Cassiopeia, Artemis and the Female Principle

Time was when the Mother Goddess was an equal manifestation of the God-head in our part of the world, La Controneria. The Greeks named her Artemis, the Romans, Diana and she had her own temple at San Cassiano exactly where the church is now. The floor of that church, indeed, has symbols with arcane references to the Goddess. To this day there is a location near Bagni di Lucca called Ponte a Diana.

Under early Christianity the Mother Goddess was associated with Mary Magdalen, the female principle in the Christ-head. The Ponte della Maddalena is called that precisely because there was a chapel dedicated to the Magdalene by it and one remembers also that the greatest of mediaeval women Matilde di Canossa,whose power equalled and even surpassed that of the emperor, himself ordered that exquisite bridge, that quintessential symbol of our whole area, to be built.


Don’t you feel the extraordinary power enveloping you every time you cross that bridge. The upward ascent ever and ever drawing you higher is not something to be lightly considered – the bridge has enormous influence drawn from the mother earth and the water of the Serchio it crosses with such elegance and affirmation.

Women are far more able to see into the inner eye of the universe than men – they have not yet lost touch with the intuitive power of the universe. They feel more than they know and to this day there are seers, women who can channel the natural forces of the planet and transmit beyond the restrictive power of logic and words, the supernal energy which is the nexus of life itself.

Yet the male principle, confusing his physical strength with his psychic weakness, became threatened in his supremacy and in our area, and indeed the world, daemonized the paranormal power of women.

Female seers, and those who could make contact with the entrails of the earth itself, were labelled as witches and burnt at the stake. As late as the seventeenth century in Lucca women were burnt as witches and thrown into the flames. The Prato Fiorito, that Elysian mountain rising up behind our village, became no longer the haunt of clairvoyants but that of witches and, in the male popular imagination, it still does.

Even the Ponte Della Maddalena became demonized changing its name to the ponte Del Diavolo (or devil’s bridge.)

The creative, indeed, regenerative power of the female principle was gradually but inexorably mutilated in the Christian religion. The priestesses of the ancient Roman catacombs were ousted by patriarchal authority. Even the holiest of nuns today cannot officiate at the Eucharist.


In other parts of the world and with far more ancient religions the female source as one part of an inseparable dichotomy of the creative principle was respected and worshipped with an equality which we understand today in the great Hindu gods: Krishna-Radha, Vishnu-Lakshmi, Shiva-Parvathi.


In Catholicism the female principle has been happily re-emphasised in Mary who is, to all intents and purposes, the mother of God. But Mary Magdalene too is becoming ever more respected as the female manifestation of Jesus himself. Hence that dichotomy which is becoming ever more spiritually felt: Jesus-Mary Magdalene.


It is these firmly felt and firmly held beliefs by the poet, who explained them clearly and succinctly, that marks Maura Bertolozzi’s latest collection of poems, Cassiopea, presented yesterday evening in the Sala Rosa of Bagni di Lucca’s Circolo dei Forestieri.

Why Cassiopeia? It’s because the five brightest starts of that constellation:
a constellation which through the constellationary year veers from a W shape to an M shape, stand for one of five subjects dearest to the poet. These stars are Shedir (spirituality), Caph (water), Ruchbah (friendship), Segin (love) and Achird (memories of infancy).


The evening was opened by our mayor Betti who spoke incisively about how creativity and art can form firm bonds of cohesiveness in any society.

02142016 046

(Maura is third from left)

Luca Guidi, of the Shelley House bookshop and publisher of Maura’s book in his Cinquemarzo publishing press, then gave his opinion of how this beautifully produced book had deep significance for him. He read the poem Lettera d’Amore (my translation follows).

Lettera d’amore

E’ necessario
attraversare gli oceani del silenzio
per raggiungermi

e sconfiggere la paura
le cui nere ombre
s’incollano gelide all’anima

Io sono qui
ti aspetto nel sole
In questa piazza
nella casa oltre l’arco:

A ricamare
con i fiori del coraggio
le pagine dell’amore,
con i fiori della fiducia
le pagine della speranza.

E faccio eterni in me
I languori dorati
di quel giorno di settembre…


Non permettere
che i nostri calici
siano quelli del rimpianto.

(Love Letter

It’s necessary
to cross oceans of silence
to reach me

and overcome fear
whose black shadows
stick themselves icily to one’s soul
suffocating it.

I am here
I’ll wait for you in the sun
in this square
in the house beyond the arch:

to embroider
love’s pages
with flowers of courage,
hope’s pages
with flowers of trust.

And I eternalize in myself
the golden languor
of that September day …

Do not allow
our chalices
to be those of regret.)

The author was then requested to read some more of her poems. Maura started by reading Bagni di Lucca’s own great poet laureate Mario Lena’s appreciative and moving letter to her and then followed a film illustrating one of her poems about the memory water, our o-so precious element, holds.

You can hear Maura’s poem on the voice of the rain at

The evening was very well attended and I felt it was another milestone on the way to truly making Bagni di Lucca the heart of poetry itself.

Without painting we do not see and without poetry we do not hear.

Happy Valentine’s day to all your loves and lovers:




The house of Artemis
raised to the clouds,
the centre of true bliss,
and destroyer of shrouds:

reclaim the land that’s yours,
see the unseen,
open those temple doors,
you, planet’s Queen!

Ephesian goddess,
earth’s prime essence,
your love let me profess
in quintessence.

Upon this day of love
at your altar
where peace’s purest dove
shall not falter

let me kneel down and pray
and with kisses
fill your body’s bouquet:
my Chryseis!


One thought on “Cassiopeia, Artemis and the Female Principle

  1. Pingback: Bagni di Lucca’s ‘Shelley House’ is No More – From London to Longoio (and Lucca and Beyond) Part Three

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