Egyptian esotericism in Naples showcased at Cairo conference

Scholar details role of processions

06 February, 19:54

    An old portrait of a procession inspired by the Egyptian goddess Isis An old portrait of a procession inspired by the Egyptian goddess Isis

    (by Rodolfo Calò) (ANSAmed) - CAIRO - Marian processions inspired by the Egyptian goddess Isis, squares, necropolises and churches in Naples and the surrounding Campania region all bear the vestiges of Egyptian esoteric sciences.

    The scholar Marco Ruggiero illustrated these influences during a recent conference at the Italian Cultural Institute in the Egyptian capital. Practices linked to Isis, the most highly venerated Egyptian goddess and and sister-bride of Osiris, were seen in Naples during the Roman era and remains of Isis worship can still be glimpsed in some processions, especially marian ones, noted Ruggiero. In Pollica, a town in the Salerno area in Parco del Cilento, a procession is held on July 2 for the Our Lady of Grace feast day in which women - often barefooted - carry miniature boats decorated with flowers and candles on their heads and sing devotional songs. The practice is a descendant of the 'Navigium Isidis' ('Isis's ship'), which in Antiquity consisted in a masked procession featuring a boat filled with floral tributes, noted the esoteric sciences expert. Other common votive containers include a basket, a castle and an egg, all of which are symbols for Isis, he said. 'Isis's ship' reappears in Acciaroli as well (the tourism area of Pollica) during the Feast of the Assumption on the second Sunday of August, when a statue of the Virgin Mary is loaded onto a fishing boat for a procession at sea, followed by other fishing boats loaded with believers holding candles. Orphic-Dionysian and Isis rites have been brought to Naples since Antiquity by merchants, Ruggiero said. As examples, he noted a votive inscription from the second century dedicated to Isis, a statue, the memory of a temple built by her worshipers and the 'Piazzetta Nilo' ( 'Nile Square'). In the Sanità area of the city there is also the 'Cimitero delle Fontanelle' ('Cemetery of the Fountains), a pagan necropolis where a burial system was used that was reminiscent of mummification. Until 1700, the burials were in a niche shaped like a chair in which the body was situated in a sitting, 'Pharaonic' position. ''It may just be a coincidence, but in Naples there are two churches in honor of Santa Maria Egiziaca, an Egyptian nun and hermit born in Alexandria in 344 and revered as a saint in the Catholic, Orthodox and Coptic Churches,'' the expert said, citing the monumental Baroque church named after her in Forcella and one on the Pizzofalcone hill, one of the city's basilicas. More evidence of the link between Naples and Egypt can be found in the Egyptian Collection at the Naples National Museum of Archaeology (MANN), considered one of the most important in the world for Roman era history. (ANSAmed).

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