Calabria

Vintage Video: Feast of the Madonna della Consolazione in Reggio Calabria

« Eh 'griràmulu tutti cu còri!
Oggi e sempri, viva Maria! » 

"Let us all cry out with our hearts! 
Now and forever, viva Maria!"

Background

The Madonna della Consolazione is the patron of Reggio Calabria in--you guessed it--Calabria. Her feast is celebrated every year on the second Saturday in September. I am especially eager to share her with you because I recently found some vintage videos of her feast which appear to date from the 1920s or 1930s. 

According to tradition, this miraculous Madonna has saved her people from many disasters, both natural and man-made, including the following: 

  • 1571 - plague  
  • 1594 - the siege of the Turks 
  • 1636 - more plague 
  • 1638 - a catastrophic earthquake 
  • 1672 - famine

Procession 

During the procession, the devout transport the Vara which contains an image of the Madonna from the Basilica dell'Eremo to the duomo di Reggio Calabria. She remains there until November 21, the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, when she returns to the Basilica dell'Eremo

It takes 100 men at a time to support the Vara, which weighs 1,000 kg. 

Tarantella: Traditional Music & Dance

Traditional Food

In the video above, you may have noticed ornate handicrafts that look like small sculptures. Those are 'Nzuddha, or Nzudda, and they are actually a type of Calabrian dessert! The 'nzuddha is a type of unleavened cookie of Arab origin, made with flour, caramel honey, and aniseed liqueur. It is quite similar to the Neapolitan mustaccioli or the Sicilian mustazzoli. They are difficult to chew, but they are often shaped into beautiful, elaborate designs: 

A 'Nzuddha shaped like a monk

A 'Nzuddha shaped like a monk

These designs may be taken from Christian symbolism (e.g. fish, doves) or pagan symbolism (e.g. women, snakes), reflecting the dual heritage of Calabria. 

Magic Beverages for Summer

Many Americans traveling to Italy, whether to explore their roots or just enjoy the scenery, are taken aback by the country’s devotion to food and the socializing that occurs around mealtimes. Take, for example, the rituals surrounding aperitivi and digestivi—that is, alcoholic beverages consumed before and after meals, respectively. Aperitivi can be thought of as similar to happy hour drinks. They are usually enjoyed as a way to unwind after the work day and stimulate digestion before the evening meal. They are sometimes accompanied by light food because dinners in usually start later in the evening than they do in the US. Digestivi are often taken along with the dessert course. 

In this post, we’ll be talking about some popular aperitivi and digestivi and how to make them yourself. We’ll also speculate on possible magical applications of these beverages based on their ingredients, so you can serve up some blessings to your summer party guests! 

APERITIVI

Spritz

This aperitivo can be made with either Campari or Aperol. These liqueurs have similar tastes and are both made by the same company, but Campari is stronger than Aperol: more bitter and twice as alcoholic. 

  • Prosecco 
  • 1 shot Campari or Aperol 
  • 1 glug club soda 
  • 1 orange slice 

Fill a tumblr with ice. Fill the glass 2/3 full with sparkling wine. Add the Aperol. Top with club soda, stir well, then add the orange slice. 

The magic ingredient: amaro

Campari and Aperol are both examples of amaro, a broad category including several Italian liqueurs. Amari are bitter; that’s what amaro means in Italian. And some of them are bittersweet. But they are all delicious. Bitter herbs such as those used to manufacture different amari often have trans-cultural reputations for developing psychic powers. Dandelion and wormwood are notable examples. 

Campari and Aperol have the added magical bonus of being colored a vibrant red. Red is believed to be lucky in many parts of Italy. Cornicello and mano cornuto charms were traditionally made of coral, which the Greeks said was the blood of the Gorgon Medusa. Half of her blood was said to heal, and the other half was said to poison. Perhaps because of this history, these charms are still red today, even when they are made of plastic. The color is said to repeal evil, especially the mal’occhio or evil eye. 

Peach Wine

Known as perzichi ’ntru vinu or pircochi ‘e vinu in Calabrese, peach wine is an old-fashioned treat throughout Southern Italy. The core concept is similar to Spanish sangria, but the use of peaches is a regional delight. 

  • 1 kg peaches (especially percoca peaches) 
  • 1 liter wine (should be a light-bodied red; avoid tannins) 

Wash and peel the peaches. Fill a pitcher half-way with wine. Cut the peaches into large, irregular chunks and add to pitcher. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Serve cold. 

The magic ingredient: peaches!   

Peaches were brought to Italy by the Persians. They were initially cultivated in ancient China, where they were known as the fruit of immortality. This places them in a category similar to the apples of immortality tended to by the Norse goddess Idunna, or the ambrosia consumed by the Greek gods. And, since ambrosia itself was sometimes consider wine or some other red nectar, we might think of this drink as our own glass of ambrosia. 

DIGESTIVI

Limoncello

Making your own limoncello is an easy way to impress your friends at your next party. Or a bottle makes a great gift for your favorite host/hostess! 

  • 10 lemons 
  • 750 ml vodka 
  • 3 1/2 cups water 
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar 

Using a potato peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips. Be careful to avoid peeling off the pith—that’s the technical term for the bitter white stuff no one likes in citrus peels. Place the lemon peels, without the pith, in a large pitcher or jar. Pour the vodka over them and cover with plastic wrap. (Note: if you are using a mason jar, keep some plastic wrap under the metal lid, otherwise it will corrode.) Steep for four days at room temperature. 

Make simple syrup by storing the water and sugar together in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Allow it to cool completely, then add it to the vodka and lemon peels. Cover and let stand overnight at room temperature. Strain through cheesecloth or a metal strainer and discard the peels. Transfer to bottles and store in refrigerator. Serve cold and enjoy within one month of preparing. 

The magic ingredient: lemons! 

Everybody loves lemons! In American folk magic, they have a reputation for cleansing which probably inspired the popular association of their scent with cleaning products. Nicholas Culpeper in his enormously influential herbal places them under the planetary rulership of the Sun and claims they are an excellent remedy for poison. Other European folklore associates the lemon with love magic, perhaps because the lemon is both sweet and “bitter” (i.e. sour), like love itself: pleasure and pain in equal turn. 

Theres also a famous charm involving a lemon ("Scongiurazione al Limone appuntato un Spille") in Charles Leland's Aradia, Gospel of the Witches. While the accuracy of that text is suspect, I have seen so many folks refer to it that I think it may have its own magic at this point. 

Madonna of the Mountain in Polsi, Calabria

There is a sanctuary in the mountains of Calabria where the mafia plots and ancient rites are carried out in honor of the Goddess--once Persephone, now A Madonna dâ Muntagna, or the Madonna of the Mountain. Until recently, her feast on September 2 was celebrated with the strewing of grain and flowers (cf. the Greek rite of aparchai), as well as the sacrifice and cooking of goats. 

In an ancient Greek settlement at nearby Locri, two great sanctuaries once stood. One was dedicated to Persephone. The other was dedicated to Aphrodite. It may astonish some to learn that these two goddesses were syncretized here: 

According to Diodorus Siculus (27.4.2), Persephone’s sanctuary was considered “the most renowned temple in Italy, preserved as holy for all time by the inhabitants.” Livy (29.18.3) reports that in 204 B.C.E. envoys from Locri addressing the Roman Senate could assume that their audience was fully aware of its religious importance. One of the most striking aspects of the worship of Persephone at Locri, at least to modern observers, is its conflation with the cult of Aphrodite, as evidenced by the type-scenes found on the pinakes. In this series of images, which are manifestly associated with the ritual activities of women and are frequently regarded as “wedding ex-votos”, the symbolism of the two deities is amalgamated, often provoking considerable controversy as to which goddess is meant. ... Is the relation of the two antithetical, with Persephone presiding over the domain of legitimate marriage and child rearing, and Aphrodite standing for socially “illicit and ‘aberrant’” modes of sexuality, as Sourvinou-Inwood proposes? Or are their operations wholly integrated, so that the goddesses, in MacLachlan’s formulation, “meet at the intersection of death and sexuality”? Redfield postulates that the Locrian fusion of nuptial and funerary imagery reflects an Orphic concept of marriage and death as parallel rites of passage, each involving transformation to a blessed state. Certainly the unique character of women’s religious activity there, involving joint worship of deities normally treated as quite distinct, confirms the importance of Sourvinou-Inwood’s stipulation that study of Greek divine personalities must take account of local difference and base its findings upon a non-Panhellenic, community-oriented approach to cult. 

From Marilyn B. Skinner, "Nossis and Women’s Cult at Locri"

The archaeological record at Polsi shows pinakes, or votive clay tablets manufactured by Hellenic settlers from Locri, so we know these locations were connected somehow. A Locrian pinax showing Persephone and her husband Hades, Queen and King of the Underworld, appears below. 

Locri_Pinax_Of_Persephone_And_Hades.jpg

I'm not going to lie: mostly, I'm writing about this Madonna because I just discovered this amazing album of vintage devotional songs sung in her honor. In particular, track #4, "Zampognara pi Maria SS." is LIT. (Catholit?) 

In addition to the devotional music played in honor of the Madonna, pilgrims to the sanctuary at Polsi will dance and play the tarantella. You can get a taste for this regional tarantella in this video: