Friday, February 29, 2008

Tufo | Volcanic Kung Fu

©2008 Turtle Heart

Kung Fu Tufo, or Restoration of the Roof of a Damussi

Here on Pantelleria we live in an ancient style of house called Damussi. Follow this link to see a slideshow (flash) of the project.

Even though we rent our home here, we have continually made improvements. The whole island is an archaeological park. Parts of our home go back 400 years or more. All the old homes are made with volcanic rocks. The roofs are a water gathering system. There is zero fresh water on the island, rain water only. Inside the house the high domed ceiling is one of the treasures of ambiance and personal space in all this wide world. Living in a damussi is like living in a stone bell.

The island,s structures are in a constant state of restoration and enhancement. We hope to buy this house. The land lord is cooperative and so we have enhanced it when we can. We went from abandoned land that was around the house to a well conceived garden in two years. Today we started work on a vegetable garden area. My sculpture workshop and what is the main “magazino” or strage room is a very old damussi building. Half of the roof was missing its traditional covering. We hired some local workers, all young men, to make the restoration of the roof.

It was a revelation. After cleaning the roof very well, some soil was added to a level of about 2 more inches. Previously a fine grained white stone gravel had been gathered. This is the mysterious tufo. It is found only in a particular art of the island. Our tufo came from Bujeber, which is above the one seawater lake we have here. This is mixed with small amounts of water and turned around and around in a big cement mixer.It is put in 10 gallon buckets and carried by several young men up the hill of our house and onto the roof. There it sat for two weeks. “Why does the tufo need to sit for two weeks after being pounded and mixed with water?” “Bo” (I don’t know, that is how it has always been done). Later it is shoveled onto the roof. Then it is pounded with a big flat piece of wood with a handle on it. For days. It ends up being a rich, luxurious layer of inches of pounded and polished stone dust. This is the roof. Finally it is painted with a particular pain, which must be renewed every two years.

The story of how they achieve the high domed roof is another story and strange geometries, lavish use of rare wood and an inspired architecture by ancient Arabic culture (before the Muslim religion)…is for another day. Today the work is almost finished. It took our crew about 8 visits over one month to finish the work. Total cost about $1,000.00 plus $800 for the tufo, which is not cheap. However, we got our tufo at a steep discount owing to the complex and traditional system of favors upon which Sicilian culture is based.

Like Indians on a reservation, the local Pantesche people are a shrinking population. Their population is about 2000 people. Those who have the knowledge to maintain the traditional architecture is less than 100. The island has many damussi. At one time 50 or 60 thousand people lived here and there are about as many Damussi as would house such a population.
Most of them are tourist homes now. Occupied a few weeks each year. Most of the time the island is very thin with people. Our total population seems to be about 8 thousand people right now. We have about 100,000 tourists coming through in a good year.

The Italian government is pursuing a program that would designate the entire island as an archaeological site.
What is most likely the oldest temple yet found dedicated to Diana is being slowly unearthed one layer at a time near to Buzeber. The island has given up very few artifacts. Those few that are being revealed are quite surprising and intense. One part of the island contains a long and high sheer wall (which survives intact in many places) and which has been compared to many of the great works done by the workers who did the great wall of china. It was built in near paleolithic times. Before metal tools. The whole island is a maze of terraces and stone walls representing millions of stones and tens of thousands of man hours in arrangeing them. Their principle consistent content, in combination with other volcanic minerals, is obsidian. Obsidian in gigantic amounts and various mixtures dominates the mineral life of Pantelleria. Massive amounts of obsidian have a strong effect on dreaming.

Dreaming beneath a domed roof, inside a stone bell, a stone roof hand-pounded by the last surviving descendants of a forgotten and obscure culture….tufo is “pumice”, pulverized pumice stone. The old damussi house is a breathing house. The walls are three or four feet thick, stacked stones with no mortar. The roof is pounded pumice. The entire damussi structure is organic, at least originally. The roof breathes, the walls breathe. There is so much humidity here, that it is by far the best suited architectural style for the island life. These days there is a tendancy to use cement. Even for the roof. Sicilians love cement. However, we are determined, as are many others, to use traditional methods where it is possible and practical.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Julius Caesar and Crazy Horse

Julius Caesar (Crazy Horse) (Babble)

I believe the assassination of Julius Caesar was one of the most cowardly and disgraceful acts in the history of the world. Just an observation. The Boss of the Stupid People is generally another Stupid Man.

When the white man’s religious leaders came to North America they ordered and enforced with every means the end of sacred fires, ancient songs, sacred tribal objects. Today the Chinese are doing, indeed have nearly completed, the destruction of the sacred objects, temples, schools, and sacred earth of the people of Tibet. The silence of the world as the Chinese government murdered Tibetan Monks and raped and destroyed its culture is one of the most disgraceful episodes in the history of the modern world. In many ways the same “white man” who killed Julius Caesar, carried his assassins knife to the North America people, and later, disguised as a Chinese Government, slashed with that same knife the sacred societies and ceremonial teachings of Tibet. Is there a trend here? From the pointed blades that ripped the flesh of Jesus, from the same blade with which Muslims cut off the heads of nameless people for nameless crimes, the same blade which straps bombs to mentally ill women and explodes them in a crowded market by remote control, and the blade of corruption and greed which spilled the blood of Julius Caesar over the stones of the Roman Forum…the hand of government, the government of the church, sanctioned and blessed with something they call the sacred will of God. Call it what you want, it smelled all the way to heaven.

When I was a child I felt my first strong connection to the spirit of Julius Caeser. In my room I quietly read as many of his writings as I could find. I also read a lot of historical fiction which had fantastic stories taking place around this time. Talbut Mundy was my particular favorite. In all his forms from which his spirit has survived,his spirit impressed me very much.

Some people like to fight. They will fight you for the right to do what they want. I remember one man who was thinking of breaking a promise he had made. I reminded him of his promise but really did not care what he did. Usually I would have said nothing but a third party was involved and I felt protective of that person. After a long silence he erupted into anger, accusing me of telling him what to do. He yelled and acted out a bit and then stormed off. Never seen him since. I told him he was free to do whatever he liked but that made no difference as his anger response was based on his assumption….anger does not leave much room for adjusting one’s response. The murder of Julius Caeser was an act of the kind of anger called envy and self-righteousness. His killers put their interests above anyone else’s in the entire world. Western civilization has been paying the price, we call it “doing time on this crime", ever since.

When the Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, Dutch, Germans and Russians, and all their neighbors came calling in the land we call Turtle Island they killed damn near everybody and everything they could see standing. Indians right now are still alive in every state of the North America. While most of what remains of the “savage” behavior which so mortified the historic “pilgrims” and “settlers” has reached subtle plateaus indeed, a handful of strong original teachings remain scattered and bruised among the tribes. It is our hope that this work, these documents, will help in some small way encourage a continuing dialogue on these subjects. The abscence of thoughtful discussions on these matters in my opinion contributes to the decline and degradation of tribal sacred teachings. While many tribal people are quick to cry out in anger when their ideas are stolen, they are never as determined or as sure in carrying them out for themselves. There are very, very few inter-tribal dialogues. The indifference of western society to Indian people has created a new generation of Indian people indifferent to themselves.

The severe absence of much good material on this subject has lead to the hesitation I felt for some years to start this writing project. For no other good reason than old-fashioned racism and starry-eyed fantasies of both Indian people and modern people, one man of mixed ancestry working in the world of these sacred ideas is not very much to offer. I am that man. We used to talk about it like this, “you are the one who is there at that time”, or “he was the one who was there holding his life in his two arms”. Over these years I have been the one who was there holding this life in my two arms. It would be great if I could hold a great body of previous work in this area in my arms as well. I cannot. It doesn’t exist. There is a mountain of prior work, and for more than 30 years I have shoveled through it, like Hercules cleaning the stables of the sacred horses.

I guess it has been a downhill run ever since the first throat was cut and the first pistol ball fired in the new lands you all call America. While tribal populations, tribal bodies, remain standing in nearly every direction, their situations raise many questions. Most are still bleeding from the wound. Many of the them have not a clue in the world.

These days even a modest ceremony of 100 people or so taxes most tribal resources. The Kiva Tribes have big village-wide ceremonies and have the most experience. It takes a lot of resources. They say the big Crow Fair, which is an art, social pow-wow, about the largest, has had as many as 1,000 tipi’s.Imagine if this same space and organizational experience could be used for a few weeks of inter tribal ceremonies.

History makes a lot of mistakes, to coin a phrase. We call these days, such as 2008, the “correction ceremony”, as many of the actual ceremonies are involved in making corrections rather than in their original purpose. Believe me there was a difference between what Sun Dance People were doing before the modern people came, and after. This is true for all the tribes…some more so than others. What the world was doing while Julius Caesar dreamed his dreams is very different than what the world has been doing since his blood was spilled on the pavement of the Roman Forum. We live in a bubble of light. What we have dreamed we have done has changed everything, over and over. Making corrections, over and over.

We cannot bring back the rivers running free, the broken promises or the lost opportunities. The only correction we can make is to our response. My response has been the World Journey of the Four Directions Unity Bundle. Not anger.Not pimp-slapping every white man I meet (much as I would like to sometimes), but medicine, teaching, patience, Mystery Life News...Show me the bones of time, I will weep the rivers and fill the clouds with rain and flow over the boiling sands. In the mean time I learned to keep my one good eye open for the knife. There is nothing in all this that makes me angry. It is just a strange sensation to see how western society is still paying for its sins from long ago, and how little things have changed. It is a situation where if you learn nothing, you just keep acting out your defeat over and over. And over. Until you figure it out.

Monday, February 11, 2008

F * * K me

go with me a moment to my desk :

I have two ipod with earphones, and two DIFFERENT cables to hook them to the computer. I have an iMac with SIXTEEN cables, usb / firewire / monitor / power / usb hub / firewire hub / external modem / adsl modem / six dvd drives / four hard disk drives / one scanner / three printers / speakers / secondary monitors / digital tablets (2) / four digital cameras with four different types of memory chips (two with extra “adapters”/ four different battery chargers / a big battery power supply (UPS) for when the electricity goes off (300 times a year) and it BEEP BEEPs with the most horrible sound (we took it apart once to try and find the speaker or beeper and throw it out but failed to find it) / two mobile phones with power bricks / a small electric fan to blow on everything / one laptop with a bluetooth wireless keyboard / a table lamp / a 20 gallon woven basket near the computer that is FULL of extra and specialized CABLES (there are FIVE kinds of USB cable and THREE kinds of firewire cables and DOZENS of proprietary cables that are just USB cables with a non-standard connector to the device (bullshit) / under the bed are the boxes the Apple stuff is shipped in cause you have to keep them / in a big folder is the receipts for all this tuff / three pairs of glasses so I can see this stuff / a $50 dollar swivel office chair and a desk made of old scaffolding lumber on two sawhorses. This is all within a space of 3 feet. The electromagnetic field must be immense. The cables drive me mad. One of my worst fears would be to be locked up in a gigantic room filled with electrical cables all in knots and loops and braids of torment and madness….that is hell….or maybe hell is already here……I almost forgot, there are the american cables and the italian cables and the three kinds of adapters to plug the adapters into the sockets of different countries..!!!!

I have been taking digital photographs about five years now. I have no idea where many of them are. They are on hard disk drives, cd’s and dvd’s, magnetic optical disks, ram disks and even a few floppy disks. I have thousands of photos scattered all over four computers and all their drives. I have three or four programs to manage them, each camera comes with a different program...

All my old 35 mm film photos are in one box under the bed.

I use seven small electric power tools to carve stones. My multi-plug on the bench has six slots to plug into. I have to switch and almost always the one I need at the moment is not the one plugged in at the moment. Each one of them has cables. Big stiff euro-cables.

On Pantelleria, everybody takes four hours for lunch.

If you have Pantesce working men doing a job for you, you must give them beer and coffee two times each day.

Italy has had something like 70 governments since 1945.

My drivers license is good only for one year on Pantelleria. I have been here three years now. The test for an Italian license is given only in Italian. I can barely speak it, much less take a complicated test in it.

We have a gigantic troll who lives in a cave (stone house) across the street. He comes out and sits on his little chair and asks everybody who drives by for a cigarette. It is impossible to give him enough cigarettes. We stopped three years ago. He seldom washes himself. He has a gigantic belly. The church brings him food two times each day (but no cigarettes). He curses and yells at everybody. The local children throw rocks at him. He sometimes appears in his doorway with no pants on. He has a gigantic beard and when he is inside the house he watches us sometimes through a crack in his door. You can see his big ugly eyeball.

He scares off about 25 per cent of the visitors who stop by to look at the sculpture I have for sale. I have a sign out front. The island tolerates my sign. I am supposed to have a dozen or so documents saying it is ok. All of them must be obtained in Trapani, which is in Sicily and takes a long boat ride and hotel money and three days for each document.

You can see the sea from my office. In the winter the troll stays indoors mostly. As Spring comes the bird families return to put their bird babies in holes in the trolls cave (stone house). I watch the sea and the bird families. I think I have picked up a few of their songs. As the weather becomes sweeter and the birds sing longer, we also hear in the evening the call of the troll out his eastern door, "amico, una cigereti ?!!!?". He is more or less 80 years old. Our philosophy regarding the troll embraces our certain knowledge that he hears the songs and meditations which we make at the fire. Helps sort out the knots in the cables when we do this also.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Interview With A Ceremony | Tobacco Is the Stolen Property of Another Culture !

©2008 Turtle Heart

The sacred tobacco of the Creek and Catabwa Nations was the power, the natural plant, that enabled the transition from the sacred morning tobacco fire to the sacred pipe (and eventually to cigarettes). The sacred morning tobacco fire is nearly the most ancient of all the sacred rites of the tobacco tribes (American Indians). It is tens of thousands of years old. Get it? This was the beginning, the “genesis” of tobacco. It went from there to that marlboro you are sucking on right now. Tobacco has become a slave, an imprisoned entity. A life form in enslavement. One of the most powerful plants in the history of the world. To the Original People whose religious property this Tobacco was, it had the status of “person”, not “object”.

Television Italian style stopped by for a few surprises last week. On both sides. Italian RAI 3, their public television equivalent I think, asked to talk with me about Tobacco and Smoking. The show, Terzo Pianeta, will broadcast at 9 pm CET on 9 February 2008. They sent two young men. One a charming and quiet Anthropologist who has a passion for research among the Shamans of Nepal. The other a director|cameraman|sound|chiefOrganizer, a combination of geek, director and actor that fits well into an independent package. I told them up front that they would have to undergo a purification ceremony before we could talk about or look at the sacred objects and talk about tobacco in any meaningful way. They agreed to this so we took one full day and a sweat lodge later, and then the three of us spoke modestly about the sacred nature of Tobacco for the record. My comments will be part of the segment about "Smoke".

From time to time I believe it is important to have some sort of record about the ceremonies. Like the New York Times. Sometimes it is good to speak for the record. I took this opportunity to set out each and every part of the Sacred Four Directions Unity Bundle. This bundle contains the sacred objects of many cultures, the center of it being a sacred pipe. I thought it would be ok to let a small record be made of the bundle. Their camera, and their own human eyes, saw maybe 10 per cent of what was before them, but we had only a few moments really. The whole segment I did with them will be edited to 6 minutes or maybe a little more….or they may decide not to use it. I hope that we made the ceremony a part of the interview, interview with a ceremony let’s call it….I felt more like Little Otter Boy and not so much like Police Dog.

When you talk to the media you are at their mercy. In the digital age a video clip is forever if it wants to be. It can be edited out of context and even changed with common software. Words are even easier to change I guess. Maybe we are all more honest than we allow ourselves. The name of the show is “Terzo Pianeta”. I allowed some filming in the sweat lodge, and this included a small light. It was a little interesting for me to be singing and making the ceremony, while a part of me, the corners of my eyes I could see what is going on, see the stones receive the water and watch the steam roll around and see it as it speaks to our bodies. These two men did a good job, behaved with modesty, respect and intelligence. I don’t mention their names because I want to respect their privacy. If the work we did is broadcast it will then be a part of the great “public record”. I enjoyed the experience and felt satisfied that from time to time the waiting world should see what the wabeno is doing. Knowledge is power. Information is progress. Sometimes a good picture is an important message for someone far away in either time or space. I believe that. Art has spoken to me from across time and cultures and has affected my choices in life. In general the tribal elders do not want photography of any of the ceremonies. I feel the same way. I would never allow casual photography of ceremonies or their objects as a rule. However, as a student of history, and as a keeper of records, which is part of what a bundle is, I feel there are moments when exceptions can be made. I can only hope it goes somewhere in the neighborhood of my intentions. I believe some photographic documentation can be helpful, sometimes. This seemed to be one of those times. Depending on what, if anything, happens after, we may have a new era of open possibilities or another decade of silence in this regards.

The Sacred Four Directions Unity Bundle is alive and in motion. We put tobacco into our sacred fires here on Pantelleria and in the other places where we have fires on the earth to receive tobacco. I tried to explain to the television a relationship between the little tobacco fire and this sacred pipe and these cigarettes that the waiting world puffs on every second of the day.

The power to stand freely upon the earth in a sacred manner is in fact who and what an American Indian is. Everything else is politics and genetics. If I hear these words about who might me an Indian and what they might be saying out loud, that is always what I look for. Evidence of this relationship with the sacred earth, with the mystery life, with the elders. Tobacco is that relationship with those who have gone before us, to show us the way, “in the smoke”.

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