Shamanesses
The secret of the Great Mother
Text by Valeria Gradizzi, Morena Luciani Russo
Photographs by Valeria Gradizzi

Shamanesses

The last rays of sunlight filter through the woodland leaves. Sparks of fire lightly swirl up in the sky. The embers glow, going from grey to red, the wood exhaling its last breaths. The elements of the world meet and are consumed. What is up in the sky falls to the ground, what is on the ground rises to the sky. Nature moves in a continuous cycle. There is no beginning, there is no end. There is only nature.

Out of the woods appear a number of women, their faces framed by thin veils They carry drums and masks. The sign that the ritual can begin. They kneel. A lullaby, gentle at first, then increasingly loud, breaks the silence. The rhythm becomes faster. Voices and percussions merge into one sound. Bodies start to dance with frenzied movements, reaching a climax. The women are one with nature, the Great Mother.

She is the one who whispers magical words to these women in an ongoing dialogue. We turn back to listen to the reality surrounding them: “One voice – we are told – brings men and women together within the world’s most ancient system of knowledge and healing”. Drums play. Bodies dance. Ecstasy envelopes everybody.

Their hands caress everything surrounding them: trees, grass, water. All are memories of an ancestral world, where men and women worshipped the Great Mother, who was everything: she was the earth they walked on, the stars they gazed at as they wondered about mystery, the water that quenched their thirst, the fire that warmed them. It was possible to touch her, the Great Mother. By touching her they also stroked her soul. This is how shamanism was born. Can we give shape to what is simultaneously essence of the material and the immaterial? Her body, so plentiful, began to be inscribed on rock. Vases were crafted and temples built. As it spread, nature became the centre of everything. This is the world one could observe and live in some two thousand years ago.

Slowly, the Great Mother rituals disappeared. Only a few followers continued to practice them passing them on until the present day. Simple dances and archaic words hiding secret meanings and with the power to once again connect human beings with nature. Those women who embark along the path of shamanism believe that humanity must rediscover the true dimension of sacredness and turn to that Mother who was wiped out, they say, “by the genocide of ancient European and Mediterranean cultures”, which led to the submission of women.

This is the core of the matter: to rediscover the Earth and female wisdom, which feeds off spiritual practices stemming from the Earth and its natural cycles. Collective ritual practices which can eradicate the reality of our times, overturning those values on which our society is founded. Starting from women and nature, the mystical theater of this archaic ritual which for centuries man has fled.