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MU History Department Lecture Series – The Dream Hunters of Corsica

Stone megaliths bearing time-tortured faces tell us that hunter-gatherers first settled on the mysterious Mediterranean island of Corsica up to nine thousand years ago.

The islanders remained strangely isolated over the millennia despite being within eyeshot of France and Italy. They repelled attacks from the Carthaginians, Etruscans and Greeks. Romans arrived later but clung to the coasts. Vandals, Osrtogoths — all stopped over but left the people and the ancient culture largely untouched. Even Christianity was slow to take hold.

Remnants of a fierce megalithic religion lasted well into the 20th century.

There are stories dating back thousands of years about a peculiar Corsican affliction from which some islanders suffer. They’re known as Dream Hunters, or Mazzeri.

These Mezzeri sometimes sleepwalk, wandering around at night between worlds. Instinctively, they hunt, often drifting down to the closest running water, which is considered to be a symbol of evil on Corsica. Nothing good ever came from the water, as they say.

The somnambulists then sometimes recognize the face of a known villager on the head of their quarry. They then kill the animal with a human face, usually with primitive weapons, spears, stones, and clubs. The preferred weapon is a heavy staff or cudgel known as a mazza, usually cut from the root and stem of a vine.

The next day, they will talk about their dream. Within three days, the person whose face they saw will die.

Many of the Mazzeri are elderly women. Or otherwise peaceful shepherds. They are said to have no animosity toward their victims.

Traditional belief is that the Mazzeri are those who have been improperly baptized.

Mazzeri initiation takes place in dreams, often “called” to service by an elder mentor who meets the protégé in dreams and takes them on a hunt. In legend, entire clans of dream hunters will meet in the night to battle, sometimes to settle deep-seeded scores – sometimes just to appease the gods.

Over the last century, Corsicans have become known for their prowess as enforcers and assassins. They played a key role in the rise of organized crime after World War II, aided in no small part by the C.I.A. When American spooks wanted to stop Communist unions organizing in southern France, they hired unemployed Corsicans to break up the picket lines. This unsavory marriage gave birth to a massive heroin smuggling operation, aided by corrupt Corsican politicians and the French counter-espionage agency. It connected Turkish opium to Marseilles and from there around the world. The network was known as the French Connection.

In 1961, Corsicans were recruited in Puerto Rico to help form Alpha 66, a C.I.A.-backed organization dedicated to overthrowing Fidel Castro.

One of the theories about the assassination of President John. F. Kennedy involves three Corsican hitmen, one of them Lucien Sarti who confessed in jail on hopes of winning his freedom. The story was partly supported by a deathbed confession from C.I.A. operative and Watergate fall guy E. Howard Hunt. If true, why would Corsicans be chosen for such a job?

An interesting footnote — The F.B.I was founded in 1908 by the great-nephew of the world’s most infamous and ruthless Corsican, Napoleon Bonaparte.

But perhaps there is another reason why Corsicans seem so suited for the darkest jobs.

Perhaps these master assassins are in fact Mazzeri, who hone their craft in their sleep. So then, who is really calling them to service?

For more information about the mysteries of Corsica, consult Dorothy Carrington’s books about the island, available at the Orne Library.

This lecture is sponsored by the Miskatonic University Department of History.

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