Sunday, August 30, 2009

Maria Carmi

The editor of Meher Baba Journal (1938-1943), and the co-founder of the Meher Spiritual Center in Myrtle Beach, was Norina Matchabelli. Born Norina Gilli in Florence, Italy, she was a famous actress of the European silent screen who's stage name was Maria Carmi.

Karl Vollmöller
After a marriage with Karl Vollmöller, writer of The Miracle (an extremely famous pantomime spectacle play) and The Blue Angel (the film that made a star of Marlene Dietrich), she married a Georgian prince, Prince Georges Matchabelli. Together they formed Matchabelli Perfume.

In the 1940's Norina Matchabelli gave a series of public talks in Carnegie Hall and Steinway Hall in New York that were filled to capacity. In these talks she would go into a trance-like state and deliver what she called "thought-transmission" from Meher Baba. When speaking, the personal "I" switched to "I, Meher Baba." When someone voiced concern over this to Baba he cabled:

Norina serves Me through spiritual thought-transmission,
Nadine serves Me through surrender,
and Elizabeth through sacrifice.1

She later co-founded the Meher Spiritual Center in Myrtle Beach with Elizabeth Patterson and died at Youpon Dunes in Myrtle Beach in 1957. Norina is buried by Baba's tomb in India.

Maria Carmi was such a famous actress in Germany and Italy in the 1910s that there were postcards of her and even Tobacco cards. Tobacco cards were souvenir photographs (much like bubble gum cards) that were put into cigarette packs to stiffen them. People would of course collect them. The card to the right (which my daughter owns) is from 1917 and depicts Norina with Carl de Vogt in the silent film Der Weg des Todes.

The no-nonsense won't-be-pushed-around character of Norina Matchabelli is caught in this 1923 wire clipping.

And I love this picture here from 1932 of Norina with Meredith Starr and the Dunites, a small spiritual community who lived on a beach in California. Meher Baba visited the Dunites at Moy Mel in the 1930s. R-L: George Blais, Hugo Seelig, Norina, Meredith Starr, Pete Kosky.

Photo: copyright, Dr. Gerber Collection. Used by permission.

In case you're interested, historian Norm Hammond’s “The Dunites” (1992) tells the story of this community of bohemians, artists, writers, mystics, hoboes and hermits, living rent-free in the Dunes in driftwood shacks and other makeshift shelters during the Great Depression and after. They named their tiny utopia Moy Mel or “Pastures of Honey” in ancient Gaelic.

Finally we end with a wonderful picture of Norina Matchabelli with her master Meher Baba. The photo is taken in Nasik in 1937.

Norina Matchabelli was an actress, a princess, a perfumer, an occultist, a publisher, and a mandali of Meher Baba. The inscription on her grave site at Meherabad, India reads:

Princess Norina was and will ever remain Baba's

1. Awakener Magazine, Volume 20 Number 2, p. 18

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