Friday, May 31, 2013

The Water Fairies - Part II


In Roman mythology, the Camenae (also Casmenae, Camoenae) were originally goddesses of childbirth, wells and fountains, and also prophetic deities.

In ancient times might have been two aspects of Carmenta rather than separate figures; in later times, however, they are distinct beings believed to protect women in labour.

Carmenta or Carmentis was the chief among the nymphs. The spring and grove outside the Porta Capena was dedicated to Egeria. On her festival day, the Carmentalia, which fell on January the 11 and 15, Vestal Virgins drew water from that spring for the rites.
The Camenae were later identified with the Greek Muses; in his translation of Homer's Odyssey, Livius Andronicus rendered the Greek word Mousa as Camena.

Roman divinities whose name is connected with carmen (an oracle or prophecy), whence we also find the forms Casmenae, Carmenae, and Carmentis. The Camenae were accordingly prophetic nymphs, and they belonged to the religion of ancient Italy, although later traditions represent them as having been introduced into Italy from Arcadia.


Undines (Latin: Unda—a wave), also called ondines, are elementals, enumerated as the water elementals in works of alchemy by Paracelsus. They also appear in European folklore as fairy-like creatures; the name may be used interchangeably with those of other water spirits. Undines are said to be able to gain a soul by marrying a man and bearing his child. The German folktale of Ondine, a water nymph who curses her unfaithful husband to cease breathing if he should ever fall asleep again, is the basis for "Ondine's Curse," the historical term for congenital central hypoventilation syndrome, in which the afflicted lose autonomic control over breathing, placing them at greatest risk when they are asleep.

According to a theory advanced by Paracelsus, an Undine is a water nymph or water spirit, the elemental of water. They are usually found in forest pools and waterfalls. They have beautiful voices, which are sometimes heard over the sound of water. According to some legends, Undines cannot get a soul unless they marry a man and bear him a child. This aspect has led them to be a popular motif in romantic and tragic literature.
In 18th-century Scotland, Undines were also referred to as the wraiths of water. Even then, they were not feared as other wraiths such as the kelpie.

Ondine eventually falls iIn a German tale known as Sleep of Ondine, Ondine is a water nymph. She was very beautiful and, like all nymphs, immortal. However, should she fall in love with a mortal man n love with a handsome knight, Sir Lawrence, and they are married. When they exchange vows, Lawrence vows to forever love and be faithful to her. A year after their marriage, Ondine gives birth to his child. From that moment on she begins to age. As Ondine’s physical attractiveness diminishes, Lawrence loses interest in his wife.

One afternoon, Ondine is walking near the stables when she hears the familiar snoring of her husband. When she enters the stable, she sees Lawrence lying in the arms of another woman. Ondine points her finger at him, which he feels as if kicked, waking him up with surprise. Ondine curses him, stating, "You swore faithfulness to me with every waking breath, and I accepted your oath. So be it. As long as you are awake, you shall have your breath, but should you ever fall asleep, then that breath will be taken from you and you will die!"


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Friday, May 17, 2013

White Tiger Under Water

Odin the White Tiger (Panthera tigris) is a tiger with a genetic condition that nearly eliminates pigment in the normally orange fur although they still have dark stripes. This occurs when a tiger inherits two copies of the recessive gene for the paler coloration: pink nose, grey-mottled skin, ice-blue eyes, and white to cream-coloured fur with black, grey, or chocolate-coloured stripes. (Another genetic condition also makes the stripes of the tiger very pale; white tigers of this type are called snow-white.)

White tigers do not constitute a separate subspecies of their own and can breed with orange ones, although all of the resulting offspring will be heterozygous for the recessive white gene, and their fur will be orange. The only exception would be if the orange parent was itself already a heterozygous tiger, which would give each cub a 50% chance of being either double-recessive white or heterozygous orange.

These incredible photos of a White Bengal Tiger named Odin.

Odin is six years old and 10 feet long from tail to nose.

Odin lives at a Zoo in Vallejo, California, near San Francisco .

Odin with his British trainer Lee Munro.

Odin was hand-raised at the zoo. And after he was weaned,

his British trainer Lee Munro discovered his remarkable skill.

When a lump of meat was thrown into a pool of water, Odin

would happily dive in after it.

He makes a funny face - and its actually to close his nostrils

to stop the water from going into his nose.

Not all big cats enjoy the water but for Tigers from the hot

climate of South-East Asia its one way to cool down.

Plus they hunt in and around water. Theyre an ambush

predator so they wait for prey to come down to the water.

When you actually see him dive underwater he looks

so graceful,

Odin loves the water and he loves food, he said. Not

all big cats will dive and swim underwater even for meat treats.

Munro said tigers were the most powerful swimmers

out of all land-dwelling animals.

Tragically, within our lifetimes, zoos might be the

only places left to see these magnificent animals.

A century ago there were about 100,000 tigers in

the wild. Now there are just 2,500 adults, with the

Bengal variety almost extinct. None has been seen

in the wild since the last white tiger was shot and killed in 1958.

White tigers are the most rare. They get their whitecolor

from an unusual and extremely rare genetic combination.


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Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Water Fairies - Part I

An elemental is a being first appearing in the alchemical works of Paracelsus. The basic concept of an elemental refers to the ancient idea of elements as building blocks of nature. An elemental is a creature (usually a spirit) that is attuned with or composed of one of the classical elements, air, water, earth and fire. The elements balance each other out through opposites; water quenches fire, fire boils water, earth contains air, air erodes earth.

Elemental or nature spirits never knew life as we know it as they originated from another realm of existence. Today’s society finds it very difficult to believe in the typical Victorian fairy, but it has not always been that way.

In the middle Ages, the gentiles defined it as a divinity or unknown force, which had a fascinating effect on the other divinities and on men and events. The French word fée has a similar origin and resulted in the English words fey and fairie which, as time went by, suffered spelling variations from fayerye, fayre, faerie, faery, and fairy. According to its ethimology, it is a fantastic being pictured as a woman known to have magical powers. For the Saxons, the word ferie refers to the world of fairies as an entity, being a geographical location.

The world of Fairies is a mixture of a mysterious enchantment and extreme caution should be exercised to penetrate into this world, as nothing is more irritating to fairies than several human beings curiously moving around their extraordinary dominions, like spoiled tourists. Location of these elementary beings has varied throughout time and cultures. For the Irish, sometimes it was found in the horizon; other under their own feet; on other occasions, on hills, or in a magical island in the high seas or under the ocean.


A nymph (Greek: νύμφη, nymphē) in Greek mythology is a minor female nature deity typically associated with a particular location or landform. There are 5 different types of nymphs, Celestial Nymphs, Water Nymphs, Land Nymphs, Plant Nymphs and Underworld Nymphs. Different from goddesses, nymphs are generally regarded as divine spirits who animate nature, and are usually depicted as beautiful, young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing; their amorous freedom sets them apart from the restricted and chaste wives and daughters of the Greek polis.

They are believed to dwell in mountains and groves, by springs and rivers, and also in trees and in valleys and cool grottoes. Although they would never die of old age nor illness, and could give birth to fully immortal children if mated to a god, they themselves were not necessarily immortal, and could be beholden to death in various forms. Charybdis and Scylla were once nymphs.

Other nymphs, always in the shape of young maidens, were part of the retinue of a god, such as Dionysus, Hermes, or Pan, or a goddess, generally the huntress Artemis. Nymphs were the frequent target of satyrs. They are frequently associated with the superior divinities: the huntress Artemis; the prophetic Apollo; the reveller and god of wine, Dionysus; and rustic gods such as Pan and Hermes.

Nymphs are personifications of the creative and fostering activities of nature, most often identified with the life-giving outflow of springs: as Walter Burkert (Burkert 1985:III.3.3) remarks, "The idea that rivers are gods and springs divine nymphs is deeply rooted not only in poetry but in belief and ritual; the worship of these deities is limited only by the fact that they are inseparably identified with a specific locality."

The Greek nymphs were spirits invariably bound to places, not unlike the Latin genius loci, and the difficulty of transferring their cult may be seen in the complicated myth that brought Arethusa to Sicily. In the works of the Greek-educated Latin poets, the nymphs gradually absorbed into their ranks the indigenous Italian divinities of springs and streams (Juturna, Egeria, Carmentis, Fontus), while the Lymphae (originally Lumpae), Italian water-goddesses, owing to the accidental similarity of their names, could be identified with the Greek Nymphae.

The mythologies of classicizing Roman poets were unlikely to have affected the rites and cult of individual nymphs venerated by country people in the springs and clefts of Latium. Among the Roman literate class, their sphere of influence was restricted, and they appear almost exclusively as divinities of the watery element.


In Greek mythology, the Nereids are sea nymphs (female spirits of sea waters), the fifty daughters of Nereus and Doris, sisters to Nerites. They were distinct from the mermaid-like Sirens. They often accompany Poseidon and can be friendly and helpful to sailors fighting perilous storms.

Nereids are particularly associated with the Aegean Sea, where they dwelt with their father in the depths within a silvery cave. The most notable of them are Thetis, wife of Peleus and mother of Achilles; Amphitrite, wife of Poseidon; and Galatea, love of the Cyclops Polyphemus. In Iliad XVIII, when Thetis cries out in sympathy for the grief of Achilles for the slain Patroclus, her sisters appear.

The Nereids are the namesake of one of the moons of the planet Neptune. The nymph Opis is mentioned in Virgil's Aeneid.

She is called on by the goddess Diana to avenge the death of the Amazon-like female warrior Camilla. Diana gives Opis magical weapons with which to take revenge on Camilla's killer, the Etruscan Arruns. Opis sees and laments Camilla's death and shoots Arruns in revenge as directed by Diana.

In modern Greek folklore, the term "nereid" (νεράϊδα, neráïda) has come to be used of all nymphs, or fairies, or mermaids, not merely nymphs of the sea.


In Greek mythology, the Naiads (pron.: /ˈneɪæd/ or /ˈneɪəd/ or /ˈnaɪæd/ or /ˈnaɪəd/; Ancient Greek: Ναϊάδες, Naiades, from νάειν, "to flow", or νᾶμα, "running water") were a type of nymph (female spirit) who presided over fountains, wells, springs, streams, brooks and other bodies of freshwater.
They are distinct from river gods, who embodied rivers, and the very ancient spirits that inhabited the still waters of marshes, ponds and lagoon-lakes, such as pre-Mycenaean Lerna in the Argolid.

Naiads were associated with fresh water, as the Oceanids were with saltwater and the Nereids specifically with the Mediterranean, but because the Greeks thought of the world's waters as all one system, which percolated in from the sea in deep cavernous spaces within the earth, there was some overlap. Arethusa, the nymph of a spring, could make her way through subterranean flows from the Peloponnesus, to surface on the island of Sicily.

They were often the object of archaic local cults, worshipped as essential to humans. Boys and girls at coming-of-age ceremonies dedicated their childish locks to the local naiad of the spring. In places like Lerna their waters' ritual cleansings were credited with magical medical properties. Animals were ritually drowned there. Oracles might be situated by ancient springs.

Naiads could be dangerous: Hylas of the Argo's crew was lost when he was taken by naiads fascinated by his beauty (see illustration). The naiads were also known to exhibit jealous tendencies. Theocritus' story of naiad jealousy was that of a shepherd, Daphnis, who was the lover of Nomia or Echenais; Daphnis had on several occasions been unfaithful to Nomia and as revenge she permanently blinded him. Salmacis forced the youth Hermaphroditus into a carnal embrace and, when he sought to get away, fused with him.

The Naiads were either daughters of Poseidon or various Oceanids, but a genealogy for such ancient, ageless creatures is easily overstated. The water nymph associated with particular springs was known all through Europe in places with no direct connection with Greece, surviving in the Celtic wells of northwest Europe that have been rededicated to Saints, and in the medieval Melusine.

Walter Burkert points out, "When in the Iliad [xx.4–9] Zeus calls the gods into assembly on Mount Olympus, it is not only the well-known Olympians who come along, but also all the nymphs and all the rivers; Okeanos alone remains at his station", Greek hearers recognized this impossibility as the poet's hyperbole, which proclaimed the universal power of Zeus over the ancient natural world: "the worship of these deities," Burkert confirms, "is limited only by the fact that they are inseparably identified with a specific locality."

End Part One.



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Friday, May 10, 2013

Lost "Sleeping Beauty" Rosalia Lombardo Mummy Formula Found

She's one of the world's best-preserved bodies: Rosalia Lombardo, a two-year-old Sicilian girl who died of pneumonia in 1920. "Sleeping Beauty," as she's known, appears to be merely dozing beneath the glass front of her coffin in the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Italy.

Now an Italian biological anthropologist, Dario Piombino-Mascali of the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, has discovered the secret formula that preserved Rosalia's body so well. (Piombino-Mascali is funded by the National Geographic Society's Expeditions Council. National Geographic News is owned by the National Geographic Society.)

Piombino-Mascali tracked down living relatives of Alfredo Salafia, a Sicilian taxidermist and embalmer who died in 1933. A search of Salafia's papers revealed a handwritten memoir in which he recorded the chemicals he injected into Rosalia's body: formalin, zinc salts, alcohol, salicylic acid, and glycerin.

Rosalia Lombardo


Formalin, now widely used by embalmers, is a mixture of formaldehyde and water that kills bacteria. Salafia was one of the first to use this for embalming bodies. Alcohol, along with the arid conditions in the catacombs, would have dried Rosalia's body and allowed it to mummify. Glycerin would have kept her body from drying out too much, and salicylic acid would have prevented the growth of fungi

But it was the zinc salts, according to Melissa Johnson Williams, executive director of the American Society of Embalmers, that were most responsible for Rosalia's amazing state of preservation. Zinc, which is no longer used by embalmers in the United States, petrified Rosalia's body.

Alfredo Salafia

"[Zinc] gave her rigidity," Williams said. "You could take her out of the casket prop her up, and she would stand by herself."

Piombino-Mascali calls the self-taught Salafia an artist: "He elevated embalming to its highest level."


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Thursday, May 09, 2013

The Capuchin Cemetery and Catacombs of Palermo - Sicily - Italy

by Nancy Kilpatrick and Hugues Leblanc

Palermo is an ancient city located at the north-west corner of Sicily, an enormous island south of Italy's mainland off the tip of the 'boot'. Populated with the descendants of Mediterranean stock, largely farmers, recent excavations indicate human activity on the island go as far back as the Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods. Palermo itself was founded by Phoenicians then passed to the Carthaginians, and by 354 BC was a Roman free town. Cut off from the mainland, the island has over time developed a unique style, and modern residents hang onto their traditions. Nowhere is this more evident than at the Capuchin Cemetery and Catacombs.

The cemetery and catacombs are part of a large complex which also houses the Capuchin Monastery, built in 1533. In 1623, the church that is part of the complex was remodeled, and restored again in the early 1900s. It contains works by sculptor Ignazio Marabiti, and is famous for its manuscript collection. Today, housing and heavy traffic surround a complex that was once on the outskirts of town. An open-air food market faces the parking lot.

The Capuchin Cemetery came about because of a new and populous order of monks. The Capuchins separated from the Franciscans in 1525 in an effort to return to a more fundamental interpretation of St. Francis' edict to help the poor and the helpless. The bearded Capuchins wear sandals with no socks, and a brown rope-belted robe with a hood. It is the hood, the capuce, from which the name of the order derives. Capuccino coffee is named after the color of the monks' robes. As deaths in this new order occurred, the need arose for a spacious cemetery, appropriate to their needs.

High concrete walls enclose the cemetery proper, with niches sculpted here and there along the inner wall. Immediately inside the entrance stands a large tree, the branches pruned to form the shape of a cross. Strolling the wide tree-lined pathways in Palermo's hot, dry climate, the brilliant southern sun accentuates the pastels of the graves, crypts and monuments. This is a well-cared-for final resting place, neat and clean, with ornate iron fencing, graves awash with flowers, monuments and statuary, potted plants everywhere, and altars within crypts decorated with memento mori.

One unusual element is the prevalence of upright marble plaques positioned atop graves onto which prayers or poems have been etched. Restoration is an ongoing process in this land where the departed are still members of the family.

The overall design of the grounds is square. The tallest crypts run along the periphery, with the more heavily decorated mausoleums of cremation remains (ossarios) located farthest from the monastery, in the modern section. A fair number of visitors arrive throughout the day, and a monk keeps watch from the roof of the monastery.

The style of the cemetery is a cross between the simple peasant graves of Mexico, and the ornate and elaborate artistic crypts of Paris. But Italy has its own style. Italians are family oriented, and most graves are decorated with small oval black and white, or pastel-tinted pictures of the deceased, some as old as the late 1800s. Catholicism is another major influence, and the interior walls of more than one crypt come alive with religious paintings.

Perhaps the most famous of the interred is Giuseppe Tommasi, Prince of Lampedusa, buried in 1957. He authored one of Sicily's important and well-known works of literature, The Leopard.

The outside cemetery cannot be separated from the underground crypt, the entrance to which is part of the continuing cemetery wall that leads to the church. The crypt is large, with 20 foot high vaulted ceilings, and houses an unusual post-mortem display. Through a bizarre twist of fate, when Capuchin Brother Silvestro from Gubbio died in 1599 his body was, for some unknown reason, placed in a well.

Within the year his remains had mummified, the result of the tufaceous soil in the region. Soon, other monks wanted to be mummified upon their death. Bodies were placed in cells called 'strainers', dug into the subsoil in the crypt beneath the church. It took approximately eight months for the flesh to dry.

Mummification became fashionable for non-religious Palermo residents, so much so that the crypt now houses the mummified remains of nearly 1,000 citizens. They are displayed standing, sitting, lying in open coffins, in life-like poses. The crypt is divided into sections: priests; professionals; women-with a special display of virgins, identified as such by the metal headbands they wear. Nearly all are dressed in the finery of their day. The impression of volume beneath the clothing the mummies wear is created by a generous stuffing of straw.

Perhaps the most interesting and poignant section belongs to the children. They range in age from newborns to five or six years old, wearing christening outfits, or their first long pants, sitting in chairs together, or lying in coffins alone. In general, their features were better preserved, perhaps because babies and young children have more body fat than adults.

During World War Two bombs destroyed parts of the cemetery and much of the catacombs displays, and as well, the crypt suffered a fire in 1966. Some of the majolica floor tiles remain in remarkably good condition, and traces of decorative paintings on a few walls have survived. The Capuchin Cemetery and Crypt has become a huge tourist attraction and due to thefts in the past, the mummies are now protected by a six foot high wire-mesh fence.

In 1871 Brother Riccardo from Palermo was one of the last monks mummified and buried in the catacombs. Mummification was outlawed in 1881, although in the 1920s special permission granted one last body admittance to the catacombs. Two year old Rosalia Lombardo was embalmed by Dr. Solafia of Palermo, who took the secret of the chemical brew he concocted to his grave. Her amazingly well- preserved body is still on display.


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