Dorothy Carrington: The Dream-hunters of Corsica

Mazzeri, Finzioni, Signadori

Part 3: Finzioni

The shepherds of the Niolu are sensitive to omens of death apparently peculiar to their region: the finzioni (finzione). In the vast roadless expanse of the upland plateau the sight of a human being is in itself a matter of interest. The shepherds' cabins are often an hour's walk one from another, and two hours or more from the nearest villages at lower altitudes, where their wives and children spend the summer.
When an unexpected sihouette appears on the skyline it arouses curiosity, or apprehension. Is it a friend or foe?
In times past the visitor might be a bandit, one of the outlaws who often imposed themselves, gun in hand, on the hospitality of shepherds so that they were drawn, willingly or not, into vendettas. Or it might be someone who had walked up from a village bringing important news; perhaps of a death.

The finzioni are in fact bearers of this news; but of a death that has not yet occurred. Men and women, they look just like ordinary human beings; the women are most often dressed in white. But it is impossible to converse with them. They enter a cabin without explanation or greeting, while their host, as in a nightmare, finds himself unable to speak. They stand there for a time in silence, then leave, always without a word. Their visit is a presage of death. But the finzioni are not ghosts of dead people; the shepherds may even recognize them as living people of their acquaintance which makes their appearance the more terrifying.

Photo 'in Corsica tandu' by Pasqale Marchetti and Rigolu Grimaldi
Part 4, Signadori

Legends & studies by Dorothy Carrington

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