Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Mascherari - Left-Handers and Witches

I was born and raised a Roman Catholic, and in my teens, I attended a private Catholic school which had as its patron saint, a renown inquisitor of the name, Saint Dominic.

My school was not too strict but I do remember an incident that had me reconsider.  You must know that as a teenager, I was quite fond of reading out Tarot cards.

Ok, let's just let it all hang out, once and for all. I was, in fact, ruthlessly pagan.  I practiced anything, from graphology, palmistry, tarot card readings to astrology and numerology.  We didn't have the internet in those days - that is, no online apps that could automatically spit out charts upon entry of a birth date and time - I had to contend with a planetary almanac and my calculator, so that I could use my formidable mathematics skills (I did, in fact, top maths in my school) in order to map out my friends' and family members' astrological charts.

So that was me, outside school and homework. Wicked.

My Tarot 'self ' for my many Tarot readings.

And then The incident happened. One day, I was sitting with a couple of friends, in a dark corner of the school library. I began to lay out my Tarot cards (I had a Marseille pack) and to read out what I could of my friends' fortunes.  Little did I know that the librarian had spotted me. She at once began to scream and shoo me out of the library, telling me that I was a wicked girl, and that these cards were against the Christian religion, and that I was SINNING. Bla bla bla.

That was in 1991.

I can only let you imagine the illumination I felt later, at the age of 20, when I devoured Zoe Oldenbourg's magnificent, Massacre at Monts├ęgur, and came face to face with the injustice of the Cathar persecution, including, at the hands of Saint Dominic himself.

It seems, that during my school years, I had sided with the wrong guy by association, and I did not even know it! The tragedy...

Dominic (with a halo) and other Cistercian abbots 
crush helpless Cathars underfoot. As you do.

Sometimes things just click into place.

Writing my second novel, The Mascherari was immensely pleasurable. It was my opportunity to dive fearlessly into pursuits that have always been second nature to me, without guilt, without shame.  The Mascherari is a historical novel set in 1422 Venice.  It takes place between the Winter Solstice and La Befana.

While most of the research was historical, and had me delve into all aspects of Venetian society during the early 15th century, a certain component of the research covered esoteric subjects - like Tarot reading, the phases of the moon, Italian Stregheria, magical amulets, and even old Roman cults.

Today, I am pleased to announce that The Mascherari will be released on 13 August 2014, to coincide with International Left Handers Day.

I chose this date for several reasons.

In ancient and medieval times, in many parts of the world, left-handed people were traditionally associated with witchcraft and an evil nature.  The Catholic Church itself declared that left-handers were servants of the devil.  Such people would be sent to the bonfire. As it turns out, Joan of Arc’s supposed left-handedness was one of the justifications (among a few) that were employed to brand her a witch, until she was burnt at the stake.

In Italian, the word for left is 'sinistra', while in Latin, the word for Left-handed is 'sinestra'. Both words provide the root for our modern word, 'sinister', and I certainly hope my readers will enjoy a little of the sinister in The Mascherari.

13 August is perfect for another reason.

Not only is The Mascherari's author left-handed (and possibly a witch!) but 13 August, long before being declared International Left Handers Day in 1976, also happened to be, for centuries, the Feast Day of the Goddess Diana.

Just think. Diana is the Queen of all witches.

I wonder if the individuals who settled on 13 August as Left Handers Day were perfectly aware of the significance of this date when they chose it.  I have often speculated on whether their act was a perverted endorsement of the age old accusations of witchcraft laid upon left-handed people. "Yes, actually, we are all witches. You were right all along."

Hell, I'd go with that.

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