Alpine avalanche in World War I

My grandfather, Attilio Ciliotta, at 16

My grandfather, Attilio Ciliotta, was born in the Italian Alps, near the Austrian border. At the start of World War I, his older brothers applied to join the elite Alpini Corps. Only Mario, the oldest, was accepted. Attilio, at nine years of age, carried provisions up the mountains to the soldiers.

On an expedition to defend against the Austro-Hungarian army, Mario’s unit was hit by an avalanche. He was the only survivor, living for a week on the mountain, eating lemons, until he was rescued. (The soldiers carried lemons to prevent scurvy, according to my aunt.)

The three brothers emigrated, married, and raised families in the Bronx, where my father was born.

I’m reading the book History Beyond Trauma, by Françoise Davoine and Jean-Max Gaudillière, French psychoanalysts who have found evidence that emotional crises in the present can result from traumas of past generations. They write of how such events as wars break social links and social contracts, and reference points vanish. “People said to be crazy…show us what it was necessary to do in order to survive,” they remark.

The analyst’s role in treatment involves bringing her own past to meet and acknowledge the patient’s inherited trauma. Davoine describes her work with a client she calls Gilda, who was born in the Italian Alps, just over the border from Davoine’s own birthplace in France. Gilda’s father was in  the bersaglieri, Italian mountain troops, during World War II. (Wikipedia reports, “When the Alpini Corps were created in 1872 a strong rivalry arose between the two elite corps.”) Both Gilda’s father and Davoine’s father were the sole survivors of separate massacres by the enemy.

During Gilda’s psychotic breaks, she identified herself with “mother goddesses of the entire world.”

Davoine later learned that “in the regions adjacent to the Alpine Arc, which joined Gilda’s province and the analyst’s on either side of the mountain, ancestral cults had led to witch trials undertaken by the Inquisition in the sixteenth century. The historian Carlo Ginzburg (1980, 1989) has detected here the traces of cults of a Mother Goddess and shamanistic practices coming from Asia.”

When my aunt told the story of Mario’s avalanche, it did not occur to me that the Ciliotta brothers might be subject to the same sense of survivor guilt that I suspect my great-great grandfather felt after his escape from Andersonville Prison during the Civil War. But reading Davoine’s account, I wonder how much buried pain is transmitted from both sides of my family.

I invoke the goddesses and the ancestors—may they help us understand our fate and find strength in knowledge.

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5 Responses to Alpine avalanche in World War I

  1. Marcus O'Really says:

    The energy fields that float in, around and through us…sometimes stuck in us… otherwise hovering around are identifiable and are, indeed, “worked with,” encountered and sometimes disposed of forever. I am reminded of work I did with Jill Purce a couple of years ago during a week long Ancestral workshop near Galstonbury. She and her consort, Rupert (Sheldrake), are long time friends with Bert Hellinger…priest and shaman who worked in Africa as a missionary and developed what is now known as Constellation Theory. It is a method to go back into the energy fields of one’s own ancestry…and..with the support of the group and invoked reverences…to encounter the “hidden things” and shed Light upon them through understanding…thereby dispelling darkness and emptying the polluted waters of stuck emotions and entering, yet once again, the clear ocean of consciousness. Magical stuff.
    Thanks Violet!

  2. Dawn Markle says:

    thank you It makes so much sense to me reading this and the comment. i am feeling trauma history and also wondering how am i going to get through this. Spending time with family brings up soo much pain its all there, the past that i never even experienced my self, with a gooey sludge that permeates our lives. Thank god we have some happy moments but i do have to admit at this very moment i am feeling a little resentful that i seem (to me) to be the only one admitting this stuff. My constellation sucks

  3. visnow77 says:

    Glenn says there are specific rituals designed to clear out this kind of ancestral trauma. Perhaps we can move in that direction this spring–
    Good luck with the constellation–

    • Dawn Markle says:

      that sounds like a good idea to me, really good! i am doing some great work here in florida. found a group of women that just spark so much revelation for me, some times i am amazed that i am actually starting to change a little and communicate better. I am looking forward to sharing and being with my tribe again in NY in March.

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