April 27

Mother of Light

There’s something you know
Far from being above
And it shines within us
Makes us wonder who we are
Makes us shiver in front of a fire

The secrets we gave up
Like dreaming of a star
So bright and clear but still so distand from our touch

And you will die
To be born again
And you will shine
Regardless of your faith
No need to cry
Nor to deny
We all shall shine
In the hands of the Mother of Light

As she watches ad comes close
We shall not fear the one cross
Which has a rose as a throne
Which wants to keep us apart
From knowledge: our star
So bright and clear but still so distand from our touch

And you will die
To be born again
And you will shine
Regardless of your faith
No need to cry
Nor to deny
We all shall shine
In the hands of the Mother of Light

From the EP Aradia, by Strega.
Lyrics by Delia Morrigan.
Music by Petri Lahti-Nuuttila and Delia Morrigan.

Cover illustration by Valentina Ferraro and Michele Spanò.

April 27

Hate (the Black Sun)

Hate!
Hate!

From the moment I saw your face
I knew you would bring disgrace
With your clean appearence
It was just a mask your innocence

The black sun can never die
In the heart of the human kind
’cause the tragedy just waits
To be caused and wants live baits
It will drag us to our tombs
Rip out our mothers’ womb

Hate!
Hate!

When you first knocked at my door
With a troll’s false words and tongue
I should have said no
Like Herr Mannelig once spoke

The black sun can never die
In the heart of the human kind
’cause the tragedy just waits
To be caused and wants live baits
It will drag us to our tombs
Rip out our mothers’ womb
As long as lives are a show
All this hate will never stop
And the man who once spoke
Meant nothing but a joke
While the one who didn’t speak
Meant his soul to release
Of all those who said a word
Hate the one whose word was false

The black sun can never die
In the heart of the human kind
’cause the tragedy just waits
To be caused and wants live baits
It will drag us to our tombs
Rip out our mothers’ womb
As long as lives are a show
All this hate will never stop
And the man who once spoke
Meant nothing but a joke
Hate!

From the EP Aradia, by Strega.
Lyrics by Delia Morrigan.
Music by Petri Lahti-Nuuttila and Delia Morrigan.

Cover illustration by Valentina Ferraro and Michele Spanò.

April 27

BOB



And I… I… I… I… I…
I am the king
Turning into nightmares all of your dreams
’cause I… I… I… I… I…
Can see the fire that burns deep between your little tighs

And I… I… I… I… I…
I am still here
Because here is where you want me to be
So I… I… I… I… I…
I stay because I know how badly you want remorse

And I… I… I… I… I…
I watch you run
But there’s no way to to do us apart
And I… I… I… I… I…
Can even slip between the pages of your diary

And you close your eyes
But you cannot hide
The forest is the place
For your sweet disgrace
And you can’t deny
I know how to make you cry

And I… I… I… I… I…
I know the price
To make you pay if you you try to hide
And I… I… I… I… I…
I will not go except in case you will come along

And I… I… I… I… I…
Won’t be satisfied
Unless my dear if you’re about to die
And I… I… I… I… I…
know you’ll look fantastic when wrapped in some plastic

And you close your eyes
But you cannot hide
The forest is the place
For your sweet disgrace
And you can’t deny
I know how to make you cry

You will hide among the trees
The owls are not what they seem
Beyond red curtains you will see
My doppelgänger on his knees
You will hide among the trees
The owls are not what they seem
Beyond red curtains you will see
My doppelgänger on his knees
You will hide among the trees
The owls are not what they seem
Beyond red curtains you will see
My doppelgänger on his knees
You will hide among the trees
The owls are not what they seem
Beyond red curtains you will see
My doppelgänger on his knees

And you close your eyes
But you cannot hide
The forest is the place
For your sweet disgrace
And you can’t deny
I know how to make you cry

From the EP Aradia, by Strega.
Lyrics by Delia Morrigan.
Music by Petri Lahti-Nuuttila and Delia Morrigan.

Cover illustration by Valentina Ferraro and Michele Spanò.

April 8

Intervista con Irene Viboras / Interview with Irene Viboras

(English version below)
A volte i sogni si avverano, e finalmente ho avuto la possibilità di intervistare una delle tipe più toste della scena rock italiana, ma non solo: perché i Viboras hanno un sound decisamente internazionale e un’energia che fa paura.
Eccovi dunque l’intervista con la grintosa frontwoman!

Irene, grazie per la tua disponibilità. Sono onoratissima di ospitarti sul mio blog!
Ciao! Scherzi, l’onore è mio.

Come descriveresti in poche parole il percorso dei Viboras fino a qui?
Direi faticoso e soddisfacente, perché tutto quello che abbiamo come band è stato ottenuto con tanto impegno, dedizione e sudore. Non voglio sopravvalutare, è un dato di fatto che una band come la nostra, medio-piccola, se resta ferma rischia di perdersi tutto: devi curare tutto o trovare qualcuno che lo faccia per te, e restare sempre in movimento per non rallentare gli altri. Abbiamo dovuto salutare due dei membri fondatori perché gli impegni si facevano troppo pressanti anche fisicamente, ma ne siamo usciti più che bene con due nuovi musicisti e loro che sono rimasti ottimi amici! E le soddisfazioni sono sempre il triplo rispetto alla fatica, siamo felicissimi e fortunati a fare quello che facciamo.

Qual è la tua maggiore fonte d’ispirazione nel comporre nuove canzoni?
Sempre ciò che succede, ciò che vedo intorno. Le emozioni che provi sono la più grande ispirazione, ti fanno parlare attraverso una canzone anziché tramite le parole e a me risulta particolarmente facile esprimermi così malgrado soffra anch’io a volte dei blocchi (come tutti). Però se c’è una cosa che ti fa proprio uscire fuori dalla grazia di dio urlarla con una schitarrata è di un terapeutico… Hahahah!

Cosa ne pensi della mercificazione del corpo delle donne in ambito musicale? Secondo te riguarda anche la scena rock?
È ovunque, siamo sempre state degli oggetti. Devi sempre dimostrare qualcosa, o di essere una bella ragazza così lo usi come moneta di scambio o al contrario che non sei solo quello. Devi giustificare la tua capacità a fare qualcosa, sprecare le energie a fare quello, prima di poter fare ciò che devi giustificare così strenuamente. È ridicolo. Sarai comunque sminuita, svalutata, non sarai abbastanza, verrà sfruttata la tua appariscenza per ottenere visibilità. E tra i tuoi detrattori ci saranno anche altre donne, per decine di motivi! Ognun* è liber* di fare ciò che vuole, ma la libertà per quelli visti come gli elementi deboli o diversi della società (donne, LGBTQ+, disabili, “strambi” ad esempio) viene intesa come navigare a vista e comunque entro dei limiti.
La musica fa parte dell’intrattenimento quindi certo che capita! In generale la mercificazione probabilmente diventa per molte il modo per usare chi a tua volta vuole sfruttare te; in ogni caso nasce negativa e non può che farti avere cose in modo negativo, è triste però che spesso queste donne non abbiano altra scelta.

Pensi che la musica possa ancora, al giorno d’oggi, essere un veicolo per i valori a livello sociale?
Ovviamente sì, sono cresciuta con canzoni di denuncia sociale e politica e a mia volta ne scrivo. Quando i pezzi parlano di quanto va a gonfie vele la tua vita o quanto hai il portafogli pieno non sono granché, il meglio dell’intenzionalità per me la raggiungi quando hai qualcosa che ti viene dal profondo. Qualcosa più di soldi, oggetti, superficialità.

Ai tempi della tua collaborazione con J-AX, ricordo di aver letto commenti sprezzanti che alludevano al fatto che i Viboras si fossero venduti. Cosa ne pensi dell’elitarismo musicale?
Hahahahhahah, come fanno i Viboras a vendersi se solo uno dei membri fa una canzone popolare? L’elitarismo è l’ennesima forma di discriminazione ed è ridicolo, in ogni sua forma e ambito di provenienza. Non ci appartiene eppure l’abbiamo sofferto e lo soffriamo tuttora perché devi stare nel tuo ambiente, sia mai che ascolti altro o suoni al di fuori di esso: potresti vedere i più fedeli “fan” rivoltartisi contro! Ma sono quelli che vedono la musica come un abito che domani avrà le toppe o gli spike a seconda di cosa va di moda, o che accettano solo fotocopie di vecchie band o canzoni che alla fine hanno una personalità sbiadita e anacronista ma zero mordente.

In che modo pensi che trovarvi in Italia abbia influenzato la vostra carriera?
In tutto! Diciamo che l’Italia non è il paese ideale per il punkrock, o comunque per i generi più independent. Non hai molte alternative al mainstream se vuoi provare a mantenerti con la musica, anzi non ne hai affatto! Siamo nati nell’underground e restiamo nell’underground, chi investe in questo genere ha mollato una decina di anni fa e se non hai un nome più che affermato ti fai un ** così per avere le cose più basilari. Questo in Italia, già in USA (ovviamente) e Germania è diverso ma è comunque cambiato rispetto a 20 anni fa. A fine ’90- inizio 2000 l’aria era diversa anche qua! Ma non ci disperiamo, le cose stanno migliorando e alla fine se non ti dai una mossa te come puoi aspettarti che cambi qualcosa? Dobbiamo essere per primi il cambiamento che vogliamo vedere.

Quanto conta per te la tecnica nella musica?
Hahahah, qua ti volevo. Tanto e niente, non puoi essere una capra ma fare canzoni tecnicamente perfette e fredde non serve a nulla, è puro esercizio di stile per darti le pacche da solo sulla schiena.
Quando abbiamo iniziato sbraitavo e urlavo, non sapevo nulla della respirazione diaframmatica e ci ho perso i polmoni a fare cazzate! Ho preso lezioni, mi sono allenata perché volevo essere all’altezza e per poterlo fare anche tra 30 anni: se non ci pensi il polipo alle corde è dietro l’angolo e addio…però a suonare la chitarra mica mi impegno più di tanto, certo da quando facciamo gli acustici mi ci metto molto più di prima ma onestamente non me ne preoccupo. Non è il mio forte e non voglio fare tutto, a ognuno la sua. A me basta poterci comporre e suonare decentemente.

Cosa avete in cantiere? Cosa dobbiamo aspettarci?
Prima del fermo-Covid stavamo suonando live e lavorando sulla seconda metà del progetto Bleed, un altro EP di collaborazioni per chiudere il cerchio. Ora ovviamente abbiamo dovuto fermarci dalle suonate su palco e ingegnarci per non soffrire l’astinenza! Abbiamo da poco stampato le tshirt e le cassette di “Skeletons” (l’EP di cover uscito a Natale), fatto la prima ristampa di “Bleed” (l’ultimo EP di pezzi nostri uscito un anno fa) e fatto le nuove spillette, vi aspettano tutti sul banchetto quando potremo suonare ancora; stiamo lavorando sui pezzi nuovi e postando sui social una versione acustica al giorno delle nostre canzoni per cercare di salvare l’umore, stiamo lavorando su una canzone registrata a distanza con altri membri di altre band amiche da pubblicare a breve. Appena potremo suonare live incendieremo tutto da quanto fuoco ci scorre nelle vene!

Se potessi scegliere chiunque, con quale artista o band collaboreresti?
Legendary Shack Shakers. Senza pensarci.

Se tutto il mondo ti ascoltasse per un minuto, quale messaggio vorresti lanciare?
Di svegliarsi, smetterla di giudicare e sminuire e invece pensare. Dall’altra parte potevi esserci tu. Non possiamo più nasconderci, essere pigri o strafottenti, stiamo già su una barca che affonda e possiamo limitare i danni, ambientali sociali ed economici. Basta spulciare per ore le stronzate su facebook, basta video da 5 secondi che abbassano la soglia dell’attenzione, basta lasciar parlare i meme per noi! Leggete, parlate, interfacciatevi con conversazioni rispettose e serie e non come leoni da tastiera. Lo stadio evolutivo avanzato l’abbiamo raggiunto ma a caro prezzo, paga l’intero ecosistema, gli animali diversi dall’uomo e anche quell’80% dell’umanità che non ha potere decisionale. La cultura apre le vedute quindi muovete quel cervello e preoccupiamoci di altro rispetto a noi stessi. Viaggiate fuori dal paese, guardate qualcosa diverso da uno schermo e lo capirete da soli, non serve che lo dica io.

English

Sometimes dreams come true, and I finally had the chance to interview one of the most ass-kicking people in the Italian (but not only) rock scene: because Viboras has a definitely international sound and an incredible energy.
So, here is the interview with their gutsy frontwoman!

Irene, thank you so much. It’s a honor to have you as a guest on my blog!
Hi! Are you kidding? It’s my pleasure!

How would you briefly describe Viboras’ path till here?
Difficult and satisfying, I’d say, because everything we have as a band is the result of lots of effort, dedication, and sweat. I don’t mean to give us too much credit, but it’s a fact: if a small-medium band like ours stops, it might lose everything; you need to take care of all the details or to find someone who’ll do it for you, to always keep moving in order not to slow down the others. We had to say goodbye to two of the funding members, because – being so busy – it was all becoming too heavy, even physically, but it went very well, we got two new musicians and we all stayed great friends! And satisfactions are always worth three times as much as the efforts, we are very happy and lucky doing what we do.

What’s your main source of inspiration when creating a new song?
Always what happens and the things I see around. What you feel is the greatest source of inspiration, it makes you speak through a song instead than words, and to me it’s very easy to express myself this way, regardless the fact that sometimes I’ve also experienced moments when I was blocked, just like anybody else. But if there’s something that makes you so angry you might fall from grace, there’s nothing as therapeutic as screaming it hitting a guitar… Hahahahha!

What do you think about the commodification of women’s bodies in the music industry? Do you think it reaches the rock scene as well?
It’s everywhere, we’ve always been considered objects. You always need to prove something: either that you’re beautiful, so that you can use it as a bargaining chip, or that beauty is not everything you’ve got. You have to justify the fact that you’re able to do something, you have to waste energy on that before doing the one thing you so badly need to justify. It’s ridiculous. In any case you’ll be discarded, underrated, you won’t be enough, and they’ll use your looks against you. And among your haters there will be women as well, for many reasons!
Everybody is free to do what they want, but freedom for those who are seen as the weak or different ones within the society (women, LGBTQ+, disabled, “weirdoes” for example) is understood as getting where they can, always within certain limits.
Music is part of the entertainment business, so of course it happens! Generally commodification can become a way for many women to use those who would like to exploit them; in any case it is born as something negative, therefore it can’t bring you anything but negative things. It’s sad anyway that so often these women don’t really have a choice.

Do you think that music can, still nowadays, be an instrument to communicate values on a social level?
Obviously yes, I grew up with songs with strong social and politic contents, and I myself write that kind of songs. When your songs are about how well life goes and how full your wallet is they’re usually not that good; I think that you get the best out of consciousness and communication when something comes from deep inside. Something more than money, objects and shallowness.

I can remember plenty of bitter comments from back at the time when you had a collaboration with J-Ax, claiming that Viboras had become a sellout. What do you think about elitism in the music scene?
Hahahahahahahah, how could Viboras become a sellout if just one of the members has a popular song? Elitism is just another form of discrimination and it’s ridiculous, in any shape or environment. It doesn’t belong to us, but still we suffered and we suffer from it, because you have to stay in your environment; if you dare to say that you play or listen to something else, you might see some of your most “loyal fans” turn against you! But that’s usually the people who sees music as a piece of clothing which tomorrow will be covered in patches or spikes, according to what will be trendy, or the people who only accept copies of old bands and songs, which in the end have a pale and anachronistic personality and no energy at all!

How do you think your career was influenced by being a band based in Italy?
In every possible way! Let’s say that Italy is not the ideal Country for punkrock music, or anyway for more independent genres. You don’t have many alternatives to the mainstream if you’re hoping to pay your bills with music only, or, actually: you don’t have any. We were born in the underground scene and there we stay. Those who invested in this kind of music gave up about ten years ago, and if your name isn’t more than well known you have to really work your ** off, even just in order to get the most basic things. That goes for Italy, in the USA (obviously) and in Germany it’s not as bad, but it’s no longer the way it was 20 years ago. Between the end of the 90s and the beginning of 2000 the atmosphere was different even in here! But let’s not lose all hope: things are getting better; and if you don’t do something, how can you ecpect anything to change? We need to be the change we want to see.

Is technique important when it comes to music?
Hahahahah, that’s a good question. It matters a lot, and at the same time not at all. You can’t be a complete disaster, but at the same time creating technically perfect but empty songs doesn’t lead to anything, it’s just about showing how good you are and patting yourself on the back.
When we started I screamed and shouted, I didn’t know anything about abdominal breathing and I spitted my lungs out a few times thanks to my dumb ass! I took lessons, I exercised because I wanted to be at the right level and I wanted to make sure I’d be able to do it even 30 years later: if you’re not careful enough, a polyp on your vocal chords is right around the corner. But when it comes to playing the guitar, I don’t put so much effort in it; of course, I try to be more careful whenever we play acoustic, but in all honesty I don’t worry about it. It’s not what I do best and I don’t have to be good at everything. I’m happy with playing decently and using it to compose.

What are you working on at the moment? What should we expect?
Before the covid-lockdown we were playing live and working on the second half of the Bleed project, another EP filled with collaborations to close the circle. We obviously had to stop playing on stage at the moment, and to use our brains to avoid suffering from abstinence! We recently printed T-shirts and cassettes for “Skeletons” (our EP composed by covers, which was published around Christmas), we took care of the first reprint for Bleed (our last EP composed by our own songs, which was published about a year ago) and got new pins, which will be there for you after the gigs as soon as we’ll be able to go back playing live; we’re working on new songs and posting daily on social networks acoustic versions of our material, in order to cheer people up; we’re working on a new, long-distance recorded song, with other people from other band, which will be published soon enough. As soon as we’ll be able to have gigs again, everything will burn in the fire we hold in our veins!

If you could pick up anyone, band or artist, who would you like to collaborate with?
Legendary Shack Shakers. Without thinking twice.

If the whole world were listening to you for a minute, which message would you like to spread?
I’d tell people to wake up, to stop judging and discarding others rather than thinking. You could have been the one on the other side. We can’t hide anymore, neither we can be cocky or lazy, we’re all on a sinking boat and all we can do is to limit the damage, in environmental, social and economic terms. Enough with spending hours on Facebook reading about bullshit, enough with 5 seconds-videos reducing people’s ability to focus, enough with letting memes speak for us! Read, talk, approach discussions seriously and respectfully, and not as keyboard warriors.
We reached a very advanced phase in the evolution, but the price was high, the entire ecosystem is paying for it; all those animals who don’t belong to the human race, and even the 80% of the human race which doesn’t have power when it comes to decisions. Culture can open minds, so move your brains and let’s pay attention to something else than ourselves. Travel abroad, look at something else than a screen and you’ll understand, I don’t even have to be the one saying it.


December 11

The Vikings: Who Were They? (3/3)

Between Fantasy and Reality

Besides the image of the Vikings being used by the Nazis in their propaganda, there are several differences between some of the features commonly believed to belong to the Viking culture and what the concrete archaeological evidence suggests.
There is absolutely no proof, for example, that they had the habit of wearing helmets with horns.

There is little evidence about boats having dragonheads, while there are more findings when it comes to dragonhead dress pins.

Runic incision found in Sweden, picture by Gunnar Creutz.
Source: Wikimedia.

The runes, in the popular culture, are nowadays believed by many to be something of Celtic origins, but the Futhark is actually a product of the Viking culture; the mistake is anyway understandable, due to the consistent interactions between the Vikings and the Celts.

The Viking funerals might turn out to be a very truculent event, something very different from the poetic image of a boat burning while slowly moving towards the horizon.
Looking at the Viking burial sites found till now, one of the evident aspects is the fact that – even though there are common elements – there are not two identical burials. There are differences in the positions of the bodies, in the grave goods and in the animals involved.
Back in 1981, in Denmark, the remains of a man and a woman were found; the body of the woman had been crushed in two points by two big boulders.
The osteological evidence makes it clear that the man died very likely by hanging, while it is not known what was the cause of death for the woman.

The man was found with a knife on his chest; the woman had a knife as well. Pieces of sheep crania were spread in the aria between the two bodies. 

Also, an iron spearhead was found, placed close to the right leg of the woman, pointing towards her feet, which is quite unusual; normally, in the Viking burials where spears are found, they are pointing upwards. This might – or might not – mean that in this case the spear was not seen as a proper weapon, but rather as ritual element. 

In other burials, some parts of the deceased had been substituted by animal parts.
We must anyway not take for granted that these were ways to mock or to “punish” the deceased. Due to a lack of written sources, it is still impossible to know for sure which meanings were attributed to these kind of burials, how these actions were seen by the people who attended the funerals and if – for example – the aim some of these rituals might have been to make sure that the dead could not come back. Applying a contemporary moral code or sense of aesthetics to rituals of another era might be extremely misleading, and lead to very poor interpretations.

The Viking Ship Museum, Oslo.
Picture by Larry Lamsa.
Source: Flickr.

It is possible that some parts of the bodies were covered (or even crushed) due to the belief that some evil spirits might otherwise use the deceased to harm the living. The saga accounts and Ibn Fadlān’s narration about a Rus’ funeral, make clear that the Norse were afraid that different spirits might get into human bodies through the orifices, and especially the respiratory passages. This might explain the reason why

Freyja and the Necklace, by James Doyle Penrose (about 1913).
Source: Wikipedia.

the neck of the man was broken and the chest of the woman was crushed, making sure that nothing could come or go through their lungs.
Rather than a way to humiliate the deceased, these procedures might have been a way to protect both the dead and the living. Even though these descriptions are far away from the romantic image of the boat burning, it might therefore be fair to resist the temptation of seeing in this kind of burials some sort of cruelty,  which might have been far from what the people of that time meant.
There is a lot that cannot be known for sure, since unfortunately some aspects of the funeral and of the burial did not leave archeological evidence behind. For example, it is rare to find Viking burials where the fabrics are still quite intact, while fabrics and clothes might maybe tell more about the deceased than the metal objects found do.
Another thing it is not possible to know about, but might have said a lot, would have been the way the beards and the hair of the deceased were treated.

Conclusion

In this article I wrote shortly about some of the aspects known  about the Viking life and identity. I wrote about the possible origins of their name, along with its possible original meanings, mentioning some incisions found in Sweden that might help understanding these aspects.
I wrote about how – using a pseudoscientific approach – the Nazi propaganda in Germany and Norway tried to re-write the history of the Vikings, especially when it came to their origins, failing to search for the truth, preferring instead desperate attempts to find confirmations of the story the nationalist extremists wanted to tell, starting already in the end of the nineteenth century.
I also pointed at how the portrait of the Vikings has been changing through the time, as a mirror of the society portraying them, talking briefly about the limits imposed to the research by the lack of gender and ethnic plurality among the researchers till recent times.
I shortly debunked some ideas about the Vikings which are still common in the popular culture, but not supported by the archaeological evidence, nor by the few written sources. Doing this, I tried to make clear how both the image of the Vikings as cruel, bloodthirsty warriors and  – on the other hand – the image of them as a utopian, peaceful and egalitarian community, are partial and potentially misleading.

Sources

  • The History of Finland (Jason Lavery, 2006)
  • Viking warrior women? Reassessing Birka chamber grave Bj.581 (Neil Price, Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, Torun Zachrisson, Anna Kjellström, Jan Storå, Maja Krzewińska, Torsten Günther, Verónica Sobrado, Mattias Jakobsson & Anders Götherström, 2019)
  • Buried with Honour and Stoned to Death? The Ambivalence of Viking Age Magic
    in the Light of Archaeology (Leszek Gardeła, 2009)
  • Slavery in the Viking Age (Stefan Brink, 2008)
  • Law and Society, Polities and legal customs in Viking Scandinavia (Stefan Brink, 2008)
  • Who Were the Vikings? (Stefan Brink, 2008)
  • “Arierdämmerung”: race and archaeology in Nazi Germany (Bettina Arnold, 2006)
  • “The gleaming mane of the serpent”: the Birka dragonhead from Black Earth Harbour
    (Sven Kalmring & Lena Holmquist, 2018)
  • What This Awl Means: Towards a Feminist Archaeology (Janet D. Spector, 1993)
  • Of Vikings and Nazis: Norwegian contributions to the rise and the fall of the idea of a Superior Aryan Race (from Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Adam Hochman, 2015)
November 28

The Vikings: Who Were They? (2/3)

History as a Mirror

There are mainly two different pictures of the Vikings in the common imagination: one of them as an egalitarian and pacific society, the other one of them as violent warriors, with truculent rites and habits.
None of the two pictures is entirely realistic, neither entirely false.
In the book The History of Finland, the American historian  Jason Lavery wrote that, unlike what is commonly believed, History does not have the tendency to repeat itself, however the past is constantly rewritten.

Sometimes, the topics people focus the most on, can tell more about the people themselves, and about the time they are living in, rather than the topic talked about.

The Vikings belong to the past, they have already played their role in the history of the world, and what happened cannot be modified, therefore the changes in the way they are commonly seen are consequences of the discoveries made and  points of view born only later.
The warrior buried in the island town of Birka, in Sweden, found back in 1878, always was a woman, but tests were not made to find out about it until 2017. The fact that the individual had been buried with weapons was enough for the archaeologists to assume that the deceased were man, despite the fact that stories of warrior women (such as the human Shield Maidens and the supernatural Valkyries) have survived till us and are still very well known.


Obviously, being buried with weapons is not enough for being a warrior, and weapons might have a merely symbolic meaning, but – interestingly enough –this objection was never heard about this specific burial until the deceased turned out to be a woman.
It becomes fairly obvious, considering events like this, how much the context historians, archeologists and anthropologists were born in can influence the popular conception of History, even just through questions never asked.
Until very recent times, the story has been told almost exclusively by white middle class men; the fact that almost no researchers were female – or part of ethnic minorities – has therefore had a very limiting effect on the approach to the data, influencing the formation of common ideas about the past.
The popular conception of History greatly affects the popular conception of the present; it is in fact no coincidence that the Third Reich invested huge amounts of money in pseudoarcheology, trying desperately to find “proofs” of the existence of the Aryan race and of its supposed superiority.
Between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, the line between Anthropology and Archeology was way less clear than it is nowadays. It was very common in the academic world to publish in more than one sector at the time, and it was even more common when it came to searching for the origins of the German people. Anyway it did not take to be against the Nazi regime, to understand how the misuse of research and the tendencious approaches to it were actually hiding the truth, rather than revealing it, standing in the way of proper discoveries.


Already back in 1881 Rudolf Virchow had guided an expedition to the Caucasus, with the aim of finding out about the origins of the Germans, based both on the anthropomorphic and on the archaeological evidence. When he returned from the expedition, he claimed that it was simply impossible to be entirely sure about which tribe could have been the ancestor of the Germans.  He also criticized the will of nationalists to make the Germans look as naturally superior, considering this attempt just as illogical as the claim of the Jews, declaring themselves to be the People chosen by God.
The Germans were anyway not alone in building an idealized image of their ancestors, the Vikings: Kyninstad, from Norway, was a great supporter of the “scientific” racism, claiming that the whole southern part of Scandinavia had been the cradle of the German superior race, born to be free, unlike the other inferior races, whose lives were meant for slavery.
Still back in 1994, in Germany, a Neo-Nazi association was banned; its name was Viking Jugend (German for “Viking Youth”).
 In this environment the image of Vikings as fighters was obviously emphasized, despite the fact that actually the Vikings were also merchants and did not make their living just out of fighting.
On the other hand, around the sixties – far away from the authoritarian propaganda – the image of the Vikings as an equal society was rather popular, while the archeological evidence tends to  describe a very hierarchical social scheme. Nowadays we know that slavery was a reality in the Viking society, even though it might have been not as rigid as it was, for example, in Ancient Rome.

In the Viking era it was apparently quite common for free people to decide to become slaves due to a lack of resources to keep their social status with all the responsibilities it brought.

(To be continued…)

November 26

The Vikings: Who Were They? (1/3)

Picture by Joe Mabel

Introduction

In the human society, the idea of civilization has a lot to do with the

concept of identity.
Who were the Vikings? Why does it still appear to be important to get to know more about them? What are some of the biggest differences between their image in the popular culture and the one suggested by the archaeological evidence?

In this article I do obviously not aim to give an explanation about the Viking identity as a whole, not only but even due to the fact that no group identity and culture is something that can be described in detail in just a few pages. I will rather write about the differences between what we know – or is at least the most logic to suppose – and the image of the Vikings in the common imaginary world, about the reasons why the group of people we nowadays call Vikings still seems to be so crucial regardless how distant in time, and how the reinvention of their culture, along with some prejudices, has stood in the way of understanding the reality, conditioning the interpretation of the data, starting from the very questions asked. I will analyze briefly what we know about them, based on the archaeological evidence found till the present moment, how the Vikings have been portrayed in different moments of History, as a mirror of the society portraying them, how their image has been used by the nazi propaganda – thanks to pseudoscience – in order to promote the idea of a superior race, the stigma this still brings upon the idea of Vikings in the contemporary world, and what is otherwise their role in nowadays popular culture.

To be or not to be… a Viking?

The origin of the word “Viking” is still unclear and therefore discussed.
Some of the possible terms it might derive from, have anyway much to do with  being a foreigner, coming from somewhere else or travelling. Some examples are: víkingr (usually translated from Old Scandinavian as “sea warrior”), víking (“military  expedition”, usually over the sea, in Old Scandinavian) and varjag (which, in the East, was a term to talk about the people coming from Sweden). In Väster-götland (Sweden), an inscription was found; there is written that a man called Toli was killed in the west while in viking (“varþ dauþr a vestrvegum i vikingu”). Another inscription found in Skåne (once again, Sweden) says that several men became famous due to the expeditions they took part to (“Þer drængiar waru w[iþa] [un]esir i wikingu”). 

The etymology of the term, its original meaning, is the topic which still raises more discussions.
One of the hypothesis is that the therm “viking” might come from Viken, the name of a huge bay close to Oslo; in this case “viking” would indicate “those who come from Viken”.
Another possibility is the fact that the word might come from vik (meaning “bay”), therefore portraying the Vikings as the people living around bays.
Another interpretation is that the word “viking” might partly be composed of wic, the Germanisation of vicus (“harbour” or “place of

trade”, in Latin). This interpretation has been largely favored in times when the image of the Vikings as warriors was not so liked or welcome, since it supports the idea of them being pacific merchants, rather than cruel warriors.
One more hypothesis is that “Vikingcould be related to vika (“a distance at sea”), hence a week (a period or section), indicating therefore a distance that one could row in the time between two pauses.
Another possibility is that the word “Viking” could be connected to víkja (to move, to walk or to travel), portraying the Vikings simply as people who have left home and travelled.
At the moment there is still no way to know for sure about the meaning this word originally had, but it seems fairly logic to suppose that a víkingr (“sea warrior”) who was out in víking (“military expedition over the sea”) was probably not just a peaceful merchant, and that the meaning is somehow also connected to being a warrior.

Luckily, there are anyway also things about which more precise information is available.

The vikings came from Scandinavia; the beginning of the Viking era is usually set at the year 793, with the attack at the monastery of Lindisfarne, while the end of it is set at the year 1066, when king Harold defeated king Haraldr Harðráði; it is anyway always good to remember that the division of History in periods and eras is just an academic construction, something created to make it possible to analyze, remember and study deeply different events and phenomena happened along the path of the human race. The Vikings did obviously not know that they were living the Viking era, and they did not think of themselves as Vikings, just as much as the inhabitants of Athens, Sparta and all the other poleis did not think of themselves as Greeks, and could not know that they would have looked so similar and so close from the point of view of people who would have been born only thousands of years later.
According to the same logic, all the people we nowadays identify as Vikings did not suddenly disappear in 1066, since the reality is made rather of shades than of strict schemes and straight lines.

(To be continued…)

August 22

Il Nostro Cancro ai Polmoni – Our Lung Cancer

(English version below)

Fotografia di Matt Zimmerman .

Nella tragedia, sono perlomeno felice di vedere che molti miei contatti siano genuinamente preoccupati dei terribili incendi in Siberia e in Amazzonia. Abbiamo ha un cancro aggressivo ai polmoni, amici miei. Però, ci sono due “però”:

1 – Ci piace pensare che i media, le case discografiche, le case editrici e via dicendo vogliano istupidirci. Potrebbe essere vero, però quel che vogliono maggiormente è fare soldi, ergo: semplicemente non credono che alla gente interessino abbastanza gli incendi, o che questi siano titoli adatti a vendere. Forse, e dico forse, sarebbe il caso di rivolgere noi per primi l’attenzione anche a tematiche che non riguardino questo o l’altro stronzo in politica.

2 – Bello indignarsi, però bisogna fare qualcosa. Sì, dovrebbe pensarci la politica, ma se vedo un bambino che sta affogando e il bagnino se ne frega, provo a chiedergli aiuto ma lui a stento alza gli occhi dal cellulare per darmi dell’esagerata, prima faccio quello che posso per salvare il bambino; il culo al bagnino lo faccio più tardi.
Cosa possiamo fare?

Possiamo utilizzare http://ecosia.org .
Un semplice motore di ricerca, come Google o Yahoo, ma utilizza i profitti per piantare alberi.

Possiamo donare ad Amazon Watch. 
https://amazonwatch.org/donate
Lo so, non sono ricca nemmeno io, ma siamo onesti: se abbiamo un tetto sopra la testa, cibo in tavola e una connessione a internet, probabilmente abbiamo anche un euro o due da donare per una causa di letteralmente vitale importanza. Ci sono cifre suggerite, ma si può anche decidere da sé. Sul serio: doniamo anche solo un euro, ma facciamolo davvero. Non è beneficenza, né carità: si tratta di curare il nostro cancro ai polmoni.

English

Picture by Matt Zimmerman.

Despite the tragedy, I must say that I’m very glad to see that some of my contacts are genuinely concerned about the terrible fires in Siberia and in the Amazon Rainforest. We are affected by an extremely aggressive lung cancer, friends of mine. But, I’m gonna say “but” twice:

1- We like to think that the social media, the record labels and the publishing houses want to make us dumb. That might be true, but what they want the most is to make money, therefore: they simply don’t believe that people are interested enough, or that those would be good titles in order to sell. Maybe, just maybe, we should start paying attention also to other topics than asshole politicians.

2- Yes, it’s good to be angry, but we need to do something. Yes, politics should do something about it, but if I saw a child drowning, the lifeguard didn’t care, I tried to get him to help the child, but he barely raised his eyes from the phone saying that I shouldn’t overreact, I’d first do whatever I could to save the child, and only later I’d take care of kicking the lifeguard’s ass.

So, what can we do?

We can start using http://ecosia.org .
It’s a research engine, just like Google or Yahoo, but they use their profits to plant trees.

We can donate to Amazon Watch: https://amazonwatch.org/donate .
Yes, I know, I’m not rich as well, but let’s be honest: if we have a home, food on the table and an internet connection, we are very likely in the position to donate one or two euros for what is literally a matter of life and death. They suggest some numbers, but it’s possible to just decide how much to give. Seriously: let’s donate even just a single euro, but let’s do it for real. It’s not charity: it’s about curing our own lung cancer.

June 25

Tutto ciò che Michael è stato – What Michael was to me



Picture by Daniele Dalledonne

(English version below)
Questo è un tasto che in pubblico tendo a toccare raramente, semplicemente perché penso che in pochi possano capire. Il nostro mondo quotidiano è troppo suddiviso fra i “qualcuno” e i “nessuno”, fra famosi e non, troppo gretto e schiavo della praticità perché si possa comprendere l’amore per una persona mai incontrata, se non archiviandolo sotto il nome di fanatismo.
Per me, Michael non è stato solo il poster appeso in camera, tantomeno è stato esclusivamente fonte di ispirazione artistica. Michael mi ha insegnato che la guerra è una truffa su scala globale, mi ha insegnato – purtroppo arrivando a rimetterci la pelle – come i giornali mettano in luce solo i dettagli utili alla vendita, servendo il dio denaro e fregandosene della verità. Mi ha insegnato che se sei “strano” agli occhi della massa sei già colpevole, e che non importa quanto il tuo sguardo sia onesto, i più si fermeranno a domandarsi quanti interventi di chirurgia plastica tu abbia subito. Mi ha insegnato che, nonostante la generosità possa avere un prezzo altissimo, è giusto e doveroso fare ciò che si può per guarire il mondo. Attraverso la sua solitudine, mi ha insegnato che l’isteria di chi dice di amarti può diventare la più scomoda delle gabbie. Mi ha insegnato che si può essere feriti senza smettere di contenere, nel proprio sorriso, tutta la luce del mondo.
Lui era il contrario del filo dell’aquilone: il mondo cercava di trascinarmi a terra, fra bullismo, cattiveria, superficialità e ignoranza, ma lui mi faceva volare alto.
Il diario dei miei quattordici anni era una serie di lettere d’amore rivolte a lui, scritte con una penna argentata.
A chi ancora in qualche modo riesca a nutrire dubbi sul suo conto, consiglio semplicemente di ascoltare i racconti dei suoi figli e dei suoi nipoti. Certo, non soddisfano la voglia di inquisizione, ma sono un toccasana per quella di verità.

(English)

This is a topic I tend to talk very little about in public, simply because I believe that only a very few people can actually understand. Our daily life is too strongly divided between the “somebodies” and the “nobodies”, between famous and common people, too crass and slave to convenience in order to understand love towards someone never met, if not by labelling it as fanaticism.
To me, Michael was not only the poster hangin on a wall, neither just a source of artistic inspiration. Michael taught me that war is fraud on a global scale, and he also taught me – paying with his life – that newspapers only focus on the details that will make them sell, serving the almighty dollar and not caring at all about the truth. He taught me that, if you’re “weird”, in the eyes of the mass you’re already guilty, and that regardless how honest your eyes might be, most people will just wonder how many times did you have plastic surgery. He taught me that, regardless how high the price of generosity might be, it’s right and it’s our duty to do everything possible in order to heal the world. Through his solitude, he taught me that the hysteria of those who say that they love you can become the most uncomfortable cage. He taught me that you might be hurt, but that doesn’t mean that your smile will stop being the reflection of all the light in the world.
He was just the opposite of a kite string: the world tried to bring me down, with bullies, meanness, shallowness and ignorance, but he made me fly.
When I was fourteen years old, my diary was a series of love letters for him, written with silver ink.
And for those who still have doubts about him: I highly suggest listening to what his children and his nephews have to say. It won’t soothe the thirst for inquisition, but it will definitely soothe the one for truth.

June 10

Indiana Croft II

(English version below)

Fra i buon propositi per questo scavo c’era quello di scrivere un post al giorno.
Certo, come no?
Non avevo idea di quanto uno scavo archeologico possa assorbire completamente persino una semplice studentessa come me!
Si scava, si scava, si scava, si setaccia e si setaccia ancora, si trova, si imbusta con le dovute informazioni, si ricomincia da capo. Si torna alla base lerci e la doccia non basta; terra nel naso, sotto le unghie, nelle orecchie, probabilmente anche nell’anima, ma una crema esfoliante per l’anima ancora nessuno l’ha inventata. Una volta più o meno ripuliti, ci si ritrova a parlare ancora di un’archeologia. La versione nobile e culturale della febbre dell’oro.
La scorsa settimana, qui a Pirkkala, è volata via fra centinaia di frammenti di ossa animali ritrovati. Nella foto, tengo in mano una perlina di vetro dipinta, da me dissotterrata, risalente probabilmente alla tarda età del ferro.

Un paio di giorni dopo io ed una mia collega abbiamo trovato un cucchiaio d’avorio, lei la “testa”, io il manico.
Pian piano cominciamo a scoprire grosse pietre e legno; si tratta forse di un qualche tipo di struttura?

(English)

Among my good intentions for this excavation, I was hoping to write a post a day.
Yeah, sure!
I had absolutely no idea that an excavation could keep so incredibly busy even a simple student such as myself!
You dig, dig and dig more, you sift and sift again, put everything in bags with the needed information, then start it all over again.
You return to the base covered in dirt and a shower is not enough; earth in your nose, ears and probably even in your soul, but so far no scrub creams have been invented for our spirits. After getting more or less clean, you keep on talking about archeology. A noble and cultured version of the gold rush.
Last week, here in Pirkkala, a week flew among hundreds of fragment of bones found. In the picture I’m holding a painted glass bead I dug out, probably from the late Iron Age.

A couple of days later, one of my mates and me found a spoon made out of bones, she found the “head”, while I found the handle.
We’re slowly starting to uncover big stones and wood; is it some sort of structure?