Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Origin Peeve!

I'm always reading and researching ancient Italia and Sikelia, even when I'm not boning up for a class or a presentation. Lately, however, I've been turning my attention specifically toward Tarantella, the difference between southern/Sicilian and northern styles, and it's origins, before the cult of Dionysos.

So many sources which discuss Tarantella in Italy claim that because Italy was part of Magna Graecia, the Greeks must have brought this practice, as well as their pantheon and any and all magic to Italy. 


I'm not denying influence and exchange and cross-over, but this is like saying the Pilgrims brought corn to the Americas and taught the Native Americans how to cultivate and use it! Eventually, the religion of the colonists was adopted, but it doesn't mean the folk practices were ever forgotten or discontinued.

Colonists are as changed by the Natives as the Natives are by the colonists. In this case, the Sikels and Sicels and Elmyans were already there when the Greeks showed up. Enna was already a site of Mother/Daughter Goddess worship way before the Greeks ever set foot on Her shores. So why aren't the ancient Sicilians given credit for doing the influencing?

It's lazy research and lazy writing to assume that because two groups touched, the group we know more about are the ones who did the influencing instead of the ones who were influenced. The Greeks are still around (tho it's lazy to assume there's one homogeneous group) while the Etruscans are not. Actually, it would be a better comparison to say the Etruscans were absorbed into larger Roman, and later, Italian culture while the Spartans were absorbed into the larger Athenean and later Greek culture. We don't know which traditions specifically came from where.

The Romans had a few of their own rites and customs but they learned from the Etruscans and the Sabines. This is documented by the ancient writers (judge the veracity as you will). No one is claiming the Greeks came along and taught the Etruscans how to consecrate a city or the art of Augury.

So why are we talking about the Greeks inventing Tarantella? Sacred dance existed before Athens, before Attica. Sacred dance was used by the Sicilians, the Egyptians, the Babylonians the Israelites and the Sumerians too. Every group has their sacred movement. Again, Native Americans had their sacred movement and no one is saying that the Pilgrims taught them how to do it.

I think my head of steam has run its course. As always, I love to hear the opinions of others and get new insight and perspectives.

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