Nomadic Tent Design – The mutant forms

Ardabil is an ancient city in northwestern Iran. In 1974 Peter Alford Andrews, who has now been nominated to receive the Burton medal for his work on the Eurasian tent, interviewed the only two Iranian Alachigh makers, They were brothers.

They told him that they were in fact the only two craftsmen who made this specific tent type, legendary because of its elegant curvature and flowing design, a tent that stands alone amongst all the trellis tents of the region, I mean that literally, as it stands alone without a trellis.

The two brothers claimed that the work had remained exclusively the speciality of their family since it was introduced eight generations earlier by Seyyd Bejan, they could name the makers in each of the eight generations.

Alachigh

What a lot of people do not know is about the way it all came about, did you wonder how come the UK has become crazy about yurts? To begin with we all owe the come back of nomadic tent types to a book, that not accidentally bears the same name, the fruit of Peter Alford Andrews’ work. In it he has covered all nomadic tent forms in the Middle East. He and his wife have traveled extensively and lived with the nomads themselves, documenting the tents to the inch, it is a master piece with exact drawing of the frame work, the felts, even the decorations on the door panels. 
Peter, who has become a good friend, never imagined that his work to document nomadic tents before they disappear will catch on like that, but that is exactly the point, for something to catch on it needs to have a story in it, he himself was inspired by a one liner from one of his lecturers who said, “no one has taken tent architecture seriously”.

Stories need to have a core in them, something that catches us, in the same way the American guy who coined the phrase “the Mediterranean diet” he never thought that it will become such a hit few decades later, nor did Thor Heyerdahl ever think that his original “back to nature” idea will become a movement, he even later laughed saying he was probably the first hippie.

Similarly Bill Coperthwaite, who had sadly passed some years ago, never imagined that his experimentations with yurts will ignite the a craze in the US. The point is that good design or good ideas always have some core in them, and all those above share a truth, which is a traditional entity, they are based on the lives of rural communities. Be it Italian peasants, Polynesians sea farers and navigators, and the great nomadic people of the Steppe. Their freedom, their rurality, their traditions are those that ignite this thing in us, the feeling of belonging to a wilder earth.

I have predicted two years ago that canvas tents in the UK will start disappearing and be switched over to cabins or wooden huts, and so does the trend seem to go. Meanwhile in Italy, people can not get enough of yurts, in fact after Covid importers can not even get them, my phone keeps on ringing all day.

Whilst Glamping has gone a little crazy, driven by bigger profits, moving little by little to prefabricated structures, or using some amazing design concepts that some small guy worked out in his shed and copying them into a plastic tent, in an industry where intellectual property has never been regulated all can happen.

The trend however is a move away from making yurts or nomadic tents by hand, away from the craft aspect. We would like to take things back to the original story, having sat with the women who invented the word glamping, or having worked with the first people in the industry, I feel also that the idea has been boycotted and executed in some very strange ways. What it aimed to achieve is to give people the feeling of mystery, the spirit of nomadism, and tribalism yet here in the UK. It was so successful the whole world copied it.

It was never a new concept, the mogul emperors invented Glamping generations before, they had cities of tents, that would put burning man festival to shame, court tents that reached the sky, two story decorated and bejewelled pavilions, cities that travelled.

We decided we would like to first take the concept back to its origins in Peter Andrews work, the idea was to not let those tent forms disappear, to be honest, the main Asian nomadic tent form – the yurt has been covered and done extensively, we would like to focus for a moment on some of the other tent forms in order to save their architectural concepts, more so because those are stories of mutant forms, a tribe or a people that had to redesign away from the rest. The Northern Afghan tribe alliance that translates into the 4 tribes in English, all had a double curvature yurt, some of them claim to be descendent of the Mongol army (the Hazzara) but why are they the only ones to use the double curvature? What was the idea behind its design, why the tall profile and the small wheels?

I have theorised before those are because it was in fact the first western yurt, when mongols moved west and encountered wetter climates, so the higher and smaller wheel could be open (each yurt has open fires in the past) and the form may have helped with smoke.

The same goes to the Alachigh, which like a yurt is a curved tent, but unlike it is only uses ribs without trellis, the genius of the yurt was that it allows for shorter pieces of wood and tied bundles that could be simply opened, in fact there used to be a form of tent that grouped all rafters together with a rope instead of a wheel meaning the roof could be erected like an umbrella almost, again it must have been designed around camels for weight. A lot of those tent design concepts have never seen a return, genius almost, yet now lost.

Afghan yurt concept

The rib tents of the Turkmen were reportedly adopted from older yurts, meaning a poorer couple would inherit the rafters and wheel of an old yurt, possibly when the trellis gave way, or older yurts had the roof only pitched on the ground to serve as an outside kitchen, at a few places those turned into their own design, and possibly this was the way the Alachigh of the Shasevan was born too. The Yomut or Turkmen of Iran, have taken one of those rib tents and made it with especially long rafters, so it turned into a yurt shape without a trellis, but high enough to stand with a wooden door. I would have liked to understand the design concept behind their thinking, and at times the easiest way is to make the structure itself, which we did a few years ago. That led to a break through in tent design but that is something for another time, plus advertising your design concepts for me usually means someone copies them before I get to realise them.

Kutuk tent

I pour over old accounts of travellers and avidly look for the mutant design forms, I think that in the last 10 years the industry have been in a design standstill, no new great concepts were actually introduced, the focus on creating prefabricated forms to keep up with demand has also wiped many of the crafts people who used to make structures for the Glamping industry, and little by little it too started to loose its appeal. The UK has always been the leader in this industry, yet now it lags behind, the passion is gone, and with it the joy of the great outdoors, almost as if people have given up on the country, own sustainability, on adventure.

In short Craft, tradition, great design mixed with natural materials will always work better, creating a story line that grabs the soul, where one can feel the gaze of the qirgiz nomads, a woman brining the hand of a guest to her heart saying you are home in my yurt.

We work with a small group of people who always led this industry, and yeah I feel like we all have gone a little astray because of the need to make a living, yet a new trend in tourism is waking up, like a wave, it wants true freedom. Once we were the only people living on the road, 10 years ago we travelled the UK in trucks seeing no one, yet no van lifers have been born everywhere, people are converting vans all across the country. Working as a non profit association in Europe (mainly Italy) also means I see a constant stream of people leaving the country, looking for rural areas and meaning, and so I know the battle for rurality is not lost, traditional ways of life will always win in the end, you can not bend nature away from itself, at the end it will go back to weather and man, shelter and rain. All this development craze and second homes will pass, it only works because people can not access nature in the UK.

Going back to nomadic tent design, I want to focus more on content, bringing sustainable tourism into being the most important aspect, almost the only way through which we can design rural areas back into community. Yet I want it to happen around the magical stories and some great design concepts.

nomadic tent

I would  like to leave you with an image of one of the greatest craft concepts in nomadic tents, one created by the Nogay.

tent was made like a yurt, except that it was woven, using two big rings around the walls which were fixed, going into a yurt wheel, it was made this way so it could be lifted on and off a small cart, and was only used by the newly wedded couple. This is a great metaphor also for the nomadic tent design and the state of the modern world, because now days the largest of all yurts made are wedding yurts, and the nogay wedding yurt was in fact so small it could be lifted on and off and made intact so it would not need to collapse, a great effort and nomadic tent design now gone. Again I would love to see it remade, in fact the idea behind all of this research is to focus again on making some great nomadic tent design, maybe use some modern materials where applicable but without losing the form and concepts. This amazing little tent can become the best Shepard hut even made.

Soon when time allows I would like to open up the possibility of working and teaching others, so we can together create some of those great tents of the past, we have some great business ideas, enough to allow for at least one or two new independent businesses. This we think would tie very well with the new emerging market of sustainble tourism, imagine moving camps as a safari on rewlibding projects in the highlands, yet done with nomadic tents instead of plastic, imagine arriving at the camp fire, and sitting inside a nomadic tent, the fire is lit, food is served, the magic flows through the wheel, and one can feel the hand of a qirgiz woman almost, going to her heart telling you, you are home inside my tent.

Nogay tent cart

The Mazzeri and the lost religion of dreamers

All over Europe mostly up to the 16th century there have existed remnants of an older “religion”. Historians and anthropologists have now rediscovered the existence of cult practices all over the continent, mostly taken from the witch trials of the 15th and 16th century as they were otherwise almost unknown. 

Like we said in some earlier blog posts elements of those practices are shared by rural communities and are almost identical in character going  from Bulgaria to Scotland, which raises a lot of questions about our understanding of rural Europe of 300 years ago. 

The Mazzeri of Corsica have been brought to my attention by a friend, through the work of Dorothy Carington. In her book called The Dream Hunters of Corsica she goes into length to describe their dreaming hunts.The mazzeri are dream-hunters, who go out at night to kill an animal. They recognize in the face of the animal someone known to them, nearly always an inhabitant of his village. The next day they will tell what they have seen and the person mentioned will die in the space of time running from three days to a year, and always within an uneven number of days. If an animal is only wounded by the mazzere, then the person it represents will meet an accident or illness, but not death.

Why you may ask are old beliefs in “witchcraft” important to us? It is because we lack in understanding of how rural areas function. Our conception of peasantry is taken directly from the witch trials, we view rural areas as superstitious an uneducated, yet the research that has been done on the subject shows something different. It shows that rural Europe was unified. In most cases as an oral based society (because few could read), it shows Europe sharing a similar belief elements which must have been pre christian all revolving around battling for a natural life, taking part in every aspect of nature, from growing crops to weather shamanism, regulating social affairs mental disorders, mini political systems which are the epitome of a natural life. Where those areas are undisturbed even today we find centenarians living, working up to their 90’s. 

Again we may ask so what? Why is it important that our great great grand parents had some bizarre night practices, that they could “double up at night” and wonder in a visionary states, that they could “kill” an animal in those visions which would turn into someone they knew. The importance is not just in that given practice, or any other, of which there are many. The importance is that ALL rural areas were like that, and that our current “educated” stance is in fact what drives us away from being able to live in natural areas. It is also the reason Western Europe has collapsed socially. That new phenomena of social takeover by a ruling class over the beliefs of the population is still the current social order. 

Having worked and lived for 20 years in some of Europe’s most rural areas, I have come to the belief that we do not understand how they functioned. I have worked and taken part in many projects, people striving to build new communities in nature, only to see them fail. Yet the thing they fail on, is not being able to construct community. Spending years in Italy we thought that maybe the problem is the abandon process and lack of economy in the internal parts as they are called, referring to what is mostly the Apennines (because of Italian geography). Our advantage is that we also work with dozens of projects in the UK, and live in Wales. In fact being back in Wales, it seems almost as if any low key social innovation project which is not a business has disappeared. The case in England is much worse. What is going on?

Until not very long ago every village had characters, a butcher and bakery, a stone by the church was the key stone and people would go there to strike deals with each other, and the stone being in the middle of the village would bear witness. Now everything is homogenised. If you live in the city you can not see it, but people who grew up in the countryside all know, it is as if someone have declared a war on rurality, farming itself is disappearing now and no one has an answer to why?

You may have heard of rewilding, and the idea that we are all going to use farmlands for Carbon sequestration. Those are novel ideas, that highlight the fact that actually no one has an idea what to do with the countryside, the same process that has been started in the 16th century by the church and few feudal lords governing over a rural population has almost cleared rural life styles away. In truth the housing market and the rush to buy houses in the countryside which have been blamed for the collapse of rural communities in Britain is just the last step in this process. What is missing is the social core, the belief system that unified each village, a system that was almost universal. 

Do I suggest we learn how to dream and hunt our fellow villagers like the Mazzeri of Corsica used to until the middle of this century, no I do not. I suggest we readjust our compass, and realise that the first point it must aim at is rurality. I also suggest we bring back the myths of the countryside back, and let them create small communities in nature. It all sounds all so very esoteric you may say, but in truth working with a series of small projects for the last 6 or so years, partly through the work of our non profit association Heartland and in many cases because they are our clients, I am vey close to the subject.

Together with a few others, we have come up with a set of tools almost, how to create community, how not to let your expectations of a life in rural areas get ahead of you. We have worked with small scale business plans, peasant bakeries, no irrigation farming, natural forest agriculture and even circular economy. These days I often get contacted by people looking to start a new project, sometimes looking for land in Italy. I would say that between all of our small projects we have a very clear idea of the situation, both in the UK and in Central Europe. There is a gap between the dream and reality, a gap that should not exist. 

One of my friends in Italy has taken it as far as offering his land to new comers, a project he spent 10 years of hard work, I would say that giving someone your house is taking it a little too far, but the point is that from inside those projects one sees land ownership and development very differently, once you have been there and realised that currently the only thing that matters for everyone is that we must build a rural lifestyle again, and that the only way to support life in nature is the rebuilding of rural areas, turning those into balanced zones, protection belts if you want, against the total destruction of nature. You become a soldier to the cause. I would feel the same, owning 12 hectares in Italy, I see that only our small piece of land is a life time of dedication, and from there I can see it all turning around, if only everyone could do the same. 

Once you understand the concept, rural farming practices, is like becoming a natural area scientist, where your job is to find the oldest varieties, to learn to grow food without intervention. When you understand the concept, where livestock become natural again, and you start looking for keystone species, to emulate a natural area that farms itself into biodiversity as nature intended. At this point you understand that the work is endless, and that in truth every moment we are not doing it, and any piece of land that is not taking part in it is like a suicide pact.

I thought we were unique. Living in Italy has woken me up to the fact that peasant farmers did exactly that all through history, each farm was a mastery of natural cultivation, I understood they were exactly like us, each of them understood his connection to the natural system, what to grow and what not to, it is easy if you edit the economic toll out of it, and stop trying to make money out of that piece of land, which is the distinction between peasant farming and agriculture. 

Anyway, this is when I realised that in order to get back into those life styles we must rediscover the central myths that they revolved around, everything I thought I knew seemed very different, witches for example who I always viewed as a fairy tale, but seeing I have come to live like peasant farmers did 300 years ago, I had to ask myself who they were  as if they were my neighbours. “Hang on” I said, what were witches? What actually happened in their lives. From then on I have discovered a whole world of village life which was almost mythical, with dreaming practices in which people would wage wars on their next-door village, weather control, shape shifting. Once you apply it to your own life you suddenly get the scope, they lived and worked a natural lifestyle at each of its elements. 

In her book Dorothy Carington who has written extensively about Corsica theorised that because of the island’s Isolation, it preserved some of the earliest elements of a common practice. The Mazzeri “cult” were night hunters, except that they did so in their dreams. They would enter the hunting dream by “doubling up” (a term many other similar European “cults”, or “witches” use). In their dreaming body they would go on the night hunt. The amazing thing with the Mazzeri was that in the dying glances of the animal they hunted they would see the reflection of a person in their community, a person which would later die, usually within the year.

Like some of their other counter parts from the the mainland, like the Benandati of Friuli, they also would go to battle with neighbouring night dreamers, I think that maybe because they lived on an island they would only do so once a year, where the Benandati would do so four times, at times a Mazzere would die because they lost in the battle, and you can see that going too often presented issues. Unlike the Benandati and others, they did not occupy themselves with fighting over crops, which made Dorothy Carhington argue that possibly their practice precedes the others, possibly coming down through the generation from a time we were hunter gatherers. In what I think is a stroke of brilliance she put through the idea that this practice of theirs, was not really about killing members of their community as much as it was about being part in predicting death, or meeting fate if you want. Somehow they could affect the moment of death for some of their fellow villagers, at times even managing to save their lives, as if some long lost cult of the dead was passed down from generation to generation and the last practicing members could still witness the moment death came knocking on someones door, they enacted that moment as a dream hunt. 

It is hard to understand those practices, especially as most of the accounts we have are written down as witch trials, which are arguably the changing point between an oral tradition to a literary society, it is probably the turning point of when we started losing touch with the core elements of true rurality.

Oral Europe functioned around a central myth, where it seems, any given area had its own dreamers. People in the Middle Ages slept differently to us too, they had two sleeps, after waking up in the middle of the night they would go back into dreams, it is usually then that the double dreams happened. Even so only a small number of people, maybe one or two in any given village would be the ones to have those night battle dreams, and the ability to create the dream body.

Some of the names they have given those people I think relate directly to the act of achieving that double dream body. They were called the night walkers, the women of the outside, the good walkers etc. A lot of the other names they have given themselves otherwise revolve around their function in the community, the good neighbours, the good patrons etc.

Why we can ask, did the community not turn on them, because having people in the midst of a village believed to have the capacity to kill others must have been terrifying. The answer I think was that each village functioned within a continuum in which those people were the makers of rural identity the spinners of a central myth. We can catch a glimpse of the old belief world of another Europe, and a social system that evolved around the natural from the seen to the unknown. We don’t know anything about that other Europe because it is masked behind our own ideas, inherited from the educated elite, in fact we view witchcraft like they did, because that elite has already left their natural and rural lives and existed as a rulers, lords and clergy men, they passed down to us the written records, sometimes by actually wiping out the existence of an oral tradition, a tradition so old it must have been present in the lives of our ancestors before they ever farmed, if they carried it for over 10,000 years they must have had a reason, a system so diffused, every part of Europe practiced it.

The question of why does it matter to us now still remains, the answer is that we have lost the core mechanisms of a life in nature, lost our relation with fate and climate. People in Middle Ages Europe did not simply live in villages like we believe, they had micro cosmos in each village with myriad of tales and legends, with the power to interact with the elements around them – rain and sun, the wind and the success of their crops. At times living a natural rural life and protecting and developing an area meant they could predict the deaths in their community, or in other words they took part in any natural process as if they themselves could also direct it, be it storms or success of their crops up to death death, they had a myth where they would meet fate, in their dreams they would enact any given natural process that was unseen, they could make it hail on their neighbours or fight for the success of their own fields, they took part in nature as a living myth. 

Because of the loss of rurality everywhere in the world and the prevalence of written record, we find it hard to grasp that in truth any true rural community has always revolved around meeting natural forces and working with them, it is not enough for us to think we can create community in nature simply by farming, or even farming organically as a way to return to a more natural life, this magical system is also a myth of sorts that hold a village in unison, it becomes its gossip, the tales of wonder of human achievements, the characters are made from nature, passion, love and magic and turn into the social centre.

I dont know about you, but I have fallen in love, first with taking a piece of land and letting it express itself into its wildest expression, where it grows food through diversity, I am lucky because our land has wolves and bears, foxes and deer and wild boar to boot, many of the oldest varieties of fruit are naturally present still. I have also become totally in love with this idea, that we can return to true rurality, to small kitchen and bread ovens, lit by fire and smoking into the morning light, that we can revive the myths and practices of rural areas. That we can give wells and forests names, and that we can know their properties. Maybe you too will feel it, and find your own area and join us in the battle, and who knows maybe one day we can all dream again like our ancestors used to 300 years ago, and meet fate in our dreams again. 

 

The Benandati, a medieval class war.

Carlo Ginzburg who won the Balzan price for his work, was a young man in Napoli, who had an insight moment where he decided on two things concurrently, he will become an historian, and his subject would be witchcraft.

Eventually he found himself in Venice, where he started researching anything he could find on witchcraft, playing what he called “the Venice Roulette”, because he could only ask for 4 volumes a day. He found transcripts from the Witch trials of the 16th and 17th century, on which he based his amazing book The Night Battles, and in a sense he opened up to the world a forgotten layer of peasant farming beliefs, starting a small movement in similar works, by Eva Pocs, Julian Goodare and others.

His (re)discovery of a forgotten stream of shamanic threads in the northern Italian province of Friuli (across the border from Slovenia) focused on the peculiar case of the Benandati (good walkers), who came to light of the inquisition through the witch trials, the inquisitors he showed did not know what to make of the night visions, and journeys of the Benandatis, who claimed to be a counter force to witches.

To become a Benandati one had to be born with a caul (the birth membrane) which still in some parts of rural Italy is said to be a sign of good fortune, ‘nascere con la camicia’ meaning to be born clothed. The benandati themselves referred to it as being born under the sign, which the inquisitors found a little hard to understand at times being from a different class. Those born under the sign were called to go and fight the witches, they would leave their bodies and go to the meadow of jehoshaphat, where they would fight the witches, the Benandati would arm themselves with stalks of fennel and the witches with sorghum.

The trials are very interesting first because the existence of a whole strata of people within a region who were born to dream a certain dream, and that they all entered into that dream together, in fact their first entry into that dream would take place when another Benandati would come and take them to the night battle, on Thursdays of the Amber days, which are set for fasting and prayer in each of the four seasons of the year.

Both the witches and the benandati on trial reported the very same scene, and the same battle, although each had a very different story about how he came to get there, and what happened to him in that place, but the vision themselves were homogeneous.

Carlo Ginzburg noted that the upper class found it very hard to deal with the belief of the peasants, and in truth let some of the cases go amiss as they could not believe the tales and visions shared. He took a further step and described the whole saga and the trials as a sort of class war in which the beliefs and creativity of the peasants were banned by an upper class that could not make sense of them. Instances like an inquisitor asking one of the Benandati why did he go, and him replying that he was taken because he was born under the sign, to which the inquisitor replied, every man has a free will. The Benandati, being from the unreflective class as Carlo puts it, did not share that notion, for him he was the continuous link with an age old oral tradition in which those born under the sign, must go into the night battle dream.

The night dream battle of the Benandati versus the witches

The beauty of the idea that up to the 17th century peasants had a whole strata of folklore and night journeys, shared dreaming voyages and “games” as they called them where men and women would fight each other with the stakes being the next year harvest, calling in storms and enjoying themselves in ways that were increasingly deemed demonic (a lot of which involved the devil). Later on other Historians and researchers like Eva Pocs from Hungary found similar threads in the beliefs of Hungarian people, Serbian and Bulgarians. Weather Shamans, as the Hungarian Talt’os and Zduhać had helpers in a so called Dragon woman, similarly sharing dream scapes and influencing the weather.

They reported dreams in which they had entered and fought over the weather front with another weather shaman, sometimes in the form of a dragon, in fact the dragon motif probably emerged through those practices rather than other mythology. The difference is that they entered a certain dream with only one other “shaman” in those weather dreams, and in the night battles, or for the witches the “Sabbath” for which they entered the dream en masse.

The witch trials and the inquisition were means Carlo Ginzburg argued by the upper class who no longer lived in nature to curb the notions of a people who still practiced a natural life, in fact any people living with nature to some degree still share those type of notions, from weather control, to shared dreaming. And it could be argued further that the fact no one practices those type of activities is simply because they were banned through religion of a people that no longer lived immersed in nature when they could not understand the rural logic anymore.

Our current understanding of magic, and rural areas, is in fact lacking in a central myth. People spend a life time working to construct community, as I have done, finding that project after project, and more so in rural areas, lack something, a core. To me that core is magical creativity of a people, and their connection to the land, so imagine the peasants of Northern Italy going into dreaming together, and working their local weather systems, fighting each other for the next years harvest, by following oral traditions that possibly were not just localised but shared by everyone in Europe, even if they were not connected, meaning in a way that those belief systems and practices are a core practice for any rural people.

The interesting thing is that the rural landscape also have become abandoned as a continuation of the same logic, and our own view of, what in truth should be termed, ‘Rurality’ are still the very same notions of the inquisitors from an upper class, living in castles and cities, meeting the peasant folk who still lived on the land, with their tales of magical gusts of winds, witchcraft, magic, and even night battles. We treat farming and community in the same way.

If you really manage to grasp the scope of a traditional way of life in nature, in which people have practiced dreaming together, and games with which they played with the weather and next years harvest, the magical folk being divided into a male/female grouping, or good versus bad, teams as if they were playing bingo, even if the lines between witch and Benandati were not all too clear. Eventually through the guidance of the inquisition itself have come to be seen all together as witchcraft, all bundled together and forbidden, following later into a mental framework shift and eventually to the abandonment of the countryside, turning into estates through the enclosure act in the UK, but through similar processes in other European countries, maybe you starting to understand the logic behind banning rurality, or the business plan if you wish for doing so.

You can understand the scope of an economic system being built away from the people, and their practices being forbidden. Step by step, circular economy and even village life were abandoned, to feed a globalised system that we have today, one that was never needed by peasants, as in fact most of them grew all they ever needed.

Taking away the religious aspect, we have up to the 17th century in Europe a connection to an art that people living on the earth practiced in every indigenous society, meaning that any people who live a truly rural life, have come up with the very same notions, and “magical” abilities, and in a way we can simply argue that the fact we do not share those beliefs is simply because we do not live in rural areas in connection with true nature. The few that do, live in some kind of agriculturally altered countryside, and so the connecting myths and the central pillar of the community is always lacking, but saying this is not taking it far enough, it is not lacking, it is banned from existence. That is why it is a class war, where the countryside is simply used as a resource to create bigger farms and estates, which have never been sustainable even with technological farming methods, now those systems are collapsing even with modern agriculture, because the old system was a natural means to work and live on the land and the modern is not.

I would say give the land back to the people, but is it too late? It seems everyone has forgotten how to live naturally.

The funny thing is that our own notions are of the Italian (or an European) upper class, and we too no longer believe that shared dreams are possible, or that the Benandati and the witches can go and meet in a dream meadow somewhere and fight each other to decide next year’s crop.

We do not believe in mystical gusts of wind, or that certain mountains stage wars with the hills next to them, that some people control the weather, and so much more, yet the magical is only actually, truly, a reflection of the rural.

In a sense that was always the centre of the community, I will try to write another entry, about why the people “born under the sign” were always referred to as – Good neighbours, Good Patrons (another name for the famous “women of the outside” in Sicily), or the Good Walkers in the case of Benandati. People born this way, could in our time be called, Autistic, or suffering from ADHD, sometimes maybe diagnosed with schizophrenia because we have no other means to understand the things they see, yet once in the not very long ago, they had a central role in an rural area social systems, that of creating the central body of the myth, or in other words they made the tribe, or the village. Which is why possibly they were referred to as Good neighbours, taking into consideration that the population knew they could affect things around them for both good or bad.

I for once would say that with living real natural context, all of those notions and world view points arise by themselves, yes they are built in through society too, as the belief of being born with a caul and it being an un refutable sign that must have taken centuries if not millennia to from into a belief, coming like Carlo argues through millennia of shamanism and lore, and possibly resembles a pre civilisation core that still existed in European societies from times before farming, passed down through oral societies, and replaced by scripture of the upper class.

The Benandati were convinced of their errors just like the witches were, some were burned, some jailed and a lot have just petered away, even if those notions still exist in rural Italy, and I would say the difference is that in those areas people still to a degree live with nature, their land is not always agricultural, it is peasantry in the middle of pure nature, and so rurality is a meeting point, in which magic to some degree still takes place, a magic we can no longer conceive because we either live in agricultural land (managed nature) or cities where none exist, and so we too have forgotten that the magical world view is just the natural one, we think that the weather just happens and we think that dreams, weird as they are just a private matter.

That border line between the upper class and peasants is actually a barrier in our own conceptuality, in order to see things different we must at one point in our lives experience life in totally wild nature, and I do not mean a trip to the mountains, even if that can help, but living in such a place where rurality is still practiced, and if possible by a people who lived in that way for a long time, allowing them to create a central myth, which I have come to understand as the missing glue for modern society.

Living in Central Italy has brought me face to face with a lot of this, in truth at times I feel like some witches I know fight with me over my heritage wheats fields, as some of the natural disasters that happen can not be simply put to climate change, but yet again I feel we all take the point of view of the inquisitor, and the real spectrum and folklore of the peasantry is now lost in our minds, we stopped waking up at night like rural people would in Europe, and go into a power dream, we stopped playing night battles with each other.

Imagine whole groups of people who shared dreaming games 4 times a year, to such a degree that some have reported 5000 people meeting on the same plain. Those “Anti-Withces” all agreed on the Thursday night, even if they lived hundreds of kilometres away from each other, as Friuli and Sicily of Middle Ages, at least to me, should not have been socially connected. You can not compare that with watching Netflix.

If anything I would recommend you read the Night Battles by Carlo Ginzburg, for getting a little glimpse of the real Italian imagination and folklore that has been lost now, and maybe to get a glimpse of why we restrict a lot of the magical, the imaginary and the natural in modern society. Why Globalisation has killed circular economies, why farming is a monoculture, and why society has lost most of its biodiversity to a degree that any other trait but being totally imagination-less is deemed a problem. Once you realise it is all parts of the same parcel, and that the only way out of it is discovering our magical selves again, nothing will look the same.

Job and investment opportunities

Its 2021, who would believe it, seeing the inside of our homes so often. So many things have gone wrong for so many people, and we had our own share if not more.

We feel it is high time we collectively start looking at rural areas, our efforts remain on two fronts Abruzzo where we focus most of our work on a real slow development, where marginal areas can be developed slowly into experiential, maybe even transformational locations, but focusing on keeping local community and villages intact as much as possible. In the UK we would like to help take the whole Glamping industry forward into a new type of experience, themed campsites, and small scale venues of experiential tourism, something that has never really been done before, its the cutting edge of script writing for the tourism industry, and something we have been playing with for years, whenever we and our clients sit and talk about how we really would like to see things done.

What we are looking for is a large land based project, probably an estate, or a conservation project with large land. We would need to find accommodation as part of the project to allow us to be hands on, we will be bringing some of our larger event yurts so our own investment can be from 25k to 50k depending if we can build a campsite as part of the project. We would need a two bedroom house and a small workshop as we aim to keep our cover making work alongside the project.

What we are looking to create is theatre, taking Glamping into a new platform, where clients are no longer just holiday makers, they get to become involved, through heritage foods, and a special eating experience, with a sort of show that takes the client from a spectator into a participant. We look to run events of a new kind, focusing on a return to heritage foods, and historical reference, where man belonged in nature. The themes we aim to play with are tribalism, peasant farming, and traditional issues. The idea is to develop a new kind of an event, a gathering which is like a small scale festival at times, or a high end eating experience, with flavours and foods that have become almost extinct, heritage wheats, and old varieties of food, with participatory theatre, that takes people into the fabric on older ways of life.

We believe that with Covid 19, festivals will have to start becoming smaller type of events, and in a way this ties into it perfectly, it focuses on smaller events of up to 100 people in very special settings, and would be a perfect income for a large estate or farm even. We need someone who is really open to take a new approach to sustainable tourism, and not afraid to venture into a new direction, the fact we are bringing our own tents into the deal means initial investment is low.

We are open to explore an option to run this project from afar, but believe that it would make things much harder, as we would like to guide the whole style of the events. We are also looking for a special type of chef who is open to cooking with and over open fire, and is passionate about the tastes of real foods, and the unique flavours of landraces and heirloom veg and cereal. We focus a lot on heritage wheats, which we help grow in Central Italy, and most passionate about Durum wheats, of which we are collecting some of the oldest in the world. Most of our events focus on handmade pasta as an art form that ties wheat to the land through tradition of peasant farming, but we also play a lot with archeo-foods, old recipes that have been almost lost, and leave one with a question for why.

Because we are starting to venture in some new directions, and to keep our cover work going, we are also looking for someone to train as a seamstress, but the focus here would be for someone to work with us on making covers from distance, and mainly yurt covers, we would prefer a woman, but are open to a man just the same. We need someone passionate about the art of cover making, and can withstand the stress of making seams, we would look to give pass them gradually more and more work, and for them to eventually work independently possibly, but with a clear vision, that we are no longer looking to teach someone to sew yurt covers, so they take our work and compete with us later, so that would need to be clear from the start. We not only are probably one of the longest cover making in the Glamping industry we are almost the only one doing so at a distance, it is not an easy job, and one that can leave you crying. We not only actually wrote the full yurt cover sewing book, we have also taught many in the business, most of which make their own yurts. This time we would like to teach someone that can keep the work in house, even if they operate separately in the end. So it is a chance to work with us, and take on some off our clients, for a larger percentage of the work, we have many regular clients. We have a love for sewing canvas like no one else, born out of endless nights and days where we worked the machine to the bone, and we would like to find someone who loves this art like we do, and work alongside, learn pattern ,makings, and all of our secrets.

We hope 2021 will see us all in a better place, and hope we can start focusing more time on rural development as a whole, take the tourism industry into a more integrated place with small scale farming, and natural conservation, we believe that waiting for politicians to sort it out for us is meaningless, because in truth they do not really have an idea about rural areas, and so we feel the work should be done by all of us regardless, and that if we want to really defeat globalisation taking over, the loss of the countryside and possibly all of freedoms this is the only way. We wish you all a happy new year.

The girl with the crow from a tribal dinner event in Abruzzo

Yin and Yang

‘Bombs’ Marziale said, ‘first they throw bombs and then close everything up’, it was his conspiracy theory.
The gate for his charming ramshackle row of houses was closed behind him, I think it was more of a reflex because the dogs used to come out, but I don’t think he realised that the only dog that posed any danger has been tied for two years now. With a few of his dogs killed by the hunters and a few others gone missing.
The paint on the gate was old, but the tricolours of the Italian flag could still be seen clearly.
He has been our neighbour for over 6 years. His Italian is a dialect special to him only. He made me laugh, i’ll stop every time on the way back home, and even though our conversation would always be the same, as if we are rehearsing, I’ve come to appreciate it.

The fields were all ploughed, and though we usually spoke of our strategy for sowing wheat, it was as if time itself stood still, things did not make sense anymore. The Holocene has come to an end.
Winter was approaching, but the last few years it came late, climate change was everywhere. By ‘bombs’ he meant to say that the pandemic was back, that it was man made, it was dropped on us all.

There is a craziness in rural Italy, one that is hard to make sense of, especially for us that have grown up in the western mindsets. Families are the rule, and there is an ancient law that rules the land, and it all comes together in my neighbour in a strange way. We were leaving, or at least I think we were, something snapped inside me, we were leading a revolution by ourselves, a revolution I did no longer believe in.
So standing there with him outside his gate, the fading tricolours and 10,000 years of sowing wheat, the climate change itself even, and our plans to bring back the heritage wheats of old into production, where all on standby, as if waiting for some heavenly decision, ‘bombs’ he said, ‘they drop bombs on us and than they make new rules’.
This plan that I have convinced him will see him back into farming, more as a way to convince him not to give up. Somehow all of it came together for me, it is this imposing mountain we live under, it makes everything dramatic, everything seems big. I was sitting in the car, talking to the last peasant farmer of Torricella Peligna, about sewing wheat.
The revolution was none other but an effort to save the Holocene from collapsing on itself.
Wheat is what made the weather stable for over ten thousand years, no one really knows about it, because it’s not a scientific fact. It is a pact some long lost ancestor of us made.

One of his dogs set on the ledge of the second floor window, even the dogs here do not follow normal rules, the row of 4 houses were a progression from liveable, to quite broken, to beyond repair, with the last being the house were the dog lives on a window ledge, that dog used to have a brother, one was white and the other was black, the black one used to live on the roof of his house, but he disappeared one day. Then after the roof was somewhat fixed, the remaining puppy, I took to call Yang, because they looked like Yin and Yang, the white has a black head and the black had a white.
The remaining puppy used to sit on the upstairs window, as if he was mourning his brother.
Things were different under the mountain, and it made some dogs behave differently, Yang found a compromise, he only ventured as far as the second floor, his brother went all the way to heaven and disappeared. One needs to find a balance with how far it allowed the mountain to drive him into other planes of existence, the dogs knew it.
It was the time of the second wave and sure no one dropped bombs to infect us all, or so we we think, but it is also true that things stopped making sense.

Yang at the window ledge

It was a picture frame, his dog. Framed by choice over sensibility, the mountain pulls us into higher planes. Sometimes it seems crazy, the old laws of conduct in small Italian villages, so difficult to the outsider at times, that they almost broke me. I felt like I am being asked to make a ruling, here in this strange land of the past, medieval villages are suspended in mid air, dogs are pulled into window ledges, and wheat stands in question, the stability of the Holocene.

I drove back home, I have given all my wheat to local farmers to plant, I give them one seed and they give me two in return, that’s the core of the project. I could not really focus on wheat anymore, In fact I never could. I was running late for work, we have endless yurt covers to make. I wonder how we got to that point, we used to be free, on the road, with no work and no hassle, how come nomads can not travel freely, because they make yurt covers for a thousand campsites.

It is a strange occupation being a yurt maker, and a yurt cover maker (which is the majority of our work) even more so, it’s such an art. We make all of our yurt covers from afar, and believe me it is maybe one of the hardest lines of work. To know how much to add, how much to trust the client’s measurements, where to cut more, where to add less. The fact I was running up and down the mountain, did not help, the measurements of three different covers were turning inside my head to a point that I could not see the math anymore, Pythagoras was taking over but who knows what he was calculating. There are pictures in my mind, snaps, stories and they tend to come out when I sew.
The problem is that it is hard to bring them out to make sense, not so much to me, but to others.

I know what was going on, I know it was not bombs, but I also know my neighbour is not crazy, even though the locals sometimes say he is, he is the last link of a chain of a people, a way of life – the sedentary. I am his neighbour, yet I never belonged anywhere, and though I find it hard to deal with the issues of central Italy, I have found a belonging here. I am though more of a nomad and he, the last peasant farmer. The mountain frames everything in this dramatic sense, a romanticisation of daily lives.
If we did not buy our land with the last houses of the commune, he would have sold already. So I live in the contradiction, it’s the end of time, not because the world is ending, because it is not, what is ending is our pact with the creator.

Currently here, under the mountain where dogs live in their own abandoned houses, perched on window sills, me and my neighbour are facing this question together, can we save the climate?.
What is hard to explain, is that the climate we are used to is an agreement.
It is an agreement made by nomads at the end of the younger dryas (the last ice age) when in order to stop the sky from rotating, which they failed, they chose to live in one place. What they succeeded in, is making the chain of ice ages stop. They did it with wheat, they did it by stopping their roaming.

It is only in the contradictions, on the edge of abandon, or when everything seems to fall apart, something magical opens, like a door. In it you can see the making of ages. Italy of the mountains is ruled by something older, something that seems so foreign to the outsider, it is community.
What makes it hard to see, is that we have a sense of community that we gained from instagram, novels of a paradise lost, of other ways of life.
So it is hard for us to see it, because now, at the end of the Holocene, when all the agreements are falling down, we do not understand that the last guardians of a ten thousand year agreement, are small Italian farmers.

Nomads, it has been said always plunder the sedentary. We, in our own personal journey, have come to place after place like that, the rule of 5 (which also means something else to us) meant that we were used to pack our things and move within 5 minutes, if we deemed a place to be unhealthy. That still drives me crazy, the idea of living in a park-up, in a lay-by for 6 years. The Huns see houses as tombs, and I can not fault the judgement, houses are tombs for nomads.
I sit on a pile of yurt covers, there are only a few people who knows this art, the cover makers, most of which have been taught by us. We have our own language, seam allowances, and shrinkage. Sometime at the end of long day of chasing the illusive line between reality and craziness, trying to find the right place to end the canvas above the yurt door, not sure if to trust the client, or the figures they have sent us, it boils down to intuition, at the end of the day sometimes we have a small victory, a new way to pattern the roof pieces or
another way to stitch the cap. Sometimes we design another tent, but most of all it is impeccability of the trade, throwing yourself into the unknown of
someone else’s frame. Learning a to know from experience what can go wrong, and assume the worst, I laugh how my clients get amazed when I tell them how they took a measurement and why its wrong. To give them their dues, they work hard to measure their frames for us, and we send them back and back again to them to make sure they haven’t got anything wrong.

How did we get here, can nomads make the law for the countryside?, I remember when we lived in tents, and everything seemed sane, even if new age community is a monstrosity, with no real roots in existence, but we were the only people living in tents. The rest of the population lived in houses, we were poor, and once every few years we would sell our tent cover, or poles, it was our way to pay for a new home. which was again a tent, it was like a snake shedding its skin, and in order to afford the new one, he had to sell the old to someone else, this is how it all started.

How did we end up with a thousand campsites, and people in massive estates calling us to make them new yurt covers. Now they ask us how to run the countryside, but we alongside them have ruined it. We turned it into a chain of holiday homes and campsites, we sold them our community and they use it to repackage their massive estates, so we can never buy, or even rent in the countryside, and none of us is really happy, even though for a time they pretend it’s so much better solution to farming, its called diversification, I can call it diversify your attention from what’s really going on.

So you see, it is hard to strike a balance between the real and the made up, the lines are diffused, only a few yurt cover-makers know that art, only they understand. We live in a lie, because as long as we make yurts for sedentary people we can not travel, it is their way to keep us in place, they sell our art, and the country side with it to an endless stream of people who would never live in it. Together we have repackaged the land and made it less accessible to all.

We have no time to make up our mind, to lead the sedentary into another epoch, because there is always the next yurt cover to make, I am lucky because I have trained others to make covers with me, and it gave me some time to focus on something else. We dreamed together, but the pressure of making a cover after cover, yurt after yurt, broke their dreams. They feel like we will never find freedom, all that we have found is an endless pile of patterning, we got holed in small homes and workshops. Once the only campsites were where we lived, around the fire.

We all knew how to make our tents. Sure, none of us were very good at it because we only did it every few years. Now we sold our freedom, and we make the best tents in the world, I know things about pattern making that few do, Its an art, when you get good at it you can do it in mid air, its a space a few can hold, the patterns float, and you must hold them all inside you, balancing all the factors, holding all the measurements, the canvas shrink, the stitching. We sold our way of life and the community, and as long as we keep doing so, to people who re-market it as an experiential tourism, nor we or them can ever find it again.
The people who I’ve trained blame me, and maybe they are right. I feel like something is looming over us all. It is decision time. Underneath all this industry of selling the landscape as a package, there is a small family of tent makers, and most of us are related.

In central Italy the mountain rules all, I know that modern society is incapable of true community, it does not even know what it should look like. We have become accustomed to making belief, we convince each other community still exists. I have lived in the marginal, in the borderlands of society all my life, I have seen enough alternative communities to know nothing is different. Maybe I am the only one that will say it, but there is no such thing as sustainable tourism either. We sell abandoned lands as a dream, as a resource, when we aren’t willing to live sustainably in them.
I have been up since 5 in the morning, and I am on the verge of giving up on my (now) one man revolution, I know something else. It is just hard to speak about it, my “crazy” neighbour seems the only sane person around, ‘bombs’ of coronavirus, are the mark of the end of an epoch. Most of us are so distracted by Covid-19, that we do not see that the countryside itself is sick, the apple trees, the olives. This last year has seen a whole olive field next to our place in Italy, develop a new sickness. We are all so homocentric that we miss out, currently (it seems to me at least) all of the non local varieties of fruit trees are dying. Sure they always had less tolerance to sickness, but they managed, you do not expect them all to die within one year. After all the olive grove next to our houses have been there for 30 years.

I say I am a nomad, but there have been no true nomads for over ten thousand years. Nomadism as we know it is an offshoot of the neolithic revolution, the people of the steppe domesticated horses, and it gave them a trading power. They lived in yurts, and now I feel like their last descendant, I know things that only exist in contradictions. We have ran out of a design plan, our rent is due. I led a one man’s revolution, I have to make up my mind, but my mind does not function like other people’s.

In the long long ago, all mammals have been infected by a virus, not unlike we are now. ‘Bombs’ he said it, and it makes me laugh.
Some think he is crazy, but there is a sanity in how he sees things, in his dialect, it is a language of his own, made from being the last frontier man for so many years, farming the last farm of the village. The real edge of abandonment makes one sane in ways others can not comprehend, it is where nature writes Man.

All of our minds have been infected by a virus, and this is how we think. Activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein or ARC as it is known, plays a critical role in synaptic plasticity in our brains. With an important function in our memory. It has been suggested that it acts in a very similar way to a virus, self assembling into virion-like capsids that encapsulate RNA as it does.
It is thus theorised to be repurposed from a viral event somewhere in earlier evolution in order to mediate intercellular communication in neurones.
What?!! you may ask.

We have ALWAYS been thinking like a virus!!!, in fact thinking is a viral function, and that is what I am trying to say, what we deem crazy, is that some of us do not encapsulate in the same manner, our thoughts are not regular, and mine never seem to have been. We are humans, now scared of a new virus, always scared of the virus, yet it is the virus itself that taught us to be scared. We above all other animals, we are not the smartest, we just got more virused. That is why community is hard for us, we make separation inside our heads, the capsids we wrap around our thoughts and memories.
Yet that was then (million of years ago) and now is now, and now is the time for someone to make a decision, the trees are dying, and the Holocene is at an end, not because of climate change, but because we stopped honouring our agreement with the creator, when nomads come to farm.

Living in the marginal makes you see things that others do not, and it teaches you to not put stock in thoughts, or agreements, those work very well for people in the city, they live in a system, for me houses are tombs, and thoughts are a take over from another ancient pandemic, one that has changed mammals into new evolutionary strategy. So we think, and we think a lot, we remember also, but it is just the function of a virus from long ago, and even though it gave us brilliance, we still need to make our choices for ourselves, the trade off for that so called brilliance is community, what made us “better” than the animals, is not that we are, is that we think is separation, we can break the biome, we can encapsulate the idea of the individual, and they can not, they have been infected like us, but never got as sick.
My problem is that I need to decide for others.

Writing for me is a way to bridge all of that, where I live there are no rules. Simply because no one wants to live there. I was pushed all of my life to this place, the borderland, even as a kid. So now my mind works in a different way, and it takes a lot to balance it all, I have to wake up at 4am to think clearly. The hard truth about the virus that made us able to think, is that it gave us one mind only, and made us all share it. None of us think alone. I took me years to accept that fact. I was taught by others, the simple first steps into telepathy, and it almost ruined me. What was hard was not being able to hear other people’s thoughts, it was understanding that none of mine were ever my own.

So I guess since then the only place that makes sense is the marginal, the abandoned lands without design, where nature and Man hit on each other as waves. It is a contradiction – where nomads come to farm, to hold the last days of an epoch at bay, and because I do not like to decide for others, I find myself sitting on a mountain of yurt covers, that we make for a string of campsites, places that have “diversified”, or in other words, stopped farming. We are nomads and we never cared about farming. I mean we are all nomads, we only farm because there are too many of us to live freely, we killed too many animals. That is the story of the last epoch, that is why we spent ice age after ice age in isolation. The world was devastated in ways we could no longer fathom. Now we freak out because one degree celsius of change, at the end of the last ice age, our ancestors stood a much more nomadic earth. Their stories of the flood, and comets, of endless winters of starvation is what drove them to a new agreement, but even then it was not all of them who decided, it was a small group of people who came together to hold the sky from rotating. They tried to stop the heavenly mill from grinding the ages, and they failed, but they did manage something else, they managed to appease the creator, and they gave us the Holocene, they were as wild as we are tame, we fear a change of 2 degrees, which comes to show how stable our climate is.

I have to make up my mind, but I no longer trust the mind, I say this, if we are to make a new decision if we are called to turn the heavenly mill around again, our rent is due, and we can no longer find a house to live in, because houses are tombs, yet nomads are just horse breeders without an idea, that do not even grow their own food.

Nomads have been a threat to the climate, because the climate is an agreement they made, I write because I feel you too must have a say. In order to find sanity.
I always ran away, my mind maybe does not work like yours, I need a lot of quiet to hear my own thoughts, so much so, I usually do not trust mine, only at 4 am while the world is asleep. I know the thoughts are mine.

I have learned to trust something else, which is more akin to feelings.
I see truths in contradictions, where dogs sit on window ledges, where the crazy are actually the sane ones. Yang lives on the window of a broken house, mourning because Yin has gone to heaven.

Uncategorized | Spirits Intent

Nomadic Tent Design – The mutant forms

Ardabil is an ancient city in northwestern Iran. In 1974 Peter Alford Andrews, who has now been nominated to receive the Burton medal for his work on the Eurasian tent, interviewed the only two Iranian Alachigh makers, They were brothers.

They told him that they were in fact the only two craftsmen who made this specific tent type, legendary because of its elegant curvature and flowing design, a tent that stands alone amongst all the trellis tents of the region, I mean that literally, as it stands alone without a trellis.

The two brothers claimed that the work had remained exclusively the speciality of their family since it was introduced eight generations earlier by Seyyd Bejan, they could name the makers in each of the eight generations.

Alachigh

What a lot of people do not know is about the way it all came about, did you wonder how come the UK has become crazy about yurts? To begin with we all owe the come back of nomadic tent types to a book, that not accidentally bears the same name, the fruit of Peter Alford Andrews’ work. In it he has covered all nomadic tent forms in the Middle East. He and his wife have traveled extensively and lived with the nomads themselves, documenting the tents to the inch, it is a master piece with exact drawing of the frame work, the felts, even the decorations on the door panels. 
Peter, who has become a good friend, never imagined that his work to document nomadic tents before they disappear will catch on like that, but that is exactly the point, for something to catch on it needs to have a story in it, he himself was inspired by a one liner from one of his lecturers who said, “no one has taken tent architecture seriously”.

Stories need to have a core in them, something that catches us, in the same way the American guy who coined the phrase “the Mediterranean diet” he never thought that it will become such a hit few decades later, nor did Thor Heyerdahl ever think that his original “back to nature” idea will become a movement, he even later laughed saying he was probably the first hippie.

Similarly Bill Coperthwaite, who had sadly passed some years ago, never imagined that his experimentations with yurts will ignite the a craze in the US. The point is that good design or good ideas always have some core in them, and all those above share a truth, which is a traditional entity, they are based on the lives of rural communities. Be it Italian peasants, Polynesians sea farers and navigators, and the great nomadic people of the Steppe. Their freedom, their rurality, their traditions are those that ignite this thing in us, the feeling of belonging to a wilder earth.

I have predicted two years ago that canvas tents in the UK will start disappearing and be switched over to cabins or wooden huts, and so does the trend seem to go. Meanwhile in Italy, people can not get enough of yurts, in fact after Covid importers can not even get them, my phone keeps on ringing all day.

Whilst Glamping has gone a little crazy, driven by bigger profits, moving little by little to prefabricated structures, or using some amazing design concepts that some small guy worked out in his shed and copying them into a plastic tent, in an industry where intellectual property has never been regulated all can happen.

The trend however is a move away from making yurts or nomadic tents by hand, away from the craft aspect. We would like to take things back to the original story, having sat with the women who invented the word glamping, or having worked with the first people in the industry, I feel also that the idea has been boycotted and executed in some very strange ways. What it aimed to achieve is to give people the feeling of mystery, the spirit of nomadism, and tribalism yet here in the UK. It was so successful the whole world copied it.

It was never a new concept, the mogul emperors invented Glamping generations before, they had cities of tents, that would put burning man festival to shame, court tents that reached the sky, two story decorated and bejewelled pavilions, cities that travelled.

We decided we would like to first take the concept back to its origins in Peter Andrews work, the idea was to not let those tent forms disappear, to be honest, the main Asian nomadic tent form – the yurt has been covered and done extensively, we would like to focus for a moment on some of the other tent forms in order to save their architectural concepts, more so because those are stories of mutant forms, a tribe or a people that had to redesign away from the rest. The Northern Afghan tribe alliance that translates into the 4 tribes in English, all had a double curvature yurt, some of them claim to be descendent of the Mongol army (the Hazzara) but why are they the only ones to use the double curvature? What was the idea behind its design, why the tall profile and the small wheels?

I have theorised before those are because it was in fact the first western yurt, when mongols moved west and encountered wetter climates, so the higher and smaller wheel could be open (each yurt has open fires in the past) and the form may have helped with smoke.

The same goes to the Alachigh, which like a yurt is a curved tent, but unlike it is only uses ribs without trellis, the genius of the yurt was that it allows for shorter pieces of wood and tied bundles that could be simply opened, in fact there used to be a form of tent that grouped all rafters together with a rope instead of a wheel meaning the roof could be erected like an umbrella almost, again it must have been designed around camels for weight. A lot of those tent design concepts have never seen a return, genius almost, yet now lost.

Afghan yurt concept

The rib tents of the Turkmen were reportedly adopted from older yurts, meaning a poorer couple would inherit the rafters and wheel of an old yurt, possibly when the trellis gave way, or older yurts had the roof only pitched on the ground to serve as an outside kitchen, at a few places those turned into their own design, and possibly this was the way the Alachigh of the Shasevan was born too. The Yomut or Turkmen of Iran, have taken one of those rib tents and made it with especially long rafters, so it turned into a yurt shape without a trellis, but high enough to stand with a wooden door. I would have liked to understand the design concept behind their thinking, and at times the easiest way is to make the structure itself, which we did a few years ago. That led to a break through in tent design but that is something for another time, plus advertising your design concepts for me usually means someone copies them before I get to realise them.

Kutuk tent

I pour over old accounts of travellers and avidly look for the mutant design forms, I think that in the last 10 years the industry have been in a design standstill, no new great concepts were actually introduced, the focus on creating prefabricated forms to keep up with demand has also wiped many of the crafts people who used to make structures for the Glamping industry, and little by little it too started to loose its appeal. The UK has always been the leader in this industry, yet now it lags behind, the passion is gone, and with it the joy of the great outdoors, almost as if people have given up on the country, own sustainability, on adventure.

In short Craft, tradition, great design mixed with natural materials will always work better, creating a story line that grabs the soul, where one can feel the gaze of the qirgiz nomads, a woman brining the hand of a guest to her heart saying you are home in my yurt.

We work with a small group of people who always led this industry, and yeah I feel like we all have gone a little astray because of the need to make a living, yet a new trend in tourism is waking up, like a wave, it wants true freedom. Once we were the only people living on the road, 10 years ago we travelled the UK in trucks seeing no one, yet no van lifers have been born everywhere, people are converting vans all across the country. Working as a non profit association in Europe (mainly Italy) also means I see a constant stream of people leaving the country, looking for rural areas and meaning, and so I know the battle for rurality is not lost, traditional ways of life will always win in the end, you can not bend nature away from itself, at the end it will go back to weather and man, shelter and rain. All this development craze and second homes will pass, it only works because people can not access nature in the UK.

Going back to nomadic tent design, I want to focus more on content, bringing sustainable tourism into being the most important aspect, almost the only way through which we can design rural areas back into community. Yet I want it to happen around the magical stories and some great design concepts.

nomadic tent

I would  like to leave you with an image of one of the greatest craft concepts in nomadic tents, one created by the Nogay.

tent was made like a yurt, except that it was woven, using two big rings around the walls which were fixed, going into a yurt wheel, it was made this way so it could be lifted on and off a small cart, and was only used by the newly wedded couple. This is a great metaphor also for the nomadic tent design and the state of the modern world, because now days the largest of all yurts made are wedding yurts, and the nogay wedding yurt was in fact so small it could be lifted on and off and made intact so it would not need to collapse, a great effort and nomadic tent design now gone. Again I would love to see it remade, in fact the idea behind all of this research is to focus again on making some great nomadic tent design, maybe use some modern materials where applicable but without losing the form and concepts. This amazing little tent can become the best Shepard hut even made.

Soon when time allows I would like to open up the possibility of working and teaching others, so we can together create some of those great tents of the past, we have some great business ideas, enough to allow for at least one or two new independent businesses. This we think would tie very well with the new emerging market of sustainble tourism, imagine moving camps as a safari on rewlibding projects in the highlands, yet done with nomadic tents instead of plastic, imagine arriving at the camp fire, and sitting inside a nomadic tent, the fire is lit, food is served, the magic flows through the wheel, and one can feel the hand of a qirgiz woman almost, going to her heart telling you, you are home inside my tent.

Nogay tent cart

The Mazzeri and the lost religion of dreamers

All over Europe mostly up to the 16th century there have existed remnants of an older “religion”. Historians and anthropologists have now rediscovered the existence of cult practices all over the continent, mostly taken from the witch trials of the 15th and 16th century as they were otherwise almost unknown. 

Like we said in some earlier blog posts elements of those practices are shared by rural communities and are almost identical in character going  from Bulgaria to Scotland, which raises a lot of questions about our understanding of rural Europe of 300 years ago. 

The Mazzeri of Corsica have been brought to my attention by a friend, through the work of Dorothy Carington. In her book called The Dream Hunters of Corsica she goes into length to describe their dreaming hunts.The mazzeri are dream-hunters, who go out at night to kill an animal. They recognize in the face of the animal someone known to them, nearly always an inhabitant of his village. The next day they will tell what they have seen and the person mentioned will die in the space of time running from three days to a year, and always within an uneven number of days. If an animal is only wounded by the mazzere, then the person it represents will meet an accident or illness, but not death.

Why you may ask are old beliefs in “witchcraft” important to us? It is because we lack in understanding of how rural areas function. Our conception of peasantry is taken directly from the witch trials, we view rural areas as superstitious an uneducated, yet the research that has been done on the subject shows something different. It shows that rural Europe was unified. In most cases as an oral based society (because few could read), it shows Europe sharing a similar belief elements which must have been pre christian all revolving around battling for a natural life, taking part in every aspect of nature, from growing crops to weather shamanism, regulating social affairs mental disorders, mini political systems which are the epitome of a natural life. Where those areas are undisturbed even today we find centenarians living, working up to their 90’s. 

Again we may ask so what? Why is it important that our great great grand parents had some bizarre night practices, that they could “double up at night” and wonder in a visionary states, that they could “kill” an animal in those visions which would turn into someone they knew. The importance is not just in that given practice, or any other, of which there are many. The importance is that ALL rural areas were like that, and that our current “educated” stance is in fact what drives us away from being able to live in natural areas. It is also the reason Western Europe has collapsed socially. That new phenomena of social takeover by a ruling class over the beliefs of the population is still the current social order. 

Having worked and lived for 20 years in some of Europe’s most rural areas, I have come to the belief that we do not understand how they functioned. I have worked and taken part in many projects, people striving to build new communities in nature, only to see them fail. Yet the thing they fail on, is not being able to construct community. Spending years in Italy we thought that maybe the problem is the abandon process and lack of economy in the internal parts as they are called, referring to what is mostly the Apennines (because of Italian geography). Our advantage is that we also work with dozens of projects in the UK, and live in Wales. In fact being back in Wales, it seems almost as if any low key social innovation project which is not a business has disappeared. The case in England is much worse. What is going on?

Until not very long ago every village had characters, a butcher and bakery, a stone by the church was the key stone and people would go there to strike deals with each other, and the stone being in the middle of the village would bear witness. Now everything is homogenised. If you live in the city you can not see it, but people who grew up in the countryside all know, it is as if someone have declared a war on rurality, farming itself is disappearing now and no one has an answer to why?

You may have heard of rewilding, and the idea that we are all going to use farmlands for Carbon sequestration. Those are novel ideas, that highlight the fact that actually no one has an idea what to do with the countryside, the same process that has been started in the 16th century by the church and few feudal lords governing over a rural population has almost cleared rural life styles away. In truth the housing market and the rush to buy houses in the countryside which have been blamed for the collapse of rural communities in Britain is just the last step in this process. What is missing is the social core, the belief system that unified each village, a system that was almost universal. 

Do I suggest we learn how to dream and hunt our fellow villagers like the Mazzeri of Corsica used to until the middle of this century, no I do not. I suggest we readjust our compass, and realise that the first point it must aim at is rurality. I also suggest we bring back the myths of the countryside back, and let them create small communities in nature. It all sounds all so very esoteric you may say, but in truth working with a series of small projects for the last 6 or so years, partly through the work of our non profit association Heartland and in many cases because they are our clients, I am vey close to the subject.

Together with a few others, we have come up with a set of tools almost, how to create community, how not to let your expectations of a life in rural areas get ahead of you. We have worked with small scale business plans, peasant bakeries, no irrigation farming, natural forest agriculture and even circular economy. These days I often get contacted by people looking to start a new project, sometimes looking for land in Italy. I would say that between all of our small projects we have a very clear idea of the situation, both in the UK and in Central Europe. There is a gap between the dream and reality, a gap that should not exist. 

One of my friends in Italy has taken it as far as offering his land to new comers, a project he spent 10 years of hard work, I would say that giving someone your house is taking it a little too far, but the point is that from inside those projects one sees land ownership and development very differently, once you have been there and realised that currently the only thing that matters for everyone is that we must build a rural lifestyle again, and that the only way to support life in nature is the rebuilding of rural areas, turning those into balanced zones, protection belts if you want, against the total destruction of nature. You become a soldier to the cause. I would feel the same, owning 12 hectares in Italy, I see that only our small piece of land is a life time of dedication, and from there I can see it all turning around, if only everyone could do the same. 

Once you understand the concept, rural farming practices, is like becoming a natural area scientist, where your job is to find the oldest varieties, to learn to grow food without intervention. When you understand the concept, where livestock become natural again, and you start looking for keystone species, to emulate a natural area that farms itself into biodiversity as nature intended. At this point you understand that the work is endless, and that in truth every moment we are not doing it, and any piece of land that is not taking part in it is like a suicide pact.

I thought we were unique. Living in Italy has woken me up to the fact that peasant farmers did exactly that all through history, each farm was a mastery of natural cultivation, I understood they were exactly like us, each of them understood his connection to the natural system, what to grow and what not to, it is easy if you edit the economic toll out of it, and stop trying to make money out of that piece of land, which is the distinction between peasant farming and agriculture. 

Anyway, this is when I realised that in order to get back into those life styles we must rediscover the central myths that they revolved around, everything I thought I knew seemed very different, witches for example who I always viewed as a fairy tale, but seeing I have come to live like peasant farmers did 300 years ago, I had to ask myself who they were  as if they were my neighbours. “Hang on” I said, what were witches? What actually happened in their lives. From then on I have discovered a whole world of village life which was almost mythical, with dreaming practices in which people would wage wars on their next-door village, weather control, shape shifting. Once you apply it to your own life you suddenly get the scope, they lived and worked a natural lifestyle at each of its elements. 

In her book Dorothy Carington who has written extensively about Corsica theorised that because of the island’s Isolation, it preserved some of the earliest elements of a common practice. The Mazzeri “cult” were night hunters, except that they did so in their dreams. They would enter the hunting dream by “doubling up” (a term many other similar European “cults”, or “witches” use). In their dreaming body they would go on the night hunt. The amazing thing with the Mazzeri was that in the dying glances of the animal they hunted they would see the reflection of a person in their community, a person which would later die, usually within the year.

Like some of their other counter parts from the the mainland, like the Benandati of Friuli, they also would go to battle with neighbouring night dreamers, I think that maybe because they lived on an island they would only do so once a year, where the Benandati would do so four times, at times a Mazzere would die because they lost in the battle, and you can see that going too often presented issues. Unlike the Benandati and others, they did not occupy themselves with fighting over crops, which made Dorothy Carhington argue that possibly their practice precedes the others, possibly coming down through the generation from a time we were hunter gatherers. In what I think is a stroke of brilliance she put through the idea that this practice of theirs, was not really about killing members of their community as much as it was about being part in predicting death, or meeting fate if you want. Somehow they could affect the moment of death for some of their fellow villagers, at times even managing to save their lives, as if some long lost cult of the dead was passed down from generation to generation and the last practicing members could still witness the moment death came knocking on someones door, they enacted that moment as a dream hunt. 

It is hard to understand those practices, especially as most of the accounts we have are written down as witch trials, which are arguably the changing point between an oral tradition to a literary society, it is probably the turning point of when we started losing touch with the core elements of true rurality.

Oral Europe functioned around a central myth, where it seems, any given area had its own dreamers. People in the Middle Ages slept differently to us too, they had two sleeps, after waking up in the middle of the night they would go back into dreams, it is usually then that the double dreams happened. Even so only a small number of people, maybe one or two in any given village would be the ones to have those night battle dreams, and the ability to create the dream body.

Some of the names they have given those people I think relate directly to the act of achieving that double dream body. They were called the night walkers, the women of the outside, the good walkers etc. A lot of the other names they have given themselves otherwise revolve around their function in the community, the good neighbours, the good patrons etc.

Why we can ask, did the community not turn on them, because having people in the midst of a village believed to have the capacity to kill others must have been terrifying. The answer I think was that each village functioned within a continuum in which those people were the makers of rural identity the spinners of a central myth. We can catch a glimpse of the old belief world of another Europe, and a social system that evolved around the natural from the seen to the unknown. We don’t know anything about that other Europe because it is masked behind our own ideas, inherited from the educated elite, in fact we view witchcraft like they did, because that elite has already left their natural and rural lives and existed as a rulers, lords and clergy men, they passed down to us the written records, sometimes by actually wiping out the existence of an oral tradition, a tradition so old it must have been present in the lives of our ancestors before they ever farmed, if they carried it for over 10,000 years they must have had a reason, a system so diffused, every part of Europe practiced it.

The question of why does it matter to us now still remains, the answer is that we have lost the core mechanisms of a life in nature, lost our relation with fate and climate. People in Middle Ages Europe did not simply live in villages like we believe, they had micro cosmos in each village with myriad of tales and legends, with the power to interact with the elements around them – rain and sun, the wind and the success of their crops. At times living a natural rural life and protecting and developing an area meant they could predict the deaths in their community, or in other words they took part in any natural process as if they themselves could also direct it, be it storms or success of their crops up to death death, they had a myth where they would meet fate, in their dreams they would enact any given natural process that was unseen, they could make it hail on their neighbours or fight for the success of their own fields, they took part in nature as a living myth. 

Because of the loss of rurality everywhere in the world and the prevalence of written record, we find it hard to grasp that in truth any true rural community has always revolved around meeting natural forces and working with them, it is not enough for us to think we can create community in nature simply by farming, or even farming organically as a way to return to a more natural life, this magical system is also a myth of sorts that hold a village in unison, it becomes its gossip, the tales of wonder of human achievements, the characters are made from nature, passion, love and magic and turn into the social centre.

I dont know about you, but I have fallen in love, first with taking a piece of land and letting it express itself into its wildest expression, where it grows food through diversity, I am lucky because our land has wolves and bears, foxes and deer and wild boar to boot, many of the oldest varieties of fruit are naturally present still. I have also become totally in love with this idea, that we can return to true rurality, to small kitchen and bread ovens, lit by fire and smoking into the morning light, that we can revive the myths and practices of rural areas. That we can give wells and forests names, and that we can know their properties. Maybe you too will feel it, and find your own area and join us in the battle, and who knows maybe one day we can all dream again like our ancestors used to 300 years ago, and meet fate in our dreams again. 

 

The Benandati, a medieval class war.

Carlo Ginzburg who won the Balzan price for his work, was a young man in Napoli, who had an insight moment where he decided on two things concurrently, he will become an historian, and his subject would be witchcraft.

Eventually he found himself in Venice, where he started researching anything he could find on witchcraft, playing what he called “the Venice Roulette”, because he could only ask for 4 volumes a day. He found transcripts from the Witch trials of the 16th and 17th century, on which he based his amazing book The Night Battles, and in a sense he opened up to the world a forgotten layer of peasant farming beliefs, starting a small movement in similar works, by Eva Pocs, Julian Goodare and others.

His (re)discovery of a forgotten stream of shamanic threads in the northern Italian province of Friuli (across the border from Slovenia) focused on the peculiar case of the Benandati (good walkers), who came to light of the inquisition through the witch trials, the inquisitors he showed did not know what to make of the night visions, and journeys of the Benandatis, who claimed to be a counter force to witches.

To become a Benandati one had to be born with a caul (the birth membrane) which still in some parts of rural Italy is said to be a sign of good fortune, ‘nascere con la camicia’ meaning to be born clothed. The benandati themselves referred to it as being born under the sign, which the inquisitors found a little hard to understand at times being from a different class. Those born under the sign were called to go and fight the witches, they would leave their bodies and go to the meadow of jehoshaphat, where they would fight the witches, the Benandati would arm themselves with stalks of fennel and the witches with sorghum.

The trials are very interesting first because the existence of a whole strata of people within a region who were born to dream a certain dream, and that they all entered into that dream together, in fact their first entry into that dream would take place when another Benandati would come and take them to the night battle, on Thursdays of the Amber days, which are set for fasting and prayer in each of the four seasons of the year.

Both the witches and the benandati on trial reported the very same scene, and the same battle, although each had a very different story about how he came to get there, and what happened to him in that place, but the vision themselves were homogeneous.

Carlo Ginzburg noted that the upper class found it very hard to deal with the belief of the peasants, and in truth let some of the cases go amiss as they could not believe the tales and visions shared. He took a further step and described the whole saga and the trials as a sort of class war in which the beliefs and creativity of the peasants were banned by an upper class that could not make sense of them. Instances like an inquisitor asking one of the Benandati why did he go, and him replying that he was taken because he was born under the sign, to which the inquisitor replied, every man has a free will. The Benandati, being from the unreflective class as Carlo puts it, did not share that notion, for him he was the continuous link with an age old oral tradition in which those born under the sign, must go into the night battle dream.

The night dream battle of the Benandati versus the witches

The beauty of the idea that up to the 17th century peasants had a whole strata of folklore and night journeys, shared dreaming voyages and “games” as they called them where men and women would fight each other with the stakes being the next year harvest, calling in storms and enjoying themselves in ways that were increasingly deemed demonic (a lot of which involved the devil). Later on other Historians and researchers like Eva Pocs from Hungary found similar threads in the beliefs of Hungarian people, Serbian and Bulgarians. Weather Shamans, as the Hungarian Talt’os and Zduhać had helpers in a so called Dragon woman, similarly sharing dream scapes and influencing the weather.

They reported dreams in which they had entered and fought over the weather front with another weather shaman, sometimes in the form of a dragon, in fact the dragon motif probably emerged through those practices rather than other mythology. The difference is that they entered a certain dream with only one other “shaman” in those weather dreams, and in the night battles, or for the witches the “Sabbath” for which they entered the dream en masse.

The witch trials and the inquisition were means Carlo Ginzburg argued by the upper class who no longer lived in nature to curb the notions of a people who still practiced a natural life, in fact any people living with nature to some degree still share those type of notions, from weather control, to shared dreaming. And it could be argued further that the fact no one practices those type of activities is simply because they were banned through religion of a people that no longer lived immersed in nature when they could not understand the rural logic anymore.

Our current understanding of magic, and rural areas, is in fact lacking in a central myth. People spend a life time working to construct community, as I have done, finding that project after project, and more so in rural areas, lack something, a core. To me that core is magical creativity of a people, and their connection to the land, so imagine the peasants of Northern Italy going into dreaming together, and working their local weather systems, fighting each other for the next years harvest, by following oral traditions that possibly were not just localised but shared by everyone in Europe, even if they were not connected, meaning in a way that those belief systems and practices are a core practice for any rural people.

The interesting thing is that the rural landscape also have become abandoned as a continuation of the same logic, and our own view of, what in truth should be termed, ‘Rurality’ are still the very same notions of the inquisitors from an upper class, living in castles and cities, meeting the peasant folk who still lived on the land, with their tales of magical gusts of winds, witchcraft, magic, and even night battles. We treat farming and community in the same way.

If you really manage to grasp the scope of a traditional way of life in nature, in which people have practiced dreaming together, and games with which they played with the weather and next years harvest, the magical folk being divided into a male/female grouping, or good versus bad, teams as if they were playing bingo, even if the lines between witch and Benandati were not all too clear. Eventually through the guidance of the inquisition itself have come to be seen all together as witchcraft, all bundled together and forbidden, following later into a mental framework shift and eventually to the abandonment of the countryside, turning into estates through the enclosure act in the UK, but through similar processes in other European countries, maybe you starting to understand the logic behind banning rurality, or the business plan if you wish for doing so.

You can understand the scope of an economic system being built away from the people, and their practices being forbidden. Step by step, circular economy and even village life were abandoned, to feed a globalised system that we have today, one that was never needed by peasants, as in fact most of them grew all they ever needed.

Taking away the religious aspect, we have up to the 17th century in Europe a connection to an art that people living on the earth practiced in every indigenous society, meaning that any people who live a truly rural life, have come up with the very same notions, and “magical” abilities, and in a way we can simply argue that the fact we do not share those beliefs is simply because we do not live in rural areas in connection with true nature. The few that do, live in some kind of agriculturally altered countryside, and so the connecting myths and the central pillar of the community is always lacking, but saying this is not taking it far enough, it is not lacking, it is banned from existence. That is why it is a class war, where the countryside is simply used as a resource to create bigger farms and estates, which have never been sustainable even with technological farming methods, now those systems are collapsing even with modern agriculture, because the old system was a natural means to work and live on the land and the modern is not.

I would say give the land back to the people, but is it too late? It seems everyone has forgotten how to live naturally.

The funny thing is that our own notions are of the Italian (or an European) upper class, and we too no longer believe that shared dreams are possible, or that the Benandati and the witches can go and meet in a dream meadow somewhere and fight each other to decide next year’s crop.

We do not believe in mystical gusts of wind, or that certain mountains stage wars with the hills next to them, that some people control the weather, and so much more, yet the magical is only actually, truly, a reflection of the rural.

In a sense that was always the centre of the community, I will try to write another entry, about why the people “born under the sign” were always referred to as – Good neighbours, Good Patrons (another name for the famous “women of the outside” in Sicily), or the Good Walkers in the case of Benandati. People born this way, could in our time be called, Autistic, or suffering from ADHD, sometimes maybe diagnosed with schizophrenia because we have no other means to understand the things they see, yet once in the not very long ago, they had a central role in an rural area social systems, that of creating the central body of the myth, or in other words they made the tribe, or the village. Which is why possibly they were referred to as Good neighbours, taking into consideration that the population knew they could affect things around them for both good or bad.

I for once would say that with living real natural context, all of those notions and world view points arise by themselves, yes they are built in through society too, as the belief of being born with a caul and it being an un refutable sign that must have taken centuries if not millennia to from into a belief, coming like Carlo argues through millennia of shamanism and lore, and possibly resembles a pre civilisation core that still existed in European societies from times before farming, passed down through oral societies, and replaced by scripture of the upper class.

The Benandati were convinced of their errors just like the witches were, some were burned, some jailed and a lot have just petered away, even if those notions still exist in rural Italy, and I would say the difference is that in those areas people still to a degree live with nature, their land is not always agricultural, it is peasantry in the middle of pure nature, and so rurality is a meeting point, in which magic to some degree still takes place, a magic we can no longer conceive because we either live in agricultural land (managed nature) or cities where none exist, and so we too have forgotten that the magical world view is just the natural one, we think that the weather just happens and we think that dreams, weird as they are just a private matter.

That border line between the upper class and peasants is actually a barrier in our own conceptuality, in order to see things different we must at one point in our lives experience life in totally wild nature, and I do not mean a trip to the mountains, even if that can help, but living in such a place where rurality is still practiced, and if possible by a people who lived in that way for a long time, allowing them to create a central myth, which I have come to understand as the missing glue for modern society.

Living in Central Italy has brought me face to face with a lot of this, in truth at times I feel like some witches I know fight with me over my heritage wheats fields, as some of the natural disasters that happen can not be simply put to climate change, but yet again I feel we all take the point of view of the inquisitor, and the real spectrum and folklore of the peasantry is now lost in our minds, we stopped waking up at night like rural people would in Europe, and go into a power dream, we stopped playing night battles with each other.

Imagine whole groups of people who shared dreaming games 4 times a year, to such a degree that some have reported 5000 people meeting on the same plain. Those “Anti-Withces” all agreed on the Thursday night, even if they lived hundreds of kilometres away from each other, as Friuli and Sicily of Middle Ages, at least to me, should not have been socially connected. You can not compare that with watching Netflix.

If anything I would recommend you read the Night Battles by Carlo Ginzburg, for getting a little glimpse of the real Italian imagination and folklore that has been lost now, and maybe to get a glimpse of why we restrict a lot of the magical, the imaginary and the natural in modern society. Why Globalisation has killed circular economies, why farming is a monoculture, and why society has lost most of its biodiversity to a degree that any other trait but being totally imagination-less is deemed a problem. Once you realise it is all parts of the same parcel, and that the only way out of it is discovering our magical selves again, nothing will look the same.

Job and investment opportunities

Its 2021, who would believe it, seeing the inside of our homes so often. So many things have gone wrong for so many people, and we had our own share if not more.

We feel it is high time we collectively start looking at rural areas, our efforts remain on two fronts Abruzzo where we focus most of our work on a real slow development, where marginal areas can be developed slowly into experiential, maybe even transformational locations, but focusing on keeping local community and villages intact as much as possible. In the UK we would like to help take the whole Glamping industry forward into a new type of experience, themed campsites, and small scale venues of experiential tourism, something that has never really been done before, its the cutting edge of script writing for the tourism industry, and something we have been playing with for years, whenever we and our clients sit and talk about how we really would like to see things done.

What we are looking for is a large land based project, probably an estate, or a conservation project with large land. We would need to find accommodation as part of the project to allow us to be hands on, we will be bringing some of our larger event yurts so our own investment can be from 25k to 50k depending if we can build a campsite as part of the project. We would need a two bedroom house and a small workshop as we aim to keep our cover making work alongside the project.

What we are looking to create is theatre, taking Glamping into a new platform, where clients are no longer just holiday makers, they get to become involved, through heritage foods, and a special eating experience, with a sort of show that takes the client from a spectator into a participant. We look to run events of a new kind, focusing on a return to heritage foods, and historical reference, where man belonged in nature. The themes we aim to play with are tribalism, peasant farming, and traditional issues. The idea is to develop a new kind of an event, a gathering which is like a small scale festival at times, or a high end eating experience, with flavours and foods that have become almost extinct, heritage wheats, and old varieties of food, with participatory theatre, that takes people into the fabric on older ways of life.

We believe that with Covid 19, festivals will have to start becoming smaller type of events, and in a way this ties into it perfectly, it focuses on smaller events of up to 100 people in very special settings, and would be a perfect income for a large estate or farm even. We need someone who is really open to take a new approach to sustainable tourism, and not afraid to venture into a new direction, the fact we are bringing our own tents into the deal means initial investment is low.

We are open to explore an option to run this project from afar, but believe that it would make things much harder, as we would like to guide the whole style of the events. We are also looking for a special type of chef who is open to cooking with and over open fire, and is passionate about the tastes of real foods, and the unique flavours of landraces and heirloom veg and cereal. We focus a lot on heritage wheats, which we help grow in Central Italy, and most passionate about Durum wheats, of which we are collecting some of the oldest in the world. Most of our events focus on handmade pasta as an art form that ties wheat to the land through tradition of peasant farming, but we also play a lot with archeo-foods, old recipes that have been almost lost, and leave one with a question for why.

Because we are starting to venture in some new directions, and to keep our cover work going, we are also looking for someone to train as a seamstress, but the focus here would be for someone to work with us on making covers from distance, and mainly yurt covers, we would prefer a woman, but are open to a man just the same. We need someone passionate about the art of cover making, and can withstand the stress of making seams, we would look to give pass them gradually more and more work, and for them to eventually work independently possibly, but with a clear vision, that we are no longer looking to teach someone to sew yurt covers, so they take our work and compete with us later, so that would need to be clear from the start. We not only are probably one of the longest cover making in the Glamping industry we are almost the only one doing so at a distance, it is not an easy job, and one that can leave you crying. We not only actually wrote the full yurt cover sewing book, we have also taught many in the business, most of which make their own yurts. This time we would like to teach someone that can keep the work in house, even if they operate separately in the end. So it is a chance to work with us, and take on some off our clients, for a larger percentage of the work, we have many regular clients. We have a love for sewing canvas like no one else, born out of endless nights and days where we worked the machine to the bone, and we would like to find someone who loves this art like we do, and work alongside, learn pattern ,makings, and all of our secrets.

We hope 2021 will see us all in a better place, and hope we can start focusing more time on rural development as a whole, take the tourism industry into a more integrated place with small scale farming, and natural conservation, we believe that waiting for politicians to sort it out for us is meaningless, because in truth they do not really have an idea about rural areas, and so we feel the work should be done by all of us regardless, and that if we want to really defeat globalisation taking over, the loss of the countryside and possibly all of freedoms this is the only way. We wish you all a happy new year.

The girl with the crow from a tribal dinner event in Abruzzo

Yin and Yang

‘Bombs’ Marziale said, ‘first they throw bombs and then close everything up’, it was his conspiracy theory.
The gate for his charming ramshackle row of houses was closed behind him, I think it was more of a reflex because the dogs used to come out, but I don’t think he realised that the only dog that posed any danger has been tied for two years now. With a few of his dogs killed by the hunters and a few others gone missing.
The paint on the gate was old, but the tricolours of the Italian flag could still be seen clearly.
He has been our neighbour for over 6 years. His Italian is a dialect special to him only. He made me laugh, i’ll stop every time on the way back home, and even though our conversation would always be the same, as if we are rehearsing, I’ve come to appreciate it.

The fields were all ploughed, and though we usually spoke of our strategy for sowing wheat, it was as if time itself stood still, things did not make sense anymore. The Holocene has come to an end.
Winter was approaching, but the last few years it came late, climate change was everywhere. By ‘bombs’ he meant to say that the pandemic was back, that it was man made, it was dropped on us all.

There is a craziness in rural Italy, one that is hard to make sense of, especially for us that have grown up in the western mindsets. Families are the rule, and there is an ancient law that rules the land, and it all comes together in my neighbour in a strange way. We were leaving, or at least I think we were, something snapped inside me, we were leading a revolution by ourselves, a revolution I did no longer believe in.
So standing there with him outside his gate, the fading tricolours and 10,000 years of sowing wheat, the climate change itself even, and our plans to bring back the heritage wheats of old into production, where all on standby, as if waiting for some heavenly decision, ‘bombs’ he said, ‘they drop bombs on us and than they make new rules’.
This plan that I have convinced him will see him back into farming, more as a way to convince him not to give up. Somehow all of it came together for me, it is this imposing mountain we live under, it makes everything dramatic, everything seems big. I was sitting in the car, talking to the last peasant farmer of Torricella Peligna, about sewing wheat.
The revolution was none other but an effort to save the Holocene from collapsing on itself.
Wheat is what made the weather stable for over ten thousand years, no one really knows about it, because it’s not a scientific fact. It is a pact some long lost ancestor of us made.

One of his dogs set on the ledge of the second floor window, even the dogs here do not follow normal rules, the row of 4 houses were a progression from liveable, to quite broken, to beyond repair, with the last being the house were the dog lives on a window ledge, that dog used to have a brother, one was white and the other was black, the black one used to live on the roof of his house, but he disappeared one day. Then after the roof was somewhat fixed, the remaining puppy, I took to call Yang, because they looked like Yin and Yang, the white has a black head and the black had a white.
The remaining puppy used to sit on the upstairs window, as if he was mourning his brother.
Things were different under the mountain, and it made some dogs behave differently, Yang found a compromise, he only ventured as far as the second floor, his brother went all the way to heaven and disappeared. One needs to find a balance with how far it allowed the mountain to drive him into other planes of existence, the dogs knew it.
It was the time of the second wave and sure no one dropped bombs to infect us all, or so we we think, but it is also true that things stopped making sense.

Yang at the window ledge

It was a picture frame, his dog. Framed by choice over sensibility, the mountain pulls us into higher planes. Sometimes it seems crazy, the old laws of conduct in small Italian villages, so difficult to the outsider at times, that they almost broke me. I felt like I am being asked to make a ruling, here in this strange land of the past, medieval villages are suspended in mid air, dogs are pulled into window ledges, and wheat stands in question, the stability of the Holocene.

I drove back home, I have given all my wheat to local farmers to plant, I give them one seed and they give me two in return, that’s the core of the project. I could not really focus on wheat anymore, In fact I never could. I was running late for work, we have endless yurt covers to make. I wonder how we got to that point, we used to be free, on the road, with no work and no hassle, how come nomads can not travel freely, because they make yurt covers for a thousand campsites.

It is a strange occupation being a yurt maker, and a yurt cover maker (which is the majority of our work) even more so, it’s such an art. We make all of our yurt covers from afar, and believe me it is maybe one of the hardest lines of work. To know how much to add, how much to trust the client’s measurements, where to cut more, where to add less. The fact I was running up and down the mountain, did not help, the measurements of three different covers were turning inside my head to a point that I could not see the math anymore, Pythagoras was taking over but who knows what he was calculating. There are pictures in my mind, snaps, stories and they tend to come out when I sew.
The problem is that it is hard to bring them out to make sense, not so much to me, but to others.

I know what was going on, I know it was not bombs, but I also know my neighbour is not crazy, even though the locals sometimes say he is, he is the last link of a chain of a people, a way of life – the sedentary. I am his neighbour, yet I never belonged anywhere, and though I find it hard to deal with the issues of central Italy, I have found a belonging here. I am though more of a nomad and he, the last peasant farmer. The mountain frames everything in this dramatic sense, a romanticisation of daily lives.
If we did not buy our land with the last houses of the commune, he would have sold already. So I live in the contradiction, it’s the end of time, not because the world is ending, because it is not, what is ending is our pact with the creator.

Currently here, under the mountain where dogs live in their own abandoned houses, perched on window sills, me and my neighbour are facing this question together, can we save the climate?.
What is hard to explain, is that the climate we are used to is an agreement.
It is an agreement made by nomads at the end of the younger dryas (the last ice age) when in order to stop the sky from rotating, which they failed, they chose to live in one place. What they succeeded in, is making the chain of ice ages stop. They did it with wheat, they did it by stopping their roaming.

It is only in the contradictions, on the edge of abandon, or when everything seems to fall apart, something magical opens, like a door. In it you can see the making of ages. Italy of the mountains is ruled by something older, something that seems so foreign to the outsider, it is community.
What makes it hard to see, is that we have a sense of community that we gained from instagram, novels of a paradise lost, of other ways of life.
So it is hard for us to see it, because now, at the end of the Holocene, when all the agreements are falling down, we do not understand that the last guardians of a ten thousand year agreement, are small Italian farmers.

Nomads, it has been said always plunder the sedentary. We, in our own personal journey, have come to place after place like that, the rule of 5 (which also means something else to us) meant that we were used to pack our things and move within 5 minutes, if we deemed a place to be unhealthy. That still drives me crazy, the idea of living in a park-up, in a lay-by for 6 years. The Huns see houses as tombs, and I can not fault the judgement, houses are tombs for nomads.
I sit on a pile of yurt covers, there are only a few people who knows this art, the cover makers, most of which have been taught by us. We have our own language, seam allowances, and shrinkage. Sometime at the end of long day of chasing the illusive line between reality and craziness, trying to find the right place to end the canvas above the yurt door, not sure if to trust the client, or the figures they have sent us, it boils down to intuition, at the end of the day sometimes we have a small victory, a new way to pattern the roof pieces or
another way to stitch the cap. Sometimes we design another tent, but most of all it is impeccability of the trade, throwing yourself into the unknown of
someone else’s frame. Learning a to know from experience what can go wrong, and assume the worst, I laugh how my clients get amazed when I tell them how they took a measurement and why its wrong. To give them their dues, they work hard to measure their frames for us, and we send them back and back again to them to make sure they haven’t got anything wrong.

How did we get here, can nomads make the law for the countryside?, I remember when we lived in tents, and everything seemed sane, even if new age community is a monstrosity, with no real roots in existence, but we were the only people living in tents. The rest of the population lived in houses, we were poor, and once every few years we would sell our tent cover, or poles, it was our way to pay for a new home. which was again a tent, it was like a snake shedding its skin, and in order to afford the new one, he had to sell the old to someone else, this is how it all started.

How did we end up with a thousand campsites, and people in massive estates calling us to make them new yurt covers. Now they ask us how to run the countryside, but we alongside them have ruined it. We turned it into a chain of holiday homes and campsites, we sold them our community and they use it to repackage their massive estates, so we can never buy, or even rent in the countryside, and none of us is really happy, even though for a time they pretend it’s so much better solution to farming, its called diversification, I can call it diversify your attention from what’s really going on.

So you see, it is hard to strike a balance between the real and the made up, the lines are diffused, only a few yurt cover-makers know that art, only they understand. We live in a lie, because as long as we make yurts for sedentary people we can not travel, it is their way to keep us in place, they sell our art, and the country side with it to an endless stream of people who would never live in it. Together we have repackaged the land and made it less accessible to all.

We have no time to make up our mind, to lead the sedentary into another epoch, because there is always the next yurt cover to make, I am lucky because I have trained others to make covers with me, and it gave me some time to focus on something else. We dreamed together, but the pressure of making a cover after cover, yurt after yurt, broke their dreams. They feel like we will never find freedom, all that we have found is an endless pile of patterning, we got holed in small homes and workshops. Once the only campsites were where we lived, around the fire.

We all knew how to make our tents. Sure, none of us were very good at it because we only did it every few years. Now we sold our freedom, and we make the best tents in the world, I know things about pattern making that few do, Its an art, when you get good at it you can do it in mid air, its a space a few can hold, the patterns float, and you must hold them all inside you, balancing all the factors, holding all the measurements, the canvas shrink, the stitching. We sold our way of life and the community, and as long as we keep doing so, to people who re-market it as an experiential tourism, nor we or them can ever find it again.
The people who I’ve trained blame me, and maybe they are right. I feel like something is looming over us all. It is decision time. Underneath all this industry of selling the landscape as a package, there is a small family of tent makers, and most of us are related.

In central Italy the mountain rules all, I know that modern society is incapable of true community, it does not even know what it should look like. We have become accustomed to making belief, we convince each other community still exists. I have lived in the marginal, in the borderlands of society all my life, I have seen enough alternative communities to know nothing is different. Maybe I am the only one that will say it, but there is no such thing as sustainable tourism either. We sell abandoned lands as a dream, as a resource, when we aren’t willing to live sustainably in them.
I have been up since 5 in the morning, and I am on the verge of giving up on my (now) one man revolution, I know something else. It is just hard to speak about it, my “crazy” neighbour seems the only sane person around, ‘bombs’ of coronavirus, are the mark of the end of an epoch. Most of us are so distracted by Covid-19, that we do not see that the countryside itself is sick, the apple trees, the olives. This last year has seen a whole olive field next to our place in Italy, develop a new sickness. We are all so homocentric that we miss out, currently (it seems to me at least) all of the non local varieties of fruit trees are dying. Sure they always had less tolerance to sickness, but they managed, you do not expect them all to die within one year. After all the olive grove next to our houses have been there for 30 years.

I say I am a nomad, but there have been no true nomads for over ten thousand years. Nomadism as we know it is an offshoot of the neolithic revolution, the people of the steppe domesticated horses, and it gave them a trading power. They lived in yurts, and now I feel like their last descendant, I know things that only exist in contradictions. We have ran out of a design plan, our rent is due. I led a one man’s revolution, I have to make up my mind, but my mind does not function like other people’s.

In the long long ago, all mammals have been infected by a virus, not unlike we are now. ‘Bombs’ he said it, and it makes me laugh.
Some think he is crazy, but there is a sanity in how he sees things, in his dialect, it is a language of his own, made from being the last frontier man for so many years, farming the last farm of the village. The real edge of abandonment makes one sane in ways others can not comprehend, it is where nature writes Man.

All of our minds have been infected by a virus, and this is how we think. Activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein or ARC as it is known, plays a critical role in synaptic plasticity in our brains. With an important function in our memory. It has been suggested that it acts in a very similar way to a virus, self assembling into virion-like capsids that encapsulate RNA as it does.
It is thus theorised to be repurposed from a viral event somewhere in earlier evolution in order to mediate intercellular communication in neurones.
What?!! you may ask.

We have ALWAYS been thinking like a virus!!!, in fact thinking is a viral function, and that is what I am trying to say, what we deem crazy, is that some of us do not encapsulate in the same manner, our thoughts are not regular, and mine never seem to have been. We are humans, now scared of a new virus, always scared of the virus, yet it is the virus itself that taught us to be scared. We above all other animals, we are not the smartest, we just got more virused. That is why community is hard for us, we make separation inside our heads, the capsids we wrap around our thoughts and memories.
Yet that was then (million of years ago) and now is now, and now is the time for someone to make a decision, the trees are dying, and the Holocene is at an end, not because of climate change, but because we stopped honouring our agreement with the creator, when nomads come to farm.

Living in the marginal makes you see things that others do not, and it teaches you to not put stock in thoughts, or agreements, those work very well for people in the city, they live in a system, for me houses are tombs, and thoughts are a take over from another ancient pandemic, one that has changed mammals into new evolutionary strategy. So we think, and we think a lot, we remember also, but it is just the function of a virus from long ago, and even though it gave us brilliance, we still need to make our choices for ourselves, the trade off for that so called brilliance is community, what made us “better” than the animals, is not that we are, is that we think is separation, we can break the biome, we can encapsulate the idea of the individual, and they can not, they have been infected like us, but never got as sick.
My problem is that I need to decide for others.

Writing for me is a way to bridge all of that, where I live there are no rules. Simply because no one wants to live there. I was pushed all of my life to this place, the borderland, even as a kid. So now my mind works in a different way, and it takes a lot to balance it all, I have to wake up at 4am to think clearly. The hard truth about the virus that made us able to think, is that it gave us one mind only, and made us all share it. None of us think alone. I took me years to accept that fact. I was taught by others, the simple first steps into telepathy, and it almost ruined me. What was hard was not being able to hear other people’s thoughts, it was understanding that none of mine were ever my own.

So I guess since then the only place that makes sense is the marginal, the abandoned lands without design, where nature and Man hit on each other as waves. It is a contradiction – where nomads come to farm, to hold the last days of an epoch at bay, and because I do not like to decide for others, I find myself sitting on a mountain of yurt covers, that we make for a string of campsites, places that have “diversified”, or in other words, stopped farming. We are nomads and we never cared about farming. I mean we are all nomads, we only farm because there are too many of us to live freely, we killed too many animals. That is the story of the last epoch, that is why we spent ice age after ice age in isolation. The world was devastated in ways we could no longer fathom. Now we freak out because one degree celsius of change, at the end of the last ice age, our ancestors stood a much more nomadic earth. Their stories of the flood, and comets, of endless winters of starvation is what drove them to a new agreement, but even then it was not all of them who decided, it was a small group of people who came together to hold the sky from rotating. They tried to stop the heavenly mill from grinding the ages, and they failed, but they did manage something else, they managed to appease the creator, and they gave us the Holocene, they were as wild as we are tame, we fear a change of 2 degrees, which comes to show how stable our climate is.

I have to make up my mind, but I no longer trust the mind, I say this, if we are to make a new decision if we are called to turn the heavenly mill around again, our rent is due, and we can no longer find a house to live in, because houses are tombs, yet nomads are just horse breeders without an idea, that do not even grow their own food.

Nomads have been a threat to the climate, because the climate is an agreement they made, I write because I feel you too must have a say. In order to find sanity.
I always ran away, my mind maybe does not work like yours, I need a lot of quiet to hear my own thoughts, so much so, I usually do not trust mine, only at 4 am while the world is asleep. I know the thoughts are mine.

I have learned to trust something else, which is more akin to feelings.
I see truths in contradictions, where dogs sit on window ledges, where the crazy are actually the sane ones. Yang lives on the window of a broken house, mourning because Yin has gone to heaven.