August 25

Dancing to Change the World: Interview with Tiare Valouria

Tiare Valouria.
Picture by Rj Muna.

Tiare Valouria is an incredibly talented performer and teacher specialized in fusion belly dance and ritual theatre. To see her is to love her: her elegance and interpretation are of the highest quality; her mystic aura makes her artistically irresistible. I had the privilege of interviewing her about her history and the meaning of her craft.

How did your passion for belly dance start?

While my passion for dance as an artform of expression has been life long, my passion for bellydance began in 2005. I grew up in Hawaii dancing Ballet and Hula in the Halau, then stopped dancing when my adolescence hit and felt more inspired to express myself through design work and immerse myself in Magickal studies. It was in my early 20’s when I first witnessed Gypsy Caravan perform ATS (American Tribal Style) here in Portland, and realized that there was a magical, mysterious movement of empowered dance that was bringing the feminine together en force! Their dance circles had this powerful, yet warm and embracing energy to it, and when witnessed, it wasn’t difficult to tap into the ancient current of vitality that was being expressed and shared between them as a unit of all races, sizes and genders. In fact, it was undeniable. I was enamored by their aesthetic as well ~ Peacock hues with black as a unifying undercurrent, bright pops of color statements and absolutely dripping with tattoos.  “It’s a dance coven of vitality magic!” I thought to myself. I was so intrigued that I did some research online and soon discovered the Tribal Fusion movement that was currently on the rise through the bohemian underground. I was even more intrigued! Infatuated even. And then I stumbled upon some footage of Rachel Brice dancing… I was officially in love. That was it. Exactly what I knew I needed to be doing. It felt like a piece my very soul had been missing and feverishly searching for. Before long I was hooked. I wanted nothing more than to carry this dance current within my physical form. I craved the grounding empowerment of it. I sought out the Gypsy Caravan dancers to take classes from Paulette Resse Denis and Severina while also practicing at home regularly with Egyptian Cabaret classes on VHS (because they were all you could get at the time). I was pleased to discover that my childhood dance training set me far ahead of the pack in dance classes and I managed to learn Tribal Fusion at what some would consider – lightning speed. I soon found a small Tribal Fusion bellydance coven called Serpentine who invited me in due to a shared understanding of prioritizing Ritual Theatre as a focal point for dance. They were my gateway into becoming a performance artist post childhood Halau recitals and the rest is history. 

How important is the role of teachers within this discipline?

Every discipline carries with it a technique that it is known for and therefore sought out for personal development and integration. It is through our teachers that we receive downloads of information and portrayal of techniques that are unique to them and them alone. It is through our teachers that we are empowered through their lens of experience, passion, wisdom and blessing. It is because of this singularity that when we witness our teacher, our entire being affirms that they are the ones we desire to learn from. Teachers offer a legacy of consciousness through their classes that has been passed down from their teacher before them, and so on. It offers their students an invaluable opportunity to imbue their practice and passion with this magical blend of flavors, insight and meaning, like a potion of power that vivifies their movement with a spirit that can be felt by not only the dancer, but all who are blessed to witness them share their artistry. Without our precious teachers, our treasured dance forms would not survive. Within this particular dance discipline we are tapping into a current that is as old as time. The ancients who identified as women began belly dancing in women’s only circles, where the people who identified as men were not allowed to attend or bear witness. This is a dance that has been passed down from woman to woman for thousands of years as a vitality practice for harnessing, refining and sharing divine feminine power. So yes, the teachers and who you choose to learn from are extremely important. Personally, I am of the opinion that when seeking out a teacher, it’s a good thing to ask yourself a few questions: Are they acknowledging and honoring their teachers? Are they respecting the cultures these dances came from and educating others about them? What is the story their spirit is portraying and speaking to you through their movements? Does this story and portrayal align with your chosen path? How will learning from them empower the story through dance that you wish to tell? And will honoring them as your teacher feel integral to both of you on your chosen paths? I don’t think these questions are being asked enough, and I see a lot of extremely talented dancers with immaculate technique, out there in the world with no honoring of lineage or portrayal of mythos. Many people don’t mind this at all, but when I notice it, although I can find enjoyment in the display of technique, I quickly lose interest because there is no story or evidence of spirit through lineage. No meaning behind the movements other than wanting to look impressive… And is that what their teachers taught them to do? It also really boils down to how much you as an individual really care about matters such as this. How important is your path in artistry to you? This will be reflected in who you choose as your teachers, and vice versa.

Do you think it’s possible to establish a strong tie with students even through online lessons? 

Oh absolutely, and like with anything, it really depends on the teacher. The desire to bond with students must be there in the first place, and it’s even better if the students are willing to reciprocate a teacher’s outreach for connection. We as a species are experiencing such a churning right now that we must seek out our teachers from the comfort of our own home for safety and convenience as world affairs ramp up around us. As much as I miss in-person classes, I know I’m not alone in my appreciation for the luxury of modern technology to keep the spirit of education alive while we navigate the troubled waters of society. That being said, I am so deeply excited to open the doors to Animara ~ my new online school for dance magick coming up in October. I’ve been pouring so much love into the curriculum and presentation to offer students an elevating experience while engaging with the platform as classes and series roll out. It’s going to be so deliciously enriching for everyone involved. 

What is the role of esotericism and spirituality in your work?

After 20 years of a spiral dance around deepening my understanding about the relationship between my work and spirituality, I have come to realize time and time again that esotericism and spirituality truly are central to all of it. Without one, the other withers, and to be perfectly honest I think it’s the same for everyone… However within the spectrum of experience, we choose to focus more on one aspect or another. No matter what, dance IS a spiritual practice. It is an exercise that brings a refinement of the spirit’s expression to be portrayed and projected through our physical form. We are all spirit and our bodies are the earthly vehicle for our spirit, therefore all dance is a spiritual practice. For me, it is vital to my personal practice and what I teach for the exercises, techniques and movements to come from a place of inner knowing as a result of consciously connecting with the forces of creation to imbue everything with a deeper understanding, relationship, meaning and intention. It is through my lifelong study of ancient ceremonial practices, magical studies, spiritual lineages and dance that I have been lovingly formulating an integral way of approaching dance as a spiritual practice called the Mystic Arts Practika that is deeply rooted in magic. It may not be for everyone, although I do think that anyone can benefit from its influence. 

Which spiritual themes are more typical of your exhibitions and lessons?

Ritual Theatre, esoteric symbology, ceremonial magic, archetypes and deity veneration / embodiment has been at the forefront of my artistic expression for my entire life. It has been my calling since day one and due to the influence of my teachers and personal guides, the blend of aesthetics, techniques and portrayal is uniquely potent. My lessons range from Lunar guided yoga sessions to sync our self care regimen with the cycles of the moon and dance classes are built on a foundation I like to call Elemental Fusion which serves as a platform for building upon with intention utilizing the Practika for empowering our dance through relationship with Spirit, magical wisdoms and personal mythos.

Do you think that dancing can change the world?

Dancing is changing the world every day. It has been changing the world since the dawn of humanity and will continue to do so until the end of time. Dance carries within it the medicine of empowerment and release. Dance is a rite of passage. When we do not dance, our bodies and self confidence stagnate. Dance brings us home to the understanding that our bodies are conductors of energy. Without movement our physical form experiences atrophy, and without creative expression our lives become devoid of meaning and direction. Dance is a key to unlocking our fullest potential here on earth and it is the ultimate antidepressant. I am of the opinion that when utilized appropriately, dance can cure any ailment. Dance is a throne that the spirit of each and every sentient being in existence holds claim to.

July 27

Interview with the V…antages – Intervista con i Vantages

(Traduzione italiana in fondo al post.)

I had the chance to be among the first people, even though certainly not the last, to interview Tim Mikkola, the frontman of Helsinki’s rock scene newest sensation: The Vantages. Great on record, even better live. Only time will tell, but it wouldn’t be surprising if their first single, Leather Jacket, were to become a hit.

How did your adventure start? How did you meet each other?

I met Anton a few odd years ago when we went to the same school together. When he heard the chorus to Leather Jacket, he moved to Helsinki and insisted that we start a band together. One thing led to another, he brought in Aleksi, Henkka and Mikko.

Did you know all along you had professional goals within music, or did you start playing just for fun?

Yes, we are an ambitious bunch.

What’s the story behind your name?

It was the best option amongst many bad ones. I was super against having “The” in the name followed by a plural, then I came up with “The Vantages”. Kind of shot myself in the foot there…

What are your main influences?

We listen to a lot of British indie and stuff from the 60s. I really like French chanson and guitar bands from that particular decade. Between the five of us we found the most common ground in 70’s rock and early 00’s goth rock. I’d say Finnish “rautalanka” has been a thing for us as well.

How does your creative process happen? Who does what?

Tim Mikkola, voice.

They usually start with me recording a few ideas down and writing on top of them by myself, then we head to the rehearsal space and see what’s what.

What are your sources of inspiration for writing songs? Are you mostly inspired by real life experiences or do you rather believe in art about art?

Love.  To me love has never sounded like The Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”. When you really love someone you inevitably love the worst parts of them as well. I like writing about those things, I find it much more romantic. As for “art about art” I feel more attracted to honesty, heart on your sleeve and all that. I like writing about my experiences, I like getting personal.

How did the Covid-19 pandemic affect your plans?

It gave us time to get to know each other, write songs, search for our sound and make contacts etc. I think we’re one of the few who, in a sense, benefitted from it. Lots of time, little to lose.

Do you think the joy of going back to normal influenced somehow the enthusiasm with which the audience welcomed you to the live scene?

Definitely. People have been more eager to do things and really throw themselves in after being deprived of all things social for so long. I know I have.

Playing at a huge festival such as Ruisrock before having the first EP out is an incredible goal for a new band. How did you reach it?

It’s a classic story of someone who knew someone, who knew someone, who knew…

Did playing at Ruisrock feel the way you expected it to feel?

We didn’t have much expectations going in to be honest. We really enjoyed ourselves on stage, then checked out the rest of the festival. Good times.

A question for Aleksi, at the bass: does your choice of playing without a pick concern only your playing with The Vantages, or is it your standard style? What difference does it make to you?

Aleksi Larkovuo (bass).

I have always preferred playing with fingers to be fair. I can play with a pick as well of course but I like how playing with fingers you can really feel what you are playing. Vibration and all. I have always liked players who play very intensely with a pick or with their fingers. Players like Eric Avery, Martin Sköld, Duff McKagan, Flea or Paul Webb. So I implement that to my playing. Gives it kinda percussive element as well.

How much does the image count for a band in 2022?

As much as it has always counted I guess. It’s good to be aware of it, but not force things.

Among new bands there is often a tendency, quite opposite to the historical one within rock music, to take distance from alcohol and drug abuse. What do you think about it?

We don’t necessarily spit in the bottle, if that’s what your asking. We keep work and partying separate, we enjoy both. I think it’s a good thing that the “sex, drugs & rock n’ roll” cliche has lost its glamour. Substance abuse isn’t cool, it’s an issue and an unrepresented issue at that.

What can we expect from The Vantages in the near future?

Sex, drugs & Rock N’ Roll.

Thank you for your time. It was a pleasure to interview you and you have all my best wishes!

Thank you for having us. 

Tim & The Vantages

The Vantages is: Tim Mikkola (voice), Henri Schröter (drums), Aleksi Larkovuo (bass), Mikko Janatuinen (lead guitar) and Anton Froloff (rhythm guitar and keyboards).


All pictures by Samuli Vienola (2022).
Make up artist: Katri Kettu.


Ho avuto la possibilità di essere fra le prime persone, anche se certamente non le ultime, a intervistare Tim Mikkola, il frontman dell’ultima sensazione rock made in Helsinki: The Vantages. Meravigliosi in studio e anche meglio dal vivo. Solo il tempo potrà dirlo, ma non sarebbe una sorpresa se il loro primo singolo, Leather Jacket, diventasse una hit.

Com’è cominciata la vostra avventura? Come vi siete incontrati?

Ho incontrato Anton diversi strani anni fa; andavamo a scuola insieme. Quando ha sentito il ritornello di Leather Jacket si è trasferito a Helsinki e ha insistito perché fondassimo una band insieme. Una cosa tira l’altra, lui ha tirato dentro Aleksi, Henkka e Mikko.

Sapevate sin dall’inizio di avere obiettivi professionali nell’ambito della musica?

Sì, siamo ambiziosi.

Qual è la storia all’origine del vostro nome?

Era l’opzione migliore in mezzo a parecchie tremende. Ero assolutamente contro l’avere il “The” all’inizio del nome seguito da un plurale, ma poi sono stato io a proporre “The Vantages”. Mi sono un tantino dato la zappa sul piede…

Quali sono le vostre principali influenze?

Ascoltiamo molta musica indie inglese e roba degli anni 60. Mi piace molto la chanson francese e le guitar band di quell’epoca. Fra tutti e cinque il terreno comune l’abbiamo trovato soprattutto nel rock anni 70 e il goth rock dei primi anni 2000. Direi che anche il “rautalanka” finlandese abbia avuto un suo ruolo.

Come funziona il vostro processo creativo? Chi fa cosa?

Tim Mikkola, voice.

Di solito si comincia con me che registro qualche idea e ci scrivo sopra per conto mio, poi in sala prove e vediamo insieme che succede.

Quali sono le tue fonti d’ispirazione? Prendi spunto più dalle esperienze di vita reale o dal concetto di arte riguardo all’arte?

L’amore. Per me non è mai stato come in “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” dei Beatles. Quando ami qualcuno inevitabilmente ne ami anche I lati peggiori, ed è di queste cose che mi piace scrivere, lo trovo molto più romantico. In merito al concetto di “arte riguardo all’arte”, io mi sento più attratto dall’onestà, cuore in mano e cose di quel genere. Mi piace scrivere delle mie esperienze, andare nel personale.

Come sono stati condizionati i vostri programmi dalla pandemia del Covid-19?

Ci ha dato tempo di conoscerci meglio, di scrivere canzoni, cercare il nostro sound e crearci dei contatti. Penso che siamo stati fra i pochi a cui abbia in un certo senso giovato. Un sacco di tempo, poco o niente da perdere.

Pensi che la gioia di tornare alla normalità abbia influenzato il modo in cui il pubblico vi ha dato il benvenuto alla scena live?

Sicuramente. Le persone hanno più voglia di fare le cose e di buttarsi, dopo essere state private per molto tempo della possibilità. Lo vedo anche in me stesso.

Suonare in un grosso festival come il Ruisrock prima ancora di aver pubblicato anche solo un EP è un traguardo incredibile per una nuova band. Come ci siete riusciti?

È la classica storia in cui qualcuno conosceva qualcuno, che conosceva qualcuno, che conosceva qualcuno…

Suonare al Ruisrock è stato come ve lo aspettavate?

Onestamente non ci aspettavamo niente. Ci siamo molto divertiti sul palco e poi ci siamo goduti il resto del festival. È stato bello.

Una domanda per Aleksi, al basso: la tua scelta di suonare senza plettro riguarda solo i Vantages oppure è il tuo stile standard? Che differenza fa per te?

Aleksi Larkovuo (basso).

Onestamente ho sempre preferito suonare con le dita. Certo, so suonare anche col plettro, ma suonando con le dita mi piace sentire effettivamente quel che sto suonando. Vibrazioni e tutto. Mi sono sempre piaciuti bassisti con uno stile intenso, a prescindere dal fatto che suonassero con le dita o col plettro. Musicisti come Eric Avery, Martin Sköld, Duff McKagan, Flea e Paul Webb. Quindi ho incluso anche questo nel mio stile. Aggiunge una sorta di elemento percussionistico.

Quanto conta l’immagine per una band nel 2022?

Tanto quanto ha sempre contato, suppongo. È buono esserne consapevoli, ma senza forzare le cose.

Fra le band di nuova generazione c’è spesso la tendenza, in contraposizione a quella storicamente rock, a prendere le distanze dall’abuso di droga e alcol. Voi cosa ne pensate?

Non necessariamente disprezziamo, se è questo che mi stai chiedendo. Teniamo le questioni lavorative e il far festa separati, anche se ci piacciono entrambe le cose. Penso che sia un bene che lo stereotipo “sesso, droga e rock’n roll” abbia perso il proprio fascino. Abusare di sostanze non è figo, è un problema spesso non presentato a sufficienza come tale.

Cosa possiamo aspettarci dai Vantages nel prossimo futuro?

Sesso, droga e rock’n roll.

Grazie per il vostro tempo. Intervistarvi è stato un piacere e vi faccio i miei migliori auguri!

Grazie a te per averci ospitati!

Con amore,
Tim & i Vantages

I Vantages sono: Tim Mikkola (voce), Henri Schröter (batteria), Aleksi Larkovuo (basso), Mikko Janatuinen (chitarra solista) and Anton Froloff (chitarra ritmica e tastiere).


Foto di Samuli Vienola (2022).
Trucco: Katri Kettu.

March 1

Esotericism in Art: an Instrument to Narrate Social and Personal Paths


Among the many possible approaches towards esotericism, there is one – risen from 1930s onwards – which sees it as a yay to return to the human primal spirituality and the related truths (Boguslawski et al. 2020: 17 – 18). It is therefore not surprising to think that esotericism has been and is, in the hands of artists, a powerful instrument to talk about social and personal paths, giving the narrative further depth.
Carl Gustav Jung’s works are widely based on the connection between esotericism, archetypes and the true self. Even though a large number of scholars disagrees with him when it comes to the supposedly biological roots of archetypes, it is evident how some motifs and archetypes are common in literature and in myths through different historical eras and cultures, motifs being small narrative units and archetypes being recurrent patterns with deep psychic resonances (El-Shamy et al. 2005: XV – XVIII).
There are several possible definitions of esotericism; the term “esoteric” can in fact be used as referring to a secret knowledge meant for a small group, to western mysticism, to points of view and explanations about God and the metaphysic world, or in a more popular and general way to mysticism, to the occult and to paranormal (Ilman et al. 2017: 126 – 127).
In this essay I write about esotericism meant as magic, witchcraft, paranormal and explanations about the paranormal, even though presented through art rather than an organized philosophical or religious theory. Specifically, I take Marion Zimmer Bradley’s novel The Mists of Avalon as an example of esotericism used as an instrument to narrate social radical changes, coming to the point of bending reality, and the miniserie The Haunting of Hill House as an example of paranormal being used as a way to tell about personal grief and family dynamics, connecting these to spacetime loops, and so binding once again esotericism to the very nature of the reality lived by the characters.

The Mists of Avalon: esotericism, values and society

Marion Zimmer Bradley’s novel The Mists of Avalon is a fantasy novel, tapping into the Arthurian legends in order to narrate the fall of paganism and the rise of christianity, with Avalon representing the old ways.
Even though Avalon’s cause is fought both by men and women, the story is told mostly from a female perspective, which is not surprising considering the fact that the ones walking the old path worship a goddess.
The difference between pagan values and christian ones as presented in the novel becomes evident analyzing the main female characters: Viviane, Morgause, Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere), the former three representing the pagan world and the latter representing the christian one. Viviane is a powerful and charismatic leader, honest in her loyalty towards Avalon and the old religion, but this loyalty weakens the one towards the people around her; in front of her duty to protect Avalon and its interest, any sacrifice – be it others’ or her own – appears unimportant. Morgause, on the other hand, even though not incapable of love, has no other goals than her own personal interests; she has a very strong personality and is often desired by the men around her. Between them stands Morgaine: very loyal to Avalon’s cause, and yet her heart is full of personal feelings and desires; her feelings for any of her lovers anyway never manage to truly enslave her, as she very well remembers her beliefs and goals; she quite often feels like not having a choice, as if being a pawn in the hands of destiny – hands which sometimes, she realises, look surprisingly a lot like Viviane’s – but yet, she is very strong and capable of uncomfortable decisions. Gwenhwyfar, the only woman holding christian values, is presented as a beautiful and dutiful wife for Arthur; she is tormented though, due to her childlessness and due to her love for Lancelet, and the more tormented she becomes, the further she goes on the path of christian fanaticism. Esotericism, in this kind the use of magic, makes a great difference in the lives of the four women, becoming a symbol of the female condition within the pagan or within the christian world: even though none of them is destined to true victory, the former three have ways to pursue their goals and desires, often through magic, and their spirituality – despite being far from preventing inner turmoil – leaves more space for them to feel entitled when it comes to their emotions, their wishes and their attempts to get what they want. Gwenhwyfar’s power, on the other hand, depends entirely on Arthur’s good heart and on his affection to her; she strongly opposes magic and the pagan ways.
Ultimately, when the christian religion overcomes the pagan one, the mists which separate Avalon from the rest of the world grow thicker and thicker, and the portal between the two becomes harder and harder to open; Viviane dies, not before having been on the point of almost loosing her faith, Morgause is forced to accept the fact that her youth and her magic – which had a strong passionate and sexual connotation – have faded away, and her power over men along with them, while Morgaine retires forever to Avalon, being defeated in the fight against the christian ways, but still feeling that her goddess will survive and be worshipped through the image of the Virgin Mary. This ending, along with the fact that the Holy Grail is presented as a sacred regalia from Avalon, are a perfect example of how – in this novel – esotericism is used in order to narrate a deep change in society, with its pagan roots still visible in the phenomenon of syncretism.

The Haunting of Hill House: esotericism and emotional life

The Haunting of Hill House is a miniserie created and directed by Mike Flanagan, mildly inspired by the homonym novel by Shirley Jackson.
In the past, what should have just been the work of a few weeks restoring a house in order to resell it for a higher price, became a tragic turning point for the whole Crain family, composed of mother, father and five children. Even though all of them witnessed paranormal events, not all of them had to face them in the same measure, and not all of them even recognised them as paranormal in the first place; the most affected back then was anyway Olivia, the mother, for whom reality slept away day after day, eventually leaving her in constant doubt about being awake or dreaming. What is known is that she killed herself, but even though Hugh, her husband, knows more, he refuses to openly talk about it with his children, claiming that it is in order to protect them. Later, through flashbacks, it will become clear that Olivia tried to kill her youngest children, Luke and Eleanor – due to being convinced by one of the ghosts haunting the house that killing them were the only way to protect them from the world – and that after failing she committed suicide still under the influence of the same ghost, who this time convinced her of being living a nightmare, and that killing herself would be a way to wake up.
The five children represent the five stages of grief (TV Insider: 2018). Their attitude towards grief is often the same attitude they have towards the paranormal activities inside the house, and it follows precisely the order in which they were born. Steven is denial, in fact he refuses the possibility that Hill House might be haunted and responsible first for his mother’s, then for his sister’s death. Shirley is anger, she is in fact very judgmental and hard for the others to approach or communicate with. Theodora is bargaining: she is aware that Hill House is, very likely, haunted, but she tries to leave that behind her; she is also aware about her own power to see truths about people and places when touching them, but she tries to deal with it almost constantly wearing gloves, putting a wall between herself and the outside world, and only occasionally using her power to help others. Luke is depression: he tries to fight the memories of what he saw in Hill House by taking drugs, at the point of becoming an addict. Eleanor is acceptance: her apparent murder is what forces the family to come together and face reality once and for all, but especially, her ghost explains to her remaining siblings the mystery of the house. The Red Room, which they thought they never managed to open in the past, was in fact the heart, or stomach, of the house, putting on a different mask for each one of them, so that they would stay still while the house fed on them, on their energy, on their hopes and fears. A large part of the paranormal activity witnessed by the Crains was anyway the product of different moments in time overlapping; Eleanor herself saw for many years a ghost, which she called the Bent-Neck Lady, who later turned out to be her, after her death by hanging, looking back on her own life.
In the end, dealing with the paranormal world, so tightly connected to their grief, and accepting what happened, helps the remaining family members to find some sort of resolution, closure and reconciliation. In this case, talking about the paranormal activities, therefore about their pain, gives them a way to build bridges, to start communicating once again, and leaving behind the stage of grief in which they were trapped.


Through different forms of art and different genres, esotericism, in its wide conception, is – among other things – a way to narrate parts of the human life strongly connected to deep feelings, values and beliefs. I here took The Mists of Avalon as an example of esotericism – meant both as use of magic and spirituality – used as an instrument to represent values, faith and belief within society, with their influence on the life of women along with reality itself; I also used The Haunting of Hill House as an example of esotericism – this time meant as paranormal activities – used to represent family dynamics and the human relationship with grief, which might appear to the grieving person just as unexplainable and invincible as a haunted house.


Printed sources
Boguslawski, Julia von, Nina Kokkinen, and Tiina Mahlamäki. Moderni esoteerisuus ja okkultismi Suomessa. Tampere: Vastapaino, 2020.
El-Shamy, Hasan M., and Jane. Garry. Archetypes and Motifs in Folklore and Literature : a Handbook. Armonk, N.Y: M.E. Sharpe, 2005.
llman, Ruth et al. Monien uskontojen ja katsomusten Suomi. Tampere: Kirkon tutkimuskeskus, 2017.

Online sources

TV Insider (last visited on 29/12/2021).

January 27

When Jews and Nazis Are Family

Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva and her father, Joseph Stalin, in 1935.
Source: Wikipedia.

It is commonly very well known how the Jews were persecuted during the second world war by Hitler. It is less known, or maybe less talked about, that Stalin and his regime persecuted the Jewish people as well, aiming to the destruction of their culture.
Worldwide spread clichés portray Nazi Germany as a black spot of racism in an otherwise racism-free world, while the reality was very different: during the second world war, black and Asian people had plenty of troubles in America as well. Racism was a global problem, and pushed the persecuted people to move as far as possible, as long as it was possible; this was the case of Hannele Venho’s Jewish mother and great-grandmother, who managed to escape from Russia, finding in Finland not only shelter, but also further information about their family. I interviewed her for a university project back in 2020, but this is the first time the content of the interview is released to the public.

How does the story start?

The story starts so: first of all, my parents were related. Both families where from Rhine Valley, in Germany which was and still is a Jewish area. In fact they were both of Jewish descent. At some point in the middle of 1800 a part of the family moved to Sweden and another part moved to Russia.

Why Russia and Sweden?

Both places were kingdoms and were safer for Jews. On both sides the men worked in the army and in Germany for Jewish people the situation had been hard since many years already.
In Russia, as long as the Tzar Nikolaj held the power, the Jews were in a very good position, but after that Russia became unsafe as well, and that’s why my grandmother’s family decided to move towards West, while working in import-export field. Later, Stalin didn’t like the Jews, and he ended up killing many more than Hitler.

How happened that your grandmother came to Finland?

What follows is what I heard from my son, because my mother never actually told me this story.
During Stalin’s time my mother and her family lived on an island in Russia, near Laatokka. It was still Finnish territory back then. When she was a child, just nine years old, once she and her grandmother went to the forest to pick up mushrooms, and when they came back they found out that all the rest of the family had been gunned in its own backyard. It happened around 1938. My great grandmother decided that it was wiser to search for shelter in a monastery, where they have been hidden. Then the Winter War started, therefore my great grandmother said my mother that they had to move as far towards West as they could, till they met the sea.
The winter came, so they could walk on the frozen sea from Latokka. During the day they buried themselves under the snow, and they walked during the night.
They finally reached nowadays borderline between Russia and Finland. There was a railway, and a train was coming from Sortavala, which belongs to Russia nowadays, going towards West, to destinations such as Lahti, Heinola and Mikkeli; the train porceded very slowly, because it was the kind that picks up people, so they stopped it. From here the trip became finally a bit easier, after a couple of hundreds of kilometers on foot. My mother could not know in that moment that the driver was her future father-in-law.

How did their lives proceed after that?

They went to Turku. My mother lived there for five years, but then her grandmother died, therefore she decided to move to Helsinki, so that she could attend school and start working in kitchens. She became a chef, and she worked – after many years of experience – in the best restaurants.

How about the other side of the family?

The part of the family which moved to Sweden eventually moved to Finland. Finland used to be part of Sweden back then and since they were soldiers the King sent them to Finland to fight against the Russians, granting them some land as a reward.

What happened later? How did your father and your mother meet?

They met around 1949, because then my mother lived here in Helsinki. She already had a boyfriend, according to what I read in her diary, after she died. I do not exactly know how it happened, but it was here, my father and my mother met, and she quickly understood that he was the love of her life. They had no idea that they were related. Back then my father was officially married, but he and his wife did no longer live together.

How did their relationship develop?

The first time when my father brought my mother at his parents’ home, in order to introduce her, my grandfather said: “Throw that Jew out of this house”. He didn’t like her at all.
But later I don’t know how, they found out that they were related, and that even though my father’s family was not Jewish anymore, it was of Jewish descent. But I guess if we go back in time, one way or another we are all related to Jews.
It must have been so that the side of the family that moved to Russia was mostly composed by women, while the side that moved to Sweden was composed mostly by men, and that is why the Jewish tradition was kept only on the Russian side: the Jewish bloodline is matriarchal.

What was your father’s political faith?

He was not so much, but his father and the rest of the family were really Nazi. But quite often my father used to say: “Look at the children: this is what happens when a Nazi and a Jew get married”. He was not serious about it, though. I must say anyway that I did don really get to know that side of the family; both my grandfather and grandmother died around the year when I was born. I have seen a bit of my father’s sisters and they seemed to be rather fascist, in their own way. On my wedding day my aunt told me about her husband: “I will never divorce, but I might kill him”. She totally meant it. When my father was still officially married to his first wife, but they were already no longer living together, his first wife had a child from another man. My aunt took that baby and gave him away for adoption, he ended up in a good family, I think that he’s still alive. I got anyway to know about this story after my father died, when I was going through all the documents. I called my mother straight away: “Who is this child I have never heard of?”. But then she explained me that actually it was not my brother. It turned out that even the man himself heard only a couple of years earlier that he had been adopted.

Didn’t your mother ever explain you anything about where did she come from?

No, she never said it to me, she only told the story to my son. I have tried to study my family from my mother’s side, but since those archives nowadays belong to Russia it has beed quite difficult. Thank God there is only one Gardemeister family in this area, so there have been other people studying it before me, and that is how I got to know that my mother and my father were related.

Did they come to know at some point?

They knew it because they had the same old family name, but the final proof was the fact that I have this disease: Dupuytren’s contracture. A woman can have it only if the gene comes from both sides; it’s very common among old men, but in the whole Finland there are only four women with this disease, and somehow we are also all related, even though nowadays we do no longer have the same family name.

Why do you think your mother told the whole story to your son but not straight to you?

I think it is due to the fact that when you have skeletons in your closet you do not want to talk about it to people who were somehow close to the facts. My mother was a quite religious person; my brother was once in a motorcycle accident, and for a few days the doctors were not able to say if he would survive or if he would not. During those days my mother has spent a lot of time at the synagogue, but she always hid it. I think it was also because after she came to Finland she felt that she could not trust anyone. I actually do not even know the exact day when her family was murdered, there are no graves. It was Stalin style.

Which reminds surprisingly a lot Hitler’s style…

Actually, Hitler killed them in the gas chambers, while Stalin first made them build train train tracks and after that they had to dig their own graves, so that they could be shot straight there. No names, of course.

How do you think it was possible for your mother to coexist with your father’s family?

My brother was born in 1952. They have been somewhere in a foreign Country for a couple of years, because my mother worked in France when she was pregnant with me, and when I was born it was May, and till the end of that year we both lived there, only after that we moved back to Finland. But obviously I do not remember anything about that time. I think that one thing that protected my mother was the fact that she really worked a lot. Of course, in the restaurant business it is always hard work, but she also wanted to work a lot. She was young and totally out of money, she wanted to work hard enough and become someone, so that she could take care of her family whatever happened.

Do you think that she worked so much to keep her mind busy or rather in order not to spend too much time at home?

I think she did it especially to keep her mind busy and to make money. She was a really good businesswoman, good at making money, while my father was good at spending it (laughs).

Do you consider yourself a Jew?

Well, no, actually no. When I was younger I was against any kind of religious stuff, but nowadays my daughter-in-law is very interested in that kind of things, and this softened me. I do not like religion when it is too extreme, when people are too much into that kind of story, but nowadays I can handle it. I know that my son thinks the same: religion is ok, if it helps. I have anyway learned things that belong to the Jewish religion. It is a tradition. My mother could not do Hanukkah at our place, because my father was against this, against any religion.

Do you think that that tradition belongs to your identity?

It is a part of me, because there are some things in my mentality that I learned from my mother, therefore I think it is part of me, in the traditional and cultural rather than in the religious way.

Nowadays, whenever there are episodes like it happened recently, when the synagogue of Turku has been vandalized on the Shoah Memorial Day, do you feel that you could be in danger?

I am of course totally against that kind of behavior, but no, I do not feel in danger at all, because I live in a steady world. Nothing bad will happen here. I have travelled quite a lot when I was younger, but I never felt in danger if not as a woman. As a woman sometimes it has been hard, but never because my mother was Jewish.

February 19

Preti Pedofili? Non Solo Mele Marce


Copyright dell’immagine: Getty Images/IStock

Attenzione: nel post che segue si fa riferimento a violenza e abusi sessuali.

Probabilmente è un limite mio, ma faccio veramente molta fatica a capire chi sostiene la chiesa cattolica. Non parlo della fede, dell’essere cristiani, ma nello specifico del sostenere la chiesa cattolica come istituzione.
Stamane ho finito di guardare la serie-documentario “The Keepers”, su Netflix.
In breve: nel 1969 Cathy Cesnik, una suora nemmeno trentenne, viene assassinata. Insegnava in una prestigiosa scuola cattolica.
Negli anni 90 viene fuori che, appena qualche mese prima dell’omicidio, un’allieva le aveva confidato di venire stuprata da “padre” Maskell. Le testimonianze parleranno purtroppo sia di altri stupratori che di altre vittime. Sono racconti che fanno accapponare la pelle, soprattutto perché Maskell non era un capoccia intonacato qualunque, ma un laureato in psicologia.
Decine di persone raccontano di essere state molestate e/o stuprate da lui in giovane o giovanissima età, eppure l’arcidiocesi non lo accuserà mai ufficialmente di nulla. In compenso arriverà ad offrire un totale di quasi mezzo milione di dollari alle vittime.
Trasferirlo a seguito della prima denuncia da parte di una madre (negando però che questa denuncia sia mai avvenuta), non accusarlo mai ufficialmente, offrire soldi alle vittime, anche davanti alla possibilità che sia stato direttamente coinvolto in un omicidio: queste le mosse della chiesa.
A seguito di un appello delle vittime perché i tempi di prescrizione vengano allungati e le testimonianze vengano prese in considerazione nonostante siano passati molti anni dagli abusi, la scena che più di tutte mi ha fatta infuriare: i rappresentanti della chiesa cattolica (l’avvocato Kevin Murphy e Alison D’Alesslessandro, direttrice responsabile arcidiocesana per la protezione di bambini e giovani) che, dopo aver ascoltato i racconti, placidamente replicano opponendosi alla proroga, prima di tutto perché i ricordi devono essere freschi e non si può rischiare di parlare male di chi è morto o scomparso, dunque non ha più modo di difendersi, e in secondo luogo – qui viene il bello – per spronare gli abusati a parlare subito, evitando nuove violenze su nuove vittime.
Sì, avete capito bene: secondo i rappresentanti della chiesa cattolica la colpa degli abusi sulle vittime successive non è di chi invece di denunciare ha trasferito, e di chi a distanza di decenni continua a insabbiare, bensì delle persone troppo traumatizzate e spaventate per parlare prima; tutto questo, lo ricordiamo, con un omicidio di mezzo.

Non tutti i preti sono pedofili, né responsabili di omicidi, Cathy stessa era una donna di chiesa. La prossima volta in cui la RAI vi fa vedere uno spot con la musichetta strappalacrime, in cui si dice che la chiesa cattolica ha bisogno dei vostri soldi per aiutare le piccole missioni, ricordatevi però che ne ha bisogno anche per pagare la gente che dice e fa di queste porcate, che cerca di impedire modifiche alle leggi che aiuterebbero le vittime ad ottenere giustizia, perché evidentemente difendere chi abusa è più importante.
I preti pedofili saranno pure mele marce, ma il lavoro di copertura avviene invece a livello istituzionale, in maniera sistematica, ed è dovere di tutti smettere di finanziare questo circo degli orrori. Non ha senso definirsi cristiani se si è più attaccati ad un’istituzione che alla giustizia.

December 1

Italian Culture: The Same Things

A while ago I started a series on my YouTube channel, naming it “Italian Culture”, and hoping to allow people to get to know interesting cultural aspects of the Country I come from, aspects which aren’t easy to get to know for non-Italian speakers.
Now, this is not a video I posted on Youtube, but it’s something in the very same spirit.I bring you Le Stesse Cose (“The Same Things”), by Adriano Celentano, featured in the album Esco di Rado e Parlo Ancora Meno (“I Rarely Go Out and I Speak Even Less”), the first one I ever bought as a child.Fun fact: most Italian rockers hate Celentano.
Here is my translation of the lyrics of the song!
Please, note that I do not own the rights on the original lyrics, which were written by Carlo Mazzoni.

The Same Things

Tell me what changes when one loves and is not loved, or if one is loved and doesn’t love; what does it change?
Tell me what is left in a love ending,or in an ending without love, what is left?
I will do the same things
I will change three times a month
I will make again the same mistakes,
The ones I left out.
Without turning back I’ll ask for love and affection to a dark skinned woman,
Who will tell me the same things in a language
That you can’t understand
Tell me what is the difference between past and present
Inside or outside people’s conscience
Fashions, topics and horizons change,
But at the end of the day it’s ourselves we have to deal with
Stories in History
Old stories and new ones in the same history
Things already thought
Dead things
Then born again in other things
And you, great love, strong love
Desperately love
What do you think you’ll change with those eyes as green and as big as the sea?
And they go like this, this way things go
And they go like this, this way things go
And the day will come, when you’ll be able to be by yourself for a while in my heart
I’ll let your strong brightness kidnap me and infect me
What’s going to be of that love you left in the streets and everywhere?
If in order to hold me you always had to say: “Let’s find a shelter from the rain!”
I will do
You will do
The same things
I will change
You will change
Three times a month
I will make again
You will make
The same mistakes
The ones I left out
Tell me what changes when one loves and is not loved, or if one is loved and doesn’t love; what does it?
Tell me what is left in a love ending,
Or in an ending without love,
What is left?

April 27

Bleed for Love (At the Magic Door)

by the storm you bring
By your lack of will
The emptiness you leave

You trapped me in a dream
Keep me far from reality
I should tear down the wall
But your voice mesmerizes my soul
A siren or a ghoul
I bleed for love

They say: “You should leave ghosts from the past behind”
I turn and throw backwards a coin in a fountain
But despite bad luck hopes don’t die

Just for a night
When I see that smile
I can feel that I’m still alive

Just for a night
You run and hide
And I’m left behind, here, to curse the sky

You trapped me in a dream
Keep me far from reality
I should tear down the wall
But your voice mesmerizes my soul
A siren or a ghoul
I bleed for love

They say: “You should move on, there is no destiny”
But you’re life and death and everything in between
Even though I’m ashamed to say it

The magic door
Somewhere in Rome
There I’ll wait for the one I adore

The magic door
There we once more
Will go back to get what we’ve become

I know you saw the black moon
Between the Hangman and the Fool
But don’t try your Luck again
Or you, my dear, might loose its gift

The only dragon to defeat
My dear is your own fear
Opening your eyes you’ll see:
There’s no real wall in between

by the storm you bring
By your lack of will
The emptiness you leave

You trapped me in a dream
Keep me far from reality
I should tear down the wall
But your voice mesmerizes my soul
A siren or a ghoul
I bleed for love

I bleed for love
Here’s again the dawn
The light in your eyes has gone

I bleed for love
At the magic door
Blamed for a murder I never wrote

by the storm you bring

From the album At the Magic Door, by Strega.
Lyrics by Delia Morrigan.
Music by Heidi Holappa and Delia Morrigan.

Cover illustration by Delia Morrigan.

April 27


From the dark moon
She will rise in the woods
If we just are
Enough faithful

Shining red hair
Her beauty and her pride
Your only chance
To live or to survive

Rejected from
God and the whole Eden
She has no hope
Or will to go back there

Seems like tonight
She could be listening
To all our thoughts
That’s why we pray and call

She is there for all brokenhearted at night and
She’ll still be there when this world will come to an end.

She protects all
Rebels coming undone
She’s our mother
Our goddes and lover

In the forest
She lives her deep freedom
And in our hearts
She has her own kingdom

She protects all
Those who fought since the dawn
Of everything
Those who still are burning

Seems like tonight
She could be listening
To all our thoughts,
That’s why we pray and call:


She is there for all brokenhearted at night and
She’ll still be there when this world
Will come to an end

In the name of the black moon

From the album At the Magic Door, by Strega.
Lyrics by Delia Morrigan.
Music by Sami Santanen and Delia Morrigan.

Cover illustration by Delia Morrigan.

April 27


Another night
Another dime
To throw away

Another sight
Another quiet
Howl in my head

‘Cause here at night
I can’t reply
Only cry in bed

You are the dime that brings bad luck
You are the struck and the stardust
You’re the disaster and
My only master and
It doesn’t help trying to live
‘Cause without you I cannot breathe

Another night
Another dime
It’s just the same

Another bite
Another cry
Not in my head

‘Cause here at night
Alone I die
Wish I could forget

You are the dime that brings bad luck
You are the struck and the stardust
You’re the disaster and
My only master and

You are the dime that brings bad luck
You are the struck and the stardust
You’re the disaster and
My only master and
It doesn’t help trying to live
‘Cause without you I cannot breathe
I just cannot breathe

From the album At the Magic Door, by Strega.
Lyrics by Delia Morrigan.
Music by Heidi Holappa and Delia Morrigan.

Cover illustration by Delia Morrigan.