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To be Men not Destroyers

Paideuma Brunnenburg

A CASTLE IS NOTHING MORE THAN A COMMITMENT YOU HAVE, ALBEIT ONE MADE OF STONES, AND A CONSTANTLY RENEWING ONE, COME TO THINK OF IT. WHEN YOU GROW UP IN A CASTLE, OR RATHER, IN A HALF-RUIN OF A CASTLE, YOUR INNATE CURIOSITY IS PIQUED AT EVERY TURN, MAKING YOU THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE, STOKING THE FIRE OF YOUR CREATIVITY BUT, MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, IT SETS THE PATH FOR A VERY INNOVATIVE AND ALTERNATIVE LIFE STYLE. THAT’S TRUE FOR EVERY CHILD WHO GREW UP LIKE ME.

Hidden, thespian talents come to life: you could be gatekeeper, craftsman, kitchen help, scholar, and lord of the castle all in one day! Of course, one essential element of the whole game is that you have to play the role as convincingly as you can; also, don’t forget about the numerous wardrobe changes. In time, you’ll discover every nook and cranny in the castle, know the secrets to all of its rocks and bricks. Mountain farmers develop a unique link to their patch of land because every few years they have to collect the earth that slid downhill and carry it back to the top on a steep climb on their shoulders. In the same way, whoever preserves and cares for a historical Location will develop a special link to their home..

That’s what happened to me, anyway, during my youth. My research and studies led me on a merry chase across numerous continents; however, it always took me back to the one place where I spent my childhood. This is how the ‘Brunnenburg Paideuma’ came to be. The Greek word means ‘education, formation, self-education‘. Anthropologist Leo Frobenius relied on this word to describe the ‘soul of a culture’; to me it’s more of a pedagogic concept, based on a respectful interaction with nature, which allows us to appreciate the ingenuity and skills of all those Tyrolean mountain farmers who survived under such harsh and extreme conditions on the steep mountain slopes. What has Brunnenburg castle got to do with all this, I hear you asking? The castle is a repository for sources of inspiration. My grandfather, the poet, once proclaimed that we have ‘to be men not destroyers’ (Ezra Pound, Cantos).

A castle is a monument, a memorial, but a farm, wall or a landscape shaped by human labour can also be monuments in their own right, too. The destroying power of profit came to light in the post-war period and swept away the majority of these Memorials forever. However, the culture, knowledge, and traditions of farm life lived on in this safe haven, a castle with its own farming museum. My parents surely influenced me: I inherited the joy of collecting trinkets and more from my father, an archaeologist, while my mother, who grew up on a small farm in Pustertal, gave me the sensitive eyes of an ethnologist and a love for oral traditions. Curiosity and passion for research don’t depend on subventions or public acclamations, so I readily convinced some of my friends with similar ideas to collaborate on an open museum Project.

That was 40 years ago. Since then, with the active help of my family, it has grown, reaping the fruits of our hard work. An international study centre soon followed, hosting seminars and symposia, a farm with pesticide-free vineyards, chestnut groves and a small zoo for endangered pets, literary and musical encounters, and a Cello festival has also taken place here for the last three years. To cut a long Story short: ‘Brunnenburg Paideuma’.

What do I expect from all this? As a historian, I expect courage and appreciation from the political powers for their own history and the recognition of local symbols and locations which make up our identity, specifically Castle Tirol, the cultural and historical birthplace of the province. As a promoter of culture I expect the end of the easy, mutual pandering to one’s interests which has spread across the whole cultural scene, now as well as in the past; I expect a joint outcry of all critical people against our bigoted bureaucracy, be it from Brussels, Rome, or Bozen/Bolzano, which demands to determine what should make us happy.

But come see for yourself: visit our museum at Brunnenburg in Dorf Tirol! www.schlosstirol.it

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ist ein Ethnologe, Kulturhistoriker und Schriftsteller aus Südtirol. Der Sohn von Boris und Mary de Rachewiltz wuchs auf der Brunnenburg auf. An den Universitäten Rutgers, Urbino und Harvard absolvierte er ein Studium der Komparatistik und Ethnologie. 1974 gründete er mit Peter Lloyd und Franz Haller das Landwirtschaftsmuseum Brunnenburg. Von 1991 bis 2014 war er Direktor des Südtiroler Landesmuseums für Kultur- und Landesgeschichte auf Schloss Tirol. De Rachewiltz ist Autor zahlreicher Publikationen zu Volkskunde und Kulturgeschichte und veröffentlichte eigene Lyrik.

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