The history of an Italian medium: part 3



The entity Boccacci

This entity had already communicated in the typtological period, but assumed a strong importance later, in the period of direct voice, in particular when he dictated the novel Gocce di Rugiada, from December 1939 to November 1940. I think this was one of the most interesting entities among those who manifested throughout the whole cycle of séances, and for this it may be useful to highlight its salient features. Apparently Boccacci entity wanted to be identified from his first communication with Giovanni Boccaccio, and as such was recognized by the sitters. Although today we are used to refer to the writer by calling him Boccaccio, Boccacci diction is correct and corresponds to the use, widespread in the Tuscan dialect but also in the Italian language until the nineteenth century, of transforming the plural of the surname that followed the name into a singular that identified the character: so Giovanni Boccacci became il Boccaccio, or Niccolò Machiavelli il Machiavello. Still in 1857 the Decameron edition by Felice Le Monnier reported as author Messer Giovanni Boccacci.
2 December 1937 - «Who are you?» «Giovanni Boccacci. I was buried in Certaldo. My body was so sought after, but it was stolen by a gentle lady». «Can you tell us where your body is now?» «No». «Do you love poetry?» «Yes. My heart tightens. How hard it is to eat the others' bread! Be careful not to joke too much».
Somewhat inaccurate is the citation of Dante (…how tastes of salt / the bread of others, and how hard path is / to go down and up the others' stairs). About his identity, Boccacci frequently refferred to it: «Who are you?» «Boccacci… What do you say about my Decameron? Do not doubt that I am Boccacci; I was eight years old when the divine poet died. Have you ever been to Certaldo? I often wander among those walls». The quote of the dates is correct: born in 1313, Boccaccio was eight years old when Dante died in 1321.  

Boccacci almost immediately mentioned his novel Gocce di Rugiada, saying that it was lost and that he could dictate it later to the sitters so that it could be sent to the letters. However, for several sittings there is no longer any reference to Boccacci, who then returned, communicating (by raps) in a form more similar to what will become his characteristic way of speaking in direct voice.
16 January 1938 - Communication by G. Boccacci: «The rain fell slowly when Messer Seri came out from behind the castle; intact he had his mantle. Never I had seen him before as now; serious he had his face, and just in three jumps he was next to me; his voice was panting. Goodbye».
17 January 1938 - «Who are you?» «Boccacci. I would be pleased if you would visit the town of my life, Certaldo». «In spring, pocket allowing it, we will do it willingly». «I'll follow you. My body, so beloved, never was found». «Where is your body?» «It is at… is at… What a torment to see a daisy bending on its stem! So was that girl. I greet you».
Strange this last sentence of Boccacci, about the daisy bending on its stem, because it seems completely out of context. Perhaps it is an early reference to madonna Grazia, the heroine of the novel Gocce di Rugiada.   

Investigations on Boccaccio burial site

About the disappearance of the body (or rather the bones) of Boccaccio, a topic that was also the subject of other communications reported in the minutes, we now have rather reliable information. The Grand Duke Leopold law of 1783 prevented the burial and conservation of human remains in the churches of Tuscany. In 1921 excavations were carried out in the church of Saints Jacopo and Filippo in Certaldo (where a tombstone and some commemorative inscriptions indicate Boccaccio's burial place) and some bones were found in the excavation beneath the tombstone. A commission was appointed which included Domenico Tordi, a scholar and collector of antiques, who wrote that the writer's bones had been lost with Leopold's reform, after which the tomb of Boccaccio had been opened and the bones transported and scattered in the cemetery of the abbey church of Saints Michael and Jacopo. Already Lord Byron, in the verses of the fourth canto of his Childe Harold's Pilgrimage of 1818, had denounced the destruction of Boccaccio's tomb. In 1913 Don Alessandro Pieratti, the parish of Certaldo, claimed to have discovered the real tomb at the back of the church, in correspondence of the primitive entrance. Later, in 1921, engineer. Antonio Marzi attributed to the writer a skull found in a wall of Boccaccio home in Certaldo, but in 1925 Giuseppe Fontanelli, curator of Boccaccio's home, during a meeting of Valdelsa Historical Society showed that the skull came from the remains found in the archaeological area of Certaldo, and therefore could not be attributed to the writer. So, if it is true that today we do not know where Boccaccio's bones are, it seems certain that until 1783 his body remained inside his tomb in the church of Certaldo (see: Del sepolcro di Messer Giovanni Boccaccio - Esame storico di Giuseppe De Poveda - 1827).

Communications in direct voice of Boccacci entity

Later Boccacci began to speak in direct voice:
24 May 1938 - Boccacci asks for a person (my scribe) who in a previous sitting had transcribed a poem dictated by the entity. Always Boccacci tell us of a book he wrote entitled: Gocce di Rugiada which was not published; he says that this book is much better than his Decameron... Boccacci shows up and says that he likes to be seen as he once was, since very few portraits resemble him. Meanwhile, an emission of ectoplasm from the medium's chest is noticed.
This last statement suggests that Boccacci had materialized, since the minute states that: he likes to be seen as he once was, and in fact his materialization is explicitly mentioned in the minute of May 20, 1938. In this respect, the portrait that Boccacci  makes of himself (tall, thin) is very different from the image given by the portraits of the real Boccaccio, who already in his maturity suffered from annoying obesity, and then, in old age, from hydropsy:
1 June 1938 - Boccacci speaks about his times and his person; he says that he was tall and thin, and had a deep way of looking, turning from left to right so quickly that someone got impressed, a slow walking…    

In this period Boccacci had undertaken to dictate to Gino Franchi, cited as the scribe that he liked very much, a piece of poetry. The dictation went on for a couple of sittings and, as Ravaldini told in his book, «the poem, in alternate rhyming ottonary verses, described the wedding of an unidentified Messer Lorenzo with monna Lisa Cavalcanti, dwelling in detail on some of the characters intervening at the ceremony and using towards them the long tongue of the wives». At some point in the dictation one of the sitters expressed his disappointment at the too explicit expressions used by Boccacci, and his intervention put an end to the dictation. Here is the tasty commentary on the episode, taken from the minutes of that sitting.
9 June 1938 - Amato allows Boccacci to go on dictating his poem because there is one that greatly understands his writings. Since there is among the sitters a person who calls himself a professor, but who does not really understand anything, and it seems to him (with his little brain) that the so beautiful writing of Boccacci is a bit too shameless, he dares to ask the entity the favor to dictate less libertine phrases. This insipid and trivial observation gets the result of stopping the dictation of the poem and causes to lose so much light both to Boccacci and to Amato.    

For those who are curious, here is the full text of the poem, transcribed from a notebook with a rip, like a hole, present in all its pages. The notebook was in fact found after a bombing during the war, and the hole in its pages is due to a splinter that had gone through it from side to side. (The strophes must be read from left to right).    

Messer Lorenzo sposaa   
Monna Lisa Cavalcanti      
e in se stesso s'apprestaa    
desideri assai brucianti.

«L'astro nostro che sia tuo»     
(le diss'io in cuor battendo)     
e volgendomi allo suo:      
«Car messer ti sta fondendo».

Fatta è di porco grasso
con del mel rimescolato,      
dentro è il fiel di certo tasso
pianto c'è di violato.

Rossa Lisa era al volto
lo suo labbro già tremaa
lo pensier avea molto
per la sera che arrivaa.

Po' di piano si curvaa       
snocciolando chi sa cosa      
po' ancora si voltaa      
assumendo certa posa.

C'era Giulia e Maria
tutte pien di tal moine       
ch'ammirate eran per via
di sue vesti molto fine.

C'eran pure altri tanti
che non mi ricordo io,
fitti c'eran come santi
che 'n contorno stanno a Dio.

Po' che 'l poto lavoraa       
certi lazzi si sentian       
qualche uno già sognaa
e le monne già svenian.

Ecco là la monna bella      
degna certo di pintor,
che piacere avere quella       
per adisfar certo sentor.

Allor monna molto irata
per sua pena che sentia,     
altro stel s'era cercata
che sua pen' molto lenia.

Po' un broto giù colaa
certa roba un po' oliosa,
e con man essa mandaa
quell'insiem coll'altra cosa».

E di casa ero pur'io      
all'invito accettando       
giunto dissi: messer mio,  
ti sognai molto colando.

Allor Lisa schiuse bocca
in trillante sua risata       
come rivo che trabocca
mi mirò con cert'occhiata.

Io mai adoperolla        
perché mai n'ebbi bisogno
ma messere fra' Cipolla
dice a sé: io l'agogno.

Fu Lorenzo assai grato
ringraziò pien di contento
per lo don inaspettato
io diceo er'un portento.

Tutti noi pigliammo posto
per la certa cerimonia.
Io di dietro steo con Gosto
c'era pur messer Solonia

C'era Banfo il ceruso     
negli anni molto andato
a sua monn' non dea uso
per temor d'andarn'un fiato.

Quel tal prete già finia      
certa sua cantatina
e per l'aria si sentia
il profum di certe vina.

Monna Lisa mi miraa         con cert'occhio amoroso
e chi sa che ne pensaa
dello mio molto curioso.

C'è pur là la monna brutta
con speciale sua natura
in calor si mette tutta      
ch'abbisogna certa cura.

E nel verde di un bel prato
piano piano dié appiglio
a quell'esser molto amato,
e tesseron quasi un miglio.

Si colaa pien di voglia
a sentirlo tutti noi…

(here the text stops abruptly).

Chiuse bocca sorridendo    
lo messere assai contento     
giunse Lisa assai splendendo
con sul volto un certo accento.

Presi allora a dire intanto      
«Car messer io vi dono      
spezial roba che val tanto       
per calmar stridente sono.

Fortunato quel messere     
ch'ha bisogno di tal grasso;
proverà molto piacere        
nello spande un dito scarso.

Già suonaa la campana        
e un prete canticchiaa
con dell'aria un po' mondana
per lo torno a sé schizzaa.

col suo mant' poco scarlatto
che mi dea certa noia
col suo fare senza tatto,
al suo lato monna Gioia.

La sua monna detta Bianca
giovin molto negli anni       
bene fatta era sull'anca        
ch'apparia da certi panni.

E d'un fiato ebbe votato
ciò che dentro avea messo       
in un calice dorato
molto alto e molto spesso.

Ecco allora quel giullare        
che su panca molto ritto       
cominciò col suo strofare       
con sua man dicendo zitto.

Un messer io conoscea
che portossi dietro pena 
per lo stel che non ergea    
quando monn' mettea in vena.

Mentre gli occhi si velaan       
vider due buon tessieri,
due corpi spasimaan
nel bel colmo dei piaceri.

Era assai di crino nero       
avea il volto assai bianco        
l'occhi suoi dicean vero        
portamento assai stanco.

Ecco qui messer felice
la recetta del portento
che messer Cipolla dice      
son sicur non c'è lamento.

Oilà caro messere        
quest'è 'l dono che fo io        
per le sere del piacere         
prendi pur, amico mio».

Mentre noi già si entraa    
tante genti eran sull'uscio; 
chi urlaa e chi pigiaa
per mirar la sposa e 'l fruscio.

C'era pure tal giullare
che di casa Cenci era
e si dea un cer' da fare
a trar burle per la sera.

Ben quell'anca conoscea        
certo Seri buon messere       
che sua era se volea
per cercar certo piacere.

A cerimonia finita 
convitati anch'a cena 
c'era fam ch'era sentita
e sbafammo con gran lena.

«Monne belle e monne brutte
che di fine vi vestite
per me buone sono tutte     
s'anco poco voi sentite.

Quello stel con cura preso    
da due man gentili molto,      
rimanea sempre offeso       
ricadendo sul suo folto.

L'un dall'altro si scostaan       
ansimando su per china       
per li nomi si chiamaan
or che fine era vicina.

I reported the text of the poem exactly as it is written in the notebook, although Boccacci complained, as Ravaldini said – and as can be seen from the minutes of the sitting of 4 November 1938: «Boccacci talks about his latest dictation of poetry and says that who wrote it made some mistakes» – that there were mistakes in the transcription, made by the scribe. Of course, to respect the metric we must read as bisyllabic all the endings in -aa, which actually in Tuscan language replace the ending -ava; furthermore here and there the verse limps, and sometimes the rhyme is pulled by the hair. But beyond the rhyming, while recognizing the composition a certain salacious wit of popular type, certainly this text is not only totally alien to anything Boccaccio has ever written, but is quite distant, formally and stylistically, from the novel Gocce di Rugiada that will be later dictated by the same entity. On the other hand, the custom of celebrating particular events, such as weddings, in more or less improvised octosyllable verses, was still alive in Valdelsa until the early decades of the twentieth century, according to an out-of-commerce book, entitled Valdelsa, in which the author, Umberto Guido, praetor in Castelfiorentino since 1925, described with regret and poetic melancholy the place and the characters of that time. Ravaldini sent me a copy of this book, to make me better understand the milieu and the atmosphere of that period. Well, Boccacci's poem gives the impression of the improvisation of a popular rhymer, certainly not of a studied and well-constructed composition.  

Two pages of the notebook where the poetry was written. The tearing was caused by a splinter during a bombing.    

Later Boccacci told (always in direct voice) other things about him:
10 July 1938 - Boccacci shows up, and says: «My body was sought after a lot, but it was never found because had been taken away by a gentle lady. My body was buried in a church near my castle, but one night four misters and a lady stole it from the church and buried it in another place. One of them, by means of a ladder, entered the church by lowering himself from a window, and then opened the door to the others. They wore certain cloaks smeared with a certain substance so that they the stink that my body sent, because it had already been buried for five days, would not be too much smelled. When they entered, they opened the grave, took my body, wrapped it up and went out in silence. It was a very windy and very cloudy night; I was trembling for them. They went out, went straight and then turned to the right. My body is still there, a bit decomposed due to the subsidence of the ground, but it would be very easy to find it, and certain documents that lie there would prove its authenticity, but I like to stay where I am because it was my will».
We have already mentioned the reasons why Boccaccio's bones went missing. Boccaccio's house, which still exists in the upper part of Certaldo and near the church, was severely damaged by the bombings in 1944: restored in 1947, it is now exploited as a monument and study center. Although someone claims that it was not the original Boccaccio house, the building recognized as such is actually provided with a top-floor loggia, as mentioned by the entity Boccacci (see further). 

In his tale Boccacci seems to indicate, as the burial place of his bones, an outdoor place, since he says: they went out (of the church), went straight and then turned to the right, and then he speaks of a subsiding ground. Since his first rapping communications he had said that he would like the sitters to visit the town of his life, Certaldo. In the sitting of August 3, 1938: BoccacciHe talks about his castle inviting us to visit it and saying that he will make us a surprise. And later:
6 September 1938 - Boccacci… thanks for the visit we made to his castle, and says that the painting in the first room does not resemble him; then he continues: «I was tall and slender, eyes that I turned from left to right, and a certain messere of the village feared my gaze so that when I met him, I was greatly amused».
In the minutes of the sittings nothing else is said, but speaking of this visit, Ravaldini recalled that in 1938 he went, with his mother and his aunt, to visit Boccaccio house in Certaldo, and on indication of Boccacci entity they sought an area on the landing of the staircase, between the ground floor and the first floor, whera, beating the wall with the knuckles, they could perceive the existence of a cavity which could have contained the bones. According to Ravaldini's relatives the cavity existed, but of course nobody made a hole to look inside it. After the bombing of 1944, any possibility of verification went lost. 

The entity's anticlericalism

In a previous sitting Boccacci openly spoke against the priests.
9 August 1938 - Boccacci speaks: «There is a lot of imagination in my writings. Who speaks of me and of my time, much exaggerates; I was a moral and good-mannered man like many others, but not like those black guys. I did not do any harm, in fact I did well to many. I was persecuted a lot by those black dudes and much I had to fight them; they wanted to imprison me, and because of this they put on my person a reward as it is used for murderers, and I had to stay for days hidden in my house. If there really existed the hell as described by the divine poet Dante of the Alighieri, you should still make a room underneath it to place all those black dudes in it. I would like to tell you many things about my times and also speak to you of a certain groom Messer Lao. In the evening, leaning against the column of my loggia, I long contemplated nature and a lot I wrote with good vein».
The true Boccaccio did not have bad relationships with the clergy, and he himself was a religious man: in 1360 Pope Innocent VI authorized him to priesthood. What he tells in his Decameron, regarding the behaviour not exactly exemplar of priests, friars and nuns, belonged to the anecdotes of his time, and was well known to everybody. In 1362 he had a profound crisis because the Carthusian monk Pietro Petroni, in fame of holiness, had threatened hell to him and Petrarch if they had not abandoned the vanity of profane literature. He was even on the verge of wanting to destroy the Decameron, but was dissuaded by Petrarch. Anyway, in the last years of his life he devoted himself to religious meditation. Nobody ever put a reward on his person.  

Boccacci's manifestations recorded in the minutes of the following sittings become much more rare.
30 November 1938 - Boccacci: «For a long time I did not speak; my spirit contemplated the Infinite. I think of a certain friar Gallina. Also Messer Banfo is here, his light has equal vibrations and he wants to reincarnate. Close the curtains; the radiation of artificial light gives annoyance to the medium's radiations».
24 January 1939 - Boccacci: «Messeri and monne, light to you».
9 February 1939 - Boccacci: «For a long time I did not speak, but I gently touch you a lot».
12 February 1939 - Boccacci: «Light, messeri and monne, my promise will be fulfilled».
Probably in this last short speech Boccacci refers to the dictation of his novel, which as we shall see will begin shortly thereafter. But about the novel, its plot and its language, we will say more on the pages dedicated to it.   


Part one
Part two
Part three
Part four
Part five
Part six
Part seven
Part eight
Part nine
Part ten
Other events
The novel
The novel: part 1
The novel: part 2
The novel: part 3
The novel: part 4
Second-last séance
The last séance
Importance of facts