Swiss) and in the north of Italy. De Bassus acquired a printing company that, with the help of the Illuminatus typographer Joseph Ambrosioni, became the center of the diffusion of Weishaupt’s ideas from Poschiavo. The edition of De Bassus (1782) of the first Italian translation of the Werther of Goethe, written by Gaetano Grassi from Milan, was famous.
In 1787, police searches of the Baron’s castle turned up incriminating evidence against himself and the Illuminati. He was a great recruiter for the Order. In letters to Weishaupt he boasted of his conquests at Bozen (in the south of Austria), initiating “the President, the Vice-President, the principal Counsellors of Government, and the Grand Master of the Posts.” Later, in his travels to Italy, he sends back word of having initiated “his Excellency the Count W ” in Milan. [AB: 605]
Perhaps most powerfully of all for all for me were the paintings that surrounded us in the dining room, each of a mysterious sibyl. The Sibyls, of course, were the oracular seeress’s of Greek mythology, but these paintings had a variety of different sibyls, not simple the Delphinians, some of the paintings have mysterious signs and iconography.
Here is my photo of one of the paintings:
This is of the Roman Tiburtine Sibyl, who is famous for an apocalyptic prophesy in which a final Emperor actually slays the Antichrist. As I start my very superficial investigations into these mysterious paintings, I can see how they can weave an amazing tapestry of history, myth, and legend, a lot like the Da Vinci Code book by Dan Brown (but in this case, the quality of the research is up to all of us, these are genuine mysteries, and a genuinely mystical secret society; of course Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons was about the Illuminati).
But maybe the strangest thing about these paintings is their lineage. No one seems to know who painted them, or why, or where or when the Baron got them…they are, like the entire Illuminati movement, shrouded in mystery. They really are a sight to behold, amazing to see, fascinating to investigate, and my picture does not do them justice at all.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about the much gorier and horrific Alpine Witch trials, and we’ll continue to wonder…how might this connect to the branding of place and touristic marketing.