Happy 2021!

There is always an unexpected point in a celebration where an embarrassed silence falls for a moment.
Then a tiny crack of uncertainty opens, in which the diners seem to realize the futility of the party itself. It’s just a small treacherous blow, under the belt of smiles and jokes, an imperceptible hesitation from which we recover immediately.
But as a boy I hated parties and secretly enjoyed those moments of estrangement: “Human beings have been partying for centuries, for millennia, but what the hell is there to celebrate? Don’t they see the cosmos out there, how scary and cold and terrible it is? ”
Perhaps, I said to myself – with the classic haughtiness of the adolescent who thinks he’s the first to notice certain things – perhaps it is precisely in order not to see the void, to dispel the thought of nonsense, that these pathetic fools dance and they shout and laugh like madmen!

It took me a shamefully long time, and a lot of effort, to get over this thought. To admit the colossal courage necessary for the affirmation of joy; to understand the mystery, still alive today, of the ancient Dionysian fury; to recognize that the urgency of dance is just as powerful as the need for poetry.

This year that we are denied any kind of partying, its cardinal importance is even more evident: the flesh itself seems to claim its right to be unleashed, released.
My wish, therefore, for anyone who is reading, is to soon go back to dancing together, each following their own rhythm – unique, funny, deviant, rambling, capricious, clumsy or irregular … in the face of convention, but also in the face of that universe we imagine to be cold and inhospitable.

Perhaps, dancing for no reason is just what the stars have always been doing.



The Mysteries of Saint Cristina

(English translation courtesy of Elizabeth Harper,
of the wonderful All the Saints You Should Know)


Two days ago, one of the most unusual solemnities in Italy was held as usual: the “Mysteries” of Saint Cristina of Bolsena, a martyr who lived in the early fourth century.

Every year on the night of July 23rd, the statue of St. Cristina is carried in a procession from the basilica to the church of St. Salvatore in the highest and oldest part of the village. The next morning, the statue follows the path in reverse. The procession stops in five town squares where wooden stages are set up. Here, the people of Bolsena perform ten tableaux vivants that retrace the life and martyrdom of the saint.

These sacred representations have intrigued anthropologists and scholars of theater history and religion for more than a century. Their origins lie in the fog of time.


In our article Ecstatic Bodies, which is devoted to the relationship between the lives of the saints and eroticism, we mentioned the martyrdom of St. Cristina. In fact, her hagiography is (in our opinion) a masterful little narrative, full of plot twists and underlying symbolism.

According to tradition, Cristina was a 12-year old virgin who secretly converted to Christianity against the wishes of her father, Urbano. Urbano held the position of Prefect of Volsinii (the ancient name for Bolsena). Urbano tried every way of removing the girl from the Christian faith and bringing her back to worship pagan gods, but he was unsuccessful. His “rebellious” daughter, in her battle against her religious father, even destroyed the golden idols and distributed the pieces to the poor. After she stepped out of line again, Urban decided to bend her will through force.

It is at this point the legend of St. Cristina becomes unique. It becomes one of the most imaginative, brutal, and surprising martyrologies that has been handed down.

Initially, Cristina was slapped and beaten with rods by twelve men. They became exhausted little by little, but the strength of Cristina’s faith was unaffected. So Urbano commanded her to be brought to the wheel, and she was tied to it. When the wheel turned, it broke the body and disarticulated the bones, but that wasn’t enough. Urban lit an oil-fueled fire under the wheel to make his daughter burn faster. But as soon as Cristina prayed to God and Jesus, the flames turned against her captors and devoured them (“instantly the fire turned away from her and killed fifteen hundred persecutors and idolaters, while St. Cristina lay on the wheel as if she were on a bed and the angels served her”).


So Urbano locked her up in prison where Cristina was visited by her mother – but not even maternal tears could make it stop. Desperate, her father sent five slaves out at night. They picked up the girl, tied a huge millstone around her neck and threw her in the dark waters of the lake.

The next morning at dawn, Urbano left the palace and sadly went down to the shore of the lake. But suddenly he saw something floating on the water, a kind of mirage that was getting closer. It was his daughter, as a sort of Venus or nymph rising from the waves. She was standing on the stone that was supposed to drag her to the bottom; instead it floated like a small boat. Seeing this, Urban could not withstand such a miraculous defeat. He died on the spot and demons took possession of his soul.

Cristina Sul Lago_small

But Cristina’s torments were not finished: Urbano was succeeded by Dione, a new persecutor. He administered his cruelty by immersing the virgin in a cauldron of boiling oil and pitch, which the saint entered singing the praises of God as if it were a refreshing bath. Dione then ordered her hair to be cut and for her to be carried naked through the streets of the city to the temple of Apollo. There, the statue of the god shattered in front of Cristina and a splinter killed Dione.

The third perpetrator was a judge named Giuliano: he walled her in a furnace alive for five days. When he reopened the oven, Cristina was found in the company of a group of angels, who by flapping their wings held the fire back the whole time.

Giuliano then commanded a snake charmer to put two vipers and two snakes on her body. The snakes twisted at her feet, licking the sweat from her torments and the vipers attached to her breasts like infants. The snake charmer agitated the vipers, but they turned against him and killed him. Then the fury and frustration of Giuliano came to a head. He ripped the breasts off the girl, but they gushed milk instead of blood. Later he ordered her tongue cut out. The saint collected a piece of her own tongue and threw it in his face, blinding him in one eye. Finally, the imperial archers tied her to a pole and God graciously allowed the pains of the virgin to end: Cristina was killed with two arrows, one in the chest and one to the side and her soul flew away to contemplate the face of Christ.


In the aforementioned article we addressed the undeniable sexual tension present in the character of Cristina. She is the untouchable female, a virgin whom it’s not possible to deflower by virtue of her mysterious and miraculous body. The torturers, all men, were eager to torture and punish her flesh, but their attacks inevitably backfired against them: in each episode, the men are tricked and impotent when they’re not metaphorically castrated (see the tongue that blinds Giuliano). Cristina is a contemptuous saint, beautiful, unearthly, and feminine while bitter and menacing. The symbols of her sacrifice (breasts cut off and spewing milk, snakes licking her sweat) could recall darker characters, like the female demons of Mesopotamian mythology, or even suggest the imagery linked to witches (the power to float on water), if they were not taken in the Christian context. Here, these supernatural characteristics are reinterpreted to strengthen the stoicism and the heroism of the martyr. The miracles are attributed to the angels and God; Cristina is favored because she accepts untold suffering to prove His omnipotence. She is therefore an example of unwavering faith, of divine excellence.

Without a doubt, the tortures of St. Cristina, with their relentless climax, lend themselves to the sacred representation. Because of this, the “mysteries”, as they are called, have always magnetically attracted crowds: citizens, tourists, the curious, and groups arrive for the event, crowding the narrow streets of the town and sharing this singular euphoria. The mysteries selected may vary. This year on the night of 23rd, the wheel, the furnace, the prisons, the lake, and the demons were staged, and the next morning the baptism, the snakes, the cutting of the tongue, the arrows and the glorification were staged.







The people are immobile, in the spirit of the tableaux vivant, and silent. The sets are in some cases bare, but this ostentatious poverty of materials is balanced by the baroque choreography. Dozens of players are arranged in Caravaggio-esque poses and the absolute stillness gives a particular sense of suspense.



In the prison, Cristina is shown chained, while behind her a few jailers cut the hair and amputate the hands of other unfortunate prisoners. You might be surprised by the presence of children in these cruel representations, but their eyes can barely hide the excitement of the moment. Of course, there is torture, but here the saint dominates the scene with a determined look, ready for the punishment. The players are so focused on their role, they seem almost enraptured and inevitably there is someone in the audience trying to make them laugh or move. It is the classic spirit of the Italians, capable of feeling the sacred and profane at the same time; without participation failing because of it. As soon as they close the curtain, everyone walks back behind the statue, chanting prayers.










The scene with the demons that possess the soul of Urbano (one of the few scenes with movement) ends the nighttime procession and is undoubtedly one of the most impressive moments. The pit of hell is unleashed around the corpse of Urbano while the half-naked devils writhe and throw themselves on each other in a confusion of bodies; Satan, lit in bright colors, encourages the uproar with his pitchfork. When the saint finally appears on the ramparts of the castle, a pyrotechnic waterfall frames the evocative and glorious figure.









The next morning, on the feast of St. Cristina, the icon traces the same route back and returns to her basilica, this time accompanied by the band.











Even the martyrdom of snakes is animated. The reptiles, which were once collected near the lake, are now rented from nurseries, carefully handled and protected from the heat. The torturer agitates the snakes in front of the impassive face of the saint before falling victim to the poison. The crowd erupts into enthusiastic applause.












The cutting of the tongue is another one of those moments that would not be out of place in a Grand Guignol performance. A child holds out a knife to the executioner, who brings the blade to the lips of the martyr. Once the tongue is severed, she tilts her head as blood gushes from her mouth. The crowd is, if anything, even more euphoric.













Here Cristina meets her death with two arrows planted in her chest. The last act of her passion happens in front of a multitude of hard-eyed and indifferent women, while the ranks of archers watch for her breathing to stop.










The final scene is the glorification of the saint. A group of boys displays the lifeless body covered with a cloth, while chorus members and children rise to give Cristina offerings and praise.











One striking aspect of the Mysteries of Bolsena is their undeniable sensuality. It’s not just that young, beautiful girls traditionally play the saint, even the half-naked male bodies are a constant presence. They wear quivers or angel wings; they’re surrounded by snakes or they raise up Cristina, sweetly abandoned to death, and their muscles sparkle under lights or in the sun, the perfect counterpoint to the physical nature of the passion of the saint. It should be emphasized that this sensuality does not detract from the veneration. As with many other folk expressions common in our peninsula, the spiritual relationship with the divine becomes intensely carnal as well.







The legend of St. Cristina effectively hides an underlying sexual tension and it is remarkable that such symbolism remains, even in these sacred representations (heavily veiled, of course). While we admire the reconstructions of torture and the resounding victories of the child martyr and patron saint of Bolsena, we realize that getting onstage is not only the sincere and spontaneous expression in the city. Along with the miracles they’re meant to remember, the tableaux seem to allude to another, larger “mystery”. These scenes appear fixed and immovable, but beneath the surface there is bubbling passion, metaphysical impulses and life.


La festa delle teste surrealiste

Che la famiglia Rothschild si trovi da sempre al centro di speculazioni e teorie del complotto non deve stupire, dato che per un lungo periodo è stata probabilmente la più ricca e influente dell’intero pianeta, prima che l’immenso patrimonio della casata venisse suddiviso fra centinaia di eredi. A causa dell’impero bancario, e della impenetrabile riservatezza delle loro vite private, i Rothschild si sono dunque attirati il rancore e le accuse di chi è convinto che dietro ai grandi sconvolgimenti storici debba per forza esservi un’élite di grandi potenti che dominano le sorti del mondo.


La branca francese della famiglia contava fra i suoi membri il Barone Guy de Rothschild, che nel 1957 convolò in seconde nozze con la Baronessa Marie-Hélène. Più giovane di lui di 18 anni, la Baronessa si assunse l’incarico di rimettere a nuovo la loro residenza, Château de Ferrières, il più grande castello del XIX Secolo, nel quale suo marito aveva trascorso la giovinezza.

Una cosa è certa, Marie-Hélène ci sapeva fare: in pochissimo tempo il castello divenne il posto più “in” ed esclusivo d’Europa. La Baronessa vi organizzava dei lussuosissimi ricevimenti, sfarzosi party mondani a cui partecipava ovviamente l’alta nobiltà, ma anche attori, artisti, letterati, musicisti: fra i più celebri habitué delle feste dei Rothschield si ricordano Salvador Dalì, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, Liz Taylor.
Queste serate erano spesso a tema, e una volta definito l’argomento venivano ingaggiati stilisti del calibro di Yves Saint Laurent per disegnare scenografie e abiti.

Come dicevamo, i Rothschild hanno sempre mantenuto un profilo riservato. Di conseguenza, poco o nulla è trapelato di queste tanto vagheggiate notti di eccessi e di sontuosità. Eppure il 12 dicembre del 1972 i Baroni Guy e Marie-Hélène de Rothschild tennero la più incredibile delle loro feste e, fortunatamente, di questo evento sono arrivate fino a noi delle fotografie davvero straordinarie.

Già i biglietti di invito preannunciavano una serata inusuale: le parole sul cartoncino, scritte all’incontrario e leggibili soltanto utilizzando uno specchio, facevano capolino da alcune nuvole dipinte. Dicevano semplicemente: Cravatta nera, abiti lunghi, e teste surrealiste.


Al loro arrivo, gli invitati si trovarono di fronte un Château de Ferrières che sembrava in fiamme: l’illuminazione era stata studiata per simulare il divampare di un gigantesco incendio.




All’interno, i servitori erano vestiti da gatti, e fingevano di dormire sui gradini della grande scalinata. Ragnatele finte adornavano le pareti dei corridoi, bambole rotte e strani segnaposti accoglievano i commensali nella sala da pranzo. Ma il vero tableau vivant erano gli ospiti stessi.





Ci fu chi si vestì, come l’attrice Jacqueline Delubac, da quadro di Magritte; chi sfoggiava facce o teste doppie, come il Barone Alexis de Redé; chi, come Audrey Hepburn, si presentò con una gabbia per uccelli in testa; e ovunque fantasie floreali, accostamenti bizzarri, copricapi impossibili. La Baronessa Marie-Hélène indossava una maschera di cervo che piangeva lacrime di diamanti. Ma senza dubbio la testa più genuinamente “surrealista” fra tutte era quella di Salvador Dalì, che proprio per questo motivo arrivò vestito con un normalissimo frac.






Guardando questa barocca e appariscente sfilata di costumi viene da chiedersi cosa ne avrebbe pensato André Breton, morto sei anni prima. Quando aveva fondato il Surrealismo nel 1924, assieme a poeti e scrittori del calibro di Aragon, Desnos, Éluard, Artaud, Queneau o Prévert, tutto aveva in mente fuorché un manipolo di aristocratici che gozzovigliavano agghindati con maschere assurde e milionarie. Se avesse potuto assistere alla “festa surrealista” dei Rothschild, la sua voce avrebbe certamente tuonato, come aveva fatto tante volte per motivi molto meno gravi, di fronte a questo scempio.





Anche oggi, c’è chi vuole vedere in queste fotografie il declino morale della nobiltà, leggendovi un’atmosfera lugubre e decadente come quella della celebre orgia di Eys Wide Shut, o addirittura credendo di riconoscere simboli satanici, massonici o relativi ai misteriosi Illuminati. Eppure per noi, queste fotografie hanno un sapore particolare. Testimoniano di un’epoca inimitabile, quella a cavallo fra anni ’60 e ’70, in cui ci sembra di riconoscere una spregidicatezza e un senso di libertà sociale e culturale del tutto inedite. C’era una vibrante voglia di osare, di sperimentare in tutti i campi – pensiamo al cinema, all’arte, alla sessualità; ed è emblematico vedere come questa energia fosse arrivata a contagiare, seppure spogliata di qualsiasi profondità e sovversività, anche quella parte della società tradizionalmente più conservatrice.

(Grazie, Marco!)

Buon 2014!

L’anno che sta per finire ha visto un interesse sempre crescente nei riguardi di questo piccolo blog: alcuni nostri articoli sono apparsi su testate sia cartacee che online, e perfino su Swide, il lifestyle magazine internazionale di Dolce&Gabbana (!). Nel caso l’aveste persa, vi segnalo anche questa intervista per il giornale online Mediaxpress.
E quindi, sì, ci sbilanciamo: il 2014 porterà qualche bella novità per Bizzarro Bazar – anche se per il momento non possiamo spingerci oltre nelle rivelazioni. Restate sintonizzati!

Quest’anno, però, è stato per molti difficile e travagliato. Ecco dunque quattro video per cominciare il 2014 con il giusto spirito, ricordandoci di altrettante qualità umane che abbiamo sempre cercato di sottolineare sulle nostre pagine.

1. L’ironia
“Che cos’è il genio? È fantasia, intuizione, decisione e velocità d’esecuzione.” (Amici miei)


2. La fantasia
Anche il momento più banale può trasformarsi in un’occasione per sorridere.


3. L’entusiasmo
Ci scrive Ipnosarcoma: “Da guardare fino in fondo, 4 minuti e 48 secondi ben spesi, e dal minuto 1:34 inizia qualcosa di strepitoso, incredibile. Esistevano davvero artisti così? E che cosa è successo al mondo 70 anni dopo?”


4. La diversità
Be weird, be proud!


Auguri a tutti i lettori di Bizzarro Bazar!


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In India, fra la fine di febbraio e l’inizio di marzo, i colori esplodono nelle strade. Si tratta della festa tradizionale chiamata Holi; due giorni in cui, in modo vagamente simile al nostro carnevale, le regole sociali e le distanze fra le varie caste vengono abolite (entro certi ragionevoli limiti).

I significati simbolici di Holi sono molteplici. Originariamente la festa commemorava un episodio dei Purāṇa, in cui Prahlada resiste alle imposizioni di suo padre Hiranyakashipu e, contro la volontà di quest’ultimo, continua ad essere fedele a Vishnu; a farne le spese è però sua sorella, Holika, che morirà bruciata sulla pira. Al di là delle scritture tradizionali, Holi simboleggia principalmente la fine della stagione invernale e l’inizio della primavera: la terra diviene fertile, si riempie di colori e la vita rifiorisce.

Nel tempo, la festa ha addolcito i suoi tratti religiosi in favore di celebrazioni più popolari, gioiose e spensierate. Nel giorno centrale del Holi, si allestiscono enormi falò di fronte a cui si prega e si canta; in seguito polveri profumate e colorate, e tinozze di acqua similmente tinta e aromatizzata, vengono distribuiti fra la gente. Comincia allora una vera e propria battaglia, folle e selvaggia, in cui gli eccitati partecipanti vengono bersagliati di nuvole variopinte e sgargianti.

E’ davvero un ritorno alla vita, liberatasi dal tetro spettro dell’inverno; e il colore si fa veicolo di allegria, essenza stessa del ringraziamento alla divinità che ci ha donato di godere delle mille sfumature della realtà.

Ecco la pagina (inglese) di Wikipedia sul Holi.

Buon 2012!

Un augurio a tutti i lettori di Bizzarro Bazar per l’ultimo anno che resta a questo pianeta!

Visto che questi saranno i nostri ultimi 12 mesi di vita prima dell’Apocalisse, preconizzata con grande precisione dai Maya e da Roberto Giacobbo, perché non passarli con gioia, allegria, e dimenticando le differenze e i rancori?

E se proprio non volete rassegnarvi, ecco un kit di sopravvivenza che vi terrà al riparo da qualsiasi pericolo. Garantito al 100%, anche perché se non funzionasse non potreste rivalervi sul costruttore.


Buon anno!

Buon compleanno! – II

Ed eccoci qui, Bizzarro Bazar completa oggi il suo secondo giro attorno al sole… e se l’anno scorso ci rallegravamo delle nostre 7000 visite mensili, cosa dire adesso che riceviamo quotidianamente circa 1000 lettori? Oh mio dio, questo blog non starà mica diventando mainstream? Dovremmo cominciare a proporre cartoni animati per i più piccoli e ricette per le casalinghe? Aggiornamenti di cronaca nera e diagrammi sull’andamento delle borse mondiali? Ah, troppa pressione psicologica! Qui bisogna correre ai ripari… Presto, alle urne!

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Bizzarro Bazar ringrazia tutti i lettori che seguono queste pagine con costanza ed entusiasmo, e in special modo tutti quelli che, superando la pigrizia o la timidezza, postano commenti e scrivono email per proporre argomenti, segnalare notizie o anche semplicemente per fare quattro chiacchiere. Stiamo diventando davvero tanti, e la cosa non smette di stupirmi. Ci sono molti più ricercatori di meraviglie, là fuori, di quanto si possa immaginare. E se Bizzarro Bazar può dare un piccolo contributo per farli incontrare, o per riaccendere una curiosità sopita, si tratta di un bel traguardo.

Keep The World Weird!