The Origins

Song: Ciuri ciuriddu (Flower, oh little flower) 

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From Chaos to Sicily

    At the time that time wasn't time (1), nothing existed in the universe. Actually there was no UNIVERSE. There was only Chaos, in the Void. Suddenly Chaos, tired of being alone, decided to have company,and he made Tartarus, Erebus (2) and Night. The black Night brought with her an egg and from it Eros (god of love) came forth beautiful and full of vigor. Eros made everybody mingle, and from all the mingling Gaea (Earth), Uranus (Heaven) and Oceanus (Sea) were born. 

    Because among gods incest is not recognized as such, Uranus marries his sister Gaea and together they bring forth the 12 Titans and the Cyclops. Uranus, the god father, did not like his terrible children and as they were born he hid them deep in Gaea, mother Earth, so they wouldn't see the light of day, even because the light of day had not been invented yet. Gaea was anguished to see her children treated like criminals and devised a scheme to trick the wicked father. 

    Gaea made a sickle and gave it to her children to fight their father, but they were afraid of him. One of his younger sons, Saturn, showed no fear and promised that he would fight his father. So it came to pass that one night Uranus came to Gaea to make love to her. Saturn, hiding under the bed, reached out with his sickle and fast cut off Uranus' genitals and threw them away. Mother Earth received them and from all the drops of blood that fell on Earth gods and semi-gods were born, among which the beautiful and loving Aphrodite.

    Saturn, to keep the lineage going, married his sister Rhea, but made wily by his own experience with his father and his curse, by which he too would be overcome by one of his children, to avoid problems, devoured all his children as soon as they were born. Rhea's heart was broken in witnessing the fate of her own children, and went to her parents, Uranus and Gaea, for advise on how to save the next child that she was bearing. Her parents hid her in the deep caves of Crete, and there she gave birth to Jupiter, the father of gods and men, and he was fostered by Gaea. To satisfy Saturn, who was waiting for the new child, they gave him a rock dressed as a newly born baby, and he devoured that too.

    Jupiter grew strong and when he was of age declared war on his father and he, Saturn, was obligated to vomit all his children that he had devoured, and each child went and sided with Jupiter, aside of the Titans who fought on Saturn's side.The Cyclops sided with Jupiter and they made all kinds of lightning bolts for him to battle and win over his enemies. The conflict lasted ten years (all honest and important wars had to last ten years or more), and finally, Jupiter, launching his thunders and lightning bolts all at once, engulfed the heavens and earth in great fires, and shaking fiercely and fearlessly Mount Olympus, hurled Saturn, his father, down to Earth. The Titans were thrown into Tartarus and there chained for good, while Atlas, the head of the Titans, was punished with the job of holding the Universe on his shoulders.

    Gaea didn't like the way Jupiter acquired power and the way he treated the Titans, and she released the Giants, her sons, who declared war on Jupiter. The Giants were called Gegenies because they were the Earth's sons: Encelado was one, and Otus and Ephialtes and Typhon. This last one was the youngest and the most horrible and vicious of them all. Typhon was a Giant with the main head of a dragon from which grew hundreds of snake heads with eyes that were blazing fire. Typhon came up by himself against Jupiter and the anger of the Father of the gods grew terribly. He shook Mount Olympus from its base while with flaming bolt after flaming bolt he hit each snake's head of the Monster and finally he plunged him head down, black and bloody, in the depths of Tartarus where he was chained.

    Typhon now, chained in the abyss of Tartarus, sighs, and from those sighs all kinds of winds spring out: Notus the South Wind, Boreas, the North Wind and Zephyr, the West Wind. These are the Good Winds and later they would do a great job, under the management of Aeolus, to sustain life on earth. Other winds come out of Typhon: the Bad Winds which kill sailors at sea and destroy man's work on Earth. At the end of the war Jupiter, having punished all his enemies, married his sister Juno, (Boy! These gods don't let anybody get to their sisters!) and then presented all his friends with all kinds of favors and gifts for having sided with him during the conflicts: the Cyclops were given the island that now is known as Sicily, for Etna, is there. 

    There the Cyclops liked to help the god Ephaestus to do metal work and make arms for warriors; not any warrior, but for gods, like Mars, and warriors, for example, like Achilles. In their spare time they made lightning bolts for Jupiter, to keep his war arsenal always well stocked: one never knew when he might need them. When the Cyclops were not working in Ephaestus' shop, they were tending sheep, because, in the absence of war among gods, they, above all, were shepherds. Legend says that the Siculies found them there and later the Greeks too. Jupiter having, finally, subjugated all his enemies, started thinking about the creation of the World. His family was already large: 

He already had eight grown children
and three little ones still nursing,
while Juno has again a big belly.
His holy skull was in fermentation
on how to place richly his kids;
really, a father feels guilty,
if he can't give the best to his sons. (3) 

    Jupiter called a meeting with his children and began to ask them if they have any idea on how to invent the world. They gave their father many opinions on what the world should consist of, but very few ideas if any indeed. Mars would put a dose of nothing over another and another over the last one and they would have a world made of nothing with no problems.... " What an animal!" Roared Jupiter, "Nothing plus nothing is nothing...were do you get those ideas?." Apollo came with an...idea: " Let's have an idea of the world and that should do it!" "Why? Are you an idealist?" Shouted Jupiter. Mercury says that maybe, "...Who knows, the world is already there and nobody knows.... " " All we have is here !" Exploded Jupiter, "It would always be around us. How couldn't we see it!" Diana and Minerva and Juno have their opinions, but that is what they are, just opinions. Venus puts up the idea of the egg, which is round and after a while something starts moving in it, and that's life. And so she sees the world getting bigger and more populated while other continents spring up, and even: 

I see come up just for the Spaniards
What is now America, land of abundance. (4) 

    Jupiter is tired of such incredible deep ignorance: so many empty heads, so many useless opinions...
He tells them that there is only one substance with which to make the world and that substance is HIMSELF! It is from him that all will come forth, from the world to the human race. After an astonishing loud silence and some frantic last moments of reckoning (the kids have now understood the reason of the meeting: Real Estate holdings!), Jupiter tells his children to pull him from every which way and every point, and there will be enough for all of them. So, they grab frantically their father and begin to pull him from every which way, and, after much pulling: 

Behold, Italy, Jupiter's right hip and leg,
Queen of every land she'll always be.
He makes a bow, Saturn, and tops his hat,
And then he grabs her and makes her his home. (5) 

    Saturn, who had gone around since his misfortune, aimlessly, without a thing to do, took possession of that "Leg" and called "Saturnia" what is Italy now, in honor of his own name. Many years later the tyrant Ausonis became the king of Saturnia and he changed the name to Ausonia in honor of his name. When Italus became the Leader of that land, the name was changed again, but this time to Italy. With the advent of man, who first was living out of wild games and wild fruits, Saturn started teaching them the universal agricultural art. He even went to Sicily (which wasn't Sicily yet), and jumping the Strait of Messina (which wasn't there yet) lost the sickle which he had always carried, since when he put his father out of commission. The sickle fell on that spot where the sea caresses the land, and made a beach in the shape of the sickle which gave the name of Zanclea to what was later Messina. Saturn mission: to teach everybody the art of working. In other words, he taught them to work and slave for a living.

    From this progeny of men originated the people that went South in search of a better land, looking for a better home. It is at this time in the legend that we first encounter Hercules, man of great strength and great wisdom. After finishing the twelve labors that Eurystheus gave him for punishment from Hera, he put up at Olimpia the Olympian games, in which he was first in all the categories, that is: he won all the gold. After that he erected the Pillars of Hercules in the Strait of Gibraltar, a labor that he had to do but had slipped his mind, and finally he found himself out of work. For lack of things to do he married Deianeira, but he had no luck: Nessus, the Centaur, abducted Deianeira. Hercules went to search for his wife, and when he found her the Centaur took off, but Hercules shot him with a poisoned arrow and killed him.

    Always looking to do good deeds, and being a very compassionate man, Hercules embarked on a mission that you can really call it "impossible": He wanted to free the world from tyrants! He freed Spain from the ruling tyrant Geriones, and proclaimed himself king, but soon after he gave the kingdom to his brother. From Spain he crossed into France and later into Italy (which at that time wasn't Italy) going all the way South to the end of the boot. The Strait of Messina (which at that time wasn't the Strait of Messina), stopped him but only momentarily. After thinking about it for only a moment, he grabbed the strongest bull that he had brought from Spain and riding it horseback reached Sicily (which wasn't yet Sicily) in a flash. Proceeding on the coast westward, he met Minerva, goddess of war and wisdom, who had her servants (the Nymphs) dig baths of thermal water for him so he could restore himself. That's how we today have "I Bagni Termali Di Termini", Termini's Thermal Baths.

    After resting, and giving to Minerva time and chance to treat him as an "Honored Guest", he left, following the same Westward direction. On his way, he founded town, in that small bay where today is Sferracavallo (which means: the place where the horses' shoes get loose). This name was given to that town, because the place was so stony and the stones so edgy, to cause the loosening of the shoes of the horses passing by. In the territory of Trapani (which wasn't Trapani then), Ercules met the giant King Ericis. This latest challenged him and all resulted in a furious and most ferocious battle, during which Hercules defeated and killed Ericis. The people, called Ericinis acclaimed him as their king and swore allegiance to him.

    He went around Sicily (which wasn't Sicily at that time) defeating other tyrants and founding new cities. It is while he was in Ortigia ( today's Syracuse) that he learned of the kidnapping of Proserpine, his sister, and the sorrow of Ceres, her mother, who left the Island, to search for her daughter. It is now that Hercules proclaims them goddesses and institutes the annual festivities in their honor. The inhabitants of that time believed that Ceres had taught them how to make bread, and they were happy to celebrate the twosome. The Greeks, as a testimonial, say that they learned from the people of the big Island how to make bread.

    Now, Pluto, who could not find a lady to marry him and be the queen of Hades, had kidnapped Proserpine to make her the Queen of Hell. Ceres was unaware of the underhanded trick that Pluto had played on her, and she was totally distraught, and, forsaking her job, she went looking for her daughter. Because of this the land became barren and quit producing. This posed a very serious problem: Sicily (which wasn't Sicily yet) had always been the care taker of the world's needs, for one thing or another, and without Sicily producing, things took a turn for the worse. The world went on the brink of a great famine! Jupiter could not let that happen, so he disclosed to Ceres where Proserpine was being held and then offered his favors to solve the problem. Juppiter favors didn't come cheaply, but... that is another matter.

    Ceres, through the intercession of Jupiter and other important gods and unending negotiations, had Pluto agree to a sixty-thirty proposition: Proserpine would stay with Pluto in Hades, where she would be guarded by an enormous hounds, for the duration of winter, while with the first day of spring she would come out on Earth to make all the flowers blossom in all their beauty and assist the fruits to maturity. Ceres, happy to have her daughter back, would, once again, assist the workers in the fields with abundant harvest. Hercules went on from Ortigia toward inland and found a people terrorized by a lion. He killed the lion and gave its skin to that people, who found a town there and called it Leontinis. 

    It is at this time that we start having a glimpse of the glorious Island. It seems that the first inhabitants of the Island were the Cyclops, one eyed giants devoted to tend sheep. The Lestrigones and the Lotophagis, were also there. The Lestrigones, were tribes of thieves, reminding everybody of our modern times; while the Lotophagis, according to Erodotus, were a more peaceful people who did nothing else but eat lotus fruit, make wine out of it, drink and sleep. It is about 3,000 before Christ when a people from the Iberian peninsula, after a long and painful journey found an island, a big island. It was luxuriously green with all kinds of fruit trees: full of colorful rolling hills, tall and proud mountains, and immensly refreshing springs of sweet water and fertile soil. The waters of the sea were warm and gentle, like the hands of a maiden in love, so were its waves; the sun was hot and burning, and the land rich. The climate was a dream.

    The name of the leader of this people was Sicanus, and, his people, grateful for his leadership, to honor him, called the new land Sicany. Later another people arrived and occupied another territory in the big island. They were led by Siculus, son of Italus. This people were coming from the Lazio region, there where, later, Rome, was founded, which, taking lesson from this big Island, became the cradle of the western civilization. This people from the Lazio region were also grateful for the new found land and wanted to call that land Sicily, in honor to their leader.

    Naturally, as we modern people well know, people, from different ethnicity, cannot stay together without segregating and harassing one other, bringing the whole thing to a race war in which everybody suffers and everybody loses, because there are no winners in this kind of wars. All this was happening even because those people, at that time, did not know the meaning of the terms: Segregation and Harassment and Race; those terms where not invented yet, so, it wasn't their fault!

    The Sicanies and the Siculies fought savagely one another, every time they had a chance and for many years, for the control of the Island. In time the Siculies won over the Sicanies, the price was high, but they could finally have their own way, and called the beautiful Island: SICILY


(1) These are the words with which G. Meli starts "L'Origini Di Lu Munnu", "The Origins Of The World".
(2) Erebus married his sister Night and fathered Light, Day, Sleep and Death. In the war against Jupiter, he sided with the Titans, and, for this, he was transformed into a river and thrown into Tartar.
(3) From "The Origin of the World" by G. Meli
(4) From "The Origin of the World" by G. Meli
(5) From "The Origin of the World" by G. Meli