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Corsica

Corsica

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Published by Lilitu Babalon
An article I wrote for the Australian Pagan journal The Crossroads.
An article I wrote for the Australian Pagan journal The Crossroads.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Lilitu Babalon on Dec 15, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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12/15/2010

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Origins: C is for CorsicaCorsica, the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean, is located Southeast of France and is one of its26 regions, although it is considered a territorial collective, with slightly more autonomy than aregular region. Corsica’s population of around 275,000 lives mainly in the two major cities of Ajaccio and Bastia. Because of the geography of Corsica, which is very mountainous, its manyvillages are often isolated from each other, and are mostly set back about 15 kms from the sea(Corsica has a coastline of 1,000 kms) or in the interior. They are built from granite, with housesclose together. There are around 365 villages, many with less than 100 people.French is the official language in Corsica, although a large number of Corsicans speak the indigenouslanguage -
Corsu
, an Indo-European language of Romance or Latin origin. The French still have notratified the European Minority Language Charter. The Corsican language and its many dialects isused in a local improvisational form of poetry,
Chjame à Rispondi
(Call and Response), a formusually used by men which is jealously guarded, even by those who don’t generally speak 
Corsu
.Music is also central to Corsican culture, with the traditional form of polyphonic singing dating back to the 16
th
century. Polyphony is sung by, usually, groups of three men, with a fourth “angelic” voicecoming out of the harmonies.Corsica is home to around 80 menhirs (standing stones) and stands out from other Mediterraneancountries with megalithic sites, in that the Goddess is invisible in its megalithic past, despite the factthat Corsica still practices remnants of its megalithic culture. Of the 80 menhirs, only one or twoshow possible signs of a Goddess, and it is believed that the menhirs largely represent dead heroes,warriors and chieftains. The remnants of the megalithic past survive mainly in the Corsican cult of the dead and the extraordinarily important place death plays in Corsican culture, particularly in thevillages, and despite attempts by the Catholic church to Christianise the island. The survivingdolmens show that they were designed for collective burial; the
voceru
are special songs sung inhonour of the dead; the
caracolu
, the ritual dance where mourners dance around the corpse, is still practised.There are many ways in which Corsicans recognise imminent death, such as the beating of aninvisible drum which can never be located; the procession of 
mubba
(phantom pigs) passing thehouse at night; the appearance of the
malaceddu
(white owl) tapping on the window; or the mostdread of all symbols of death, the appearance of the
Squadra d'Arozza
, the phantom funeral procession.“Bearing a coffin and lighted tapers they proceed along the road and into the village with the soundof a tramping army, or with a drum beating a funeral march. When they reach the house of which oneof the occupants is to die they call him by his name, but he is the only person not to hear them. Anycontact with them is dangerous. Some believe that even to meet the Squadra is to risk death. Havingsummoned its victim the Squadra then goes to the village church, where it can be heard chanting theMass for the Dead, perhaps that rending Corsican Mass sung in polyphony, the paghjella, a musicsaid by some scholars to derive from the megalithic age, and which does indeed seem to be torn fromthe roots of time. The procession can afterwards be seen carrying the coffin to the cemetery. Asomewhat similar premonitory procession is known as the
mumma
. The coffin contains the spirit of one who will shortly die. He may be saved if a living person has the courage to stop the procession, break open the coffin, and tear some shreds from the shroud of the phantom corpse. But this must bedone before the procession crosses a stream.”
1
Corsicans believe that life is programmed from birth, so even the form of imposed Christianity they practice is fatalistic. Free will has little place in their belief system. So it is with the first of the occult practitioners of Corsica, the
Mazzeri
(dream hunters), whose dreams predict illness and death.It is believed that the activities of the
Mazzeri
stem from the hunter-gatherer society of pre-Neolithictimes, before 6000 BC. The
Mazzeri
go out at night in their dreams and kill an animal. The face theysee on the dead animal, usually someone from their village, will be the person who dies, within thespace of three days to a year. If the animal is only wounded, the person will face accident or illness.To become a
Mazzere
, the person must have a psychic gift that opens them to the other world. Oncerecognised, their initiation takes place in dreams, and the initiation is given by a practicing
Mazzeri
,often someone from the same family, who will call the initiate to take part in a dream hunt. Thisgenerally takes place in adolescence.
 
Only animals and birds are killed in the dream hunt, and the weapons may vary: guns, spears, axes,knives, stones and sticks. The preferred weapon is a cudgel known as a
mazza
, cut from the root andstem of a vine. The
Mazzeri
hunt in familiar landscapes, often near water such as a stream or pond.Water in traditional Corsica was most often regarded as evil.“The Corsicans, including the
Mazzeri
- or -
colpadori
[in the south] have their own explanation. The
Mazzeri
do not go out at night in their physical bodies, but in their soul or spirit; the word spirit ismore appropriate because free from Christian religious connotations. The spirit of the
mazzere
, whenhunting, meets the spirit of his victim, a human being who has assumed animal form. When he killsthe animal he severs spirit from body; the body lingers on for some time afterwards, but this life isonly a reprieve and inevitably the body will sicken and die. The killing by the
mazzere
is therefore asymbolic act perpetrated in the realm of dreams, or what the Corsicans define as "
the other 
" or "
 parallel" 
world, to which
mazzeri
have privileged access.”
2
Today there are an estimated 30
Mazzeri
in Corsica.While the
Mazzeri
are considered to be shrouded in the shadow world, the
Signadori
represent theopposite. They are the light bearers of the Corsican occult world. Many
Signadori
can cure illnessesand have knowledge of the traditional medicinal plants, but the
Signadori
alone can avert the EvilEye. In Corsica, the Eye (
l'occhiu
) causes a variety of maladies, while sapping the energy that wouldallow the person to resist it.
 L'occhiu
causes an intense state of physical and mental depression; itattacks people who are weak such as children, and may also affect domestic animals.Envy (
invidia
), a traditional Corsican sin, can destroy social harmony, and be the downfall of a person or family, preventing success. The Corsican attitude to success is ambiguous; conspicuouswealth is resented. (The Corsicans were thus predisposed to welcome the Franciscan cult of povertythat penetrated the island.)
 Invidia
may destroy the individual and their target, and everything they’vegained.The
Signadori
intervene against
l’occhiu
and
invidia
by invoking mystical forces. “Their intervention, though differing in detail from one person and one locality to another, conforms to anestablished rite practised all over the island. The
Signadore
, who is likely to be a woman, pours coldwater into a white soup plate and makes the sign of the cross above it three times with her right hand.She then lets fall into the water, again making the sign of the cross, three drops of hot olive oil fromthe little finger of her left hand. The oil was traditionally taken from the glass or metal lamp thatstood on the mantlepiece; today it is scooped from any receptacle of heated oil.”
3
The
Signadori
appears to be entering a trance, but is in fact reciting one of the many prayers whichmust be learned at or near midnight on Christmas Eve, the sacred time when evil is inoperative. (The
Signadori
are devout Catholics who escaped persecution by the Inquisition.) The prayers are taught by grandparents to grandchildren and are thought to be inspired by the spirits of their ancestors. The
Signadori
may take on the illness or problems of the person for whom she is working, but this willdissipate once the hot oil has dispersed in the water.“The
Signadori
do much to appease conflicts on the island, unobtrusively, using their own chosenmethods. They take no part in local quarrels, even when they well know what is going on in their communities. Their action is not directed against individuals, but against
l’occhiu
,
l’invidia
that isworking through them. Their aim is to restore a harmony, psychic or physical, broken by the forcesof destruction, by invoking those of Christianity.”
4
It is believed that the incantations, chants and prayers used by the
Signadori
, originated in medievalChristianity, although it has been impossible to give them a date. A prayer to staunch blood is cast ina sequence of declarations which pay tribute to the Virgin Mary and to the magical quality of thenumber three:
Madre Maria per mare veniaTre lancia d'oro in manu teniaUna lanciaia, l'altra feriaè l'altra u sangue stancia facia
Mother Mary came by seaShe held three lances in her hand

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