The Cult of the Dead in Sicily: Departure and Return of an Ancient Goddess with Valentina Molozzu

The Cult of the Dead in Sicily: Departure and Return of an Ancient Goddess with Valentina Molozzu


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Can't make this time? A video recording will be sent to all participants after the seminar.

According to Sicilian tradition, on the night between the first and second day of November, the souls of the dead go visiting their loved ones, bringing gifts and sweets to children. The cult of the dead, or veneration of the deceased, is a common cultural pattern in the Mediterranean area. This conversation will deepen participants' understanding of the relationship between ancestor worship in ancient mythology and in modern Sicilian society.

In Sicily, death has always been part of life. For centuries, many Sicilians used mummification to maintain a continuous relationship between life and death. Sicily has the largest concentration of documented mummies anywhere in the world outside Egypt. They are preserved in churches and crypts across the island. Sicilian’s ways of worshiping their ancestors, death-related beliefs and rituals, may seem rather bizarre or even “exotic” to people from Northern Europe and North America.

Our conversation will look at the truth behind the practice of embalming and its origin. To deepen our understanding of death-related Sicilian traditions, we will also look at how ancient rites of passage are deeply connected to the mythology of the departure and return of a fertility goddess, where the ritual is supposed to reflect the annual cycle of nature.

Led by an art historian and archaeologist, Valentina Molozzu, this seminar aims to survey the cult of the dead in both ancient and modern Sicilian society, particularly as manifested through memorial rituals, festivals, and the celebration of ‘The Day of the Dead’.

Born in Northern Italy and raised in the South, Valentina Molozzu moved to Sicily in 2013 to follow her project for the enhancement of the cultural heritage in Palermo. She has a Master's Degree in Art History (La Sapienza, University of Rome), and has also studied in Amsterdam, Rhodes, and Berlin. Licensed Tour Guide since 2009 for Sicily, Rome, and the Vatican City, she has taught Art History and Italian Language for foreigners. She is currently a PhD researcher in Archaeology at the University of Durham, England, writing a thesis about Prehistoric heritage management and the Megalithic sites in Sicily.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 3 reviews
67%
(2)
33%
(1)
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A
Anonymous (Mexico City, MX)

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Anonymous (Porto Alegre, BR)

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L
Lucy H (Hatfield, GB)
Interesting but a little disjointed

Fascinating topic. There was plenty of interest in this presentation, but I didn't feel it quite hung together as a theme. The mummification, for example, seems relatively recent and quite separate from any connection to an earth goddess/Demeter. I would have liked to know much more about the early sources that suggest that paganism was still practiced up to 1400 and beyond.

Customer Reviews

Based on 3 reviews
67%
(2)
33%
(1)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
A
Anonymous (Mexico City, MX)

Guest did not leave comment

A
Anonymous (Porto Alegre, BR)

Guest did not leave comment

L
Lucy H (Hatfield, GB)
Interesting but a little disjointed

Fascinating topic. There was plenty of interest in this presentation, but I didn't feel it quite hung together as a theme. The mummification, for example, seems relatively recent and quite separate from any connection to an earth goddess/Demeter. I would have liked to know much more about the early sources that suggest that paganism was still practiced up to 1400 and beyond.