The novel The Strega and the Dreamer is set in the Village of Torre dei Passeri in the Abruzzi region of Italy, called La Tor’ by locals. Like many villages in the Abruzzi, La Tor’ is built on the top of a hill. From La Tor’ one has a view of the Apennine mountain range and many other villages sitting on summits of many other hills. Because the town is built on top of a hill, there are steep walkways and trails of long, winding, stone stairs. Walking around La Tor’ nurtures the illusion that the whole world exists on a slant. The Abruzzese develop enormous calf muscles from traveling these slopes daily.
The most prominent feature of the landscape is the Maiella. The Maiella protruds in the distant southeast as a looming and constant purple-blue shadow. Her peak ascends above the other hills and mountains in a way that makes it appear to be the most precious mountain that ever was and ever would be. Its shape is the perfect image of a woman’s breast, nipple and all.
Spiritual pilgrims travel to her many grottoes and caves in retreat. The pulse of the Maiella penetrates La Tor’. In my novel, a villager’s physical orientation is based on the location of the Maiella. When someone has lost their sanity, needs deep healing or is experiencing grief, it is said they need to go “eat the mountain” and remember to whom they belong.
In The Strega and the Dreamer, the main character Eva, the Strega, eats the mountain regularly. She finds herself in need of this ritual often when she moves to New England. In that place she begins to interact with the local mountain called Monadnock. When she is asked by a local of New England how to eat the mountain, she responds:
“First, you look at it. Do you see how it is a womb? Do you see how it is a woman? The womb is the center of power in a woman. That is the first thing, seeing that she is a woman and that she is magnificent.”
Secondly, “You feel yourself drinking from her. Being nourished by her.”
And thirdly, “You look at her. You see yourself as her. You see yourself as the mountain—strong, alive, alone. You feel yourself as her. Others are drinking from you—children, trees, flowers, birds. You see others nourishing themselves from you. You are not diminished in the giving.”
Eating the mountain is a Strega tradition that continues to be a nurturing ritual for us today.
~Theresa C. Dintino