Cultura tramandata o cultura importata?

Anche quest’anno è arrivato il periodo in cui la cultura pagana si scontra con la tradizione cristiana. Stiamo parlando del lasso di tempo che va dal 31 Ottobre al 2 Novembre e che vede protagonista la commemorazione dei defunti ma, cosa sappiamo precisamente su queste festività?

Per trovare le origini della tradizione del 31 Ottobre si deve andare indietro nel tempo, soffermandosi nell’Europa precristiana e in particolare nelle tradizioni celtiche. Per i Celti, il 31 ottobre rappresentava la fine dell’estate, stagione dei raccolti, e l’inizio dell’inverno e tale festività prendeva il nome, derivante dal gaelico di Samhain.

Tuttavia nel 1048 la festa di Halloween, letteralmente vigilia della festa di tutti i santi All Hallows Eve, sostituì nelle zone dell’attuale Irlanda, l’antico culto celtico. Negli antichi riti tribali quella era la notte in cui ciò che divideva il mondo dei morti da quello dei vivi diventava così sottile da non poter più impedire agli uni di visitare gli altri. E così accadeva che i vivi preparassero cibi e doni di ogni natura per tutti i cari defunti che quella notte sarebbero potuti ridiscendere nel regno dei vivi. Nelle tradizioni celtiche, però acquistavano forza in quella notte anche streghe ed elfi, che ai vivi potevano fare scherzi talmente gravi da poterne provocare la morte: e allora era necessario difendersi. I morti, quando arrivavano usavano fiaccole, e allora i vivi sceglievano di nascondersi dietro zucche illuminate, per confondere e spaventare le streghe, per difendersi dalla morte che queste avrebbero potuto provocare.

Halloween sbarcò in America nell’età vittoriana, quando le popolazioni inglesi avevano conquistato il nuovo mondo. In tali circostanze la festa iniziò ad assumere nuove tonalità e oggi ben si coniuga con realtà proprie del consumismo, dell’horror, dell’occultismo e purtroppo del satanismo. Halloween non ha più nulla di quella luce originaria e il suo significato traslato oggi è riportabile a streghe, fantasmi, morte e demoni.

Simbolo di Halloween è la zucca intagliata, la quale ha alle sue spalle una famosa leggenda, la cosiddetta leggenda di Jack’ o lantern.  La leggenda narra che Jack fosse un fabbro irlandese ubriacone, che riuscì ad ingannare il diavolo due volte, riuscendo così a scampare alla morte.

Tuttavia, una volta morto, essendo stato in vita un gran peccatore, a Jack venne rifiutato l’ingresso in Paradiso. Il diavolo, contento di potersi vendicare per i tanti inganni subiti da Jack, gli rifiutò anche l’Inferno, così che da allora Jack è costretto a vagare da morto nel mondo dei vivi. Il diavolo, come ultimo dono, regalò a Jack una fiamma eterna dell’Inferno, impossibile da spegnere, che Jack posizionò all’interno di una rapa. Da allora, durante la notte di Halloween, Jack vaga alla ricerca di un rifugio e gli abitanti devono appendere una rapa-lanterna fuori di casa per indicare a Jack che lì non c’è posto per lui. In seguito, quando la festa passò agli Stati Uniti, la rapa diventò una zucca, perché più facile da trovare in quelle terre.  Da qui deriverebbe anche il significato di “trick or treat”, tanto amato dai bambini, poiché si tramanda che Jack stesso vagherebbe di casa in casa chiedendo “sacrificio o maledizione?”, una formula ben più minacciosa del delicato “dolcetto o scherzetto” dei giorni nostri.

 Tuttavia, di rilevante importanza, è sapere che quando le popolazioni iniziarono a credere in Gesù Cristo l’antica festa, di natura essenzialmente rurale, fu sostituita con la commemorazione di tutti i defunti e a essa fu unita, la festa liturgica che celebrava tutti i santi martiri della Chiesa.

A tal proposito possiamo mettere in evidenza quelle che sono le differenze tra la cultura pagana e il credo religioso cristiano. Nella tradizione religiosa il giorno dedicato alla Commemorazione dei defunti è il 2 Novembre.

A differenziare le due culture è in particolar modo la visione della “morte”, e in particolar modo dei defunti. Si può notare, come, nella cultura pagana i defunti siano paragonati ad anime pericolose, che talvolta vorrebbero ingannare i vivi per portarli con loro nell’aldilà, mentre nella tradizione cristiana, le anime dei defunti fanno visita ai loro cari per vegliare su di loro.

Infatti è tradizione che per la Commemorazione dei defunti i bambini, la mattina del 2 Novembre, trovino “la calza”, solitamente apposta vicino il camino o il letto, contenente dolciumi, cioccolate e delizie portate dai cari defunti che durante la notte hanno fatto visita ai loro cari. Usanza vuole, infatti, che la sera del 1° novembre si accenda un cero e si lasci la tavola imbandita, ritrovando una similitudine con la tradizione celtica, per fare in modo che i propri defunti trovino un ambiente accogliente permettendo loro di tornare a nuova vita e  continuare a vegliare sui cari nel mondo dei vivi.

In merito a questa tradizione l’antropologo Alfonso Maria Niola interrogò un po’ ironicamente una donna, chiedendo lumi su questa mancata consumazione del cibo da parte dei defunti. La risposta non lasciava dubbi: “I morti non sono corpi ma anime, perciò mangiano l’anima del cibo, non il corpo”.

Ricetta simbolo di questo periodo, che si tramanda di generazione in generazione è la colva, in dialetto biscegliese detta “cólve“, la quale oltre ad avere un sapore particolare, è ricca di simboli e significati. Non è raro infatti che le case delle famiglie pugliesi, in particolare nella provincia di Foggia e nella provincia di Barletta Andria Trani, siano caratterizzate dall’odore di vin cotto.

Tra gli ingredienti della colva o “grano dei morti”, elemento essenziale è il grano il quale secondo la nostra tradizione, rappresenterebbe le cellule, rimandando così al corpo dei defunti. A condire il grano ci ritroviamo altri ingredienti, ovvero le noci, il vin cotto, il melograno e il cedro che verrebbero paragonati rispettivamente alle seguenti parti del corpo: il cervello, il sangue, gli occhi, l’anima. Altro ingrediente ricco di significato è il cioccolato il quale sarebbe di buon auspicio per la fertilità.

A incuriosire è anche l’etimologia del suo nome, il quale deriva dal greco ‘ta kolluba’, letteralmente ‘moneta’ ‘spicciolo’ poiché il grano, ingrediente principe dell’antica pietanza, veniva utilizzato anche come moneta di scambio.

Il grano, quindi, viene visto anche come simbolo del “passaggio”, del contatto tra vita e morte.

A caratterizzare tutto il mese di novembre, ma in particolar modo l’ 1 e il 2 Novembre è la tradizione di recarsi al Cimitero e portare dei fiori sulle tombe dei propri cari per pregare per loro e fare memoria della storia condivisa.

Quanto è giusto quindi fondere queste due tradizioni appartenenti a due culture opposte?

Imported or handed down culture?

This year, like every other year, the season in which pagan culture clashes with the Christian one has come. We are talking about the period of time that goes from the 31st of October to the 2nd of November, which aims to commemorate the dead, but what do we really know about these holidays?

To find the origins of this tradition we must go back in time, focusing on the pre-Christian Europe and, in particular, on Celtic traditions. For the celts, the 31st of October represented the end of summer, the harvest season, and the beginning of winter and this holiday’s name was Samhain, a Gaelic word.

However, in 1048, Halloween’s holiday, literally all hallows eve, replaced in present-day Ireland the ancient Celtic rite. In ancient tribal rites, during that night, what divided the world of the dead from the world of the living would become so thin that it was impossible to prevent one from visiting the other. Because of this, the living prepared food and gifts for the dearly departed that during that night could go back to the world of the living. In Celtic traditions, during that night, witches and elves grew stronger and they could prank the living so hard that they could die: hence, it was necessary to defend themselves. The dead came with torches and the living chose to hide behind lighted pumpkins, to confuse and scare the witches, to defend themselves from the death that the witches could provoke.

Halloween landed in America during the Victorian age, when English people conquered the new world. In these circumstances, the holiday started to change and today it’s well combined with consumerism, horror, occultism and satanism. Halloween doesn’t have its original light anymore and its meaning today is linked to witches, ghosts, death and demons.

Halloween’s symbol is the carved pumpkin, which comes from a famous legend, the so-called legend of jack’ o lantern. The legend says that Jack was an Irish drunkard blacksmith, who managed to deceive the devil twice, avoiding death.

However, he was a sinner so, when he died, he couldn’t enter paradise. The devil was happy to get his revenge for all the tricks Jack did to him, so he denied the access to hell and Jack had to wander around in the world of the living. The devil, as his final gift, gave to Jack an eternal flame from hell, impossible to extinguish, and Jack put it inside a turnip. From then on, during Halloween’s night, Jack wanders around looking for a haven and the inhabitants have to hang a turnip-lantern outside their house to show Jack that there’s no place for him. Later on, when the holiday arrived in America, the turnip became a pumpkin, because it was easier to find in those lands. “Trick or treat”, loved by kids, also comes from America, where it is said that Jack wanders from house to house asking ”sacrifice or curse?”, with is definitely more threatening than today’s “trick or treat”.

It is of major importance to know that when people started to believe in Jesus Christ, the ancient rural holiday, was replaced with the commemoration of the dead and the liturgical celebration of all the holy martyrs of the church.

In this regard, we can highlight the differences between pagan culture and Christian faith. In religious tradition the 2nd of November is dedicated to the commemoration of the dead.

The vision of death and the dead differentiates the two cultures. In pagan culture the dead are compared to dangerous souls, that sometimes want to deceive the living and bring them in the afterlife, while in Christian tradition, the souls of the dead visit their loved ones to look after them.

For this reason, it is a tradition that during the morning of the 2nd of November, day of the commemoration of the dead, the kids find a “calza” near the chimney or the bed, the “calza” is a sock filled with sweets, chocolate and delicacies brought by the deceased that visited their loved ones during the night. Another tradition is to leave a candle and the table set during the night of the 1st of November. This is an analogy with Celtic tradition, in this way the dead find a pleasant environment which allows them to go back to a new life and to continue to look after their loved ones in the world of the living.

With regard to this tradition, the anthropologist Alfonso Maria Niola ironically questioned a woman, asking her why the dead didn’t eat the food. The answer left no doubts: “the dead don’t have bodies, just souls so they eat the soul of the food, not their body”.

A traditional recipe of this holiday, handed down from generation to generation is “la colva”, in bisceglie’s dialect “cólve”. This recipe does not only have a particular taste but is also rich in symbols and meanings.

It is not rare that Apulian people’s houses, in particular in Foggia province and Barletta-Andria-Trani province, are characterized by the smell of cooked wine.

The main ingredient of the colva or “the wheat of the dead” is the wheat which according to our tradition, represents the cells, referring to the body of the dead. The dressing of the wheat is made with walnuts, cooked wine, pomegranate and cedar that are compared to different body parts: brain, blood, eyes and soul. Another ingredient with an important meaning is chocolate which is a good omen for fertility.

The etymology of its name is also curious, it comes from the Greek ‘ta kolluba’, literally ‘coin’ because wheat, the main ingredient of this ancient recipe, was also used as a currency.

Wheat is also seen as a symbol of the “passage”, of the contact between life and death.

During the whole month of November, but in particular on the 1st and 2nd of November, there is the tradition to go to the cemetery to bring flower to the deceased loved ones, pray for them and to remember their shared story.

So, is it right to merge these two traditions belonging to two opposing cultures?

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