The round table

Veronica Berenice

the birth of modern and original battles, in an ancient past.


There are the oldest jobs in the world and there are the oldest claims in the world.

Never before, has the matter of gender identity and freedom of expression, preferences, abstinence, and sexual feasts – addressed in many and rightful inquiries on ethics and respect for one’s intimacy – appeared timely to us. All things considered, cutting down to the center, I think this is a general attempt at the pursuit of happiness, which, unavoidably, is formed starting from the desire of being free from the heterogeneous definitions that trap us without considering our everchanging nuances. We should also add that it is no piece of cake: we are confronted with the doubt that this new, prolific, generation of definitions could, eventually, turn out to be new chains for that human nature that, century after century, conquered the right – rightfully or wrongfully – to consider itself as one in every single subject.


In this quagmire – between berries and thorns – we find expressed, along with the demands for freedom and auto-determination, some old acquaintances of human nature, some that are more punk and fiercer: the uncontrolled passion for transgression (which with the habit, becomes custom) and the rebellion towards the established cultural environment. However, following the example of those who are always able to find unheard historical connections – for whom the writer has always had a substantial fascination – I will try to show how this bagarre that is inflaming the first world (including the proud bishops of gender equality in the Italian language, “cutting” the final syllable that should tell a word’s gender, as well as the defenders of traditional six-volume-grammar books) we are definitely not the unlikely heroes of an Iliad 2.0. It is not something new, that has never appeared in the history of our beloved, old humanity; if anything, we have dusted old uniforms that rested in the enchantment of our history’s wardrobe.

All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;

there is nothing new under the sun. [1]

In the first centuries of the Vulgar Era [2], a revolution was happening, of such an inter-generational extent that, in comparison, the fires of 1968 were but a candle in a full moon night. The thoughts of a jew called Jesus, promoted by his disciples, were firstly welcomed by people at the bottom of society: by beggars, by women, by the mad, and by the visionary, who were particularly sensitive to the announcement of the Gospel: God loves each one of us and all of us can find solace in this new promise of salvation when life puts us in front of challenges and hides its sense as a pearl in a shell in the depths of the sea. It should be kept in mind that, at the time, the complete edition of works inspired by God was not yet available, oral transmission left space for a fertile hybridisation of popular belief and widespread tradition; among which we naturally find the various pagan cults but, above all, Ebrahism, which itself was inspired by another great monotheism, Zoroastrianism (I apologize to experts of History of religions for the simplifications – I hope to call them colleagues in the future – but this is not the place to venture in historical storms that begun millennia ago).


Of all these currents and their members (Stylites that established their residence on top of a column – not even being able to build a closet to be regulated in the following building amnesty –, women who were considered to be cultural references – without the need of an intellectual husband that could vouch in front of the institutional intellighenzia –, and the usual more or less occasional consumers of psychotropic substances – with no DEA agent hunting them) something written has reached us. Some of the authors of these texts included the so-called ‘mystics’ and, for those who do not know about mysticism, they are very similar to a young hippie driving a Volkswagen van towards Woodstock, in August ’69: disheveled, revolutionary, joyfully fecund, ready to put under discussion the status quo and eager to plant, in the land of ordinary, the seed of the tension towards the extraordinary and the otherworldly. After all, from what we know about him, Jesus of Nazareth was as well, in his way, a mystic.

In that mystic climate, formed in a far-off past, a climate that we could define as almost apocryphal, we see the ancestors of those battles we are talking about; I would like to share, dear readers, two examples, to apply to all:


‒ In the Council of Cangra, the dating of which is uncertain, however, it is usually collocated in the year 300 A.D.,  two practices are condemned, one of which is for women to cut their hair. Investigating a bit, we find that in that period, while the first convents were being built inside and outside the walls of the city, in some of these, women chose a life of renunciation towards all that, at the time, was considered to be a prerogative of femininity: long hair. These women were called ‘ascetics’: they would shave their heads and wear clothing identical to the one used by men, refusing maternity and sexuality. Here, I report point seventeen of the council’s condemnation:


  1. Being women, with the claim of asceticism, they cut their hair that God gave them, as a reminder of their submission;

As we can see, recent fashion has women from all over the world shaving their hair; or, furthermore and, maybe, with a greater impact, the protest Iranian women manifesting by symbolically cutting strands of their hair, in open rebellion towards the system of abuses and submission within their law. After all, that same Madelene who was debated in the following two millennia dried Jesus’ feet with her hair that, according to Zoroastrianism, are conductors of deity. Are hairdressers so expensive because, maybe, they are experts in the history of religions? So many burdens for hair! So many that we cannot even imagine, because, in Genesis 6, it is written that angels fell in love with women because of their hair and therefore joined them. This union gave birth to very powerful children and God did not appreciate it. The great divine punishment of the Flood to cleanse the world from hybrid species created by these unions was a prelude to the prohibition of Hebraic women to show their hair.


‒ « Bisexuality is a license for mystical language,» says M. De Certeau in Mystics, a book about Mystics of 1600, and goes on like this: « it appears in the description of God himself ». Paraphrasing the following lines, we find examples of the bisexuality of the divine in the Hebraic world, where Shekhinah (Wisdom) is the feminine face of God. In some texts, we find the figure of Jesus in the role of Mother in the Cistercian. We see the same Mystic authors, like Giovanni della Croce, swing from the use of masculine or feminine when they refer to themselves.


We could fill all of this magazine’s pages hunting for the birth of modern and original battles, in an ancient past. This is not at all to discredit their significance! My support towards Iranian free-thinking people is always vivid, as well as the one towards all those that fight for free love, not a slave of merely a reproductive paradigm. However, it is always fundamental, for the writer, to understand through human history, what are the ancient and unconscious motives that guide us in our stands, in our choices of battles; once enlightened and understood, it will be possible to decide on which side of this big round table to sit.

[1] Qoèlet, 1.8 Bible

[2] I love this phrase, not because it is coherent with my personal religious and spiritual inclinations, but because it clears the field from religious references when these are in the way. It was at first used by Kepler in the XVII century.

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