Friday, October 10, 2008

P.S. I love you... with a nice Chianti.

This morning, after my long Calgon-take-me-away bubble bath and 72 cups of coffee, as I fumbled around in a few drawers for a sharpie contemplating playing connect the dots with my large pores, (-All the while cursing the fact that the older I get I realize I am the sole contestant in my own personal genetic Wheel of Fortune,-) I took a good look at a photograph of my Dad from 1918. He was such a handsome man, it is a little odd that he was 70 when I was born, but my Dads side of the family seems to have always tipped the scales on the odd side- when my Great Grand mother pried into my Fathers lineage, as Italian women do. she was not only upset that he was from the north of Italy- a tiny country town outside of Milan- but she was outraged that one of his family names was "Benandanti." My Dad was a great guy, The fact that he came to America in 1917 with nothing except for his brother Anthony says a lot about his character to me.

(Much later when I came along, I thought it was strange that she insisted that I shave the hair between my eyebrows, i.e. monobrow- saying -with an accompanied sign of the cross- that it was a mark of the "Werewolf ! Just like your Papa! " )
So being the little Nancy Boy, um, I mean Nancy Drew that I am I hit the books and the web to see what I could find out about Big Papas side of the family.
And with a little searching I hit paydirt about the Name Benandanti. And werewolves.

One of the strangest incidences involving werewolves was that of "Benandanti" (a term roughly translated into 'good walkers,' 'those who go well' or 'good-doers') in northern Italy. In this case the werewolves were men who left their bodies and assumed the shape of wolves. After becoming wolves they descended to the underworld to battle witches.

This case was tried in 1692 in Jurgenburg, Livonia, situated in an area east of the Baltic Sea, steeped in werewolf folklore. It involved an 80-year-old man named Thiess.Thiess confessed to being a werewolf, saying his nose had been broken by a man named Skeistan, a witch who was dead at the time he had struck Thiess. According to Thiess' testimony Skeistan and other witches was preventing the crops of the area from growing. Their purpose for doing this was so they could carry the grain into hell. To help the crop to continue to grow Thiess with a band of other werewolves descended into hell to fight the witches to recover the grain.
The warring of the werewolves and the witches occurred on three nights of the year: Saint Lucia, Pentecost and Saint John (the seasonal changes). If the werewolves were slow in their descent the witches would bar the gates of hell, and the crops, livestock, and even the fish catch would suffer. As weapons the werewolves carried iron bars while the witches used broom handles. Skeistan broke Theiss' nose with a broom handle wrapped in a horse's tail.

The judges were astounded by such testimony, for they had naturally supposed the werewolves were agents of the Devil. But now they were hearing the werewolves were fighting the Devil. When asked what became of the souls of the werewolves, Thiess said they went to heaven. He insisted werewolves were the "hounds of Gods" who helped mankind by preventing the Devil from carrying off the abundance of the earth. If it were not for them all would suffer. He said there were werewolves in Germany and Russia also fighting witches in their own hells.
Thiess was determined in his confession, denying he had ever signed a pact with the Devil. He refused to see the parish priest who was sent for to chastise him, saying that he was a better man than any priest. He claimed he was neither the first nor the last man to become a werewolf in order to fight witches. Finally the judges, probably out of desperation, sentenced Thiess to ten lashes for acts of idolatry and superstitious beliefs.

In the Friuli region of Italy, Slavic, Germanic, and Italian traditions combined to form the Benandanti cult. Many Benandanti were followers of Diana.
Carlo Ginzburg, in 'Night Battles' wrote:
'The present research now establishes...the positive existence at a relatively late date (from c. 1570) of a fertility cult whose participants, the Benandanti, represented themselves as defenders of harvests and the fertility of fields...This belief is tied to a larger complex of traditions (connected, in turn, with the myth of nocturnal gatherings over which female deities...presided)...In the span of a century, as we shall see, the Benandanti were transformed into witches and their nocturnal gatherings, intended to induce fertility, became the devil's sabbat, with the resulting storms and destruction.'

Four times a year, on holidays associated with the planting and harvesting of crops, the Benandanti were called to Gatherings. It was at these Gatherings that the major battles with 'Malandanti '(loosely translates to 'evil-doers) or 'Strigoni' were fought. The Benandanti fought with fennel stalks, the Malandanti with sorghum. It was believed that on certain particular nights the soul of the Benandanti gets out of the body to participate in meetings with other Benandanti .
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Benandanti was the method by which they were chosen. One did not decide to be Benandanti, the calling was forced on certain people as an accident of birth. Women and men born with a 'caul' (inner fetal membrane still covering the body, especially the head) were believed to have mysterious healing powers and the ability to see witches. Cauls were sometimes saved by these Benandanti and worn about their necks as amulets.
Mmmmm sounds Yummo.

Much like the shaman of other cultures, the Benandanti testified they left their bodies at night, (what we call astral projection) sometimes shape shifting into animal form , sometimes riding animals or household tools. While 'out' they performed work which, we now know from modern research, was typical of shamans around the world. They healed and protected people of the village, they kept the paths of the dead from this world to the next secure, and they fought to protect the village from 'Malandanti'.
The 'doers of good' retained their anti-witchcraft stance until around the year 1610. Shortly afterward, they came under persecution by the Inquisition, and were identified as witches. They maintained that they were an army for Christ in the war against evil. As a result the local beliefs underwent a profound transformation, and by 1640 the Benandanti themselves were acknowledging that they were in fact 'witches' .

Well then, Trick or treat. As it were. It seems I am related to a long line of werewolves, it figures, No wonder I prefer platinum or 18K gold over silver bullets... Oh please, as if.
Until next time- I will be hanging out at the bar at the Ritz-Carlton- look for me, I'll be the one chortling effervescently in smooth black satin stalking my prey...

Here's a pre-holiday cocktail to get you in the mood!

Blood of Satan!

1/2 oz Jagermeister® herbal liqueur

1/2 oz Goldschlager cinnamon schnapps

1/2 oz Irish whiskey

1/2 oz Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey
Carefully layer all four ingredients, in the above order (top-to-bottom) into a 2-oz shot glass, and serve.

1 comment:

lightbringer said...

I always knew you were from a long line of "do-gooders"...
and it does not surprise me one bit that they still do not see you for what you really are!

I miss the chats at the club but I do not regret my decision to part; the price of succession was worth all those faceless cocks lying stiff in the dark...

it is good that you are still in town I need to find your number cuz you are still firm in my heart.

Keep your nawlins spirit high and your head higher and that GLASS highest of them all!

Take care.

Peace and love,
ps: i love your blog

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zeitgeist, particular friend, perky libertine, animated trickster, iconoclast, rabble-rouser, object of worship, provocateur, capricious damp enchantress, idiosyncratic beloved reptile, whimsical saucy booze hound, bellwether, luminary, stoic, pensive illicit paramour, aloof, engaged, intuitive, curious, perplexing deranged mastermind, passionate, lasciviously adored offspring, amorous, sultry flamboyant charioteer, scholar, scribe, exalted thespian, voracious, considerable chieftain, impaired, cynical colleague, dreamer, procrastinator, loathsome glutton, artist, oppressed peasant, dainty heathen, narcissist, self-loathing...renaissance man