Damanhur: The cult-like community of dreamers hidden away in the Italian mountains
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This is a Student Travel Writer 2018 competition entry
I woke up at 6am to drive a few hours out behind my hometown and delve into the vast, fresh mountains crowning the city of Turin. Among tiny rural towns inhabited by old men making bread and yelling at each other through their adjacent windows, lies the surprising area of Damanhur, a “community of dreamers”.
Damanhur is a Federation of spiritual communities founded in 1975 by Falco Tarassaco, a gifted man said to have an “illuminated and pragmatic vision giving rise to a community based on solidarity, love, spirituality and respect for the environment.” He was well-known as a pranatherapy practioner, a medium and para-psychologist, and in 1975 he put the latter into action by founding Damanhur, etymologically meaning light.
From Damanhur Spiritual EcoCommunity, founding members of Damanhur: Condor, Fenice, Falco, Canguro.
What used to be a small community of free-thinkers born from the ideals and ideas of this one dedicated man, quickly expanded into a 15km federation of communities and home to roughly 1,000 people. This federation attempts to be completely independent, with its own culture, schooling system, currency, energy production, art, and political system.
Indeed, it was recognized as a model for a sustainable society by the United Nations in 2005, welcoming thousands of visitors from all over the world every year, providing classes and visits underlining the groundbreaking philosophical, spiritual and educational discoveries accomplished by Damanhurians.
The Popolo Spirituale in 2014, from Damanhur Spiritual EcoCommunity.
Upon my arrival, I’m personally welcomed by Tursiope Erica, a middle-aged woman with a grey bob-cut and a splash of blue on her bangs. Tursiope Erica is far from her original name, but Damanhurians change their names to that of an animal followed by a plant, Tursiope being the official name for the common dolphin, Erica being a flower known as Heather in English. Falco Tarassaco, the founder, technically means Falcon Dandelion. Or for further example, I read a book by two Damanhurians called Formica Coriandolo and Stambecco Pesco, respectively Ant Coriander and Alpine Ibex Peach. The name changing ritual is adopted by Damanhurians to better connect to their natural surroundings!
My last name in Italian literally means Quail, so it wasn’t hard for me to try and blend in, although I inevitably giggled while reaching my hand out whilst pronouncing that as my name.
Other than having a particular name, Tursiope also has a particular accent. This is because my host is actually a Berliner that moved to Italy to become part of this community. This is significant because it is far from uncommon. In fact, mine was one of the few Italian license plates in the visitors parking lot, as the primary language is Italian but English, German, Dutch, Japanese, Croatian, Norwegian, French and Spanish are also very often spoken.
Damanhur is an inclusive community hosting members from all past pathways who move to the Federation for spiritual reasons as much as ecological reasons; to become residents, temporary citizens or “non-resident” citizens. I even had a chance to hang out with a kid my age, who was born in the community, because now several of the community members have actually been born and bred in the federation, attending the Damanhur based school until high-school, or being part of the youth housing community where they live like families on their own.
Overall, no matter the reason or background, Damanhurians blend together at every occasion. The underlying challenge is to find harmonious coexistence, blending several backgrounds together to create a stable community in continuous evolution founded on love, respect and reciprocal solidarity.
The founder Falco Tarassaco, from Damanhur Spiritual EcoCommunity.
Tursiope walks me across their land and shows me the areas open for me to meditate in. There are altars dedicated to Water, Wind, Earth and Sun. These are simple areas, a couple rocks piled onto each other close to a pond, a few ceramic sculptures surrounding some stairs. This is where Damanhurians celebrate their important rituals of veneration and appreciation on events such as the summer and winter solstice or the last and first day of the year.
Together with these altars there are intricately designed “dedaluses” across the grass; painted rocks making designs to follow according to the energy lines crossing on the land, in order to restore specific energies within our bodies.
Sacred dancers, from Damanhur Spiritual EcoCommunity.
Damanhur is indeed accordingly built upon four intersections of synchronic energy lines, the area with the greatest number of crossings between the total eighteen global synchronic paths, most powerful after the land of Tibet. I walked the path to restore dreams and recharge my abilities to sleep serenely, strolling around with a coin/key sort of object used to charge my neutrality, as advised by Tursiope.
Damanhurians explain: “Being in contact with these lines means being at the center of universal thoughts and information, like the world’s nervous system.”
Along the pathways there are homes painted in beautiful flowers and colors, insects depicted on the stucco as twice my size, reminding the Damanhur citizens that they are part of a bigger system of natural harmony. Here, families live together in community homes, large groups of ten or fifteen, learning the principles of sharing and living in unison. Solar pannels trap light from the rooftops of these squared homes, contributing to the self-sustainability of the federation.
Houses being painted, from Damanhur Spiritual EcoCommunity.
After my acquaintance with a few other Damanhurians, who all salute each other with the clasp of their own two hands and the phrase “con te” - “with you”, abbreviation of “Io sono con te”, “I am with you” - we leave the residential aread of the capital of Damanhur and move to the more industrial side.
We visit the Damanhur Crea, and ex-factory now turned into a location for Damanhurian artists to create and produce art such as sculpture, painting, stained glass, collages, mosaics, and then sell it to make a living. Art is such an important part of their living that several Damanhurians go on to become professional artists, showing the results of their works in the creation of the astonishing Temples of Humankind on Damanhurian premises. Damanhur Crea is also perceived as a large laboratory where people encounter each other to exchange ideas and develop new services; it is also home to several businesses related to food, green building or non-profit organisations.
Experimentation with colour, from Damanhur Spiritual EcoCommunity.
In Damanhur Crea I am also introduced to the technique of the Selfica, a discipline incentred on the power of the spiral, to perform different functions connected to wellness and transmit positive necessary energies within the lives of people. The Crea & Ricerca Foundation has developed a scientific protocol to verify the effectiveness of Selfica intervention on cellular well-being.
Falco Tarassaco and a large Selfica, from Damanhur Spiritual EcoCommunity.
I stop for lunch for lunch in their bar, a normal bar like any other, next to a shop of natural herbs and homeopathic pills. I pay in euros receiving my change in Credito, the traditional Damanhurian currency, only used within the area and between the people of this community, as a self-sufficient method to give each other “credit” for their actions.
Over a plate of vegetables, we chat about love. I’m told that couples in Damanhur marry temporarily, to encourage each other to renew their love every time, or peacefully decide to abandon it according to the deadline, in order to further instill an appreciation of the values of marriage. “Yes, I’ve decided to marry you again!” for example, every year, or every two.
Damanhur Crea specifically is no longer in the capital of the federation, Damjil, where I had been previously, but in a little town adjacent to this land. This serves as great proof of the integration Damanhurians have had with their neighbors since its birth; although it was harsh initially, the Damanhur community and the surrounding towns now exchange and cohabitate in harmony.
In fact, although Damanhurians have their own political system within which they elect two King Guides each six months, the last three mayors of the town in Valchiusella, the valley where Damanhur is situated, have been Damanhuarians! This also proves that the Damanhur message of peace, and interest in the individual as understanding the community, is finally getting to the more arid Italian political system, usually only worried about a collective, forgetting the power and importance of the individual. An important lesson the Damanhurians have taught those that initially depicted them as lunatics.
Damanhur open temple, from Damanhur Spiritual EcoCommunity.
This isn't the only discipline that Damanhurians have conducted great discoveries in. Damanhurian medicine is one of the prides and joys of the federation: the historical field f healing research is pranatherapy, using radiant energy that emanatess from a healer through the positioning of the hands, not transmitting his or her own energy, but rather connecting the patient to the bioenergy of the planet, therefore enabling a contact with the entire universe.
From my visit, I really understood that nature is key in most Damanhurian concepts because it is crucial to human wellbeing. For a city girl living in London, I genuinely realise that's part of the reason our metropolitan style is lacking in such peace and serenity.
The Damanhur guide book explains: “Our human evolution is inextricably linked to the alliance with and reunification of the physical and subtle forces that inhabit this and other worlds. Plants and nature spirits are the beings that inhabit these worlds, and a large part of the research in Damanhur is dedicated to opening roads of deep contact with the “dimension” of plants and nature spirits. For example, in 1976 resident researchers created an instrument that was able to capture the electromagnetic variations of the surface of plant leaves and roots and turnthem into sounds, this is what the federation calls music of the plants.
Music of the plants, from Damanhur on VIMEO.
However, the climax of the day I spent in the federation of Damanhur was by far my tour to their Temples of Humankind, the worlds lagest underground construction excavated by hand; a sacred work of art, unique in the world, dedicated to the divine nature of every human being. But my meditation in the temple was so precious, you'll have to wait for my next article to learn more about it...
Temples of Humankind, from Damanhur Spiritual EcoCommunity.
In the meanwhile, check out their Youtube channel where videos give more of an insight into the Damanhurian life.
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In order to provide no entrant with an unfair advantage, Student Travel Writer 2018 competition entries are edited for grammar only - stylistic choices and headlines are solely the work of the writer in question and not of The National Student's editorial staff.