Birth Traditions


As you can imagine, my thoughts are very occupied by the subject of pregnancy and birth in these days (because I am pregnant). A lot of things that I heard over the years about this theme are coming back to mind.

For instance, my mother told me that in Chinese culture, there is a tradition of using dousing to predict the gender of the baby, with a pendulum over the mother’s belly. If the pendulum moves in a line, then the baby is a boy. If it moves in a circle, then it’s a girl. They did this with my mother when she was pregnant with me, and the pendulum moved in a line, so they were expecting a boy and they were a bit surprised when I came out! Perhaps the system measures more than just the physical aspect.

There are so many traditions, beliefs and superstitions about this subject. Here are a few interesting ones that I found from world cultures:

pregnancyChildbirth. To mitigate potential birthing pain, in China the mothers drink a strong herbal potion. In Guatemala they drink a liquid made by boiling a purple onion in beer, to speed up the delivery. In Morocco, the midwife performs a massage on the mother’s stomach and vulva with olive oil and offers her an infusion of herbs such as mint, thyme, cinnamon and cloves.

Opening. In Mexico, they close all the doors and windows during childbirth to protect against negative forces. In India, however, they leave the doors open and the mother’s hair free to symbolize the opening of the womb during childbirth. There is also this practice of openness in Morocco.

The placenta. In Hindu translation, the placenta is considered to be almost alive, as if it were the twin brother or sister of the newborn, and they have a complex ceremony to bury the placenta on the land around the home. In Bali, they also have ancient practices to give value to and bury the placenta. In Cambodia, the placenta is wrapped in a banana leaf and kept close to the baby for three days before burying it.

The name. Many cultures have a practice of naming the child 7 days after birth. In Pakistan and other Islamic countries, the child’s hair is shaved at this time of the aqiqah, the baby is weighed on a scale with gold and silver that is then donated to the poor, and there may even be sacrificed animals. In Egypt, the mother and baby receive religious gifts and jewelry. In Japan this time is called the oshichia. Hawaiian names are unique for each child with deep and powerful meanings, and the names are usually complex to avoid the attention of negative forces.

The bath. In Nigeria, with the omugwo tradition, the grandmother (or aunt or friend) gives the baby his or her first bath as a gesture of solidarity toward the mother, to show the support of the women in the community. In Tibet the pang-sai, or purification of the baby, is a ceremony that takes place 3-4 days after birth with gifts of food and clothing to symbolize a life of abundance, and the wisest person present present choose the name for the baby.

After childbirth. In Bali, newborns do not touch the ground for the first 105 days of life. They are always in the arms of their mother or relatives. In Latin American cultures there is the quarantena, a period of 40 days that is spent just taking care of the baby and breastfeeding, without making any other efforts, not even making love.

meerkatNow that I am entering ever more deeply into our Damanhurian birth traditions: rituals, prayers, godparents, characteristics, Temples and Sacred Woods, I see and appreciate the thought and collective efforts of the community that that come together in synergy on so many levels to welcome a soul who is coming home.

Quaglia Cocco
The Befana


Tradizioni della nascita

Come potete immaginare i miei pensieri sono tanto occupati dal tema della gravidanza e la nascita in questi giorni (perché sono incinta). Mi tornano in mente tante informazioni in merito che mi sono arrivate negli anni. Continue reading


A year of being the Befana


Best wishes to everyone on the day of the Epiphany (La Befana)! I have been playing the role of the Befana (fully in the role and no longer an apprentice) for a year now. I still remember the wonder and also the fear that I felt when I received news from Shama Viola that she had chosen me as her apprentice. I remember the day of the official passing of the role, staying up at night to respond with the right action to the first challenge: a letter from Zela and Nilo (Damanhurian children) asking for particular gifts.

Here I share some lessons that I learned throughout the year, listening to the voice of the Befana within and beyond:

I am ready. I am a young Befana. At first I thought maybe too young to fill a role that requires wisdom and represents a mystical appearance in connection with divine forces. However, all throughout my life I have found myself in situations where I didn’t have all the traditional qualifications, although by overcoming doubt and choosing to be there, to do, to act, to learn, to offer myself to others… I find that something always comes together to support: inspiration, synchronicity, the knowledge of the Popolo, mysterious aid, rewards that are proportionate to the courage involved in making the choice.

Listening and communicating. There are messages, always. To receive and to give. It’s just a matter of finding the right way to listen. Sometimes it’s silence. Sometimes it’s an observant eye. Sometimes I need to let go into the flow of connection that is always moving around me. Sometimes I don’t quite understand: why this message, in this moment, and for whom? But I trust in it, and I express it, and the open channel surprises me with synchronic results, like the story of the parking lot blocks and the dome of the Hall of Mirrors!

The broom. Part of the Befana myth says that she is always occupied in housecleaning. Even when she is flying out and about, she leaves the floor clean using her Befana broom. And this represents sweeping away of the problems of the year. It’s true, I have always swept the floor in the spaces around me attentively and a little obsessively. There is a distinct feeling before and after, renewed energy, lightness, a stage that is reopened to welcome new events and presences. The broom is a symbol, and it is also a tool for taking action in the material world.

Happy cleaning and celebration!

Quaglia Cocco
The Befana

befana-quagliaAuguri a tutti nel giorno della Befana! Svolgo questo ruolo da Befana (piena e non più apprendista) da un anno adesso. Mi ricordo ancora lo stupore e anche il timore che sentivo quando ho ricevuto la notizia da Shama Viola che mi ha scelta come apprendista, e il giorno del passaggio ufficiale, rimanendo sveglia di notte per rispondere con l’azione giusta alla prima sfida: una lettera da Zela e Nilo chiedendo doni particolari. Continue reading

Inside the Befana’s closet

I am at my parents’ house in Houston, Texas, in my old bedroom from childhood and adolescence. Looking for a book, I began to open the boxes in the closet (in America the closets are spaces as big as some of the bedrooms I’ve lived in at Damanhur), and it unleashed entire worlds and universes. I found the book I was looking for… and everything else.

le-coseThe photos from New Year’s in Chiapas, Mexico with the Zapatistas together with those of the grave sites of my great-grandparents in Taiwan. Years of documentation of my artistic projects and art books. My mother’s glasses from the 1960s and her traditional Chinese wedding dress (red) that I intended to wear when I got married (hasn’t happened yet). An edition of Romeo and Juliet printed in 1909. My copy of the book Eat, Pray, Love, gifted to me by my sister when I went to Italy in 2007, of which I’ve only read the “Eat” section, because reading the part about Italy while in Italy, I thought I would also read the part about India and Indonesia when I go to those countries (haven’t quite gotten there yet). Letters, art and handmade gifts from many ex-lovers. Vaccination documentation, poetry, nearly a decade of We’Moon with my writing inside, a book of prayers from the hospital I was born in, a complex family tree with names in Chinese and lineages of multiple wives. The black dress my mother sewed for me when I was 16 years old (still fits me).

I ask myself, “What am I going to do with all this stuff?” They are all things precious enough to have survived many phases of clearing out, selling, recycling, giving away and moving. And now? Do I leave it all here? Bring some things with me to Damanhur? Where will I put them? Do I really need them? When will I go to India? and Indonesia? Will I ever come back to live on this continent in this lifetime? Do I burn everything in a bonfire? Will my children (If I ever have children) want to see these relics from the life of their mother and her family? If I don’t figure out where these things are going now, I’ll need to do it someday, anyway.

One thing I know for sure is that every object feels so alive. I sense the vitality, the emotions felt, the love transmitted, the energy invested. and Time… How much information can be conserved within an object… it’s really incredible!

Something else that is certain: I won’t be taking any of this with me into the threshold (the beyond), which is just as well, otherwise we’d need to figure out how to make everything fit in our bedrooms there too. I will bring nothing but the imprint of my experiences on the personalities within, the absolute purity of living every moment fully, here and now.

Quaglia Cocco
The Befana


Dentro l’armadio della Befana

Sono nella casa dei miei genitori a Houston, Texas nella mia vecchia camera da letto da bambina e adolescente. Cercando un libro, ho cominciato ad aprire le scatole dentro l’armadio (negli Stati Uniti gli armadi sono spazi grandi come alcune stanze in cui ho abitato nei nuclei di Damanhur), e si sono aperti tantissimi mondi e universi. Ho trovato… il tutto.

Continue reading

serious jewelry and technology

Quaglia BefanaI’d like to tell you about my first day as the official (not the apprentice anymore) Befana of the Damanhur Way of the Oracle.

The trials have already started rolling in! I received a package from Zela and Nilo, two Damanhur children ages 8 and 1 year old, with a letter and two stockings to be filled. Before reading the letter, I thought, “I’ll take the stockings to Tentaty – our food coop – get some chocolates and candies to fill them, and it’s done.”

Then, I read the letter:

Dear “young” Befana, I don’t want sweets. etc., but if you have them, I want some “serious” jewelry. And Nilo wants something technological. I love you, Zela + Nilo. kisses and good luck

baciI went by Orocrea, the Damanhur goldsmith and jewelry artist workshop, feeling a little worried as I was looking at the jewelry and strategizing about potential loans I could take out in order to buy gold and gemstone pendants and an ipad… Then, after a phone call speaking with the wisdom of Capra, the children’s mother, I understood that I needed to use a different kind of logic to fulfill this challenge that the kids had launched to me on my first day as Befana.

I went home. In my bedroom, pacing back and forth, I looked at one of the beams and saw a necklace hanging there, one made from deep purple seeds… and I understood what to do.

befana 1The Befana wrote this story:

Once upon a time, there was an Indonesian princess who loved her islands. She walked along the beach collecting seashells, swam in the ocean with fish of a thousand different colors and played with dolphins fishwho spoke with her. In the jungle, she climbed up the trees with the monkeys, and she put bright, colorful flowers in her hair.

One day a messenger from far, far away delivered a letter to the princess. Within the letter was a map to find another island, one on the other side of the planet. This island was just as rich as hers, but the treasures were hidden inside the earth. She knew that this was her future, that she would go to that faraway island to help the people of that place dig in the earth and find the treasures.

There was a prince who loved the princess, and when he heard that she was about to leave for a long journey to a faraway place, he gifted her with a necklace of seeds. Each one of these seeds contained a magic potion in the center, to help realize the most important dreams.

The princess reached the island, and with the power of the necklace around her neck, she helped many people to achieve their dreams.

I, the Befana, met this princess on that island, and she gave me the necklace. She asked me to pass it on to someone who has a very big family with many dreams. This necklace I give to you, Zela. So, by wearing necklace and hugging people, you too can help your family dream big and manifest their most cherished dreams.

So, I would say it is a very serious necklace!

Then, for Nilo, the Befana put her personal nutcracker inside his stocking. You can’t get more technological than that…

It was 2 in the morning, and I finally went to sleep, satisfied by these first magical actions by the Befana.

befana 2I gift you with the capacity to always see the magic in life.


Gioielli e tecnologia seri

Mi piacerebbe raccontarvi del mio primo giorno da incaricata come Befana ufficiale (non più apprendista) della Via dell’Oracolo di Damanhur… già le prove arrivano! Continue reading

The shamanic power of Mahjong tiles…

…games and competitions.

Throughout history, different cultures have expressed the pleasure of connecting to others through playing in games, races and competitions. Having fun in this way creates deep connections and lightens conflicts. Peoples around the world have always devised playful ways to express this kind of connection in their own culture.

The Damanhurian Popolo has also been exploring this modality for a while now, playing and having fun as a way of connecting different people and groups. We value living with a sense of humor and not taking ourselves too seriously. We have the Game of Life, which since 1983, has made sure that the spirit of play is alive in hearts and everyday lives. We have had historical competitions, ones on the beach at Gargano in Southern Italy… Then there is the Horusiadi (a kind of Damanhurian Summer Olympics). There is also a new space at Damjl called the Giocoteca that creates spaces and opportunities to play and throw yourself in the game. On Tuesday evenings at the nucleo community Magilla, you can often choose to participate in the right challenge for yourself, whether playing board games, video games, foosball or a pretty fierce game of volleyball.

mahjong tilesThinking about the value of play, I remember when I was a child and I went to visit my relatives in Taiwan, and almost every evening after dinner, they played Mahjong, a Chinese game where you win points and sometimes money by creating favorable combinations of tiles that are like playing cards. My grandparents, aunts and uncles would sit there for hours divided in tables of four, snatching up and pushing around the tiles with their signature click-clack sound. I asked myself, why do they spend so much time playing this game? It was an immovable ritual, an absolute priority.

Sometimes I would play with them, and often win too! And I began to understand the fascination of Mahjong, the magic of it all. Gradually entering into connection with the other players in a network of telepathic thought, navigating with strategy and speed. Sometimes synchronicity would make extraordinary and improbable combinations with the tiles laid down and passed from one person to the next. Basically, it was a veiled shamanic school. Even the tiles contained interesting natural elements: wind from the four directions, different kinds of dragons – red, green and white, the four seasons of the year, and four flowers (bamboo, chrysanthemum, orchid and plum).

These experiences in my youth taught me that giving space to playing and games nourishes us, creates bonds, opens news doors and refines our perceptive and magical powers.

Quaglia Cocco, Apprentice Befana

Il potere sciamanico delle tessere di Mahjong… i giochi e le competizioni

Da quando il tempo è tempo, i Popoli hanno sempre espresso la piacevolezza della connessione attraverso il gioco, le gare e le competizioni. Il divertimento lega gli animi e alleggerisce i conflitti. Qualsiasi popolo ha sempre escogitato modalità giocose per esprimere nella propria cultura modi di connettersi l’una all’altro.

Anche il Popolo damanhuriano da tempo sta esplorando questa modalità, che attraverso il gioco ed il divertimento sta legando i vari gruppi. Valorizziamo il vivere con l’umorismo e il non prendersi troppo sul serio. Abbiamo il Gioco della Vita che da 1983 fa si che lo spirito del gioco sia vivo nella nostra vita e nei nostri cuori. Abbiamo avuto le gare storiche, quelle sulla spiaggia a Gargano… Poi le Horusiadi (una sorta di Olimpiadi d’estate a Damanhur). C’è anche uno nuovo spazio a Damjl che si chiama la “Giocoteca” che crea spazi ed opportunità di giocare e giocarsi. C’è la martedì sera al nucleo comunità Magilla dove spesso si può scegliere la sfida più adatta a sé, tra giochi a tavolo, videogiochi, calcetto o un torneo di pallavolo piuttosto accanito.

Pensando del valore del gioco, mi ricordo quando ero piccola e andavo a trovare i miei parenti in Taiwan, e quasi ogni sera dopo cena giocavano a Mahjong, un gioco da tavolo cinese dove si guadagnano punti e a volte soldi, creando opportune combinazioni di tessere. I miei nonni e gli zii si sedevano divisi in tavoli a quattro, scambiando e spostando le tessere lisce con i clic-clac, immobili per delle ore; mi chiedevo: perché passano così tanto tempo a questo gioco? Era un rito immutabile, una priorità assoluta.

A volte giocavo con loro, e spesso vincevo anche! E ho cominciato a capire il fascino del Mahjong, la magia. Man mano entrando in connessione con gli altri giocatori in una rete di pensiero telepatico, da navigare con strategia e velocità. A volte la sincronicità faceva succedere combinazioni straordinarie e improbabili con le tessere lasciate e passate uno all’altro. Insomma, era una scuola sciamanica non-dichiarata. Anche le tessere contenevano elementi naturali interessanti: il vento delle quattro direzioni, tre tipi di dragone mahjong flowers– rosso verde e bianco, le quattro stagioni dell’anno, e quattro fiori (bambù, crisantemo, orchidea, pruno).

Queste esperienze della mia gioventù mi hanno insegnato che dare spazio al gioco ci nutre, crea legami, apre nuove porte, raffina i nostri poteri percettivi e magici.

Quaglia Cocco, l’Apprendista Befana