As I wandered the Island roads today, wild Forget-Me-Nots lined my path, bringing a delightful and immediate heart-connection with the Anguane, the magical women of the waters in the Italian Alps. With the appearance of “their” flower, the Anguane seemed to be asking me to remember them, as they do in the folk stories of Trentino, Italy.
In one of the stories, “The Anguane of Cismón,” three young women came to the Primiero Valley every summer to sell bouquets of blue flowers that no one had ever seen. The girls were mysterious, shy and beautiful. According to the villagers, they lived in the river and were probably Anguane. A young shepherd named Sirór became enamored with one of the three young woman – the one with the golden hair. One day Sirór followed them to the river, where he saw them dive into the water and turn into otters. Sirór was so stunned that he fainted. When the Anguane emerged, they turned into young women again. But now, with their secret discovered, they had to return to the waters forever to live like otters. Lamenting the discovery, the golden-haired Anguana kissed the sleeping shepherd good-bye before they swam away. The next morning, when Sirór awoke, wondering if it all had been a dream, he noticed that the field all around him was covered with the blue flowers that the Anguane had been selling. Feeling compelled to go down to the river, he saw only a ripple of golden color in the current of the waters, as he heard the words “non ti scordar di me” – don’t forget me!
Listening to a treasured recording of this story in the Trentino dialect, there is a lyrical cadence. Even if I don’t understand every word, the message finds its way into places in my genetic memory, like poetry or a song. Or like a stream in nature that finds a submerged path to travel.
The legendary origins of the Primiero Valley are attributed to a single Otter, who lived there when the entire area was covered by a lake. The Otter steadily dug between the hard rocks, creating a passageway for the water to enter and go downstream, thus allowing humans to live there. The stemma (coat of arms) of Imèr, a village at the entrance of the valley, bears an Otter as the central image. With this tribute, the villagers are expressing gratitude to Otter and remembering their links to the natural world.
In the hundreds of stories told about them, Anguane have a strong association with nature. Not only do they bring flowers, and shapeshift into animals, they understand the secrets of fertility and of water. They protect what is sacred to them: the waters, fields, springs, and mountains. Anguane guard the treasures of nature, especially from those who appear to seek personal gain. Through their flowers, the Anguane have shared their timeless – and timely– messages with me: “Appreciate Beauty.” “Protect the Wild.” “Remember Love.”
Foches, Andrea. 2007. Leggende delle Anguane [Legends of the Anguane]. Torino: Priuli & Verlucca (Editori and San Michele all’Adige: Museo degli Usi e Costumi della Gente Trentina).
Neri, Mauro. 2010. The Secret Heart of Trentino: A Calendar of Legends. 4 vols: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Lavis, It.: Litotipografia Alcione.
“Val di Primiero – Vanoi.” TrentinoExperience, http://www.trentinoexperience.net/valle_Val%20di%20Primiero%20-%20Vanoi_17.html
“The Primiero: a Beautiful Valley Surrounded by Forests and Majestic Dolomites.” Italy-Tours-in-Nature, http://www.italy-tours-in-nature.com/primiero.html