Maps of Disorientation
After reading with participation the document below, proceed to the creation of your own apotropaic map in order to remove any pests from the domestic habitat. Under the circumstances, draw the map through any technique and support easily available (ceramic is recommended anyway). Once the artifact is finished bury it, or bury it as far away from home as “possible”.
Terracotta of Scongiuro
With the book “Scongiuri, Invocazioni e Sussurri nella tradizione popolare del Mezzogiorno Magico” (1884 – 1889) Ermanno Soncini delivers to history one of the first systematic reconnaissance of religious magic practices rooted in the south, collecting study materials through field research and archival explorations of manuscripts dating back to the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance in Syracuse and Agrigento. A precious testimony of the role that cathartic rituals have assumed in the cults of Sicilian peoples, whose origins are lost in the mists of Mediterranean antiquity.
In the vast collection of propitiatory orations and apotropaic spells, the Soncini documents a form of protective-therapeutic magic called Terracotta dello Scongiuro (Terracotta of the Scongiuro), widespread mainly among peasants and in use in Southern Italy until pre-industrial times.
The Sicilian folkloric tradition is a world populated by supernatural entities whose ranks include “aerial and telluric spirits, shadows, and the “spirit”.
pathogenic, luciferine dwarfs, woodland devils, boreal orcs, howler fauns and whispers”; a rutillation of creatures often moody, wild and aggressive, which according to popular belief they used to settle in homes through “cracks, draughts and holes, and through all those places in the house not illuminated by direct sunlight such as cupboards, cupboards, basements and bed bottoms”.
Once settled in the home, the noxious entity “bound” itself inextricably to them, causing the family “all sorts of malaise and afflictions such as insomnia, lack of appetite, poverty, sea jets, meteorological hallucinations, childbirth difficulties and sterility of breeding, etc.”.
When one was convinced that one’s home was inhabited by such a presence, it was customary to resort to the thaumaturgical services of the local healer in order to drive out the alleged demon and receive protection through invocations.
Once the infestation was ascertained, the thaumaturge proceeded to the realization of the Terracotta of the Scongiuro, a clay cup baked by means of traditional charcoal kilns (Fig.1), inside of which he drew with various graphic expedients fictitious maps of the village, locating the dwelling of the family on which the bill loomed, in a different position from the actual one.
The falsification of the real places relocated in imaginary contexts, had the function of upsetting and disorienting the witch reason of misfortune, which cheated and harnessed inside the clay map was thus neutralized and rendered incapable of exercising its funereal powers.
The maps depicted in the terracottas were commonly accompanied by invocations and magic litanies written for recitation, words of power derived from ancient dialects that over time, through the generational transmission of workshops often illiterate, have become pseudo-linguistic vestiges without meaning transcribed in graphic signs for simple sonic affinity. For this reason the signs were interpreted orally suggesting the importance of the performative dimension in the apotropaic ritual.
The last phase of the perjury foresaw the pilgrimage of the family victimised and exorcised in the direction of the mountains, in order to bury the bowl upside down to make sure that the demon fallen into the cartographic trap and now confined in a faraway place, lost forever the way back.
Riccardo Arena (Milan 1979) is an artist and researcher, whose work investigates the relations between culture, psyche and landscape through the creation of articulated visual and narrative imagery. Over the years he has dedicated himself to the development of independent projects for a long time in several countries around the world, whose implementation time and content are warps through a pathway of significant correspondences revealed during the multiple travel experiences. Within this process, the constant movement between the stratification of the study materials and their intuitive reconfiguration, condenses into structures narratives that serve as a basis and principle for the development of visual reflections, films, books, seminars and workshops. Events that contribute to composepoetic constellations in silent dialogue devoted to contemplating in the accidental universal components that tie together stories, myths and theories that are distant in time and in the geographies. After the projects developed in China “Four Times a Tree” (2006/2008), Argentina “Dual death ellero and visual ecosystem” (2009/2012), Russia “Vavilon” (2013/2017), is currently working on a project called “LuDD! – Topography of Light” based on the novel of the same name written and published by the author in 2019, born from a series of trips and researches made between Iran, Armenia and Ethiopia.