Selma arrived in the city back in 2013 to specifically see for herself the image in the Duomo of the bare breasted twin tailed mermaid – this creature is associated with numerous stories and legends, and is imbued with symbolic meaning in alchemy. The most common iteration of the siren is as Melusine, a creature from medieval legend. Melusine (sometimes, Melusina) was, according to legend, a beautiful woman with a disturbing tendency to transform into a serpent from the waist down while bathing; it is the discovery of this nature that triggers calamity. Selma shortly after published her first book on the subject.
Two years later she was back in the city – this time researching for a new book on Matilda di Canossa with some startling ideas about the life of Matilde (article here) She has put forward the theory that there is a good possibility that the faces sculpted near to the pulpit in The Duomo are in fact the faces of Matilda, her mother Beatrice and her father Boniface.
This week she was back in the area, visiting some of the small churches to be found in Garfagnana
To celebrate the Summer solstice and full moon she performed a brief ceremony up at the Duomo building a flower mandala which was then packed up and the following morning taken to the Ponte della Maddalena – “Bridge of Mary Magdalene”the bridge crossing the Serchio river near the town of Borgo a Mozzano.
A mandala (Sanskrit: मण्डल, lit, circle) is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Indian religions, representing the universe. In common use, “mandala” has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a microcosm of the universe.
One of numerous medieval bridges known as Ponte del Diavolo, the “Bridge of the Devil”, it was a vital river crossing on the Via Francigena, an early medieval road to Rome for those coming from France that was an important medieval pilgrimage route.
The bridge is a remarkable example of medieval engineering, probably commissioned by the Countess Matilda of Tuscany c. 1080-1100.
Worldwide, interpretation of the summer solstice has varied among cultures, but most recognize the event in some way with holidays, festivals, and rituals around that time with themes of religion or fertility.
Solstice is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still).