Issuu on Google+

Table of Contents PREFACE INTRODUCTION CHAPTER 1 WITCHCRAFT: THE CHRISTIAN MAKEOVER CHAPTER 2 ARADIA: THE CULTURAL BACKGROUND CHAPTER 3 THE WALNUT TREE & DIANA’S WITCHES CHAPTER 4 THE SOCIETY OF DIANA CHAPTER 5 THE NEW WITCHES’ GOSPEL Creation Myth How The Sun And Moon Came To Be How Diana Came To Be Queen Of The Fairies How Diana Came To Earth How Aradia Came To Earth How Aradia, As A Mortal, Came To Fame CHAPTER 6 LEGEND OF THE HOLY STREGA The Legend Of The Holy Strega The Time Of The Covenant Words Of The Covenant Of Aradia The Wanderings CHAPTER 7 THE TEACHINGS OF ARADIA Concerning Nature Concerning The Earth Concerning Life Concerning Death Concerning Love Concerning Sexuality Concerning Marriage Concerning The Gods Concerning The Goddess Concerning The God Concerning Tana And Tanus Concerning Worship The Times Of Gathering: Concerning Freedom Concerning The Law Of Return Concerning The Prophecies Concerning Magic Concerning The Elements Concerning The Grigori Concerning Rebirth Concerning The Act Of Rebirth Concerning Luna Concerning The Astral Plane Concerning Christianity CHAPTER 8 WITCHES WITHOUT A GOSPEL


The Book of the Holy Strega Š 2009 by Raven Grimassi. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, including Internet usage, without wri en permission from Raven Grimassi, except in the case of brief quota ons embedded in cri cal articles and reviews. SECOND EDITION, 2012 FIRST PRINTING, 2009 Edited by Kathy Cybele Cover design by Stephanie Taylor and Kathy Cybele Interior design and layout by Kathy Cybele Published by Old Ways Press Springfield, Massachusetts

If you wish to contact the author you may send email to: Visit these websites for more information on Raven Grimassi & For information about the author’s work in various fields, visit:

PREFACE The things that I teach are wri en in my blood by those who came before me. Therefore the book you have before you is presented by a true believer in its message. I make no apology for that because I am an expert in my own experience and understanding. What I offer in this book is the view of a witch that was schooled in the teachings contained in this book. To offer you less than this does neither of us any justice. From the start I want to make it clear that I have expanded what I was taught, and I am not passing on exactly what I received in the precise form in which it came to me. In other words I will share with you what I understood about what I was taught. But I am not a recording or a robot, and therefore what is passed from me to you are my recollec ons, feelings, words, and perceptions. In this book you will encounter a legend about a 14th century witch named Aradia, who is some mes called the Holy Strega. You will also discover material that is grouped together to form a witches’ gospel. The topic of “Aradia” and a “gospel of the witches” has been a controversial subject since its appearance in 1899. It was then that folklorist Charles Godfrey Leland published his work titled Aradia: Gospel of the Witches. The scholars of this period rejected the validity of the material, and many still do to this day. One of the problems for Leland is that in his other books he earned himself a reputa on for stretching the truth. This reputa on made it easier for people to reject Leland’s later writings on Aradia and Italian witchcraft. I have researched and studied Leland’s wri ng for over thirty years. I have also read through his private correspondence kept in the Library of Congress. This collec on includes handwri en le ers, journals, diaries, and an unpublished manuscript on the nature of divinity and its func on [1]

in nature. It is through this experience that I believe I have come to know and understand Leland in ways that others have not achieved. It has been alleged by some that I rely heavily upon Leland’s books on Italian witchcra and Aradia, and that my personal tradi on of witchcra is drawn from his material. However the facts are that I draw upon Leland in my wri ngs only to demonstrate the pre-existence of concepts in Italy as they pertain to Italian witchcra . I do the same with the wri ngs of J.B. Andrews, Roma [2]

Lister, and Lady de Vere. I did not use them to invent or create what I practice or write about. Some cri cs complain that I use “outdated material” from the 19th century, which they deem unreliable. They argue that folklorists of this period, being largely comprised of Bri sh writers, did not understand the culture of Italy when they visited and later wrote of their experiences. However, I do not rely upon the interpreta on of these Bri sh writers, but instead I examine their eyewitness descrip ons of fes vals, processions, and street celebra ons (which these educated men were surely capable of accurately providing). From this I draw my own conclusions, which are formed from a wider knowledge of folklore, witchcra , and Italian culture than was possessed by the British writers of the period. Several folklorists of the 19th century published ar cles that contain interviews with Italian na ves that referred to themselves as witches (streghe). This material is even more important than the descrip ons of events related to fes vals and other public celebra ons. Modern academics tend to dismiss this material because the accepted methodology of contemporary academia was not refined in the 19th century, which leads scholars to ques on the reliability of the views from

this period. But again, for myself I do not rely upon interpreta on from this period, I am primarily interested in the raw data. This data appears in what the informants said, and not what the interviewer concluded from the session. I believe that I have some advantage over most scholars in terms of understanding the raw data in ques on. This is because my background in witchcra is similar to that of the self-labeled witches interviewed in the 19th century (if not the same). This inside knowledge helps me to “read between the lines” and comprehend the terms and concepts appearing in the interviews or comments in a way that only an insider can understand. There is a saying among the streghe that we recognize our own. When I first read Leland’s version of the Aradia legend, I recognized parts of it that reflected what I had previously been taught. But other things in the book were alien, and some mes offensive to me. It was clear from the beginning that Leland’s Aradia was a mixture of Chris an and pre-Chris an elements. It was intriguing to me because this was the first confirma on of Aradia outside of family tales. This opened my view to a world that reached beyond the boundaries of family. Following my discovery of Leland’s wri ngs I began what resulted in an intense explora on of materials available on the topic of not only Italian witchcra , but any form of European witchcra . In the early 1970s there were very few books available on the subjects I sought. The Internet had not come into existence then, and witch shops were few and far between. Other than the occasional gem discovered in a bookstore, I had to rely largely upon the be er educated members of my family and upon the few outsiders I met who claimed to be witches. The decade of the 1980s delivered up expanded resources, as did the 1990s (in which I first gained Internet access). These two decades allowed me to research, study, and confirm a great deal related to witchcra . This did not involve a weekend here and there, or an occasional evening during the week. Instead I devoted hours every day of the week to my research and study of a variety of sources related to witchcraft. When it comes to the subject of witchcra I have some unyielding posi ons. This is not, as some cri cs have suggested, because I ignore contrary material. I do not ignore anything, but I do have disagreements. I have researched the topic of witchcra for well over thirty years, reading academic studies on the topic in historical, anthropological, literary, and folkloric studies. It confounds some people that I could have done so and s ll maintain my posi on that witchcra is an ancient religion. However, it is precisely because I have done the reading and research that I have arrived at my point of view. I do not believe that the authen c story of the witch has ever appeared in any academic work. The reason for this is because the focus of the academic has been upon historical witchcra , and this is a contrived history. There are many differing and opposing views about witchcra . How one defines witchcra is a contribu ng factor to the disagreements. It is my belief that witchcra existed in ancient mes and evolved over the centuries in forms that have been passed along through lineage bearers. I further believe that the stereotypical view of witchcra as depicted in the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods is en rely inven ve. Scholar Norman Cohn’s defini on of witchcra is a good example of this assembled absurdity. Such a considera on and view of witchcra is therefore almost en rely useless in terms of evidence as to what did or did not exist regarding a witches’ cult. My personal belief is that authen c elements of the witches’ sect peer out from within literary works, and much rarer from within Inquisi onal records and secular trials on witchcra . I

believe that ancient writers such as Horace, Ovid, and Lucan (among others) incorporated authen c period beliefs about witches and witchcra into their tales. In the case of fic on or sa re, a good writer will build upon factual beliefs, se ngs, and culture in order to make the tales more believable to the reader. In this light we can si for facts about period beliefs related to witchcra [3]

and witches. In this book, which references literary works, I am viewing elements of the material contained in them as known views pertaining to witchcra (as opposed to concepts en rely invented by the writer). This is what I like to call “folklore as history”. Sor ng out inven ve elements and poli cs from authen c lore and subcultural prac ce is challenging. I believe that few authen c witches (at least of the type known to me) ever appeared before the authori es in Italy. The Italian Inquisi on included fortune-tellers, folk healers, and sorcerers in the defini on of a witch and the prac ce of witchcra . This makes it difficult to sort out authen c witchcra from folk magic and general occult prac ces. However, fragments can be extracted from trial transcripts by searching for non-Chris an elements. Most of these are in the background and seem irrelevant to the accusa ons themselves. Because the judges and Inquisitors did not understand their significance, there was no reason to suppress, contort, or misrepresent these elements. It is in the small things that truth survived. My role in revealing Italian witchcra , and the teachings of Aradia, has been similar to that of the micro-historian. I have focused on bits and pieces and tried to form them into their previous wholeness. I value rejected material because I believe in looking at it from a different view than the one that dismissed its authen city. Narrow vision can miss the greater picture. I find importance in anomalies, because I believe they are truths that escaped suppression, dele on, and distor on. It is in the junk heaps and trash bins that we discover evidence of how people really lived their lives. In the chapters of this book you will find my restora on of what I believe to be a suppressed history and a denied culture. You will also encounter what I regard as misinforma on and misrepresenta on, and my view on how this needs to be corrected. Much of this comes from the authori es of the past, and some of it comes from today’s authori es. In order to perceive witchcra as it was, is to have the eyes of a seer. Witches have long been seers, and so I offer this vision to you, the reader. In closing there is one more thing to men on and it has to do with the New Testament of biblical fame. Oddly enough, a considera on of the New Testament can help us in sor ng out our feelings about the witches’ gospel. Biblical scholar Bart D. Ehrman, in his book Jesus, Interrupted, discusses the background of the books that comprise the New Testament. He points out the disciples of Jesus were lower-class peasants comprised of fishermen and laborers from rural Galilee, and would therefore have been illiterate. Ehrman notes that Ma hew was different in that he was a tax collector, but adds that we do not know if he was educated or simply “the kind of person who [4]

came banging on the door to make you pay up.” Is it likely they actually wrote the New Testament gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John? Ehrman men ons the historical Jesus and raises the ques on that if a man who had such impact on Western culture actually existed, shouldn’t there be historical records of his life during the period of his presence? Ehrman writes: “What do Greek and Roman sources have to say about Jesus? Or to make the ques on more pointed: if Jesus lived and died in the first century (death around 30 ce), what do the Greek and Roman sources from his own day through the end of the century (say, the year 100) have to say

about him? The answer is breathtaking. They have absolutely nothing to say about him. He is never discussed, challenged, a acked, maligned, or talked about in any surviving pagan source of the period. There are no birth records, accounts of his trial and death, reflec ons on his significance, or disputes about his teachings. In fact, his name is never men oned once in any pagan source. And we have a lot of Greek and Roman sources from the period: religious scholars, historians, philosophers, poets, natural scien sts; we have thousands of private le ers; we have inscrip ons placed on buildings in public places. In no first-century Greek or Roman [5]

(pagan) source is Jesus mentioned.”

Concerning the figure of Aradia, I o en encounter the skep c’s argument that if Aradia had existed, and had the impact ascribed to her in the witches’ gospel, surely there would be documenta on somewhere in the period records. The argument is raised that her name does not appear in any other source than her gospel in the me period surrounding her life. But as we can see from the biblical example, Jesus and Aradia share these problems in common. I feel that we should approach the religious beliefs of those who accept the authen city of Aradia and her gospel with the same respect given to the followers of Jesus and his gospel. They do, a er all, seem to have been pretty much in the same boat at the onset of their faith.

The Baggatto A figure in old Italic tales in which he is the master who the ignorant mistake as the fool or deceiver.

INTRODUCTION In 1981, I self-published the Book of the Holy Strega through a company I created that was called Nemi Enterprises. The material in the book was, however, penned by me some me between the summer of 1972 and early spring of 1973. At the me I was working primarily from oral stories passed on to me by various teachers linked to the tradi on of witchcra that I prac ce. The stories had previously come to me over a period of several years during summer visits by my family vaca oning from Italy. Although delivered in pieces, I came to regard the tales as parts of a greater whole. In addi on to the oral tales, I was in possession of ritual material that contained verses regarding Aradia and her teachings. The collec on of texts conformed with and complimented the oral teachings, helping to paint a portrait that was more expansive to my vision of what had been passed through lines of lineage. But this was the vision of a man in his early twen es, a selflabeled poet and mys c, and one of the few remaining rebel Hippies in the 1970s. I no longer possess the mind, body, and spirit of that man. A respected colleague of mine suggested that it would be helpful to readers if I were to provide some background on how I came to regard Aradia as I do, and what my role was in forming together the material in my published works. I realize, from reading cri cal reviews of my work on Aradia and Italian witchcra , that there exists an uninformed opinion of me and my approach to these topics. I have therefore taken the advice of my colleague to provide some needed understanding, and I believe that the following personal story may be helpful in understanding who I am and what I have tried to accomplish through my writings. In the summer of 1969 I met a young woman that worked in an herb shop in San Diego in what was (and s ll is) called Old Town. The name of the shop was Pooh’s Pantry. The store contained a wide variety of herbs as well as items used in the making of tea. Upon discovery of the shop, I purchased several herbs that are tradi onally used in witchcra spells. This apparently caught the a en on of the woman working the counter (whose name I no longer recall). She commented that my selec on of herbs was not conducive to making tea, and I agreed in reply. She then added that the herbs were good for making incense, and she gave me a knowing smile. I recall returning to Pooh’s Pantry because of an invita on by the women who said to come back at closing me, and that she had something to show me. She was a rac ve, and close to my age, and so it seemed that whatever she wanted to show me was probably going to be worthwhile in one way or another. Shortly a er entering the store, the woman took me through a door into the back area. There I encountered what appeared to be an altar that was similar to one used for witchcra . She then explained to me that she prac ced Wicca. A er a few moments I realized that she was talking about a form of witchcra . During the late 60s and early 70s, witchcra and Wicca were interchangeable terms. In the me that followed, I was introduced to a man named Don who worked at a book shop in Pacific Beach that was called The Oracle. It turned out that he belonged to a coven in the area that was run by a woman known as Lady Heather. I was informed that she prac ced Wicca as taught by Gerald Gardner, and that she was connected to him through a lineage of ini ates. It wasn’t until many years later that I discovered this was a false claim. I spent a couple of years prac cing what I was taught by Lady Heather, and in 1975, I completed a course of study under Lady Sara Cunningham, a well known witch of the day. I also

took her course in the Kabala, and in the later half of the 1970s I studied with the Rosicrucians (AMORC). I welcomed these opportuni es because they offered new ideas and insights into the various fields that drew my interest. I did not realize it at the me, but this period was shaping my beliefs and perspectives in ways that later influenced my presentation of Italian witchcraft. The system of witchcra that I learned in my youth is what I now call peasant witchcra . It was a blend of primi ve magic covered with a veneer of Catholicism. In this upside down miniuniverse, the old gods and spirits wore the clothing of saints and sported their names. Deals could be made with them in a se ng of candles and smoking incense. Anything was possible through magic, but this involved a law sta ng that nothing may be received without something being given, and not can be given without something being be received. Growing up, I was only to hear the words strega/stregone (witch) on rare occasions. Even though I was instructed not to discuss our ways outside of the family, they were o en referred to as simply “the things we do.” It is the custom of my lineage that not un l age thirteen is someone formally given the understanding that the old ways are known as witchcra . However, I do have one recollec on of an event that clearly bypassed this custom. It was during a summer visit by an uncle of mine from Italy. I do not recall anymore how old I was, but I am certain I was younger than eight or nine years old. It was one night a er I was sent off to bed, that my uncle came in to say goodnight. I shared with him that I was afraid of the dark. He asked me why, and I replied that there were creatures in the dark. He laughed and said something like “You are a creature of the night too because you are a witch, and so you see, you have only friends in the dark.” This was very profound for me, and it changed the way I came to view the world around me. A er my uncle le the room I thought of a very real dream I had several years earlier about a witch hiding in my closest. When I opened the closest she grabbed me and tried to give me something. For several nights a erwards I dreamed of small black shapeless blobs sliding across the floor around my bed. My non-Italian rela ves in America are of German and Scot descent, and my grandparents lived in Pi sburgh (I am half Italian, and a quarter German and Scot). We went to my grandparent’s house frequently on family vaca ons, and their home was very old. Family stories recounted that three people had died in the house due to suicide. One reportedly hung himself from the second floor banister; one gassed himself in a third floor bedroom, and I no longer recall how the third one died. But it was a woman, and her spirit was said to linger on the stairs that turned to go up to the third floor. My rela ves in Pi sburgh seemed to delight in terrorizing me from age four on, with tales of the haun ngs down in the basement and up on the second and third floors of the old house. A er describing events of a par cular haun ng, I would be instructed by a rela ve to go fetch something he or she needed from the exact room in the ghost tale. I suppose everyone thought it was great fun to do this, but for me it was very frightening. My guess is that this is where my fear of the dark arose (for the light was turned on by a chain suspended from the ceiling, which was out of my reach as a small child). One night in the Pi sburgh home, when I was about ten (if memory serves correctly), I experienced an event that altered my life and set its course. I was in bed on the third floor, which was a converted a c. While trying to go to sleep, I heard a noise come from the closet door. My memory of the event is that the door slowly opened, and a shadow figure moved towards me. I was unable to move or make a sound, which I attribute to fright. The shadow figure quickly slipped down and disappeared behind the footboard of the bed. In

a moment it returned, and slowly poured across the cover of the bed like black liquid, moving towards me all the me. I recall it reaching my chest, and from that point I have no memory of the event whatsoever. But this began a las ng obsession with the occult that has taken me on a fascina ng life journey. Much later in life I was told by two psychics that the shadow figure was an ancestral spirit (a woman) who could not leave un l it passed something on to a descendant. If true, the gift has always been a doubled-edged sword. My father worked under government contracts in the installa on of underground missile bases in the 1960s. This required that we move every summer to a different state in the union. The towns we lived in were rural because the missile bases were in the middle of nowhere at the me. When we arrived in a town at the beginning of summer, I was without friends un l school started in September. I spent much of the me exploring the woods and out-of-the-way places. It was through this that I developed my communica on skills with what I regarded at the me as fairies and nature spirits. My summer experiences strengthened my belief in non-material reali es, par cularly related to unseen sen ent beings. I had grown up with stories, told by my mother, of fairies and other beings, and I believed that these tales were true. But as I grew older I began to realize that the beings actually existed but the stories about them were not to be taken literally. I learned that witch lore is a means of preserving and communica ng things related to the Old Ways, but that these stories are presented by the teller in a way that is customized for the audience. When I was twelve years old, I lived in Roswell, New Mexico. I made a friend at school who loved books on mythology. We talked from me to me about myths and legends, which led to discussions about a variety of beings. At one point he admi ed to a fascina on with witches. So I wrote a tale down for him, which seemed to delight him a great deal. This was the first of several stories presented in my own fashion that I wrote for this friend. He never asked about the origins of these tales, and I never offered any explana on. This was my first venture at presen ng such things to a non-rela ve. It was also my first step in breaking with the strict tradi on of complete secrecy. Once this is done, it becomes easier over time. Growing up within a secret society is an isola ng experience, and when added to moving every year to a different state in the union, I felt very much alone for a good por on of my life. This was my experience from age eight through sixteen. Making friends in school and then saying goodbye forever when summer arrived was difficult, and eventually I learned not to get too close to anyone in a temporary se ng. This had its advantages because it is challenging not to share who one is with a friend, and so keeping the secret of being a witch was made easier by living the life a gypsy. In retrospect I realize that witchcra was the one constant and reliable component in my life. It was the one thing that I never had to leave behind whenever my family moved. When we travelled across county it took days by car. When my dad stopped for fuel my mother would some mes give me money for snacks or a toy. On one such trip in 1963, I bought a comic tled Strange Tales. In it was a character named Doctor Strange, who was a master of the mys c arts. I became fascinated with this figure, and the appeal was, in part, that this character did not get his powers from any outside source, event, or transforming muta on. He was a master sorcerer because of his training. This was something I could relate to and aspire to be in life. So I immersed myself in the magical world of Doctor Strange for several years (and I remain an avid collector). As men oned earlier, I discovered Wicca in the summer of 1969. I realize now that my experience with Wicca presented me with an image of something much grander than a family

tradi on of witchcra . It opened my view to include the concept of a European religion of witchcra , for such was the depic on of the first few books on Wicca that I read. These included Gerald Gardner’s books (Witchcra Today, and The Meaning of Witchcra ) and a book by Stewart Farrar ( tled What Witches Do). In my mind and heart, I moved the family tradi on to join ranks with the notion of something more widespread. Summer visits from family members coming over from Italy were very educa onal. I learned more about Italian culture and about witchcra during these precious mes. Some mes an aunt or uncle would visit, and at other mes it would be a cousin. Each offered me tales about spirits, prac ces, and witch lore. Un l quite recently I always viewed them as parts of a greater whole, meaning that I believed I was learning more about the family tradi on in terms of the cohesive “big picture”. A year or two ago I began to try and layout who taught me what so that I could see the pieces more clearly in terms of how they fit together. The impetus for this was a chance conversation with a colleague in which I was asked about precisely what I learned from who in terms of my tradi on. The idea of mapping this all out seemed like a fun and worthwhile project. I was not blind to the idea that some things were likely introduced into the tradi on through the personal interests of any given family member. So, as a researcher, I welcomed the opportunity to sort the original model from what addi ons and modifica ons might appear through comparison. I assumed, of course, that I knew and understood this model. The way in which I learned my tradi on is an interes ng one, and is helpful in understanding all that came to pass as well. From my mother I was taught about plants, fairy lore, and simple folk magic spells and remedies, and what I call Saint magic (the use of Church iconography). My mother shared with me many of the folk magic customs taught by her father. I recorded her speaking about these prac ces in August of 2006 and I presented a copy to Professor Sabina Magliocco, an anthropologist who shares an interest in Italian traditions. My madrina (godmother) Teresa was very instrumental to my educa on in witchcra , second only to my uncle, Arturo. Teresa was always referred to as my aunt, and that is what I always called her, but in fact she was not a blood rela ve. From her I learned elements of magic that involved techniques known as “hea ng the blood” that involved heightened emo ons. These techniques were designed to ul mately produce “magically charged” body fluids that we incorporated into po ons, poppets, charms, and other means of delivering energy to the intended target. Teresa was also my formal ini ator in terms of ritual rites of passage. We had no formal degree system per se, but what we had were, in effect, rites of passage. I later constructed three formal rites of ini a on for use in the Aridian and Arician tradi ons that I taught to non-family members (and these were influenced by both my Italian training and Wiccan experiences). In the family tradi on, we have what is called the rite of embracing. This was a formal acceptance of the Old Ways, and in effect this meant that you chose to live as a witch and enter fully into the Ways. The embracing rite takes place at age thirteen, which in my opinion is much too young for a person to make such a commitment. But the tradi on comes from a me when a thirteen year old was very different from a modern teenager in terms of maturity and life experience. There are many ves ges in the tradi on that I feel are no longer prac cal, but they must be preserved in any case. The family tradi on also has a ceremony through which a witch becomes a priestess or priest of the old gods. It seems that its original purpose was a declara on by the ini ate, and that this served to no fy the community as to who was a priestess or priest. The rite includes the “passing

on of power” from ini ator to ini ate, which involved some very archaic elements of pagan ritual and magic. In the line of teachers was my uncle Arturo (my mother’s younger brother). He was a Mason in the Italian order, and a very learned occul st. What he taught me, in contrast to my other teachers, was much more structured and involved ceremonial aspects. He spoke a great deal about the stars and watchers in the night sky that were called the Grigori. He shared with me the old Etruscan names of gods and spirits. Arturo also taught me the formal use of ritual tools. In the early years of summer visits by my Italian rela ves, there was a language barrier. Although they spoke some English, I neither spoke nor understood any appreciable Italian, and my mother would help interpret whenever she was available. But o en it was just me, my rela ve, and broken English. Teachings were rarely formal sessions, and typically began due to some s mulus. This might be seeing an herb in the backyard garden or catching a glimpse of a falling star at night. But there were certainly mes when I ini ated a discussion, asked ques ons, and was given instruc on. At one point my mother’s sister Nina moved in with us, but she was in poor health, and this limited my opportunities to pick her brain on matters of family witchcraft. As previously men oned, I believed for many years that I was receiving various parts of a cohesive tradi on from family members over mul ple summer visits. But over the last decade, due to vast improvement in language skills, I have learned more about what I was taught. My questions have been more pointed and the discussions have been more in depth because of improved communica on. In addi on, my own research into Italian folklore, ethnographic studies, and historical records has allowed me to better understand and interpret what I have in my possession. I now believe that what my family prac ced, in terms of what they all shared in common, was a peasant tradi on of witchcra . It was a blend of very old folk magic prac ces with pagan elements of spirit contact, ancestral contact, and the venera on of archaic deity forms of a preRoman nature. I further believe that to this was added a system of celes al magic that was not part of the oldest form of the peasant witchcra tradi on. This is confirmed by the presence of star lore passed to me by my uncle that cannot have been known to simple peasant witches of the past. To me, none of this negates the tradi on; it simply reveals the footprints in me of those who have added to the original model. Next is the matter of Aradia and her legend. I cannot recall at what age I first became aware of the legend of Aradia. It seems to me that I have always known of her. My memory is that not everyone in the family was as well-versed concerning Aradia as was my uncle. However, I did grow up hearing the name and bits of the legend from various rela ves. My mother seemed to know less about Aradia than did my madrina and my uncle. The legend of Aradia, as I came to understand it, came to me largely through tales from Arturo and Teresa. I also relied upon various men ons and references to Aradia in the Book of Ways, which is similar to the Book of Shadows idea in Wicca. These texts brought the idea of Aradia into clearer focus and helped me obtain a more cohesive understanding. In my tradi on there are three books, known as Ways, Calls, and Magic. Of the three I have only ever seen the Book of Ways in a handwri en form that pre-existed me. The other two books were delivered in sets of typed pages over a period of several years. The Book of Ways appeared old and weathered with me, and it had the appearance of a ledger or accoun ng book. The pages had printed lines it in, which caused me to wonder about its date (not knowing when lined paged first appeared in printed books). The text itself was handwri en in Italian, and I copied this into English (but included the Italian ritual evoca on verses) into my own book. This was a very frustra ng process because it

required my mother’s assistance in transla on. I was willing to sit for hours and copy, but transla ng for long periods of me was clearly taxing on my mother. She would o en try and shorten the process by telling me what the text meant (in effect, paraphrasing to save me and effort). This always led to arguments because I wanted to know every word, but her pa ence o en wore thin with a zealous young Aries male at the writing table. The old Book of Ways eventually returned to Italy and I never saw it again. I do, however, possess an old handwri en copy in another book gi ed to me by my uncle. It is handwri en in Italian, and several years ago I had the book dated by an an que dealer in Escondido, California. From the binding, materials, and condi on of the book he es mated it to be from the late 1800s to early 1900s. He said it was consistent with the record books and ledgers from this period. There is an old story about the book, which is an interes ng tale, but no one s ll lives who has any direct knowledge and informa on about the original owner of the book or how it came to be le behind (by tradition the witch’s book is burned after death). So there are clearly mysteries surrounding this book. A large por on of pages are missing from the book, having been cut from close to the interior binding, and what remains begins on page 233. The book originally had 400 pages, some of which are s ll blank. The story is that during World War II, when Naples and the surrounding area was being bombed from the air, pages of the book were taken and dispersed to family members for copying into other books. This was reportedly done in an a empt to ensure survival in case bombs destroyed the loca on where the original was kept (and indeed my mother’s home was completely destroyed during a bombing raid). The old book s ll contains the full moon ritual. Areas of text contain crossed out words (apparently the person wri ng the text realized a repeated passage). There are also words where a pen has gone back over to correct mistakes. This strikes me as errors made while copying as opposed to errors made while wri ng original text. The book also contains drawings of a variety of symbols and ritual tools. It appears to be wri en in one hand, which has the look of a women’s handwri ng. There are three drawings of masks and one drawing of tribal-like markings on forearms. A collec on of magical seals also appears in the book, and both ink and lead pencil have been used throughout the book. It is quite old now and can no longer be handled without pieces of it peeling or falling off. The ul mate future fate of the book remains undecided (see appendices for photos). Returning to the legend of Aradia, I made it clear in my books Italian Witchcra (formerly tled Ways of the Strega) and in Hereditary Witchcra , that my public presenta on of it was my own rendering. In the introduc on to the 1981 version of the Book of the Holy Strega, I stated that the text is a paraphrase and not a literal transla on. To be even clearer here, please take note that the published material never previously existed in precisely the form in which it appears in any of my public wri ngs. Ironically, not long ago a woman calling herself “Aradia di Toscano” reprinted my published material and claimed that it came from her grandmother, which is impossible because I wrote it in that form. Some people have righ ully wondered to what extent I was personally involved in the material presented as the Aradia legend. One belief is that I invented it, which is fla ering (although that was not the intent of the commentators). I have also been described as an “innovator” working with older folkloric models, which is a kinder way of sugges ng I am making it all up as I go along. But my personal view is that I did not create anything; I simply retold the story in an enhanced way for a new audience. I liken this to a musician performing another musician’s

song in his own style (it sounds different but it is the same song). In any case, the story of Aradia pre-existed me, and therefore I cannot take credit for the legend as its creator (only as its elaborator). Although I have long been a true believer in Aradia and her story, I am also a person who ques ons and examines. It is not impossible that what I was taught about Aradia and Italian witchcra was invented by the genera on before me. However, for me to believe this, requires that I consider my family members to be liars (because they assert this was all passed down through the genera ons). For me to regard my trusted teachers in such a way is out of the ques on. But I have, from me to me, wondered about how much was added in recent mes that was not part of our lineage several generations ago. According to family stories, witchcra was introduced into the bloodline five or six genera ons ago (people disagree here) when a witch named Calenda di Tavani married into the family. There is also disagreement concerning the woman’s name, and I have heard her referred to as Caliente de Tavani (which seems to be of Spanish origins). To date, I have had no success with finding more informa on about this woman. Did she know the legend of Aradia? Did it pre-exist her? These are questions that cannot be answered at this time. The Aradia legend, or story, as it came to me was much simpler than what I wrote in any published version. In this regard it was also shorter in the telling. However, I did not invent any por on of the story in terms of the theme. What I personally added was dialogue that was not in any pre-exis ng form that I ever saw. But this dialogue was only meant to draw together preexis ng teachings, and I placed the dialogue into se ngs that were originally part of the legend. The dialogue contains pre-exis ng teachings a ributed to Aradia as well as pre-exis ng components of the mythos. Only the precise phraseology is mine as a writer (not an inventor). Naively, at the me, I did not think any of this would really ma er to anyone. I really just wanted to share my spiritual vision of Aradia. I do not want to leave the impression that what I have wri en in this introduc on is a retrac on, back-peddling, or a reversal of my earlier posi on. It is not, and I believe now what I believed back in 1981. I just feel that clarifica on is needed so the Aradia legend is not treated with disrespect simply because some people want to discredit me personally. I do not ma er, but the legend does. In closing I wish to address another ma er related to my wri ngs on Italian witchcra (Stregheria). Some cri cs and skep cs use the argument that what I write about Italian witchcra does not match what they claim to know about Italian witchcra in Italy. As stated in my published books, what I write about is the Aridian tradi on, which I created as a mixture of Wicca and Italian witchcra . Therefore the published material is going to differ from what na ve Italians prac ce in many ways due to the Wiccan addi ves. However, enough of the commonality is there and does reflect native practices. The reality is that I was taught by na ve Italians, and even though I have added non-Italian elements to those teachings, I do not regard my published material as having no connec on to Italian culture. The aforemen oned commentators ignore the fact that I was forthright in my books by sta ng that the published material is mixed with Wiccan elements. But they clearly want na ve Italians (and others) to believe that I claim the published material is pure Italian witchcra . Since I made it clear in my books that the published material is a mixture, I can only regard the commentators’ con nued allega ons to be an inten onal misrepresenta on of my work. The reasons why these people wish to misinform and misrepresent lies with them.

CHAPTER 1 WITCHCRAFT: THE CHRISTIAN MAKEOVER As noted in the preface to this book, it is my posi on that witchcra existed in ancient mes and evolved over the centuries in forms that have been passed along through lineage bearers. This witchcra is quite different from the depic on of it as found in witchcra trials and in commentaries wri en by agents of the Church. The reasons for this include the poli cs of the Church and the imagina on of people opposed to non-Chris an beliefs and prac ces. Through a lengthy process the contrived depic on of witchcra became regarded as truth. This “truth” displaced almost all that came before it, and is o en used today as evidence that no witches’ sect unlike it ever existed in the history of witchcraft. Despite the manufactured presenta on of witchcra by the authori es of the period, it is clear that authen c pagan elements come into view in witchcra trials and commentaries. One example is found in the 16th century trial of Elena Draga (aka Elena Crusichi). According to the transcripts, Elena performed a healing spell that was med to the phase of the moon and the outgoing ocean de on a specific day. Herbs and other ingredients were made into a poul ce and were applied to the pa ent. Elena then washed the person and threw the bath water into the outgoing de. Scholar Dino de’ Antoni states this is one of the few en rely non-Chris an aspects [6]

of healing still in existence in this period. The case of Elena Draga raises some ques ons. Did Elena actually perform this work of magic and, if so, where did this tradi on originate? Or, was this something made up by the accusers in an a empt to ensure convic on? If the former is true, then we are looking at a survival of a nonChris an work of magic appearing in a 16th century witchcra trial. If the la er is true, then we are looking at a lie. If false, then we must reject the credibility of the accusers. But the accusers of witchcra represent the view of the Church and its agents. How trustworthy is this situa on, the people, and the organization behind all of this? The “official” view of witchcra in Chris an Europe is, for the most part, a cohesive one. It depicts witchcra as a harmful prac ce of ill intent that incorporates Devil worship, cannibalism, debauchery, and the perversion of Church sacraments. Did such a cult actually exist, and if so, was it truly so widespread to include groups and individuals throughout all of Europe? If we look at the number of people tortured and executed for prac cing witchcra , it seems that such was the belief of the authori es. But if the belief did not exist among the authori es, who enforced these ac ons, then what are we to conclude of their mo ves and behavior? In either case I cannot help but wonder about the mental state of the persecutors of witchcra , and in this light it is difficult to extend credibility to them as examiners, investigators, witnesses and judges. Despite the commonality of regional views pertaining to witchcra (during the Middle Ages and into later periods) witchcra in Italy differed from other areas of Europe in several key ways. According to historian Darren Oldridge, the Roman Inquisi on viewed witchcra as more pagan [7]

supers on than diabolical apostasy. This coupled with the rela vely rare use of torture allowed for a less violent and dangerous environment for the prac ces commonly associated with witchcra during this era. In Italy the primary interest of the Church in ma ers of witchcra was repentance as opposed to execu on. Historian Ruth Mar n comments that “Complete recogni on of error and genuine repentance on the part of the individual was the final goal in each case


brought before the Inquisition.” The wri ngs on witches and witchcra in Italy deal largely with the prac cal or opera ve forms of witchcra , such as the use of items in spell cas ng and other works of magic. When compared to other parts of Europe there is less emphasis on the diabolical elements of witchcra (including pacts with the devil). However, these things are certainly not absent from Italian records. But we need to keep in mind that in Italy, witchcra (par cularly in Venice) was dealt with as a religious offense, and therefore came under the jurisdic on of the Inquisi on rather than that [9]

of secular authority. There are many trial cases in which individuals accused of witchcra appear before the authori es more than once. The common sentence for the guilty party was to be publicly humiliated, whipped, imprisoned for a set period of me, or in serious cases to be banished from the community. The la er had grave consequences par cularly for women, as once the family support system was removed the only remaining immediate op ons were pros tu on or a criminal means of income. The Roman Inquisi on dealt much more harshly with accused witches who belonged to groups or were involved in family prac ce. The idea of organized witches was perceived by the Church to be a greater threat than was the occasional solitary prac oner. It was this situa on of group involvement that eventually resulted in the execu on of accused witches in Italy. However, the killing of people found guilty of prac cing witchcra (as defined by the Church) began much later in Italy than in other European countries. Among the earliest wri ngs on the gatherings of witches in Italy we find a depic on of night [10]

mee ngs where communica on with the dead took place. This was referred to as a tregenda. Commentators of the period (such as 14th century preacher Jacopo Passavan ) charged that witches were fakes preying upon the loneliness of widows. However, the idea of witches communica ng with the dead is an ancient theme that shows up in Greek and Roman wri ngs. It would be several centuries un l the tregenda became transformed by the Church and its agents into the modern evil stereotype of the Sabbat. Wri ng of the tregenda, or Sabbat, scholar Franco Mormando states: “This no on of the assembly is yet another universal item in ‘the classic formula on of the Witch Phenomenon.’ Like much else in the baggage of the European witch, it has its roots in pagan mythology, specifically in the un-Chris an but nondiabolical ‘Society of Diana,’ an innocuous, fes ve ride and gathering of woman under the tutelage of the pagan goddess of the moon and the hunt. Turned into a demonized witch phenomenon by the theologians and canonists of Chris an Europe, the assembly was by the end of the fi eenth century to be known (with nges of an -Semi sm) as the witches’ ‘Sabbath.’ With the passing years, it slowly acquired ever more heinous, orgias c characteris cs. During Bernardino’s life me, the gathering was called by various names; the preacher himself, in one of his 1424 sermons to the Florentines, refers to it by [11]

the Italian term tregenda.”

Historian Jacob Burckhardt, in his book The Civiliza on of the Renaissance in Italy, commented that Italian witches “have something of the classical Sibyl in them” but he portrays the witch as a pretender to power, and one who makes philters that include “abor on-hastening” drugs. He also mentions that there are male and female witches (stregone and strega). Burckhardt comments that

these witches play the part of the “quack-doctor” and the bawd “like their Roman predecessors.” Burckhardt suggests that the art of the Italian witch “lived on interruptedly from the me of [12]

the Romans” and was the basis for many supers ons over the course of me. He adds that outside of parts of northern Italy the Germanic elements of demonic witchcra did not progress further into Italy “due to the fact that elsewhere a highly developed form of ‘Stregheria’ was already [13]

in existence, res ng on a different set of ideas.” Burckhardt goes on to portray the real life Italian witch as a person involved in a “trade” through which she or he earns a living (typically in the sale of charms and potions largely related to matters of love and healing). Over the centuries the magical art of witchcra was the primary focus of writers. This resulted [14]

in the view that witchcra is/was simply a prac ce and not a religion. Ironically, during the Chris an period of the witch trials, witches were accused of worshipping the Devil, which is a religious theme. But witchcraft continued to fall strictly under the category of a magical practice. Witchcra trial transcripts over the centuries contain details of the ques ons asked of the accused as well as the answers allegedly given in response. In the early period of the trials these ques ons were most likely designed to obtain the details of what prac ces took place and what the beliefs of the prac oners were. This strongly suggests that the ways of the witches were not, as a whole, common knowledge at the me. In this light it is not difficult to entertain the possibility that witches were taught in secret, either through family lines or membership in some form of group or inner society. Over the centuries, the ques ons used by the Inquisitors were ul mately responsible for the stereotypical view of witchcra that permeated the Middle Ages and Renaissance period. This view is also the one used by academics today to reject the Neo-Pagan belief of witchcra as an older religion. However, in witch trial transcripts the ques ons put to the accused are not directed at uncovering anything of a religious nature (old or new) but instead are focused on magical prac ces, ill deeds, and satanic worship. It is this insular portrait of witches and witchcra that spreads into popular culture and establishes the stereotype in the minds of the populace. The Inquisitors, as the old saying goes, could not see the forest for the trees. From this myopic view of witchcra arises the problems we now face in trying to discover the existence of the witches’ sect as it truly was in old Italy. Trying to sort out the facts about what Italian witchcra was, and was not, is more complicated than simply realizing the contrived depic on of it at the hands of the Church and its agents. Mar n points out that the Inquisi on assimilated various aspects of folk belief and healing prac ces into the framework of witchcra . She goes on to say that a great deal of “interpenetra on” took place regarding the beliefs within popular culture and the view of the [15]

educated class to which the Inquisitors belonged. This inten onal mixture contorted nonChris an prac ces and beliefs to conform to the imagined structure of witchcra . As a result we are left with quite a tangled ball of string to unravel. One of the problems for the Church in terms of its poli cal campaign, in which heinous acts are ascribed to witches, is that the many people in the popula on knew local witches in their community. As Mar n points out, poten al witnesses against the accused were likely to know very well that the neighborhood witch could not possibly have performed all the allega ons of the authori es without having been observed. Such alleged acts as cannibalism and night-flying were a hard sell to members of the neighborhood where the witch resided.

Over the course of me, books of sorcery and ceremonial magic entered into the subcultures of Italy. Books such as the Key of Solomon and the works of Pietro d’Abbano are men oned in Italian witchcraft trials. One example is the 17th century case of Laura Malipiero who, as an accused witch, had her home searched by the captain of the Sant’Ufficio, an arm of the Inquisi on. In her home were discovered several crudely wri en spell books along with sophis cated herbals and [16]

copies of the Key of Solomon. Ruth Mar n notes that Italian witchcra involved people from all levels of society. In her book on witchcra in Venice, Mar n notes that Venice was reflec ve of witchcra in other areas of Italy, with the excep on of certain types of magic. Since Venice was a port city and not a farming town, there are no allegations of crop blasting and weather magic. Martin writes: “Even so, it seems that witchcra of one type or another held an interest for people from all levels of society. Men involved in necromancy, many of whom were booksellers, were clearly the most educated, and Morosini and the treasure-hunters represent the fascina on of the noble classes for this type of learned witchcra . Men who par cipated in other types of witchcra included retailers, a goldsmith, a draper, cra smen such as a dyer or cooper, and the inevitable boatmen. Woman’s social standing ranged from the gen ldonne, who would o en consult witches or even try the experiments themselves, through wives of retailers and cra smen, to washerwomen, arsenal workers (making sails or ropes), the wives of boatmen, pros tutes, to [17]

some with no visible means of income at all.”

As we can see, witchcra (as a magical art) was not confined to the illiterate peasant class. Wri en materials were clearly present among some witches, a tradi on reflected in the ancient wri ngs of Horace, who refers to a witch’s book of enchantment from which witches can draw down the stars: “Now already I yield to your mighty art, and suppliant beseech you by the realms of Proserpina and by the powers of Diana, not to be provoked, and by your books of enchantments that are able to call down the fixed stars from the heavens…” – Epode 17 Witchcra , as a magical art, influenced both mainstream and folk culture. However, Italian folk culture was less influenced by witchcra than it was by folk magic in general. The la er is found not only in the common prac ces and beliefs of the Italian people but also in the folklore and various tales that na ves grow up with. Like small fragments of witchcra , various elements of folk magic are found in many Italian families. In most cases the members of the family do not view such things as being witchcraft or folk magic but simply as “the things we do”. Folklorists and social anthropologists present various theories about the origins of folklore and folk magic, but all seem to agree that changes take place within them that alter the original models. This is because the average person is not interested in preserving things exactly as he or she found them. Instead such things are o en adapted for personal use and this changes various elements of the lore or folk magic within the culture. By contrast the witch is a preserver of tradi ons and consciously works not to alter the teachings and techniques. Things may be added to his or her Cra , but the original models are honored and preserved. The art of witchcra is passed on from witch to witch and is not available to the everyday person within Italian culture. However, because of their presence, it seems apparent that small elements of witchcraft found their way into popular culture. What we are seeing in contemporary mes is a sub-cultural movement in Italy of individuals

and groups interested in paganism, witchcra , and folk magic arts. Many of these seekers have le the Catholic faith and the restraints of mainstream society. Unfortunately they tend to carry with them the basic concepts of what they learned while growing up, which naturally colors their percep on related to things such as witchcra . Much of what they were exposed to came from the Church, and people came to accept this as truth at some point in their lives. Addi onal influences came from the movies, magazines, and whatever published books were available. Unfortunately this conveyed li le more than the stereotypes. The actual prac ces of witches remained hidden from plain sight. This situa on has resulted in a empts by individuals to recreate such things as stregoneria from whatever public sources are available. Naturally this misinforma on results in confusion, and from this we find misrepresenta ons and misiden fica ons of witchcra and folk magic. One example is that of the Internet group calling itself “Stregoneria Italiana” that collects and mixes a hodge podge of systems and prac ces into one conflated concept under the banner of “Italian witchcra .” Another example is the site known as Rue’s Kitchen, which presents the everyday common folk magic concepts of Italian culture as though they reflect a cohesive system of prac ce and belief. But like the Stregoneria Italiana site, the featured material is not representa ve of ini ate teachings but is simply the layperson’s perspec ve of what is actually an esoteric system that remains outside of their knowledge and experience (and therefore out of their grasp). The ini ate level teachings escape public no ce because they are not part of popular culture but remain available only to an inner society. Even though Italian witches have done remarkably well at keeping their ways largely hidden over the centuries, there are traces of the old sect that appear in the folkloric background of wri ngs on witchcra . In the 16 th century Italian work known as the Maccaronea, wri en by [18]

Girolamo Folengo , we find a grim depic on of witchcra , but one that contains authen c folkloric elements. The story follows the adventures of a character called Baldus who makes his way to the court of the witch queen Gulfora, where he encounters a Sabbat taking place. The witches in a endance are making po ons comprised of yew, privet, aconite, hemlock, toad venom, grave dust, blood and other ingredients. The Sabbat concludes with the witches par cipa ng in an orgy. These are all classic elements of folkloric witchcra , and it is in folklore that we find the popular beliefs of the people. These beliefs are derived from very old ideas within the culture as opposed to the inventiveness of fiction writers. As Baldus con nues deeper into Gulfora’s realm he discovers spell books and grimoires. Baldus also discovers a “school of witchcra ” where old hags instruct young maidens in “all the lore of hell.” Author and clergyman, Montague Summers, comments that “even today a dark supers on lingers in Romagna Toscana that witchcra runs in families, and that secrets of sorcery are perpetuated by word of mouth, the young being carefully instructed and drilled in this horrid business by their older rela ves. The fact that the newly made witches learned spells and runes [19]

from those who had been long initiated is alluded to in the trials of all countries.” In book one, chapter twelve, of the Compendium Maleficarum (wri en by Francesco Guazzo in the 17th century) the Witch Hunter describes an account concerning a gathering of witches. A young woman is guided into a field one night were an Italian man etches a circle on the ground with a beech twig, while “mu ering” some words from a black book. This type of book is referenced in wri ngs about witchcra , both inside and outside of Italy. Scholar Donato Bosca, in his ar cle “Travelling with the Masche,” writes that “Witches use The Book of Commands, which is

received by going to the crossroads and performing a ritual three mes. The book is wri en with three different color inks.” Author W.G. Waters, in his work The Italian Novelists, describes an [20]

account about a witch drawing a circle on the ground while holding “her little book in her hand.” Summers, in his book History of Witchcra & Demonology, comments on several accounts involving witches and the use of a book. The book is described as having a so cover that was hairy like a wolf pelt. The pages in the book were of different colors: white, red, and black. Another reference describes a witch’s book as a “Devil’s Missal” with pages of black and crimson. Summers mentions that a man named William of Cardrona (Peebles) stole a book from a site where [21]

witches were busy dancing (and were therefore distracted from seeing the theft). Various descrip ons of the witches’ Sabbat portray it as a reversal of the Chris an mass and from this perspec ve scholars have taken the posi on that this theme is the authorita ve model. It is certainly the model used by the Inquisi on, but again did such a widespread cult exist to begin with or is this pure fantasy? With the former unlikely and the la er more reasonable, why do scholars rely on the writings about witchcraft from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance period as proof that religious witchcraft was non-existent? One way to uncover what was actually going on in Italian subculture is to look at the ethnographic and folkloric evidence reflected in the vernacular beliefs of Italian culture. Historian Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum remarked that vernacular ways of knowing and believing bypass [22]

established knowledge and belief. In her book Black Madonnas, Birnbaum examines the existence of surviving pagan elements in the contemporary cult of the Madonna. Through elements of this nature we can uncover, or at least glimpse, the founda onal beliefs and prac ces that were later obscured by the politics of the Church and its agents. Birnbaum uses the term “subaltern classes” to refer to subordinated individuals within society, and she remarks that in the past this class was comprised primarily of women. Birnbaum writes: “Subaltern classes can submit, change the outward forms of their beliefs, or defy dominant authority. Vernacular rituals and fes vals, in this view, reveal degrees of absorp on or assimila on, as well as degrees of resistance. Outwardly maintaining church forms, while silently retaining ancient beliefs, appears in my research, to be the mode used by Italian peasants”


She goes on to say that contemporary anthropologists Antonio Carbonaro and Arnaldo Nes view folk beliefs as “a cultura negata, a denied culture with beliefs in an egalitarian and libertarian [24]

society.” Birnbaum comments that women scholars in Italy are recovering “ancient values transmi ed by women persecuted as witches.” She also remarks that among historians studying the suppressed Italian peasant culture, the term “ethnocide” is now being used. This term is o en applied to the demoli on of the people’s beliefs that were destroyed or deformed by Catholic inquisitors, Protestant reformers, and enlightenment ra onalists.24 Fortunately we can look to such figures as the Black Madonna, and beneath the veneer we can discover something of the vernacular religious and poli cal beliefs that once defined the Italian witch. It is here, with great care, that we can begin to restore the denied culture of the witch. Despite the fact that, in the recovery of the suppressed witch culture, we are o en le with only fragments to examine and interpret, the task is not impossible. Elements are surfacing today due to the efforts of women scholars in Italy and elsewhere. Birnbaum notes that “The suppression

of informa on on the culture of witches has been virtually total.” She goes on to say that “Not un l 1976 was an account published in Italy of a witch trial from the perspec ve of a woman scholar” and that “Not un l 1989 was a scholarly study published in Italy of the connec on of witch rituals to [25]

prechristian beliefs.” Birnbaum’s views on elements of venera on associated with the Black Madonna provide some insight to the medieval culture of witches. Here the village witch is seen in a con nuing role as a healer and magic user coupled with the pre-Chris an goddess, who is associated with life, death, and regenera on. Birnbaum describes a healing in which the village witch “would exorcise illness or misfortune with rituals using salt, oil, and water, and incanta ons.” In summary, Birnbaum writes: “Mixing pagan and Chris an beliefs, women were responsible for the healing arts in peasant society. Whether a fa uccheria or a strega presided over a recovery, or it was believed that a par cular saint had intervened, peasants would exclaim, ‘un miracolo.’ In nineteenth-century Italian peasant culture, there was li le difference between a fa ucchiera and a strega, and they each had considerable resemblance to saints: the people believed that both saints and witches could effect miracles.”


Author Roberto Sicuteri remarked that the witches’ Sabbat was probably a reunion of here cs persecuted by the Church. The peasant customs featured at the gathering were transformed through manipula on by ecclesias cal authori es and by popular fantasy into a charnel house. Added to the mix, we must factor in the sexual fantasies of the persecutors of witchcra who struggled with the sexual repression of prevailing Chris an morality that dominated [27]

this era. Over the centuries the influence of the Church, and its fixa on on paganism as a diabolical force, took its toll on the witches’ sect. It persisted into the 19th century, and here we glimpse the presence of Lucifer in witchcra where he fulfills the Judeo-Chris an role of the fallen angel. In folklorist Charles Leland’s book Aradia; Gospel of the Witches, Lucifer and the goddess Diana have a child together who is later sent to earth to teach witchcra to oppressed peasants, and to convert them into witches. These witches are also instructed in how to call upon Diana and Aradia for aid. In Western literature we see the ancient witch calling upon various sources of power. One example comes to us from the myths and legends of Medea, a Greek witch. In tales, such as those by Ovid, Medea addresses her incanta ons to the stars, Hecate, Tellus, and the goddess of earth. She also erects an altar to Hecate and another to Hebe. Her incanta ons reveal the witch’s connection to an ancient theology: “Night, trus est keeper of my secrets, and stars who, together with the moon, follow on from the fires of the daylight, and you Hecate of the three heads, who know all about my designs and come to help the incanta ons and the cra of the witches, and Earth, who furnish witches with powerful herbs, and Breezes, Winds, Mountains, Rivers, and Lakes, and all the gods of the groves and all the gods of the night, be present to help me. Night-wandering queen, look kindly upon this undertaking.”


What we see here is the calling upon of not only dei es but of spirits or forces. The la er is indicated by the inclusion of the wind, mountains, rivers and lakes. This suggests two things. First we may well be looking at concepts of Neolithic thought if not of an earlier period prior to the

personifica on of dei es in human form. Second, we are looking at a “night cult” - demonstrated by the inclusion of a “night-wandering queen” and “gods of the night” not to men on the [29]

evoca on of Night and the stars themselves. This sets witchcra apart from mainstream Greek religion, forcing it into the status of a so-called illicit religion. There is no doubt that Roman witchcra was highly influenced by its Greek counterpart. Elements of Roman witchcra appear in Italian witchcra to this day, but another important aspect is the influence of Etruscan magic and theology. However this topic is too vast to examine in this chapter. Leland deals with it nicely in his book Etruscan Roman Remains, and the curious reader may wish to read that work. Despite the inclusion of an altar and the evoca on of dei es in the depic on of witchcra , the ancient Greek writers confine it in the realm of illegi mate religion. This is a dismissal by the authori es of the me that witches may righ ully lay claim to a religious nature for their prac ces or to claim a divine source for their power. It does not mean that witches themselves rejected their ways as a personal religion. It means that the authori es that gave official sanc on to a temple or [30]

cult under the cer fica on of a religion chose not to do so in the case of witches. This same challenge appeared in the 1970s when modern day witches first tried to establish legal religious organiza ons with the tax rights granted to churches and temples by the IRS. The authori es argued that witchcra does not qualify as a religion. So it seems to be an ancient and long-las ng bias against witches in this regard. The earliest word in Western language used to refer to a witch, appears to be the Greek word pharmakis. Historian Richard Gordon comments that pharmakis “became one of the standard [31]

words for ‘wise-woman/witch’, used as a substan ve.” The word was later defined to include a person who poisons through the knowledge of plants. Addi onal forms of the word, such as pharmakon, indicated the use of magic in the form of an enchantment of one kind or another. The Romans were later to transfer and apply the no on of the witch as a poisoner into the La n word venefica (used to refer to a witch or her cra ). However the etymology of this word is actually in mately connected to Venus (venerari – vener – venus) as opposed to venom (venenum). This is evidenced by the fact that Venus was a goddess of cul vated gardens before she was a goddess of love (hence the connec on joining Venus to plants and pharmakis). Scholar Wendy Doniger points out that Venus was associated with cul vated fields and garden, and was later iden fied with Aphrodite. She goes on to state that the name Venus “is gramma cally a feminine form of what most likely was originally a neuter abstract noun stem (venes), meaning ‘charm, quali es exci ng desire’ and earlier ‘desire, wish.’ This root – as exemplified by the deriva ves venerari, ‘to solicit the good will of (a deity) by propi atory acts, worship’, and venenum, ‘magic herb or po on’ – seems to have linked the no ons of ‘desire’ and ‘propi atory magic to fulfill [32]

one’s desire.” The ancient Roman playwright, Platus, remarks that gardens were under the guardianship of [33]

Venus (though this associa on seems to have vanished by the end of the Republic). Scholar Cyril Bailey, in his book Phases in the Roman Religion, also iden fies Venus with the spirit of vines [34]

and gardens. The words pharmakis and venefica, as given in this chapter, paint a picture of the ancient witch as an herbalist. Later the witch appears as a user of magic. Among the earliest allega ons made against witches is the idea of love po ons. A love po on was believed to force a person to love another, and this was regarded as a crime against free will. When this crime was

coined “poisoning the mind” of the vic m, the label of “poisoner” became firmly a ached to the witch. In this way “venefica” marked the witch as one who poisons with plants, and thereby displacing her earlier association with Venus and love potions. The witch, as an herbalist, certainly knew and used the healing and harmful herbs. Such an individual was known by the residents of villages and towns, and these people called upon the witch for a variety of purposes. The early witch did not concern herself with the plans people had for her skills or po ons. Hers was the business of supplying items or offering her skills for a fee. The responsibility for the results was passed completely into the hands of the buyer. By analogy this is not unlike the rela onship between the gun dealer and the customer who buys and then uses the firearms. Witches were both feared and respected in the past. Many of them enjoyed the power and protection that such a reputation bestowed. The people who spoke ill of the witch in daylight were the same ones who slipped off in the night to seek her aid. Gi s of food or clothing were common in exchange for what could be obtained from the witch. What li le money the witch had, usually [35]

came from other means outside of her witchcraft. The witch’s code of ethics came not from Judeo-Chris an morality but from something older [36]

and more natural. It came, in essence, from an understanding of nature’s ways. In this, the witch understood the returning forces of nature and the themes of loss and gain. She knew the laws of nature and observed how nature’s creatures lived and died. This was her world, and the only one that really made any sense at all. In the night, the witch could go about undisturbed. What people perceived as the frigh ul things of night and darkness were, to the witch, nothing but allies and companions. This can be likened to the thoughts of an American Indian chief who once tried to explain to the Whites that the “wilderness” isn’t a wilderness to the Indian, it is his home. It is only a wilderness to the Whites, who must bring in supplies in order to survive. In this light the witch was equally at home beneath the moon and stars. In ancient mes, the Roman witch was conflated with supernatural beings such as the striga or stria, a type of female vampire that took the shape of a predatory bird such as an owl. This creature was believed to feed on infants, a theme that later appears in allega ons that witches cooked and ate babies at the Sabbat. Roman wri ngs from the pre-Chris an period depict the witch as a hag figure that robs graveyards and commits heinous acts. This contrasts sharply with the beau ful seductress witch of earlier Greek fame. In Rome, poli cs had already defamed and vilified the witch long before the rise of Christianity. With the rise of Chris anity the vilifica on of the witch took on addi onal elements including the introduc on of devil worship. Under the domina on of society by the Church the people convicted of witchcra , as defined by the authori es, were punished through a variety of methods including execu on on the gallows or the pyre. How many of these people were actually involved in any way with any form of witchcra is difficult to say. It is doub ul, however, that the percentage came anywhere near the imagined numbers. According to oral tradi on, witches took extra measures to assure that suspicion would not fall on them. This included taking on the veneer of Catholicism and appearing within the community as devote Chris ans. However, some played on the edge and con nued to openly offer their services as witches. It appears that these brave, or foolish, witches o en ended up before the authori es. In the mean me the underground society of witches developed and evolved, for there

were those who resisted the eradica on of the Old Ways. One such band was the group of followers that formed around the legendary ďŹ gure known as Aradia. In the next chapter we will look at the possible roots of this legend in Italian culture.

CHAPTER 2 ARADIA: THE CULTURAL BACKGROUND There are different legends wri en about Aradia. These tales take place in Italy during a me period that suggests the Middle Ages. One legend portrays Aradia as the daughter of Diana and Lucifer, who came to earth to teach witchcra . Another depicts her as a mortal, a woman who lived and taught the “Old Religion” in the northern region of Italy, and who brought about a revival of witchcra (and foretold the coming of the Age of Daughter, a me when men and women would walk as equals). Some commentators believe that the Aradia legends are inconsistent with Italian culture. Other people believe the tales to reflect a legend that is rooted in historical events that were suppressed by the Church. To be er understand the wri ngs about Aradia we need to know something about the mes in which her legendary tale takes place. Without historical perspec ve it is all too easy to misjudge the story of Aradia as incongruous with Italian culture, or to dismiss it as too fantas c in nature. Therefore we need to look at subculture within Italy both before and a er the me of Aradia (who a popular legend places in the early half of the 14th century). In the late 12th century Italy, Joachim di Flora (also called Joachim di Fiore) the Abbot of Corazzo wrote a prophe c text on the Age of Reason. His wri ngs had a major influence on religious thought throughout the remainder of the Middle Ages. Joachim passed his wri ngs on to the Holy See in 1200 for the Pope’s approval. Concerning the Age of Reason to come, Joachim wrote: “The Old Testament period was under the direct influence of God the Father. With the advent of Christ came the age of God the Son. The me was now ripe for the reign of God the Holy Ghost. A new era was being introduced, a culmina on; in the new day man would not have to rely on faith for everything would be founded on knowledge and reason.”

The year 1300 was declared a Jubilee Year by Boniface VIII. It was also the year that Dante had his “vision: of Inferno Panderers.” A sect known as the Guglielmites arose at this me and formed around a woman known as Guglielma of Milan. Within the circle of those who worshipped [37]

Guglielma, a band of followers believed her to be the incarna on of the Holy Ghost . Her adherents carried the message that she was “bodily equal to Christ” and would die a death of redemp on for the sake of the unconverted. Guglielma’s followers further taught that [38]

“Redemption” was only possible through the incarnation of the Divine in both male and female. The Guglielmites were strong opponents of Pope Boniface, and supporters of the Viscon family (who were accused of involvement in the occult arts). Following the death of Guglielma, on August 24, 1281, Manfreda of Pirovano (a cousin of Ma eo Viscon ) was appointed chief of the Guglielmite sect. She eventually was granted the tle of Pope by the sect, vicar of the Holy Spirit upon earth. According to legend, her portrait appears on the Papessa card of the Viscon Tarot deck.

Papessa Tarot Card Of the approximately thirty members of the sect (from about seven Milanese families) women outnumbered men, but ten of the most fervent members were male. The sect had an interes ng social life, prac cing equality of the genders in all regards. There was no emphasis on virginity or chastity in the sect, though a good number of the female members were widowed or unmarried. Gatherings and banquets were held at the burial site of Guglielma as followers awaited her resurrec on. In the year 1300 the Church banned this ac vity and Manfreda was put to death as a here c. The Inquisi on ordered Guglielma’s bones exhumed and burned to ashes to discourage [39]

any claims of resurrec on. This ended the public prac ces of the sect, which then disappeared from the pages of official history. One popular story is that Guglielma was in reality, Princess Blazena Vilemina, daughter of the King of Bohemia. She was reportedly born in 1210 and appeared in Milan around 1260 and died on August 24, 1281. Guglielma first appeared in Milan dressed as a “common-woman.” Because of her noble background, she a racted followers from both the Viscon family as well as the Torriani family (noble rivals of the me) and was seen as a “peacemaker” between the families. There is some conjecture that she might have been influenced by the sisters of the “Free Spirit”, a very prominent heretical group of the time that preached the teachings of Joachim. Guglielma���s chief disciple, a man by the name of Andrea Saramita, said that he heard her make claims of “divinity.” He was a rather well-off layman, well versed in the teachings of Joachim concerning the Age of the Spirit. He wrote most of their documents and was the chief theologian of the sect. What is interes ng is that the members of the sect crossed social boundaries unheard of in their me. Both wealthy and poor people were involved as well as poor servants. Membership ranged from the ruler’s son, Galeazzo Viscon , to a poor seamstress named Taria, and Bianca a serving maid. On the grounds that Guglielma had wanted her devotees to remain together as a family, they held frequent commemora ve meals in her honor. Reportedly there were a empts throughout the 1300’s to con nue the remembrance of Guglielma, by hiding her image in pain ngs and calling her by various names. The theme of a female messiah, a commemora ve meal, and a coming Age of Reason may have been influen al and possibly founda onal for the legends surrounding Aradia. At the very least it demonstrates that such a general theme was known in Italy during the early 14th century. The pre-existence of these basic themes, later appearing in the Aradia material, lends some cultural support to the legend, thus providing historical founda on for its nature, and for its fi ng appearance in the culture of old Italy.

Most modern scholars claim that the name Aradia comes from the Italian, Erodiade, which is another form of the name Herodias (an infamous woman in the New Testament who desired the death of John the Baptist). In witch trial transcripts and Church writings, the goddess Diana is often equated with Herodias. Anthropology professor Sabina Magliocco notes it is possible that women in 14th century Tuscany might have adopted Aradia as a name, as a variant of “Erodiade” (i.e. Herodias) the biblical villainess. The figure apparently developed into a mythical witch and a goddess (conflated with Diana). If so, Magliocco suggests that the Aradia figure may have been a real person taking on the role of a healer as part of her society. Magliocco further suggests that [40]

such a woman might have chosen to play the part of, or even take on the name of, Erodiade. However, it should be noted, that Magliocco is not a emp ng to make such a case, but is simply allowing for the possibility. Scholar Carlo Ginzburg sheds some light on the subject of Herodias in his book Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath. Ginzburg points out that the old hypothesis equa ng Diana and Herodias stems from a misunderstanding/misreading of the original reference to the goddess “Hera [41]

Diana,” which is rendered Herodiana, and then “normalized” to read Herodias. What should have been rendered Heradiana, appears instead as Herodiana, which is curiously close to the word Herodian (a biblical associa on). The la er indicates an associa on with King Herod of the Bible, and the tale of Herodias who was instrumental in the beheading of John the Bap st. Here we begin to see a distor on take place, which on the surface seems to be simply a mistake in equa ng similar word names. But was this an honest mistake or an intentional false conflation? Ginzburg points out that Burchard, Bishop of Worms, added “Herodias” to the name of Diana [42]

when referring to an earlier canon about Diana and her night followers. Therefore “Herodias” is not present in the original canon references to Diana and her followers. Ginzburg also men ons that the Council of Truer in 1310 “set Herodiana along side Diana” and here we see another inten onal distor on of the original theme. Ginzburg points out that in 1390 Friar Beltramino “inserted” a reference to Herodias that did not appear in the trial records concerning a woman named “Sibillia”. Ginzburg states that the women on trial “only speak of ‘Madona Horiente’; her identification with Diana had probably been suggested to Sibillia by the first inquisitor…” According to Ginzbug we find that Vincent of Beauvais added statements to the original Canon Episcopi, and that Dominican preacher Johannes Herolt added the name Unholde. Later edi ons of his Sermones added then names Fraw Berthe and Fraw Helt, displacing Unholde. This appears to be evidence of deliberate altera ons, which further confuses the allega ons that attempt to equate Diana with other figures. Ginzburg men ons the existence of a Medieval sect of peasants who worshipped the goddess Hera in the Palatinato (consisting of about 400 members). They believed that Hera flies through the [43]

night during the time of Epifania, bringing abundance to her followers . Ginzburg notes that Hera is ed to Diana, which creates a connec on to Herodiana as a nocturnal goddess. He further notes that the name Herodiana eventually becomes transformed into Erodiade. This is supported by a 12th century reference a ributed to Ugo da San Vi ore, (an Italian abbot) who writes of women who believe they go out at night riding on the backs of animals with “Erodiade,” whom he conflates [44]

with Diana and Minerva. Some commentators believe that the name Aradia may have evolved from the name Erodiade. It is interes ng to note that the ancient custom among the Romans was to create composite


names for various dei es. Some examples include Artemis-Hekate. In the Hymn to Diana, Catallus writes: “Diana whose name is Juno-Lucina, who hears the prayers of birthing women”. As we know, Juno is the Roman name for the goddess Hera. Here we can easily see a connec on between Diana and Hera, a possible founda on for the name Hera-Diana. This root may help explain the confusion between Hera-Diana and Herodias (noting Ginzburg’s reference to Herodiana rendered as Herodias). We know from many historical records that the worship or venera on of Diana con nued well into the Chris an era. This concerned the Church and led it to address the problem head on. One of the most popular means was through the popular text, the Canon Episcopi, which reads: “One mustn’t be silent about certain women who become followers of Satan (I Tim. 5,15), seduced by the fantas c illusion of the demons, and insist that they ride at night on certain beasts together with Diana, goddess of the pagans, and a great mul tude of women; that they cover great distances in the silence of the deepest night; that they obey the orders of the goddess as though she were their mistress; that on par cular nights they are called to wait on [46]


In the Witch Hunter’s manual known as the Malleus Maleficarum we read: “In truth, if anyone cares to read the words of the Canon, there are four points which must par cularly strike him. And the first point is this: It is absolutely incumbent upon all who have the cure of souls, to teach their flocks that there is one, only, true God, and that to none other in Heaven or earth may worship by given. The second point is this, that although these women imagine they are riding (as they think and say) with Diana or with Herodias, in truth they are riding with the devil, who calls himself by some such heathen name and throws a glamour before their eyes. And the third point is this, that the act of riding abroad may be merely illusory, since the devil has extraordinary power over the minds of those who have given themselves up to him, so that what they do in pure imagina on, they believe they have actually and really done in the body. And the fourth point is this: Witches have made a compact to obey the devil in all things, wherefore that the words of the Canon should be extended to include and comprise every act of witchcra is absurd, since witches do much more than these women, and witches actually are of a very different kind.” “As regards those who hold the other two errors, those, that is to say, who do not deny that there are demons and that demons possess a natural power, but who differ among themselves concerning the possible effects of magic and the possible opera ons of witches: the one school holding that a witch can truly bring about certain effects, yet these effects are not real but phantas cal, the other school allowing that some real harm does befall the person or persons injured, but that when a witch imagines this damage is the effect of her arts she is grossly deceived. This error seems to be based upon two passages from the Canons where certain women are condemned who falsely imagine that during the night they ride abroad with Diana or Herodias. This may read in the Canon. Yet because such things o en happen by illusion are merely in the imagina on, those who suppose that all the effects of witchcra are mere illusion and imagination are very greatly deceived.” What we see here is an a empt to dismiss the reality and validity of Diana worship by introducing the idea of decep on. The Church wishes people to regard the goddess Diana as an

illusion created by the Devil. Through this the Church hoped to equate Dianic worship with diabolism. Over the course of me the Church succeeds in this venture, and ul mately we find this distor on well-rooted in the “Gospel of the Witches” by Charles Godfrey Leland. In his work we find the name Herodias attached to Diana and Aradia, and so the error of association continues. According to one popular legend, Aradia was born in 1313 in northern Italy, in the town of Volterra. This date is likely a contrived one that is intended to bestow mys cal meaning to the me of her birth. According to legend, Aradia gathered a small band of followers and went about the countryside teaching and preaching the Old Religion of Italy. Aradia spoke of an Age of Reason that would come, and which would replace the Age of the Son. When she departed, Aradia requested that a meal be held in her honor, and that she be remembered by future genera ons. As we have already seen this is nothing new in the nature of an Italian subculture sect. The belief in the historical existence of a woman named Aradia, who brought about a revival of Italian witchcra , is not without many supporters (as well as skep cs). The figure of Aradia is some mes called the Holy Strega or the Beautiful Pilgrim. In the oral tradi ons surrounding Aradia it is said that she lived and taught during the later half of the 14th century. The Italian inquisitor Bernardo Rategno documented in his Tractatus de Strigibus (wri en in 1508) that a “rapid expansion of the witches’ sect” had begun 150 years prior to his me. Rategno based this upon his [47]

study of many transcripts from the trials of the Inquisition concerning witchcraft . Historian Keith Whitlock, in his book The Renaissance in Europe (Yale University Press, 2000), men ons a growing concern about witches among Italian inquisitors in the 14th and 15th centuries, and we will explore this later in this chapter. Tracing back over the years, Rategno pin-pointed the beginnings of the witch trials, and noted their sharp increase over a period of years. Following a thorough study of these records (kept in the archives of the Inquisi on at Como, Italy) Rategno fixed the me period for this “revival” somewhere around 1350. If Aradia had been born in 1313, as the legends claim, this would certainly have made her old enough during the period referenced by Rategno to have taught and influenced others, and for groups to have formed that carried on her teachings. It is noteworthy here that in 1435, Johannes Nider wrote in his Formicarius that a “new kind of witchcra ” began around 1375. This “new” witchcra was organized, and Nider’s wri ngs were founda onal for the image of the wicked Sabbat that evolved into the infamous version known to most people today. In earlier me periods the gathering of Italian witches was known as a tregenda, and it featured communica on with the dead. The devil, orgies, and cannibalism are [48]

absent in the earliest writings on the tregenda. Can it be that the depic on of the wicked Sabbat is an inten onally contrived one that is designed to vilify organized witch sects? If so, why was the Church worried about the appearance of a new witchcra ? What might come to light if its followers were allowed to spread the actual sect as opposed to the one depicted by the Church? In 1890, author and folklorist Charles Leland published his book on Italian witchcra tled Aradia; or the Gospel of the Witches. Leland’s account of Aradia includes a legend about the “beau ful pilgrim” that he claims was preserved among Tuscan peasants for genera ons. In part, this legend says: “Then having obtained a pilgrim’s dress, she traveled far and wide, teaching and preaching the religion of old times, the religion of Diana, the Queen of the Fairies and of the Moon, the goddess of the poor and the oppressed. And the fame of her wisdom and beauty went forth over all the


land, and people worshipped her, calling her La Bella Pellegrina (the beautiful pilgrim).”

In 1962, T.C. Lethbridge (former Director for Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology) published a book called Witches that refers to Aradia in several chapters. In Chapter 2, Lethbridge writes: “We can then, I think, assume that Leland’s Vangelo and Dr. Murray’s trial evidence are more or less contemporary and that it is reasonable to use the two together to form a picture of the witch cult at about A.D.1400... Aradia was sent to earth to teach this art to Mankind. That is, she was, in the opinion of her devotees, a personage, known in Hindu Religion as an Avatar, who taught them how to harness magic power. Aradia, at some far-off me, may have been as much [50]

an historical person as Christ, Krishna or Buddha...”

It is also interes ng to note that in Ginzbug’s Ecstasies - Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath, a passage appears that may be a historical reference to Aradia. On page 189 he speaks of a Pagan Sect known as the “Calusari” who, during the Middle Ages (as late as the 16th and 17th centuries), worshipped a Mythical Empress who they some mes called “Arada” or “Irodeasa.” This name is remarkably close to the name Aradia, and we will revisit this later in the chapter. The Calusari also used the term “mistress of the fairies” for their Empress, just as the followers of Aradia reportedly called Diana “the Queen of the Fairies”. Could this sect have s ll been prac cing a form of worship previously ini ated by Aradia over 100 years earlier? According to one popular legend of Aradia, she le Italy at some point in her voca on and traveled out of the country. Serbia, the home of the Calusari, lies a short distance across the Adria c from central Italy, and travel by ship was not uncommon in that era. If Aradia was fleeing the threat of the Church, she would not have traveled west to France because the Papacy was s ll established in France at the me (and the story informs us that Aradia was s ll being hunted by agents of the Church). It would have been too dangerous to have gone to northern Europe because witches were being executed in that region (Italy did not begin the execu on of witches un l a er the me of Aradia). So in fact an eastern exodus would have been the only logical ac on to take in such a situa on (other than fleeing south to Egypt). At the very least there is a striking coincidence between Aradia’s witches and the Calusari of Arada. In Leland’s version of the Aradia story we find a se ng in which peasants are under servitude to the ruling class. The basic theme is one of oppression by “evil lords” and retribu on from the peasants in the form of poisoning. In Chapter one of Leland’s book we read: “In those days there were on earth many rich and many poor. The rich made slaves of all the poor. In those days were many slaves who were cruelly treated; in every place tortured, in every castle prisoners. Many slaves escaped. They fled to the country; sleeping by night, they plo ed escape and robbed their masters, and then slew them. So they dwelt in the mountains and [51]

forests as robbers and assassins, all to avoid slavery.”

In another sec on of Chapter one, we read a reference to Aradia (as the daughter of the goddess Diana) teaching peasants how to poison their oppressors, and even how to ruin the harvest crops of a “rich and greedy” peasant by calling upon a destruc ve storm. But historically, did Italian peasants own fields of crops, and was there a period of the type of oppression described in Leland’s book? What we find in Italy during the Middle Ages is a system known as Seignorialism. Under this

system the “bonded” and the “free laborer” were homogenized into a single class of peasants. Seignorialism enjoyed its peak from the period spanning from 1000 to 1350. The noble class controlling the system was called the Seigneurs, and they dominated the lives of the peasants. Each lord that oversaw an area, held court and judged offenses commi ed by the peasants. Whenever his land was ready for plowing or harves ng, the peasants were required to provide the labor. The peasants were also required to use gristmills, ovens, and winepresses owned by the lord, and to pay for that use. In general the lord reserved the right to approve or deny the marriages of his people. He also imposed an annual “head tax” on each peasant, and could tax any income they received at any me of the year. Although peasants could own small strips of land around their villages, the lord had the power to sell these lands and the peasants along with them. If a peasant died without heirs, the land automa cally became to the property of the lord. Ecclesias cal and lay authori es called upon the lords to destroy any remains of pagan structures on their lands and to compel their subjects to abandon pagan customs. Looking at the historical system of Seignorialism, it is not unlike the se ng of Leland’s Aradia tale. It also seems ripe for the abuse of the peasant class, and on at least some level must certainly have caused hatred towards the lords. It may be that Leland’s story has embellished and exaggerated this period of history, but that is typically the case regarding folk tales themselves. One example is the evolu on of English stories about the figure known as Robin Hood. If we view the story of Aradia as evolved and layered with new elements gathered over the centuries, then we can understand and appreciate it in the same way we do other folkloric figures of any culture. In keeping with the general theme of oppressed peasants, Leland states that Diana is the goddess of outcasts and outlaws. As previously noted, Leland’s tale of Aradia makes men on of peasants fleeing servitude and being outlaws. Leland’s Aradia material depicts the followers of Aradia as witches, just as his earlier work tled Etruscan Roman Remains portrays witches as the worshippers of Diana. But is there any pre-existing connection between Diana and witches in Italy? Among the earliest ancient Roman wri ngs we find those of Horace. In his work tled The Epodes, Horace includes a passage indica ng that the goddess Diana is associated with witches and witchcra . This comes in the form of an evoca on by a witch named Canidia. She begins by calling to Diana: “O’ you faithful witnesses to my proceedings, Night and Diana who preside over silence, when the secret rites are celebrated, now, now be present.” Scholar Ma hew Dickie writes about the goddess Diana being evoked by Canidia in Horace’s Epodes. Dickie states that “Diana in par cular, is prayed to as she rules the silence in which the hidden sacred rites are performed. The rituals the sorceress performs are from her point of view mys c rites confined to those adept in an esoteric form of wisdom, performed in secret, in silence and in the darkness of the night.”


The Magic Circle by John Waterhouse Historian Jeffrey Burton Russell, in his book Witchcra in the Middle Ages, writes that, “The most important explicit Mediterranean element in medieval witchcra is the cult of Diana.” He adds that Diana appears frequently as a leader of witches in the early Middle Ages and even in 16th [53]

century Italy. Russell goes on to say that pagan fes vals persisted and that “The fes vals most important for the development of the witch idea were the fer lity rites associated with Diana or [54]

Hecate.” The view of witchcra as a type of Dianic cult was argued by Giralamo Tartaro , an 18 th century Italian writer. He is notable for his works tled Congresso notturno delle lammie (1749) and Apologia del Congresso no urno delle lammie (1751) in which he tried to debunk the belief in the existence of witches as having any supernatural connec on. Tartaro claimed that witches were simply magical prac oners involved in a pre-Chris an cult of the goddess Diana. His view was unwelcome by the Church, and is dismissed by most modern scholars. I presume this is because it is an isolated view not in keeping with the accepted views of the “learned” at the me, and it therefore has no backing from other writers. The authori es of the me believed that witches flew through the air and frolicked with the Devil, which is a much faultier concept than that proposed by Tartarotti.

Witches flying to Sabbat

Montague Summers, an English author and clergyman, comments about Tartaro ’s view in Witchcra and Black Magic. Here Summers writes: “Yet Tartaro , fastening upon the myth, evolves from so shadowy premises the no on of what he is pleased to call a ‘Dianic cult’ and he proceeds to assert that witchcra is nothing else save this fabulous cult. His ninth chapter carries as its cap on: [55]

The iden ty of the Dianic cult with modern witchcra is demonstrated and proven.” The “myth” to which Summers refers is the theme presented in the Canon Episcopi. In an ar cle tled Curiosi es of Supers ons in Italy, by author R.H. Busk, which appears in a [56]

late 19th century journal, Tartaro is portrayed in a more scholarly light . Busk states that Tartaro ’s views on Italian witchcra were drawn from his study of the wri ngs of Plautus, Strabo, and Horace (along with the wri ngs of Ausonius and Festus). Tartaro ’s ini al interest lies in the popular folk beliefs of Italy about witches, which he links to the legends of the Roman en ty known as a strix. This legendary creature is a type of vampire that preyed on infants. Eventually the tales of these creatures included the ability of the strix to assume the form of an owl or an old woman, as it pleased. Busk notes that Italian philosopher Gianfrancesco Pico put forth the belief that witches fly through the air on a s ck called a gramita, a tool commonly used to hang out flax and hemp. According to Busk, Pico states that witches travel on the gramita at midnight to a end a gathering featuring banquets, dancing, and all kinds of depravity (which Pico says is traceable to many pagan mysteries). Busk states that “Diana is con nually spoken of by name as the presiding genius of these [57]

weird festivals, and her mysteries were celebrated with dancing.” The persistence of themes related to the pagan goddess in Italy con nually drew the a en on of the Church and its agents on various levels, to the degree that the ma er needed to be addressed. What at one me had been a focus on here cs, expanded in the 14 th and 15th centuries to include witches. Historian Keith Whitlock, in The Renaissance in Europe (Yale University Press, 2000) asks the ques on: “But why should the stereotype of the here c have been extended to include the witch? Why should inquisitors have become more concerned with witches in the [58]

fourteenth and fifteenth centuries?” Whitlock proposes that the rise of witch-hunts and the rise of the Renaissance are connected. He goes on to state that the Renaissance saw a growing interest in the revival of an quity, including the ancient gods and goddesses. In connec on with this, Whitlock writes: “For some of the clergy, as for Phronimus, these ‘gods’ were ‘demons’, so they believed that they were witnessing a revival of the demonic. In this context the confessions of certain women that they had attended ‘the game of Diana’ must have confirmed clerical suspicions.”58 But the associa on of Diana and witchcra was not limited to Italy alone. We find that Fray de Barrientos, a 15th century bishop of Cuenca (Spain), makes men on of gatherings in honor of Diana, as he wrote in his instruc ons to the diocese: “..the women called witches who are said and believed to accompany the Pagan Goddess Diana at night, together with many other woman who ride [59]

on beasts and travel through many towns and places.” Historian Mircea Eliade, in his book Occul sm, Witchcra , and Cultural Fashions, states that Diana became the chief of the witches in western Europe. He goes on to discuss her role in Romania where she is depicted as the Queen of the Fairies. This role is also assigned to Diana in Leland’s Aradia tale. Eliade also makes men on of the “secret cathar c society” known as the


Calusari (who venerate a patroness known as Irodiade or Arada). He notes that the sect features an acroba c dance. In Italian witchcra we also find an acroba c dance called La Volta. Is all of this coincidental or are we looking at spreading roots? Before leaving the topic of Diana and her connec on to witchcra , I turn now to the wri ngs of Margaret Murray. She was a Bri sh anthropologist who claimed to have discovered the existence of a pre-Chris an religion. Murray referred to this as a “Dianic cult” of “ritual witchcra ” centered on Diana, and Murray claimed the goddess had a consort named Janus or Dianus. Modern scholars reject her findings and many people regard her work as thoroughly debunked. But was Murray completely in error, and should we reject absolutely everything she had to say? Historian Carlo Ginzburg, in the preface to his book tled Night Ba les (The John Hopkins University Press, 1983), wrote that “we should acknowledge the ‘kernel of truth’ in Murray’s thesis.” In his following work, tled Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath, Ginzburg writes: “In my preface to The Night Ba les I made a statement to which I s ll fully subscribe, even though it earned me ex-officio enrolment in the phantom (but discredited) sect of ‘Murrayites;: viz., that Murray’s thesis, although ‘formulated in a totally uncri cal manner’, contained ‘a core of truth.’ ” But what is this “kernel of truth” men oned by Ginzbug? For him the core of truth is found in the claim that witchcra has its roots in an ancient fer lity cult. He does not appear to believe that an ancient witches’ sect existed and survived into Chris an mes, but instead appears to consider the validity of concepts that contributed to “the folkloric roots of the Sabbath.” In other words there is a difference between acknowledging the an quity of concepts, beliefs, and prac ces reflected in the records about witchcra , and interpre ng them as evidence that an organized sect existed that carried forth such elements as a cohesive tradition. One of the problems in sor ng out the facts regarding witches and witchcra is due to the academic situa on itself. Scholar Bernade e Filotas points out, in her book tled Pagan Survivals, Supers ons and Popular Cultures, that “there is li le informa on available about those pagan [61]

rituals and beliefs that le no traces in archaeology.” She also points out that the only source of informa on for these rituals and beliefs comes from the wri ngs of Chris an clerics. Due to adversarial poli cs, this source can be no more reliable than Roman wri ngs about Druids and Celts. Another problem is that not un l the 1960s have historians paid significant a en on to early medieval popular customs. Filotas states that historians have focused primarily on evidence coming from the leading figures and public ins tu ons, and therefore upon the dominant ideas popularized by them. She notes that “The ideas and customs of anonymous men and woman are usually missing.” This is significant because it is within the anonymous popula on that opera ve witchcra flourishes. Therefore the most important evidence is seriously absent, and primarily so because it was overlooked or bypassed (not because there wasn’t anything to discover). There is one more factor to consider regarding the academic problem. The view of scholars, pertaining to witchcra , is based upon texts wri en by the accepted authori es of the period. The clashing views of Neo-Pagans are dismissed because there is no support from the old authori es. But how credible are these authori es? They believed in the magical flight of witches, the manifesta on of the Devil in material form, pacts with demons, and in the extraordinary supernatural abili es of witches. Were these people in a state of mind to now be regarded as credible investigators, spokesmen, judges, and experts? Modern scholars note the lack of evidence to support the idea that witchcra was an ancient

religion prac ced by witches. However when we look at the ques ons asked of accused witches, we see nothing designed to truthfully or accurately ferret out such a connec on (even though elements of Dianic worship arise during interroga on). The ques ons are instead designed to extract confessions of Devil worship, heresy, and diabolical deeds. When the accused spoke about the goddess Diana, the inquisitor responded with the ques on of how o en the Devil appeared to the accused in the form of Diana. The interroga on con nued from there to focus on the Church’s view of what cons tuted witchcra instead of exploring the beliefs (referenced by the accused) about Diana and any associated personal prac ces. Clearly the ques ons were not designed to uncover the “Old Religion” and so there should be li le wonder why we do not have significant evidence pertaining to witches’ religion. No one was looking for it and so it does not appear. Another academic problem lies in deliberate misrepresenta ons that occurred in the past. The roots of this are exposed in what some historians refer to as the 1321 conspiracy. Historian Steven L. Kaplan notes that: “detailed analysis of the surviving evidence shows that in 1321 religious and poli cal authori es deliberately faked evidence to reinforce a growing hos lity from below against lepers and Jews.” Kaplan further notes that “Many links connect the 1321 conspiracy [62]

to the emergence of the inquisitorial image of the witches’ Sabbat.” Since history can be manipulated in this way, how sure can we be of any of the old writers involved in promo ng depictions of the nature of witchcraft? It is interes ng to note that the accusa ons raised against witches are the same that appear against Jews and lepers in connec on with the 1321 conspiracy. Charges of this nature are further fueled with the onset of the “Black Death” in 1348. It is in this period that we find allega ons of poisoning wells and fountains, which were public sources of water. These allega ons were leveled primarily against the Jews, but become a component against witches in the following years. Kaplan writes of witches becoming a growing threat in the eyes of the Church at the onset of the 15th century. He references a le er wri en in 1409 by Pope Alexander V that warns against “new sects and new rituals” that are hos le to both Chris anity and Judaism. Although no sect is named in the le er, Kaplan suggests that the statement is an allusion to the witches’ Sabbat. He further suggests that a new image of witches as a threatening sect arises in the eyes of the [63]

Church. The witches’ Sabbat does not appear to play a major role in trials un l 1428. At this me it features in a trial at Valais, which is situated on the northern border of Italy. This trial introduces, for the first me, the concept of magical flight and the transforma on of witches into various animals. It seems clear that the Church’s depic on of the Sabbat evolved over centuries, but was originally rooted in pagan tradi on and collected folkloric elements along the way to the eventual stereotype of debauchery and satanic worship. Scholar Franco Mormando writes of the Sabbat in his book The Preacher’s Demons: “This no on of the assembly is yet another universal item in ‘the classic formula on of the Witch Phenomenon.’ Like much else in the baggage of the European witch, it has its roots in pagan mythology, speci���cally in the un-Chris an but nondiabolical ‘Society of Diana,’ an innocuous, fes ve ride and gathering of woman under the tutelage of the pagan goddess of the moon and the hunt. Turned into a demonized witch phenomenon by the theologians and canonists of Chris an Europe, the assembly was by the end of the fi eenth century to be known (with nges of an -Semi sim) as the witches’ ‘Sabbath.’ With the passing years, it slowly acquired ever more heinous, orgias c characteris cs. During Bernardino’s life me, the gathering was called by

various names; the preacher himself, in one of his 1424 sermons to the Florentines, refers to it by the Italian term tregenda.”


Earlier we noted the tregenda as a reported assembly of witches, who claimed to be able to communicate with the dead. Scholar Walter Stephens writes: “About 1354, the Dominican preacher Jacopo Passavan was wri ng in Italian (in Lo specchio della versa penitenza, or The Mirror of True Repentance) that ‘some people say they see dead people and talk to them, and that they go by night with witches [colle streghe] to their tregenda.’ Many such people are simple impostors, he says: they take advantage of others’ bereavement for financial gain or out of sheer malice. Nonetheless, some people do sincerely think that they see dead people. This is impossible, says Passavan (presumably because these souls are in hell or purgatory and are not allowed out). But people are seeing something that is [65]

real. The Devil can take on the semblance of dead people and falsely impersonate them…”

It was Jacopo Passavan ’s view that the “simple people” were easily mislead into error. His own belief was that demons assumed the likeness of men and women and travelled to the tregenda. Here they were mistaken for humans. Passavan further stated that some women came to believe they had “traveled at night in the company of the tregenda.” He goes on to say that the [66]

leaders of this group are Herodias and the goddess Diana. Much of what we know regarding the tregenda comes from the 15th century sermons of the friar Bernardino of Sienna. His wri ngs are, of course, very nega ve in his depic on of witchcra and paganism. But, in a secondary sense, they are rich in the lore of the period (a me when the deliberate misrepresenta on of paganism and witchcra had yet to reach its peak). When examining the references to the tregenda it appears to be the forerunner of the infamous witches’ Sabbat. Scholar Franco Mormando writes: “As to what Bernardino imagined as occurring during the tregenda, we cannot be completely sure, since the no on of the Sabbath was s ll in its development phase. The friar’s 1424 sermon does not describe this convoca on of witches. His later trea se on witchcra and supers on, De idolatriae cultu (1430-36), contains a reference to the tregenda, though the word itself does not appear in the text. This La n work nonetheless gives us some idea of his concep on of the [67]

regular witches assemblies, which eventually evolved into the sabbath.”

It is noteworthy that among the earliest depic ons of the witches’ gatherings we find no presence of the Judeo-Chris an figure of Satan. A 13th century mural discovered at Massa Mari ma (a town south-west of Siena) demonstrates this absence. The mural was discovered in August 2000, and has been iden fied by a Bri sh university lecturer as the earliest surviving representa on of witchcra in Chris an Europe. George Ferzoco, the director of the center for Tuscan studies at the University of Leicester, comments that “I have no doubt that this is by far the earliest depiction in art of women acting as witches.” The 13th century mural is a large, richly colored pain ng, seven meters high. It was discovered under layers of subsequent over-pain ng next to a fountain in the centre of Massa Mari ma. It shows a tall, spreading tree with two groups of women standing below it. The first thing that was no ced about the tree was its unusual “fruit,” which is apparently sprou ng from the branches as 25 phalluses.

The Mural at Massa Marittima Beneath the tree are two groups of women, one standing to the right and the other to the le side of the trunk of the tree. One of the women in the group on the le is holding up a s ck with which she appears to be trying to dislodge a bird’s nest. The mural features two of the other women grabbing each other’s hair as they appear to fight for possession over one of the phalluses picked from the tree. Ferzoco, a er examining this feature, recalled a passage from the inquisitors’ manual known as the Malleus Maleficarum. In its descrip on of witchcra prac ces, there is an allega on that witches robbed men of their genitals. The passage claims that witches some mes collect male organs in great numbers (as many as 20 or 30 members). These are placed in a bird’s nest or closed inside a box, where they come alive and are fed oats and corn. Ferzoco commented that “There was a well-known story in Tuscan folklore about witches removing mens’ penises and placing them in bird nests in trees, where they would then mul ply and take on a life of their own.” It is noteworthy that the Italian mural was painted two centuries earlier than the wri ng and publica on of the Malleus Maleficarum. According to Ferzoco, the mural is a unique piece of poli cal propaganda, commissioned by one Tuscan fac on to sully the reputa on of another. He states: “ It’s a message from the Guelphs, telling people that if the Ghibellines are allowed power, they will bring with them heresy, sexual perversion, civic strife and witchcra .” The Guelphs and Ghibellines were two fac ons who fought for power in Tuscany and northern Italy for decades during the Middle Ages. Perhaps the most famous vic m of their feuds was the poet Dante, a Guelph expelled from his na ve Florence in 1302 a er a rival Guelph group took power. At the me the mural was painted, the Guelphs controlled Massa Mari ma. According to Ferzoco “They presented themselves as the clean living upstanding party in Tuscan poli cs and it was tradi onal for them, in launching their a acks on the Ghibellines, to label them as heretics.” While Ferzoco’s interpreta on of the meaning of the mural is interes ng, there are other views to be considered as well. If we accept his opinion that the mural is the earliest depic on in art of women “acting as witches,” then what does the imagery reveal about witchcraft beliefs in this period? There are several noteworthy aspects including the absence of the Devil at this assembly of witches. The presence of a magical tree is an important element that reflects the long-standing tradi on of the witches’ tree at Benevento. The imagery of walnuts in their likeness of tes cles, and the presence of phalluses in the mural, may be a sugges on of fer lity themes linked to witchcra ’s ancient past. The botanical name for walnuts is juglans, which is also the La n name for walnuts. It is derived from the La n word jovis, meaning “of Jupiter”. In the mural we see

eagles, and the eagle was the symbol of the god Jupiter. It is note worthy that the walnut is also known as Jupiter’s acorn. In the mural at Massa Mari ma we see the image of a woman holding up a rod as she looks upwards at the branches above her. One interpreta on is that she is trying to dislodge a nest. The type of tree is not men oned by Ferzoco, but from the leaves it does not seem to be an oak (sacred to Jupiter) or a walnut. On a side note, there is an interes ng piece of lore associated with harves ng walnuts by bea ng the branches. This is men oned in the book Dic onary of Phrase and Fable, by Ebenezer Brewer: “It is said that the walnut tree thrives best if the nuts are beaten off with s cks, and not gathered. Hence, Fuller says ‘Who, like a nut tree must be manured by bea ng, or else would not bear fruit.” [68] St. Augus ne, a fourth century theologian, applied Chris an symbolism to the walnut. He said the outer green casing of the walnut represented the flesh of Christ. The shell symbolized the [69]

wooden cross of Jesus, and the kernel was the divine nature that nourished the Chris an faith. In references within the Bible, and within commentaries on scriptural meaning, we find men on of the walnut possessing mys cal proper es. It is said to have been placed in water (along with storax and “plane wood”) to produce a drink that bestowed the blessings of the Trinity. This drink ensured the spiritual purity of offspring who were conceived by parents blessed in this way. A [70]

special rod was also made of walnut and served as a symbol of watchfulness The walnut tree, and its fruit, plays an interes ng part in the legends and folk tales of Italy. These are associated with fairies, witches, spirits, and other beings. In the next chapter we will explore the connec on between the walnut tree, the goddess Diana, and the witches of old Italy. Although this history is dimly lit, we will rely upon the light of the full moon to reveal what has been hidden for ages.

CHAPTER 3 THE WALNUT TREE & DIANA’S WITCHES In popular Italian legend we find tales about witches gathering beneath the walnut tree at Benevento. Such tales are even found related to the witches of Sicily, who in the old stories also fly to Benevento. But despite the abundance of such tales there is li le to be found about why a walnut is the featured tree. To discover the reasons, we must look at two contribu ng factors: the ancient lore of the walnut tree, and the goddess Artemis-Carya s (who we shall see was venerated in a grove of walnut trees). We begin our search with the Greek figure known as Orestes. In his tales we find that his sister, Iphigenia, is a priestess of the goddess Artemis. Through a series of events, Orestes and Iphigenia are forced to flee Greece, carrying off a statue of Artemis. In his legend, Orestes comes to [71]

Italy and arrives with the statue hidden in a bundle of branches. Here, according to legend, he establishes a sanctuary to Diana at Lake Nemi in the area known as Aricia. The cult of Diana at Nemi was a historical reality, but its origins are a mixture of fact and myth. As a Roman tradi on, the worship of Diana at Nemi also reflected Greek and Etruscan influences. She was worshipped throughout ancient Italy, but her most renowned shrine was at Lake Nemi. Diana’s sanctuary at Nemi, commonly known as Nemus Aricinum, was reportedly the religious center of ancient Italy among the League of La n ci es. But with the overthrow of the League of La um in 338 B.C.E., power became seated in Rome, and the worship of Diana at Nemi was imported there as well. Her temple was constructed on the Aven ne in Rome, but over the centuries this Diana took on many of the a ributes of the Greek goddess Artemis (the virgin aspect being the most notable). This conflated form is a different goddess in many ways from the archaic form previously venerated at Nemi. To consider the roots of one possible early form of Diana at Nemi, we will play with the idea that the myth of Orestes has some historical founda on. In keeping with this no on we will look at a Greek form of Diana that existed in the period a ributed to Orestes in ancient Greece. This goddess was known as Artemis-Carya s (Karya s) and scholars o en refer to her as Diana-Carya s. For simplicity this is the name we will use as all inclusive in this chapter (except where dis nc on needs to be made). In the book Greek and Egyp an Mythologies, edited by scholars Yves Bonnefoy and Wendy Doniger, Artemis is called “Mistress of the Walnut” as she appears in the ancient cult: “The young women of Sparta went to Caryae (the Walnut Trees), at the edge of the dark forests of oaks which covered the mountains between their country and neighboring Arcadia. Their choruses danced there in the open air, around the statue of Artemis Carya s, Mistress of the Walnut and of all wild trees that bear fruit.” – page 145

Diana-Caryatis Ancient sources indicate that Diana-Carya s was worshipped in a grove of walnut trees near the town of Caryae. One such reference comes from the ancient writer Pausanias who refers to the cult of Diana Caya s. In his travels through the town of Caryae he notes that it may have been named for the walnuts that grow there. Concerning the goddess, Pausanias writes: “A third crossroad leads on the right to Caryae, and to the sanctuary of Artemis; for Caryae is sacred to Artemis and [72]

her nymphs, and an image of Artemis Caryatis stands here under the open sky.” In the book Greek Mythology (American University of Beirut, 1977), by Richmond Y. Hathorn, we read: “One feature seems to have been a nocturnal dance of rejoicing, actually in honor of Artemis Carya s, ‘Artemis of the Walnut Tree’. Young girls danced with baskets or basket-like garlands on their heads; they were called Carya ds.” Another reference to this dance appears in the book History of Dancing from the Earliest Ages to our own Times: “The carya s was specially appropriated to Diana. Lucian tells us that it was danced by the Lacedaemonian girls in a Laconian wood consecrated to that goddess. Taught by Castro and Pollux, it was used at marriages. It came to be in me the dance of innocence. The young men and women of Sparta danced it naked, in circles or in graceful lines, before the altar of the [73]


“In the Hormons, another dance in honor of Diana all the youths of Sparta met. Here…the two [74]

sexes danced unclothed.”

The dances men oned here are of interest as a possible connec on with the theme of witches dancing around the walnut tree of Benevento in Italy, and with Leland’s references to men and women being nude together at the Sabbat. Hathorn men oned that the dance of Diana Carya s (Mistress of the Walnut tree) was used in marriages, and in the book The History of Magic, by Joseph Ennemoser, we read: “The Neapolitan streghe assembled under a nut-tree in Benevento; the people call it the Benevento wedding. Exactly on this spot stood the sacred tree of the Lombards; [75]

and thus witchcra depends clearly on ancient pagan worship.” [76]

Witch Hunter, Francesco Guazzo,

notes that marriages are often performed at the Sabbat. In the trea se On the Magic Walnut Tree of Benevento, by Pietro Piperno, we find several passages in reference to Diana as Queen of the Witches. Pietro Piperno was a physician in

Benevento for the papal enclave of Benevento (circa 1624). But how did Diana and the walnut tree at Benevento become connected? There appear to be two connec ons rooted in considerable antiquity, which we will explore as the chapter continues. Despite the fact that the wood of the walnut tree and its fruit have been valuable, the tree itself was associated with dark forces since ancient mes. Roman supers on held that harmful spirits hid in the shade of the tree. This supers on is reflected in a popular story associated with the Roman emperor Nero, an enemy of the early Christian community. According to the tale, a giant walnut tree grew on the site where the ashes of the emperor were buried. The thick leaves and branches of the tree created an area of immense shade beneath the walnut. The tree became “the haunt of innumerable crows” that afflicted the city of Rome. The Chris an community prayed to the “Virgin Mary” who reportedly appeared a erwards to Pope [77]

Pascal II. She informed the Pope that the crows were demons that guarded the ashes of Nero . Pascal ordered the tree to be cut down and burned. Its ashes were then sca ered in the air, and a church was ordered built on the site in honor of Mary. The church was built in 1099 and named Santa Maria del Popolo (Saint Mary of the People) most likely because public funds were used to build the church. Centuries earlier a similar fate befell the walnut tree at Benevento. In 662, St. Barbatus personally cut down the tree in order to mark the end of its pagan worship. The image of a serpent made of gold existed within the cult, and Barbatus had it melted down and made into a chalice for the Chris an altar. Such acts of cultural violence against paganism were common at the hands of the Church and its agents. According to the story, when Barbatus uprooted the walnut tree, a serpent crawled away from beneath its roots. Upon being sprinkled with holy water, the snake reportedly disappeared. In connec on to this tale, another arose that through satanic power, whenever a mee ng of demons is desired, or a witches’ sabbath is to be held, a walnut tree as massive and luxuriant as the original appears by magic on the precise spot where it stood. Legend has it that the original location of the tree is now the area called Stretto de Barba. A reference from the wri ngs of Piperno suggest that a walnut from the tree at Benevento was sprouted about two miles from town, not far from the south bank of the river Il fiume di Sabato on the property of the noble Francis de Gennaro. Returning to the contribu ng factors that helped create a nega ve feeling for the walnut tree, we must consider that of the farmer. Country farmers reportedly hold to the no on that a walnut tree poisons the soil around it and makes it difficult to grow other things around it. It may be that the ro ng leaves, along with some substance in the roots, creates an environment within the soil that makes it unsuitable for other plants. Folklorist Charles Skinner, in his book, Myths and Legends of Flowers, Trees, Fruits, and Plants, notes: “In England it is common to find hos lity to the walnut among farmers, who declare that the black walnut will not only prevent the growth of plants and grass beneath it, but will blight all the apples round about. In some countries the peasantry will assemble about the tree and hear ly cudgel it, though if you ask why they do this thing they tell you that it is to make it yield [78]

more plentifully.”


It appears that beating the walnut tree is an ancient practice. The poet Ovid wrote a poem in which the walnut tree laments its ill treatment by people passing by it. The poem begins with the tree saying “I, a walnut tree, adjoining the road, am pelted with stones by the people as they

pass.” The idea of stones being used to pelt the walnut tree may have a connec on to an ancient myth about the walnut tree. In the story, a woman named Carya is the youngest of the three daughters of Dion, king of Laconia. These sisters had received the gi of prophecy from Apollo as a reward for the hospitality their father had shown to the god. They were warned not to misuse the gi , nor to peer into ma ers beyond their sta on. This promise was broken when the god Bacchus convinced Carya of his love for her. The elder sisters, being jealous, endeavored to prevent Bacchus from mee ng with Carya, and he in revenge turned them into stones, and transformed his beloved Carya into a walnut tree. In this light the stones used to assault the walnut tree can be viewed as the angry sisters seeking revenge. As Ovid’s poem con nues, the walnut tree points out that other trees around it are injured by the stones that bounce from the walnut: “What a sad thing is it for hatred to be added to my misfortunes, and for me to be accused on account of my too near propinquity.” Could this be the founda on of the belief that walnut trees are injurious to plants around it? Earlier we noted that farmers believed the act of bea ng a walnut tree increased (or returned) its fruit. In this sense, bea ng is an act of fer lity. Such an idea is reflected in the ancient rites of the Lupercalia in which priests strike women with straps of goat hide to make them fer le. In the accounts of witchcra trials we find reports of the Devil or his demons bea ng witches at the Sabbat gatherings. The accusers report that the bea ngs are a form of punishment for failure to do evil or for not having kept faithful a endance at the Sabbat. But might such bea ngs have been acts of fer lity in keeping with ancient beliefs? Were elderly witches beaten in front of the walnut tree in an archaic belief that this might restore fer lity or vitality to their aged bodies? It is possible that the given reason for bea ngs, which appear in trial transcripts, is based upon confusion on the part of the accused or contrivance on the part of the questioner (if not both). Most modern scholars do not believe that Sabbats ever took place or that an ancient sect of witches ever existed. I agree that the stereotype of the Sabbat as a demonic celebra on of evil and debauchery most likely never existed, but I disagree that the witches’ sect was non-existent and that gatherings did not take place. When reading through the accounts of the Sabbat, some are noteworthy because they contain authen c elements of the witches’ sect. However, the majority do not, for the simple reason that for the most part the accused individuals were not witches at all. One noteworthy tale is recounted in the book Early Modern European Witchcra , edited by Ankarloo & Henningsen: “In 1588 a fisherman’s wife from Palermo confessed to the Inquisi on that she and her company, with their ‘ensign’ at their head, rode on billy-goats through the air to a country called Benevento that belongs to the Pope and lies in the kingdom of Naples. There was a great plain there on which there stood a large tribune with two chairs. On one of them sat a red young man and on the other a beau ful woman; they called her the Queen, and the man was the King. The first me she went there, - when she was eight years old, - the ensign and other women [sic] in her company said that she must kneel and worship this king and queen and do everything they told her, because they could help her and give her wealth, beauty and young men to make love with. And they told her that she must not worship God or Our Lady. The ensign made her swear on a book with big le ers that she would worship the other two. So she took an oath to worship them, the King as God and the Queen as Our Lady, and promised them her body and soul…And after she had worshipped them like this, they set out tables and ate and drank, and after that the men lay with the women and with her and made love to them many times in a short time.”

“All this seemed to her to be taking place in a dream, for when she awoke she always found herself in bed, naked as when she had gone to rest. But some mes they called her out before she had gone to bed so that her husband and children should not find out, and without going to sleep (as far as she can judge) she started out and arrived fully clothed.” “She went on to say that she did not know at that me that it was devilment, un l her confessor opened her eyes to her errors and told her that it was the Devil and that she must not do it any more. But in spite of this she went on doing it un l two months ago. And she went out joyfully because of the pleasure she took from it…and because they [the King and the Queen] gave her remedies for curing the sick so that she could earn a little, for she has always been poor.” There are a couple of interes ng elements in this text, and of par cular interest is the men on of a “king” and “queen” who oversee the Sabbat. The mandate to worship the pair places them in the role of dei es as opposed to royalty. This contrasts with the reports about Basque [80]

witches in which we find men on of “senior witches” holding the posi on of king and queen . However, according to De Lancre, the “Queen of the Sabbath” among Basque witches is a young attractive wife. Anthropologist Margret Murray, in her controversial work on the Witch Cult, wrote: “The Queen of the Sabbath may perhaps be considered as an official during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, though in early mes she was probably the chief personage in the cult, as Pearson has pointed out. It is not unlikely that she was originally the same as the Queen of Elfame; in Scotland, however, in the seventeenth century, there is a Maiden of the Coven, which was an important posi on in the Esbat but en rely dis nct from the Queen of Faery, while in other places a woman, not the Queen, is o en the officer and holds the highest place a er the [81]

Grand Master.”

But for the purposes of this chapter, we are concerned with the witches’ queen as she appears in Italian lore. Folklorist Charles Leland, in his wri ngs on Italian witchcra , refers to the goddess Diana as the queen of the witches. Ancient literary and historical sources link Diana with witchcra and with other goddesses associated with witchcra . The most common of these are Hecate and Proserpina. From ancient writings it is easy to regard the goddess of the witches as a triformis deity comprised of Hecate, Diana, and Proserpina (or Luna). Concerning Diana as a triformis goddess, scholar C. M. Green writes that Diana “was Diana Triformis: Luna, Diana, Hecate.” Green goes to say: “These were neither different goddesses nor an amalgama on of different goddesses. They were Diana, well represented by the triple statue of Diana on the coin of P. Accoleius, Diana as huntress, [82]

Diana as moon, Diana of the Underworld”

Ancient coin showing Diana as triformis In the next chapter we will explore Diana’s role in Mediterranean witchcra , but for now we will look at her as she appears in the wri ngs of Charles Leland. I am not using him as an authority on Italian witchcra , even though I consider him well versed on the subject. Instead I will use quotes from his work to compare with suppor ve themes in ancient wri ngs. This is to demonstrate that Leland’s basic views on Italian witchcra are not alien to southern European culture (as many scholars claim they are). In the book Etruscan Roman Remains, Leland writes: “As regards Diana it may be observed that in Roman mes she was specially worshipped by fugi ve slaves, ‘perhaps because they hid themselves in the forests.’ Thus it may be that the witches and wizards as outcasts inherited a certain predilec on for her. As goddess of secrecy and of sorcery she would also be the patroness of those who shunned the day and intercourse with mankind. Witches, outlaws, broken men, runaway slaves, [83]

minions of the moon, and all the Children of the Night were under her protection…” The idea of Diana as a goddess of secrecy and sorcery, and her connec on to slaves, predates Leland’s wri ngs on Italian witchcra . The Roman poet Horace, in his Epodes, portrays Diana as a goddess called upon when secret rituals are performed. Diana’s connec on with slaves in ancient mes is also well noted. Green states that “Fugi ves and exiles were an integral part of the ritual [84]

iden ty of the Arician cult of Diana.” Servius Tullus, born a slave, dedicated the temple of Diana on the Aven ne in Rome. He commented that “She is the par cular guardian of deer; from whose speed fugi ve slaves (servi) are called deer (cervi).” In the book The Gods of Greece and Rome, by Talfourd Ely, we read: “All fugi ve slaves were under the protec on of Diana, and were called cervi, [85]

or ‘stags’ for the beasts of the forest were also under her protection.” Slavery can only exist where there is a civic structure to enforce ownership. Green notes that “Originally, Diana’s interest was not in slaves per se, but rather in all those who had been forced into [86]

the wild, beyond the reach of civic power.” This statement seems fi ng for the society of witches as depicted in ancient legends; a society that rejected the norms of accepted social constructs. It also can be applied to spirits of the dead that gather at the crossroads, beings beyond the control of civic authority (and under the guardianship of the goddess of the crossroads). Historically, witches are most o en portrayed as undesirable individuals, outcasts and social misfits. Scholar Wendy Doniger refers to Diana as the “protector of the lower classes, especially [87]

slaves.” In Leland’s gospel of Aradia, we find a se ng in which slaves are treated cruelly by their lords, and many flee into the country. This escape from servitude within a civic structure into freedom in the wilderness is core to the message of freedom in Aradia, Gospel of the Witches. It is

the same spirit of freedom that is distorted and vilified in the depic on of witches in the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods. It is here that witches are portrayed in rituals of sexual excess, lawless behavior, and violation of the accepted social order. In Leland’s gospel we read: “Ye shall assemble in some secret place. Or in a forest all together join To adore the potent spirit of your queen, My mother, great Diana, she who fain Would learn all sorcery yet had not won Its deepest secrets, them my mother will Teach her, in truth all things as yet unknown. And so ye shall be freed from slavery, And so ye shall be free in everything; And as a sign that ye are truly free, Ye shall be naked in your rites, Both men and woman also; this shall last until The last of your oppressors shall be dead…” The gospel goes on to describe the preparation for the witches Sabbat feast: “And thus shall it be done: all shall sit down to the supper all naked, men and woman, and the feast over, they shall dance, sing, make music, and then love in the darkness, with all the lights extinguished…” Some contemporary commentators have tried to argue that the Italian word nudi (literally naked) in the Aradia text does not mean unclothed. Instead they believe it means to be vulnerable (as in the idea that a person feels naked without a par cular item or feels exposed in some nonphysical way). However, in the appendix to the gospel, Leland talks about the prac ce of ritual nudity as symbolic of sincerity and truthfulness (referencing Persian priestesses). In the appendix, Leland also men ons that ex nguishing the lights, nakedness, and the orgy are symbolically regarded as the burial of flesh body and ripened grain. All of these elements appear in Leland’s descrip on of the witches’ Sabbat meal and celebra on. Therefore it seems clear that Leland understood the gospel verse to mean unclothed as opposed to vulnerability. In Leland’s wri ngs we find several spells and incanta ons designed to enlist the favor of Diana in ma ers of love. Some cri cs of Leland’s work claim that Diana was never called upon in ma ers of love nor possessed a nature similar to that of the goddess Venus. However, in the book [88]

Roman Antiquities the author points out that “Diana was in many respects the idol resorted to for assistance in cases of desperate love and unlawful desires, being invoked under the tles of Thessalis, [89]

Lamia, by witches, magae, sagae, veneficae, saganae, in set forms, with potent spells…” With this depic on of Diana in mind, it is easy to translate the theme over into the idea of the orgy taking place at the witches’ Sabbat (as Leland’s Aradia portrays it). The idea of witches engaged in an orgy was popularized in the 15th century. Pre-Chris an wri ngs do not assign group sexual rites to witches, although sexuality is certainly a theme and, as one example, appears in the

tale of Circe who seduces Ulysses. In the popular myth of Diana, she appears as a virgin goddess. However there are myths about Diana in which she takes a lover, such as Endymion, Orion, and Hippolytus/Virbius (some commentators add Acteaon to the list as well, but this is a difficult case to argue based upon myth alone). It should also be noted in Leland’s gospel of the witches that Diana has sexual union with her brother Lucifer. These affairs demonstrate that Diana was not constrained to the view of her as purely virginal in nature, despite the fact that mythologists of the period insisted on also including references to Diana’s admira on for chas ty. If we consider Diana of Ephesus to have lineage to Artemis of Greece or Diana of Italy, then we must also take note of the “Great Mother” aspect of the goddess. However, I am not aware of any evidence demonstra ng that such is the case. S ll, it is noteworthy that the Roman form of Diana of the Aventine may be traceable to a mother nature.

Diana of Ephesus as Mother Goddess Early 20th century writer James Hewi , in his book History and Chronology of the Myth-Making Age, writes: “She was Diana of the south-west Aven ne hill, whose fes val was held on the next day, August 13th. She, who was the goddess of the sacred groves, especially that of Aricia, had been originally the mother-tree-goddess of the mud (tana) who had become in the age of lunar-solar- me the moon-goddess measuring the year.” Concerning “tana” Hewi writes: “This tree-goddess of the mud, Tan, also appears in the Roman Diana, the female Janus, the Etruscan Tana. She, the mother of witchcra , is the goddess of the groves, the most celebrated of those sacred to her being the grove of Aricia, that on the Aven ne, and in the Vicus Patricius at Rome, into the last of which no man might [90]

enter.” Hewi links Diana (as Tana) to the Pleiades, calling her “the mother-tree of the primaeval year” and the “earthly representa ve of the stellar year-mother the Pleiades.” In mythology these were the daughters of Atlas and the nymphs of Diana’s train. In one tale, Orion encounters these nymphs in the forest and becomes so enamored that he begins to chase them. The seven maidens called out for aid and were transformed into snow-white pigeons that took flight. In another tale, the seven maidens are transformed into seven stars, the Pleiades. Here it is interes ng to note that in the constella ons the Pleiades appear in front of Orion as though he s ll chases them in the night sky. The Pleiades feature in old witchcraft themes, and we will revisit this later in the book. Another constella on worthy of note is that of the Auriga, the Charioteer, who is the figure of Hippolytus. This constella on was known to the Sumero-Akkadians as Askar or Aratus, the goat (a horned creature in mately connected to witchcra ). In the constella on imagery of the Charioteer the goat figures have remained, and Hippolytus is depicted holding a goat while two young goats sit on his lap. As already noted, the Greek figure Hippolytus is connected with the

mythos of Diana at Aricia. According to legend, Diana was in love with Hippolytus, but one day he was killed when his chariot overturned while riding near the ocean. The healing god, Asclepius restored him to life, and Diana took him to her sacred woods at Nemi. The ancient writer Ovid describes the basic mythos and connec on. Virgil writes that Diana hid Hippolytus in the grove of the nymph Egeria (at Nemi) and changed his name to Virbius. The connec on of Hippolytus as the consort of Diana is of interest in terms of the Charioteer imagery pertaining to goats. In legend, Italian witches flew to the Sabbat at Benevento on the backs of goats. The idea of the Charioteer conveying goats through the stars in the constella on imagery is intriguing. However there is li le in the wri ngs on Mediterranean witchcra that es chariots to witchcra (the chariot of the witch Medea is one of the few references) and nothing appears (that I have found) which connects Hippolytus. But the inclusion of the goat is s ll worthy of pursuit.

Constellation of the Charioteer In Italian witchcra trials we find the figure known as Mar nello or Mar ne o, who is described as a “demon” appearing in the form of a black goat (or some mes a black ram). He is typically the escort of new witches to the Sabbat, and during the celebra on he par cipates as their lover in the sexual part of the rites. Witch hunter, Francesco Guazzo, in his book tled Compendium Maleficarum, writes of this ma er: “…as soon as the night and hour have arrived she is summoned in a sort of human voice by the demon himself, whom she does not call demon but Li le Master, or Mar net Master, or Mar nellus. And on this summons she goes out of her house and always finds her Li le Master wai ng by the door in the form of a goat, upon which this woman said she rode holding ghtly to its hair, and the goat rose into the air and in the shortest me carried her [91]

to the wizard walnut tree of Benevento and gently put her down there.” Guazzo men ons that in 1594 a young girl confessed to having been “corrupted at a tender age by a certain Italian” who took her out into a field one night. Here the man traced a circle on the ground with a beech twig. Immediately following this act, the girl was approached by two women who had with them a black goat with large horns. Next to arrive was a man dressed like a priest. The young girl claimed that the goat asked the Italian who she was, and that he replied she had been brought to join the fellowship. A simple rite of venera on followed in which a black candle was fixed between the goat’s horns. Everyone came forward and lit their candles from its flame. This was followed by acts of worship (with no detail descrip on) and ended with the a endants dropping coins into a bowl. The second me the young girl was taken to the field; she claimed that the goat asked for a lock of

her hair, which the Italian then snipped from her head. The lock of hair was then given to the goat. Next, according to the girl, a ritual followed in which she became the goat’s bride. According to her, she was led into the woods where the goat pressed her to the ground and then penetrated her. Among the many so-called confessions in witchcra history this is one of the least fantas c or supernatural accounts. From it we can glimpse folkloric elements and fragments of feasible pagan ritual. One element that stands out in the “confession” is the men on of going out into a field at night. Leland includes this setting in the “conjuration of Aradia” in which he writes: “Thus do I seek Aradia! Aradia! Aradia! At midnight, at midnight I go into a field, and with me bear I water, wine, and salt, I bear water, wine, and salt, and my talisman – my talisman, my talisman, and a red small bag which I ever hold in my hand …” It is a central theme in Leland’s portrayal of witchcra that witches meet in a deserted place, preferably when the moon is full. Leland’s witches worship Diana, and apparently venerate her daughter, Aradia, as well. References to witches involved with the goddess extend back to preChris an Roman mes, and extend up in the Middle Ages and Renaissance period. It is in the latter period that we encounter references to the Society of Diana and its connection to witchcraft. The theme of the Society of Diana introduces new elements into an old folkloric theme of souls travelling as a train of followers in the company of a goddess. Such a theme is reflec ve of the ancient belief that lost souls gathered at the crossroads under the protec on of the goddess Hecate. Therefore it is no surprise to find that Diana, an aspect of Hecate, shares this basic mythos. However, newer elements appear in the Chris an era that demonizes the gathering and the goddess. At the core of this we find the erroneous iden fica on of Diana as Herodias, the villainess of Biblical tale (who causes the death of John the Baptist). To sort this out, and to separate the chaff from the grain, the topic of the Society needs its own chapter. Therefore we will end here and begin tackling the problems associated with the Chris anized distor ons of the goddess Diana and her witches. Let us turn now to the next chapter.

CHAPTER 4 THE SOCIETY OF DIANA Since ancient mes the goddess Diana has enjoyed a devout following, par cularly among women. In pre-Chris an mes the cult of Diana flourished in the sacred grove at Lake Nemi where her ancient temple stood for centuries. Ancient Roman poets and other writers associated Diana with witchcraft. The worship of Diana con nued among rural peasants during the first centuries following the establishment of Chris anity. This was noted in the wri ngs of St. Mar n of Braga who encountered the venera on of Diana among the country-folk in the north-western regions of the [92]

Iberian peninsula. Here she was also associated with spirits known as the dianae or fairies. Folklorist Charles Leland referred to Diana as Queen of the Fairies and as the Goddess of Witches. Historian Julio Bajora wrote: “Several theories have been put forth to explain the phenomenon of witchcra . According to one it had the historical origins in the cult of Diana, and witchcra as found in Europe at the me of [93]

the major persecutions was merely a development of the cult.”

This theory was presented in the wri ngs of Margaret Murray who defined witchcra as the cult of Diana. Baroja notes that some theologians of the 16th century con nued to regard Diana as the “patron goddess of witches” and to look upon the Canon Episcopi as an old reference to her followers in earlier Church wri ngs. Wri en some me before the 10 th century, the Canon Episcopi stated that women were deceived into believing that the devil was Diana, and that these women formed into groups that met at night. Jules Michelet wrote about the women who venerated Diana and other pagan deities, stating: “All innocence as the woman is, s ll she has a secret – we have said so before – a secret she never, never confesses at church. She carries shut within her breast a fond remembrance of the [94]

poor ancient gods, now fallen to the estate of spirits, and a feeling of compassion for them.” Michelet also adds:

“Nothing can be more touching than this fidelity to the old faith. In spite of persecu on, in the fi h century, the peasants used to carry in procession, under the form of poor li le dolls of linen and flour, the dei es of the great old religions – Jupiter, Minerva, Venus. Diana was [95]

indestructible, even in the remotest corner of Germany.”

Charles Leland, in his book Etruscan Romain Remains, presents his belief that certain spirits that are venerated by Tuscan witches are actually old Etruscan dei es who have diminished to lesser en es over the centuries. Leland also wrote of the goddess Diana and of a perceived associa on of her and the biblical figure known as Herodias. This figure also appears referenced in Leland’s Aradia material. As noted in chapter two, some modern scholars believe that the name Aradia is actually a modified version of Herodias. In reality, as was previously demonstrated, the connec on between Diana and Herodias (as well as Aradia) is an inten onal distor on for poli cal gain and Church agenda. Carlo Ginzburg notes there is “a rich series of tes monies” regarding women who claim to par cipate in groups that follow a “mysterious female divinity who had several names depending


on the place (Diana, Perchta, Holda, Abundia, etc).” Ginzburg states that the name Herodias appears in European witchcra due to a misunderstanding or misreading of earlier references (see chapter two for specific accounts). Diana, as a goddess associated with witchcra , appears by various names and natures through much of Europe. Sir Walter Sco , in le er four of his “Le ers on Demonology and Witchcraft,” wrote: “The great Sco sh poet Dunbar has made a spirited descrip on of this Hecate riding at the head of witches and good neighbours (fairies, namely), sorceresses and elves, indifferently, upon the ghostly eve of All-Hallow Mass. In Italy we hear of the hags arraying themselves under the orders of Diana (in her triple character of Hecate, doubtless) and Herodias, who were the joint leaders of their choir. But we return to the more simple fairy belief, as entertained by the Celts before they were conquered by the Saxons.” In 906 Regino of Prum wrote in his instruc ons to the Bishops of the Kingdoms of Italy, concerning this cult. Here he states “...they ride at night on certain beasts with Diana, goddess of the pagans, and a great mul tude of women, that they cover great distances in the silence of the deepest night, that they obey the orders of the goddess speaking of their visions (they) gain new followers for the Society of Diana...” Carlo Ginzburg also notes Regino’s reference to the “Society of [97]

Diana”. Various witch trial transcripts contain confessions that men on membership in the Society of Diana. In addi on there also exist commentaries by various trial judges and demonologists who also refer to the Society of Diana. A sample list of such references can be found in the book Italian [98]

Witchcraft. We know from the wri ngs of the Roman poet Horace that the concept of witches associated with Diana is an ancient one. In his wri ngs known as The Epodes, Horace depicts a witch at night calling upon Diana: “O ye faithful witnesses to my proceedings, Night and Diana, who presidest over silence, when the secret rites are celebrated: now, now be present, now turn your anger and power against the houses of our enemies…” – Epode 5 Other Roman writers such Ovid and Lucan present similar concepts related to a goddess figure in witchcraft. One example depicts a witch making the following comment: “Persephone, who is the third and lowest aspect of our (the witches’) goddess Hekate…”


Hecate is among the earliest goddesses to be associated with witchcra . She is also in mately linked to the crossroads, which in ancient mes was a favored site for witchcra and sorcery. The crossroads were considered to be a place between the worlds, and one where departed souls that could not pass into the a erlife gathered at night. This was chiefly comprised of those who died before their time or died by violence. Sarah Johnston comments on the “restless dead” who frequent the crossroads: “Broadly, the aversion rites in both the Selinun ne and the Cyrenean text align with the funerary prac ce of feeding the dead and making them comfortable in other ways, but more specifically, they are also similar to another ad hoc method of appeasing and aver ng the dead: the suppers (deipna) that could be sent to the crossroads at the me of the new moon. Several ancient

sources tell us that these were le by the statues or shrines of Hecate (hekataia) that stood at crossroads, and were dedicated to both the goddess and to ‘those who must be averted’ (hoi apotropaioi). As Hecate was a goddess credited with the power either to hold back the unhappy dead or to drive them on against an unlucky individual, hoi apotropaioi surely refers here to dangerous ghosts of the dead. Offering these suppers to both the dead and their mistress guaranteed not only that the dead would be fed and appeased but also that Hecate would help to keep them under control. The ming reflects a belief that souls were especially likely to be abroad on the night of the new moon; if one wanted to do something to appease them, this was the easiest – and also the most necessary – time to make contact.”


In addi on to the role of Hecate as a tender of souls gone astray, she was also important in her role as a gatekeeper or threshold guardian. Johnston notes this important character associated with Hecate: “…she could be the goddess supplicated at the me of the new moon and the new month, the escort at the palace door and the guide at the crossroads, the conductor to Hades and the queen of the souls that never made it there, the key-holder to the higher realms of the cosmos, and the lunar purifier of souls - - or all of these things at once. But the concept behind these duties was at heart the same: from early mes, Hekate was the deity who could aid men at points of transi on, who could help them to cross boundaries, whether they be of a prosaic, everyday nature, of an extraordinary, once-in-a-life me nature or, later, of a theurgical nature. The ancients certainly saw unity within the various expressions of this role – indeed, they used the earlier expressions to validate or clarify the later ones…”


The concept of Hecate offering aid to cross barriers and to pass through transi ons becomes quite interes ng when we consider the belief in the ability of witches to fly to the Sabbat, and in regards to the idea presented as follows from the Canon Episcopi: “One mustn’t be silent about certain women who become followers of Satan, seduced by the fantas c illusion of the demons, and insist that they ride at night on certain beasts together with Diana, goddess of the pagans, and a great mul tude of women; that they cover great distances in the silence of the deepest night; that they obey the orders of the goddess as though she were their mistress; that on particular nights they are called to wait on her.” Ruth Mar n comments on the idea “that the witch was a member of a unified and organized sect of similar-minded people, capable of flying through the air to meet together…” and she states “Again, this idea of flying, which was obviously necessary if witches were to travel the distances [102]

required to meet up with hundreds of others of their kind, was by no means new…” Mar n notes that such beliefs date back to ancient Roman times. The concept of witches flying to meet others, as described in trial transcripts, is an impossible concept unless one takes the view that such flights were not taking place with other living witches, but instead with the souls of witches no longer living. This leads us back to the idea of a goddess who tends souls that have yet to cross over into the afterlife. Mar n refers to the “Procession of the Dead” as a concept probably surviving from pre[103]

Christian times.

Regarding this belief she writes:

“The belief was that groups of people, again mainly women, would go out, in spirit, on nocturnal

expedi ons joining in a train of followers behind their leader who was variously known as Diana, Herodias, Holda, or Perchta. This procession was o en believed to consist of the souls of the prematurely dead.”


The emerging theme here equates Diana and Hecate, which is also a theme reflected in the identification of Artemis-Hekate by Aeschylus, as noted earlier. Aeschylus writes: “And may the altars, whereat the elders gather, blaze in honor of venerable men. Thus may their state be regulated well, if they hold in awe mighty Zeus, and most of all, Zeus the warden of guest-right, who by venerable enactment guideth des ny aright. And that other guardian be always renewed, we pray; and that Artemis-Hekate watch over the child-bed of their women.” [105]

In a similar fashion the ancient writer Varro equates Hekate (men oning her former status as a Titian) with Diana: “The Trivian Titaness [Hekate] is Diana, called Trivia [literally ‘she of the crossroads’] from the fact that her image is set up quite generally in Greek towns where three roads meet.”


Hecate Triformis At this point we have encountered a theme strongly sugges ng that witches were involved in night wanderings, which required leaving the body either in spirit, trance, or through mastery of the dream state. Here they met with other witches of the past, and perhaps even with some other living witches who had made the same connec on, which allowed interac on with one another. The fantas c accounts of the Sabbats certainly seem to indicate something “other worldly” in nature and experience. In this light we can view the Society of Diana as a fellowship on both planes (the spirit and the material). It is interes ng to note that the revels described in the Sabbats of witchcra are very much the same as those depicted in fairy revels. There is a long-standing theme in many regions of Europe that suggest an intimate relationship between fairies and witches. Scholar Katharine Briggs notes: “In nearly all the countries where fairy beliefs are to be found some at least of the fairy people are supposed to gregarious, riding in procession, hun ng, holding court and feas ng, and above

all dancing. This is perhaps par cularly true of the Bri sh Isles, though France, Italy, Scandinavia and Germany there are the same tales of dancing, revelry, and processions.”


It is also note worthy to mention the following by scholar W. Y. Evans-Wentz: “The evidence from each Cel c country shows very clearly that magic and witchcra are inseparably blended in the Fairy-Faith, and that human beings, i.e.’ charmers,’ dynion hysbys, and other magicians, and sorceresses, are o en enabled through the aid of fairies to perform the same magical acts as fairies..”


As we explore the subject of fairies and witches, a connec on with the theme of Hecate’s company of souls beings to emerge. The theme of “trooping fairies” is noted by Briggs in connection with processions: “All these fairies, riding or hun ng, touched the ground of middle earth as they rode, but other trooping fairies traveled by levita on as the Sluagh did, either by a potent word or by straddling a bean-s ck or piece of ragwort, or by wearing a magical cap. There are many stories of mortals who join fairy expedi ons, many of which end in a cellar where the fairies royster and drink.” [109]

Briggs recounts a tale of fairies that is similar in nature to the accounts of Diana’s followers and to the “wild hunt” of European lore: “And there in the bright blue sky they beheld a mul tudinous host of spirits, with hounds on leash and hawks on hand. The air was filled with music like the nkling of silver bells, mingled with the voices of the ‘sluagh’, hosts calling to their hounds. The men were so astonished that they could only remember a few of the names they heard.” “These were the spirits of the departed on a hunting expedition, traveling westwards…”


The “sluagh” appear in Sco sh lore as “the evil dead” but the account men oned by Briggs does not portray them in a negative light in this particular case. Briggs notes that: “The huntsmen are described as the Sluagh, but these are not evil, death-dealing host of the Unforgiven Dead, but a brighter troop on their way towards the Tir na h-oige, the Land of the [111]

Ever-Young, where the bright heroic fairies live.”

However in general lore the Sluagh are typically associated with malevolence, which is also the case with witches. Briggs draws a connec on between fairies of northern and southern Europe lore, and comments on counterparts: “The larvae of the Romans were the hungry, malevolent ghosts, who also have their counterparts in the later folk tradition, the Sluagh of the Highlands.”


Here we see evidence of an early widespread belief that fairies are spirits of the dead. Along with Briggs, Wentz presents a connection between the fairies of northern and southern Europe: “There is an even closer rela onship between the Italian and Cel c fairies. For example, among the Etruscan-Roman people there are now flourishing animis c beliefs almost iden cal in all details with the Fairy-Faith of the Celts. In a very valuable study on the Neo-La n Fay, Mr. H. C. Coote writes:--‘Who were the Fays--the fate of later Italy, the fées of mediaeval France? For it is

perfectly clear that the fatua, fata, and fée are all one and the same word.’ And he proceeds to show that the race of immortal damsels whom the old na ves of Italy called Fatuae gave origin to all the family of fées as these appear in La n countries, and that the Italians recognized in the Greek nymphs their own Fatuae.”


As we examine fairy lore and witch lore we find the core symbol of the tree, which is also associated with the worship of the goddess Diana. It is interes ng to note an ancient belief that [114]

the spirits of the dead inhabited trees. This may have a connec on with the wooden pole placed upright at the crossroads in ancient mes to honor Hecate (who as we noted, gathered souls that had gone astray). This “tree of Hecate” was known as a hekataia or hekataion, and “suppers of the dead” were placed there on the new moon to appease the spirits of the dead. The hekataion served to manage the departed souls in order to protect the living from any mischief or [115]

ill intent. The image of the hekataion with departed souls gathered around it, that take up the feast offerings, presents a striking similarity to the legends of fairy and witch revels around a tree. In connec on with Diana we find the famous walnut tree of Benevento where legendary witch revels took place, which is also associated with fairies in many Italian folktales. In ancient myth and legend various trees are associated with themes of the dead and the Underworld or Otherworld. Such trees are o en believed to be guardians; some examples are the oak, ash, and thorn. Beneath the sacred oak tree in the grove of Diana at Nemi occurred combat to the death over “kingship” of the grove. In this event we find the figure known as Rex Nemorensis, king of the woods. In southern and northern European myth and legend we find the Golden Bough and the Silver Bough (respec vely). To carry the silver or golden branch allowed passage to and from the Underworld or Otherworld. Wentz writes of this theme: “To enter the Otherworld before the appointed hour marked by death, a passport was o en necessary, and this was usually a silver branch of the sacred apple-tree bearing blossoms, or fruit, which the queen of the Land of the Ever-Living and Ever-Young gives to those mortals whom she wishes for as companions; though some mes, as we shall see, it was a single apple without its branch. The queen’s gi s serve not only as passports, but also as food and drink for mortals who go with her.” “It is evident at the outset that the Golden Bough was as much the property of the queen of that underworld called Hades as the Silver Branch was the gi of the Cel c fairy queen, and like the Silver Bough it seems to have been the symbolic bond between that world and this, offered as a tribute to Proserpine by all ini ates, who made the mys c voyage in full human consciousness. And, as we suspect, there may be even in the ancient Cel c legends of mortals who make that strange voyage to the Western Otherworld and return to this world again, an echo of ini atory rites – perhaps Druidic – similar to those of Proserpine as shown in the journey of Aeneas, which, as Virgil records it, is undoubtedly a poe cal rendering of an actual psychic experience of a great initiate.”


Wentz also men ons a tree that is associated with the Underworld and with the goddess Juno: “In Virgil’s classic poem the Sibyl commanded the plucking of the sacred bough to be carried by

“In Virgil’s classic poem the Sibyl commanded the plucking of the sacred bough to be carried by Aeneas when he entered the underworld; for without such a bough plucked near the entrance to Avernus from the wondrous tree sacred to Infernal Juno (i.e. Proserpine) none could enter Pluto’s realm. And when Charon refused to ferry Aeneas across the Stygian lake un l the Sibyl-woman drew forth the Golden Bough from her bosom, where she had hidden it, it becomes clearly enough a passport to Hades, just as the Silver Branch borne by the fairy woman is a passport to Tír N-aill; and the Sibyl-woman who guided Aeneas to the Greek and Roman Otherworld takes the place of the fairy woman who leads mortals like [117]

Bran to the Celtic Other-world.”

It is interes ng to note that Juno is equated in ancient mes with Diana, as reflected in the Hymn to Diana, written by Catullus: “Diana whose name is Lucina, Lightbringer, who every month restores the vanished moon. Diana whose name is Juno-Lucina, who hears the pained prayers of birthing women. Diana whose name [118]

is Trivia – the crossroads her sacred place – night goddess, queen of underworld…”

Juno as a goddess associated with light and childbirth was an early element of archaic Roman religion. The origin of her name Juno-Lucina may be derived from lucus (meaning “grove”), which seems supported by Pliny who records that the goddess took her name from the grove that stood on the Esquilline hill in Rome, which is where her temple was later erected. In this sacred grove [119]

stood a tree where the Vestal virgins hung up offerings of locks of their hair. Juno’s consort Jupiter was also associated with a sacred tree. Historian Cyril Bailey notes: “Of the recogni on of a spirit in individual trees we may have a trace in the cult of Iuppiter Feretrius [Jupiter Feretrius] on the Capital: he may have been in origin the spirit of a sacred oak, [120]

upon which according to Romulus hung the spolia opima.”

The temple of Jupiter Feretrius was the oldest temple to be established in Rome, and bore Tuscan columns. It was associated with a sacred oak tree, and the temple was built on the former site of the tree. Sir James Frazer writes: “…it is reasonable to conclude that wherever in La um a Vestal fire was maintained, it was fed, as at Rome, with wood of the sacred oak. If this was so at Nemi, it becomes probable that the hallowed grove there consisted of a natural oak-wood, and that therefore the tree which the King of the Wood had to guard at the peril of his life was itself an oak; indeed, it was from an evergreen oak, according to Virgil, that Aeneas plucked the Golden Bough. Now the oak was the sacred tree of Jupiter, the supreme god of the La ns. Hence it follows that the King of the Wood, whose life was bound up in a fashion with an oak, personated no less a deity than Jupiter [121]

himself. At least the evidence, slight as it is, seems to point to this conclusion.”

Bailey notes that the god Janus is associated with Jupiter as reflected in the rite of porca praecidanea, in which Janus receives his sacred cake (stures) and takes his place among the dei es [122]

of the farms.

Frazer also associates Janus with Jupiter:

“To this theory it may naturally be objected that the divine consort of Jupiter was not Diana but Juno, and that if Diana had a mate at all he might be expected to bear the name not of Jupiter, but of Dianus or Janus, the la er of these forms being merely a corrup on of the former. All this is true, but the objec on may be parried by observing that the two pairs of dei es, Jupiter and

Juno on the one side, and Dianus and Diana, or Janus and Jana, on the other side, are merely duplicates of each other, their names and their func ons being in substance and origin [123]


Janus and Jana (Catari 1647) It is note worthy in the region of Naples that we find the word “janara” to be the term for witch. It is accepted by Italian scholars that the Neapolitan Janara and the Sardinian Jana are derived from “Diana,” in that night-flying women were considered followers of the goddess Diana in medieval legend. In regional lore the janara lurk in doorways and thresholds, which reflects the theme of Hecate’s souls at the crossroads. In ancient mes the crossroads were a place between the worlds, and doorways in general were also considered to be liminal places as well. Regarding this concept, Johnston writes: “The common belief that the doorway is a gathering place for the demons and ghosts reflects the connec on between liminality and the demonic in a difference way, for the threshold belongs to neither the interior nor that of the outside world. Crossroads – the inters ces between three or four roads – also are associated with ghosts and demons in many cultures, including Greek. In these cases, doorways or crossroads are perceived as dangerous places precisely because they are liminal – because they fall between otherwise defined and controlled areas – and thus come [124]

to be viewed as just the sorts of locations where demons gather and lurk.”

The guardianship of thresholds also appears in the concept of the Carya s figures. These images of the goddess Carya (or her followers) stand at the entrances to ancient Greek temples and support the temple roof. The Greek writer Pausanias describes the worship of a goddess known as [125]

Artemis-Carya s (Karya s) who is venerated in a sanctuary of walnut trees. Old tradi ons related to the Italian city of Benevento related tales of the witches’ walnut, which was a legendary site for gatherings and celebrations. Ancient tales tell of a sect of maidens at Caryai who worship Artemis with celebratory dances. In some accounts the name Carya appears as a tree nymph, which suggests a connec on to fairy lore. In Italian folklore, fairy maidens are associated with walnut trees (among other types of trees). O en fairy women are depicted in tales as the departed mother of the central figure in the story. Here again we find the connection of a tree with souls of the dead. In the tale of Rhoikos and Arkas we find a sexual rela onship with a tree nymph. Rhoikos

saves an oak by propping it up, and its nymph appears saying she will grant him a wish. He asks to have sex with her, and she tells the hero that a bee will come to him and announce the me of the tryst. In Italian folklore we find the theme of trees giving birth to human babies. Perhaps we are seeing an old belief that souls of the dead can be reborn through trees under the right condi ons. If so, this may be one of the reasons for revels and celebra ons around certain trees found in fairy and witch lore (a means of retrieving ancestral souls through fertility rites). Scholar Jennifer Larson notes that the representa on of grouped maidens in processions and round dances has a long history da ng back to the “geometric period.” This is usually categorized as: Early Geometric period 900-850 B.C.E., Middle Geometric period 850-760 B.C.E., and Late [126]

Geometric period 760-700 B.C.E. It is difficult to dis nguish between the choruses of maidens within a sect and the band of nymphs that follow a specific deity such as Apollo, Pan or Hermes. Larson notes that nymphs are frequently depicted as having sexual rela ons with pastoral gods. An ero c element was the playing of music, and here we find Pan’s pipes and Apollo’s harp. The “round dance” which features in the depic on of Pan and his nymphs also appears in the accounts regarding the gatherings of witches and fairies. As we shall see, sexual union was not the goal but the tool through which something much greater was sought. Upon examina on we find the theme of female rites of passage reflected in ancient rites, which upon further examina on lead us back to Artemis and Proserpina (Persephone). Larson states: “The Greeks conceptualized a woman’s life as a series of stages and events related to reproduc on. A young girl was a poten al bride and mother, a wild creature who needed to be socialized and reconciled to the culturally approved restric ons on female behavior, a goal that was achieved in part through par cipa on in rituals. Young girls learned about gender roles through matura on rituals…This process, far from being of merely personal significance, was recognized as a fundamental and crucial requirement for social con nuity. Abundant myths illustrate the drama of the young woman’s resistance to her forfeiture of freedom and her [127]

inevitable, necessary submission to the requirements of the group.”

Larson men ons that stages of female life were under the purview of major goddesses, for example, Artemis, Hera, Persephone and Eileithyia. According to Larson each district and city had its own customs and relied on its own combina ons of dei es and rituals to achieve essen ally the same ends. Larson writes: “The nymphs represented the wild prepubertal girl, the chaste chorus member, the bride before and a er the consumma on, and even the mother, whereas the sexual and familial identities of the major goddesses were more firmly fixed.”127 Here we find the founda on for a mythos, but one that would differ in certain ways within the rituals of the mystery tradi on. Underlying this structure it is not difficult to see sexual rites of ini a on and transforma on that become reduced to mere orgies through the eyes of the Church and its opera ves. The image of witches engaged in orgies at the Sabbat was a theme popularized by opponents of witchcraft for many centuries. Larson mentions that: “Goddesses and nymphs, as divine exemplars, enacted at both mythic and ritual levels the choruses, baths, and other symbolic events of the female life cycle. Girls and women, in turn,

believed they were emula ng the dei es by their par cipa on in these events, while the community as a whole celebrated and affirmed gender expecta ons through the dei es’ public [128]


In the case of the mystery tradi on such rites were private and intended for something more significant than integra on into the sect, its mythos, and the social expecta ons of the sect. This shall become more apparent as we continue. Sarah Johnston notes the inner levels of rites of passage for women, and from this arise some important elements. Johnston writes: “The passage of a girl out of her natal household into marriage and the motherhood that sets the seal upon marriage can be truncated and ruined at either end of the process with the same result: she becomes an unhappy soul, frustrated in her a empt to complete her life as woman, who must be propi ated lest she return to ruin the lives of other females. Although the dei es blamed for such failures in myth are most o en Artemis and Hera, Dionysus takes on the role as well in some versions of the Proe des’ myth, in the Minyads’ myth, in the myth of Carya, and more faintly in the extant version of the myth of Erigone. Thus, rituals to propi ate these dead [129]

women’s souls could be attracted into the sphere of a Dionysiac festival…”

Earlier we encountered the theme of unhappy souls gathered at crossroads where the “tree of Hecate” stood. Johnston’s men on of Carya and Erigone is noteworthy. In Greek mythology, Erigone is the daughter of Icarius, the hero of the A c deme Icaria. Her father, who Dionysus taught to make wine, gave some to some shepherds who then became intoxicated. Their companions, thinking they had been poisoned, killed Icarius and buried him under a tree. Erigone, guided by her faithful dog Maera, found his grave and in her grief she hanged herself on the tree. In anger Dionysus sent a plague on the land, and all the maidens of Athens, in a fit of madness, hanged themselves like Erigone. The fes val called Aeora (the swing) was subsequently ins tuted to propi ate Icarius and Erigone. Various small images were suspended on trees and swung backwards and forwards, while offerings of fruit were made. Some commentators believe that the story was probably intended to explain the origin of these figures, by which Dionysus, as god of trees, was propi ated. In Greek myth, forest nymphs raised Dionysus, and he was called Dendrite, which in Greek connects him with trees. The Dendrite aspect of Dionysus is deeply rooted in the ecsta c elements of his cult. The release of primal or animal feelings is experienced in its fullness without limita ons. Sexual rites immerse one in the deep memory of death and deep-seated fear, wherein life is reaffirmed and libera on can be achieved. Here again what can be misunderstood as a mere orgy for personal gratification is actually a rite of reconnecting with the three great mysteries: birth, life, and death.

Dionysus Dendrite As in the myth of Erigone, the maiden Carya is in mately connected to a tree. In the bestknown version of the myth, Carya is a Laconian maiden who is seduced by Dionysus and later transformed by him into a nut tree. In the common myth this occurs when her sisters try and interfere when Dionysus a empts further advances towards Carya. But this is too exoteric to have meaning in the greater context of the mythos. Johnston notes that Carya s was Artemis’s cult tle in the village of Caryai, and here the priestesses of Artemis were called the carya dai. Each year women performed a dance called the carya s at a fes val in honor of Artemis called the Caryateia. In the tale of the maiden Carya, Johnston sees the state of Carya’s transforma on as a liminal condi on, a placement between the worlds. She also notes a legend about a group of Laconian maidens who commi ed suicide by hanging themselves from a tree. According to this legend the temple of Artemis Carya s was later built upon the site. Johnston writes: “The descrip on of both the mythic and the real girls as virginal indicates that they were at the age during which transi onal rites took place, as does, again, the method by which they commi ed suicide. That the mythic girls became madly suicidal at this age, and expressed that madness by hanging themselves on the tree that once was a virgin like themselves, suggests a [130]

causal connection between their fate and that of Carya.”

In another tale we find a group of children who were stoned to death for tying a noose around the statue of Artemis near the town of Condylea in Arcadia. According to the tale, the death of the children angered Artemis who punished the offenders by causing all their unborn children to die in their mother’s wombs. Here we begin to see a reflec on of ill elements later distorted and associated with witches and the death of infants. It is important to note the absence of a belief in ancient Greece of magic being used for reproduc ve failure, as well as such acts being [131]

extremely rare in Roman mes. This strongly suggests that beliefs in the Chris an era regarding witches and babies were something contrived rather than rooted in pre-exis ng tradi ons. However, the argument can be made that such beliefs were rooted in supernatural


beings like the gello and the strix. In this light the confla on of supernatural beings with witches may have fed the hysteria of the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods. It is important now to separate the Greek goddess Artemis from the Roman goddess Diana, par cularly regarding virginity. Classic myths depict Artemis as a chaste goddess, whereas Diana has several lovers including a mortal named Endymion. Another dis nc on is made in the fact that several ancient writers associate Diana with witches but none with Artemis. In Italy the worship of Diana appears to have been indigenous, and not an import from [133]


Among the Romans, Diana was a goddess of the moon, and later Greek myths rela ng [134]

to Artemis were added. However, this influence may have come from the Etruscans who worshipped a goddess known as A mite or Ar mite. Etruscan ar facts and construc on methods discovered in the area of Diana’s temple at Nemi strongly suggests an indigenous cult in ancient Italy, which pre-existed the Romans. When we consider the “Society of Diana” and its night gatherings in ancient mes, it must have been important to appease night spirits and to create a society that was not in discord. Johnston men ons the “horrors of the night” and writes about various “night-wandering female ghosts” who a ack virgins, infants, and pregnant women. She also men ons spirits known as the [135]

nuctalopes, who are called the night-watchers. Johnston reveals several types of amulets to protect against such spirits, but it seems more prac cal that a gathering of witches at night can prac ce unmolested if they are not virgins (hence, in part, the use of sexual rites). But what about pregnancy, and how can night spirits be prevented from injuring the womb without the use of talismans, which in and of themselves might be considered offensive and therefore cause disharmony between witches and spirits? The answer to this dilemma might well reside in the idea of a divine ma ng, a hieros [136]

gamos. Naturally this required a male partner, and in par cular one of divine nature. Surely the fetus of a god is well protected, and what night-spirit would dare risk the wrath of a deity! It is here in the image of Dionysus that we arrive in the presence of the horned-god, in whatever local form he may take shape, including the distorted image of the Christian devil. Johnston states that one of the earliest roles of Hecate in Greek literature and art is that of a [137]

wedding a endant. She notes that Hecate, in this role, was similar to Artemis who ensured: “…the bride’s safe transi on from maiden to wife. As is well known, this was but one aspect of Artemis’s general guardianship of the females passage from girl to mother, which also manifested itself in her presence when women gave birth, her protec on of children a er birth, and, even earlier in the process, her sponsorship of a variety of rituals in which girls symbolically made the transi on [138]

from virgin to marriageable woman.” It is under the sanc on of the goddess that the maidens may mate with the horned-god. In the iconography and mythical references a triformis imagery of Dionysus emerges. He is depicted with the horns of a goat and also a bull, and when he is not, Dionysus sports a crown of grape leaves (some mes ivy), which denotes his agricultural nature (wherein he can be viewed as a harvest lord figure). The figure of the horned devil of Chris an belief features prominently in woodcuts and drawings of the persecu on era, and his horns are depicted in some cases as those of a goat, and at other mes as the horns of a bull. Since the devil is never given a physical description in the Bible, it seems clear that his imagery is drawn from pagan sources.

The stories told of the witches’ Sabbats during the era of persecu on provide accounts of orgias c mee ngs, feasts, dancing, and impossible physical feats that include the ability to fly. Prior to the no on that witches flew on brooms cks we find that riding on a goat provided transportation to the Sabbat, which is one of the cult animals associated with Dionysus. It is interes ng to note that Dionysus is depicted in ancient myth as a god connected to death and the souls of the dead. The followers of Dionysus, who travel with him, share traits in common with the assembly of witches and the revels of fairies. Here we see reflec ons of the nightwandering women who accompany Diana. Historian Walter Otto writes: “However, the dark and eerie character of the animal also leaves its mark in the cult and myth of Dionysus, and it is this duality in its nature which first makes it into a genuine symbol of the twofold god. Dionysus ‘of the black goatskin’ has an epithet here, which is used again in the case of the Enrinyes. Plutarch men ons it together with ‘the nocturnal one.’ To his cult, which in A ca was associated with the Apaturia, belonged a legend which obviously referred to the spirit realm beneath the earth. He was also worshipped in Hermione. A figure who was undoubtedly connected with Dionysus Melanaigis was Dionysus Morychis (‘the dark one’) in Syracuse. The spirit of horror which, according to the myth-making mind, lives in the goatskin is well known to us from the figure of Zeus, who shakes the aegis. The same concept recurs in the Italic cult of Mars. It is precisely out of Italy, moreover, that we get our most explicit evidence for the viewpoint that the he-goat and the she-goat belong to the subterranean world, and to death’s [139]

realm. The goddess of women, Juno, dresses herself in a goatskin.”

The procession of the dead, and its connec on to witchcra through Hecate and her soul’s at the crossroads, is significant in rela onship to themes of revelry. In ancient art Dionysus is some me shown as a column known as a herm figure. Herm figures were pillars with the upper por on shaped as the bust of a god or goddess. In ancient mes they were placed at the crossroads and thresholds. In connec on to the herm figure of Dionysus, Harrison notes that Dionysus was called by the name Perikionios, which means, “He-about-the-pillar.” The images surrounding Dionysus depict the followers of Dionysus worshiping him as the god of life. Harrison [140]

notes that they “bend in ritual ecstasy to touch the earth, mother of life.”

Dionysus as Herms figure The cult of Dionysus in the region of Benevento is evident in the Villa of the Mysteries at Pompeii, which is about 50 miles south of Benevento. Here we find painted depic ons of an initiation ceremony in which a woman enters into the cult of Dionysus.

Gerald Gardner men ons the mural pain ngs at Pompeii, in connec on with witchcra , in his book Witchcraft Today: “…and when I visited the Villa of the Mysteries at Pompeii I realized the great resemblance to the cult…I showed a picture of these frescoes to an English witch, who looked at it very attentively before saying: ‘So they knew the secret in those days.’ ”


Dionysus was known by many names including Bacchus. It is likely that he blended with a local deity and took on a new name, if not simply the name of the indigenous god figure. We know from various sources that the goddess Diana was worshipped in Pompeii, which is evidenced also in the excavated home of Octavius Quar o. Within the house was an arcaded courtyard with its hanging garden and household shrine dedicated to Diana. In a resort called Baiae, near Naples, women frequently a ended processions in honor of Diana Nemorensis at [142]

Aricia. In Diana’s grove we find the figure Rex Nemorensis, the King of the Woods. Diana has been referred to as the “queen of all witches” and the “queen of the fairies.” The theme of a king and queen in witchcra also appears in connec on with Benevento, as evidenced in the following excerpt from a 16th century witch trial (see chapter two). It is not a new idea that Bacchus was the god among witches. Scholar Stuart Clark points out [143]

this belief as late as the 18th century. As noted by Clark, Pierre Crespet (Prior of the French Celes nes) pointed to the origins of the “the witches’ dance” in the Bacchanalia, and felt they were the same ritual. Jude Serclier (canon of the Order of St. Ruff) believed the origins of the witches’ sabbats to be traceable to ancient Roman celebrations. Francois de Rosset, in his 18th century work tled “Tragical Histories,” equated the rites of the Bacchanal with those of the witches’ Sabbat. In this same period, Francois Hedelin (abbe d’Aubignac) wrote that the rites of the Bacchanal were “the same thing” as the night conven cles of contemporary witches. Both individuals wrote that Bacchus presided over the Bacchanal and the Sabbats, which were the same events. Both Hedelin and Rosset held that Bacchus was actually a devil and that the ancient prac oners of the Bacchanal were really witches. Although the Church tried to eradicate Pagan beliefs and prac ces related to Bacchus, such elements merely morphed into curious celebra ons associated with saints and Chris an fes vals and carnivals. In the region of Naples, two saints are featured in a celebra on that includes phallic symbolism. These saints are named St. Cosmo and St. Damiano. Wax phalli were offered to these saints and were placed upon their altars. Sir William Hamilton and Mr. Payne Knight inves gated the origins of this ceremony, which they stated “le no doubt that it was a remnant of the worship [144]

of Priapus, which appears to have lingered on this spot without interruption from pagan times.” The merging of Bacchus with Priapus among the peasantry is reported by various writers and commentators. One example appears in the writings of John Davenport and Alan Hull Walton: “In the Kingdom of Naples, in the town of Trani, the capital of the province of that name, there was carried in procession, during the carnival, an old wooden statue represen ng an en re Priapus, in the ancient propor ons; that is to say that the dis nguishing characterisi cs of that god was very dispropor onate to the rest of the idol’s body, reaching, as it did, to the height of the chin. The people called this figure il Santo Membro, the holy member. This ancient ceremony, evidently a remains of the feasts of Bacchus, called by the Greeks Dionysiacs, and by the Romans Liberalia, existed as late as the commencement of the eighteenth century, when it


was abolished by Joseph Davanzati, archbishop of that town.”

Historian Jeffrey B. Russell notes that the Devil is o en portrayed or described as having an [146]

oversized phallus. His other a ributes, including horns and cloven hooves, are certainly drawn from earlier Pagan symbolism. In chapter three we noted Guazzo’s account of a woman brought into a field in the middle of the night on or near the summer sols ce. He took a beech twig and traced a ritual circle upon the ground. A erwards he read from a black book, but the girl could not make out what he was saying. Shortly therea er two women appeared with a large black goat, followed by a man wearing the vestments of a priest. They all worshipped the goat, and gave it offerings. This is likely based on an actual event, with the goat being a man in animal disguise (seen at night by candlelight). At its core was probably an ancient fer lity rite designed to ensure the proliferation of herds and crops as well as human reproduction. Guazzo notes other gatherings that take place in Benevento, which also include the black goat figure. Related trial transcripts contain the claim by the accused that such assemblies are real and not imagined or envisioned. The accused insisted that transport to Benevento was provided [147]

on the back of a goat, and that many witches a ended the assemblies. It is interes ng to note Margaret Murray’s comment, which es ritual witchcra in general with the goddess Diana, and by extension with the Society of Diana: “Ritual Witchcra – or, as I propose to call it, the Dianic cult – embraces the religious beliefs and ritual of the people known in late medieval mes as ‘Witches’. The evidence proves that underlying the Chris an religion was a cult prac ced by many classes of the community, chiefly, [148]

however, by the more ignorant or those in the less thickly inhabited parts of the country.”

When we view the accounts of the witches’ Sabbats it seems clear that we are looking at ritual prac ces that take place some mes in the material world and at other mes in trance states, which cons tute something akin to an astral experience. Because witchcra was a structured system, it seems likely that the more seasoned witches directed such experiences. Today we call these experiences “guided medita on journeys.” However in the Middle Ages and Renaissance period drugs were certainly used to facilitate the journey. This was most likely due to the fact that opportuni es for training were limited due to fear of being discovered prac cing witchcra . Therefore drugs hurried the process of libera ng the mind and spirit from the body, and skilled elders verbally directed the experience of the Sabbats while the neophyte was under the influence. On other occasions a newcomer, under the influence of a drug, observed and took part in fer lity rituals where the key performers wore masks and costumes. No doubt the neophytes confused various events, and over the course of me it became unclear what had actually happened in the flesh and what had taken place solely in the spirit. Not all witch assemblies convey a mystical nature. Ginzburg notes one very worldly account: “A woman tried by the Milanese Inquisi on in 1390 for having asserted that she belonged to the ‘society’ of Diana, declared that the goddess accompanied by her followers wandered at night among the houses, chiefly those of the well-to-do, ea ng and drinking: and when the company [149]

came to dwellings that were well swept and orderly, Diana bestowed her blessings.”

It is difficult to gain a full portrait of the Society of Diana because it was a secret organiza on. Professor Franco Mormando comments: “The ul mate prototype of such secret


nocturnal assemblies is the ‘Society of Diana.’ ” folklorist Lady de Vere:

Here we are reminded of the passage by

“...the community of Italian witches is regulated by laws, tradi ons, and customs of the most [151]

secret kind, possessing special recipes for sorcery.” Folklorist Charles Leland comments:

“The witches of Italy form a class who are the repositories of all the folklore; what is not at all generally known, they also keep as strict secrets an immense number of legends of their own, which have nothing in common with the nursery or popular tales, such as are commonly collected and published …the more occult and singular of their secrets are naturally not of a nature to be [152]


Perhaps it is just as well that the Society of Diana must reside as a legendary history as opposed to one with sufficient evidence to be subjected to the dispassionate analysis of scholars and the academic community. A healthy mind is one that not only embraces the reali es of daily life but also dreams in the reality of sleep. Clinical studies have shown that dream depriva on results in detrimental changes in personality, perceptual processes, and intellectual func oning. Dare we reject the reality of the dream, and in doing so lose our ability to see clearly in the light of day? Joseph Campbell once pointed out that the conscious mind is only fi y-percent of our being, and the other fi y-percent resides in the subconscious mind. Can this be the reason why the witches’ assemblies took place in both worlds in different ways? If so, the Society of Diana leaves us with the spiritual lineage of those who once walked between the worlds. It is the well-worn path of those who came before us. It is our spiritual legacy. As to history, let us end with the words of historian Albert Grenier regarding the rural people, which apply equally to the authentic witches of antiquity: “History, being wholly aristocra c and poli cal, hardly no ced them. For they lived outside history, so to speak, content to be alive under a sunny sky, on a land which they loved. They needed no more than a few very simple ideas inherited from their forefathers and a few homely rites to give them confidence and joy. A loyal, courageous race, feeling no dread in the presence of the unknown and, at bo om, not caring much about it, when the thoughts and fancies of the Mediterranean came pouring in they kept alive the original concep ons and religious acts of the [153]

first masters of the Italian soil.”

CHAPTER 5 THE NEW WITCHES’ GOSPEL This chapter is devoted to honoring the lore gathered by Leland, which he shared in his Aradia book. The text that follows is largely taken from Leland’s wri ngs related to Diana and Aradia, however I have modified por ons of it in order to bring out what was unspoken in his [154]

version of the witches’ gospel. I have also changed the order of appearance in an a empt to present a cohesive mythos and to provide a chronological sense of the mythic structure and its themes. Modern day skep cs dismiss the reality of Leland’s wri ngs on Aradia, however scholar Robert Mathiesen offers a different understanding of the Aradia material. Mathiesen was one of several contributors to the Pazzaglini transla on of Leland’s book on Aradia, which was published in 1998 as a new work. Concerning Leland’s Aradia material, Mathiesen comments: “This, then, is how we should judge Aradia. It is authen c, but not representa ve. It offers a selec on and adapta on of family lore, which may not even be folklore in the strictest sense of the term. This lore is witch lore, that is, it is partly about witches and their magic, and it serves to transmit the legends and practices of that magic from generation to generation.”


Mathiesen cau ons that we should not expect the material supplied by Leland’s informant (Maddalena) to be representa ve of mainstream Italian cultural norms. He adds that we should likewise not suppose the material presented by Leland to be unauthen c because it is not representative. This is a refreshingly fair and insightful proposal. The Pazzaglini transla on of Aradia offers interes ng perspec ves that go side-by-side with the misunderstandings and misinterpreta ons that are to be expected of non-ini ates involved with the explora on of Italian witchcra . Pazzaglini took the Italian verses in Aradia and translated the literal meaning as well as correc ng errors in spelling and grammar. This was offered in contrast to Leland’s renderings of the Italian in English. Leland some mes placed words into the English translation that did not have a counter-part in the Italian text. There were different reasons why Leland added text to the Italian verses. Some mes he forced a rhyme, which called for an addi onal word not represented in the original verse. Other mes he added text that introduced a concept not conveyed in the Italian. In neither case was Leland trying to alter the meaning of the verses, but instead he wanted to reveal a deeper understanding of the verses as they pertained to the theme addressed in the Italian material (an insider’s view). Modern day cri cs prefer to believe that Leland’s handling of the transla on is a sign that he was inven ng things and making it up as he went along. In other words, they view Leland’s renderings as self serving to an agenda of decep on. But such a view reflects very narrow thinking and demonstrates an ignorance of esoteric systems in general. This chapter is not about arguing truth and lie; it is instead about presen ng a mythos. This mythos is about the goddess Diana and a sect of witches that calls upon her for aid. It is not unusual for a secret society to use a mythical history as a means of conveying teachings, beliefs, and the inner mechanism of the society at its heart and soul. The Aradia story can be viewed in such a light. The inclusion of the name Aradia is a controversial element. It has yet to be discovered in any published wri ngs whether literary or historical. A quick look at the name suggests La n roots

(if we take the name to be Italian). In La n we find the word ara, which means an altar. If we add “dia” (dea) to “ara” then we can arrive at the tle “goddess of the altar” – Aradia. It is interes ng to note the lore associated with the constellation known as Ara, the altar. According to one legend, during the war between the gods and the Titans, the gods swore an oath of endurance upon an altar created for them by the Cyclopes. Following the victory of the gods over the Titans, the altar was set in the stars as sign of what can be accomplished through unity. This legend was later displaced in the Chris an era and became the altar that Noah erected to honor God a er the Great Flood. Some ancient sources assert that the constella on was Apollo’s altar at Delphos (an interes ng connec ve bridge back to Diana). Reportedly the La ns [156]

referred to the constella on as Thymele, the altar of Dionysus. Dionysus, as noted in an earlier chapter, changed the maiden known as Carya into a walnut tree, which is an interes ng side note here in associa on with Diana Carya s (the grove tree being an altar-like focal point in the cult of Diana). In astrology the constella on Ara is depicted turned upside down with its flames pouring downwards upon the earth instead of upwards into the heavens. It is an interes ng symbolism if we look at Aradia as the goddess of the altar, and then at her myth in which Diana tells Aradia that she must go down to earth. The symbolism of the flame and Aradia is reflected in the Arician tradi on of Italian witchcra where the triple flame is the emblem of the teachings of Aradia. It appears rising from a crescent shaped bowl.

The constellation of Ara, the altar. Some people believe that Leland invented the name Aradia, as well as other things associated with her. As an English speaker he may have been a racted to a non-La n based etymology. If we take the English word arable, which means fer le soil, and add a goddess suffix (dea/dia) we can arrive at Aradia, the goddess of fer le soil (the earth). This is one possibility for the use of the name in Leland’s wri ng, although it is not my posi on that Leland invented the name. It was, however, an early theory of mine that the name Aradia may have been linked in some way to arable. This now seems less likely to me in light of other theories in keeping with Italian etymology. Whatever the case may be, there are more important elements of the witches’ gospel for use to reflect upon than the origins of the name Aradia. The witches’ gospel, as presented by Leland, depicts Diana as alone in the universe. This concept seems to go well with the ancient belief that “divine fire” first existed alone at the center of the universe (or the Earth) which was called Hes a or Vesta. The ancient Pythagorean philosopher Philolaus proposed that at the center of the universe was an immense fire. At this center he places a central hearth where the fire rests. Ancient Greek wri ngs men on a “universal

fire” that was called the “mother of the gods” and bore other tles such as the “altar” and the [157]

“hearth of the universe.” In the witches’ gospel, Diana divides herself into feminine and masculine aspects, and in effect creates a dis nc on between “goddess” and “god” as a percep on of the Divine. Once this is accomplished, Diana desires to be whole again, but the masculine polarity will not allow itself to become absorbed back into oneness. This begins a process in which the masculine polarity is a racted back into union with Diana, but is s ll sen ent within the companionship. This basic theme appears in some myths that are known in India, but I have yet to discover any that appear in public works on old European myth and legend. Other beings and en es are men oned in the witches’ gospel. Leland refers to “the fathers of the Beginning, to the mothers, the spirits who were before the first spirit.” This seems similar in nature to the Etruscan idea of the Involuti, an obscure race of gods that ruled over the “high gods” of the Etruscan pantheon. Among the Romans, who adopted and adapted various elements of Etruscan religion, we find that above the high gods (Olympic class) were the Fates, three feminine beings who even the great gods were powerless against. The witches’ gospel also men ons that, “All things were made by Diana, the great spirits of stars, men in their me and place, the giants which were of old, and the dwarfs who dwell in the rocks, and once a month worship her with cakes.” In addi on Leland’s gospel also includes fairies. The latter in particular have long been associated with witches in tales from Italy and Sicily. One of the problems with Leland’s Aradia is the inclusion of Chris an themes of an an pagan/an -witchcra nature. This distorts the old sect and a empts to force it into a structure in keeping with the ideas of the Church concerning the evils of witchcra . Leland’s gospel portrays the personage of Aradia as “the first witch in the world.” This “first witch” is then placed in what seems to be the 14th century or thereabouts. Since the posi on of the Church was that witchcra is subversion and reversal of Chris an beliefs and prac ces (as opposed to a surviving pagan sect), Leland’s gospel supports the contrived no on that witchcra did not appear un l the Chris an era. This, of course, can be easily disproven by pre-Christian references to witches and witchcraft in Roman times. In the following myths and legends associated with the witches’ gospel, I have tried to remove the Chris an displacements of pagan themes. In their place I have inserted what I believe to be authen c witchcra tenets and theology. However, just as contamina on of Chris an influences changed the original witches’ gospel that existed before Leland, the risks involved in trying to reconstruct the distorted or displaced pagan witchcra elements are equal and ever present. It is not my wish to be part of the problem. In reworking the gospel of the witches, I have removed references to Lucifer “falling” from heaven or being “driven” from paradise. I have also switched the name Lucifer with Lucifero, a name more in keeping with Italian witch lore and less in common with the Judeo-Chris an mythos of a fallen angel. In place of depic ng Lucifero as falling from heaven (in the Judeo-Chris an sense) I describe him as descending (to earth), a term that removes punishment and introduces free will. The idea was to s ck to a phraseology that does not reflect Chris an perspec ves but is harmonious with pagan understandings. This seems appropriates since Lucifero is not the Devil of Biblical notoriety. My efforts in reworking Leland’s gospel went also to trying to resolve the confusion, conflicts, and what appear to be occasional contradic ons in some parts of the myths and legends. One

example is a myth containing a reference to Diana going to the “fathers of the Beginning, to the mothers, the spirits who were before the first spirit.” The fathers and mothers appear before the “first spirit” and this en ty is not named or described anywhere in Leland’s material. Then, in another sec on, we find a tale in which the gods and goddesses (unnamed) become concerned about two fairies that were granted special power by Diana and a god named Mercurio. The granted powers become an issue for the gods, and this leads to an ac on taken by the “great father-god” who transforms the fairies into the sun and moon. This story appears under the tle: The Goblin Messengers of Diana and Mercury. The gospel tales leave us with trying to iden fy the players, and trying to sort out what separates them and how they fit into a cohesive mythos. In order to try and unravel this tangled ball of string, I turned to Etruscan religion and old witch lore. I replaced the role of Mercurio and Diana with that of the Involu . I did so because the gods, in the tale, seem subservient to a higher power, which would exclude Diana and Mercurio (who are among their own company). In this way a clear dis nc on became clearer concerning who is who, and what roles the different characters play in the myth. One of the most difficult aspects of Leland’s gospel of the witches is the running contradic on related to the spiritual nature of Aradia and the moral fiber of the witches. In Chapter one (How Diana Gave Birth to Aradia), Aradia is instructed not to be like the daughter of Cain, and we find a reference that from his daughter came wicked and infamous people. Aradia is told that she shall not become like this (and by extension we can conclude that her followers shall not share an ill reputa on like that of the followers of Cain’s daughter). In chapter one, Diana instructs Aradia to inform the Chris an priests that she has come to destroy evil people. However, Leland’s gospel goes on to portray Aradia teaching her witches how to poison their oppressors, and how to manipulate people with love spells. I believe this conflict is evidence that the original tale of Aradia was tampered with to include the stereotypical beliefs about witches that were fostered by the Church and its agents. But beneath the murky waters the gemstone still shines. In chapter four of Leland’s gospel (The Charm of the Stones Consecrated to Diana) we find that Diana is referred to as the one who comes at night in dreams to instruct how to keep evil people far away. The instruc ons include possessing a talisman of rue or verbena. However, the gospel also references Diana being partnered with demons of hell, and provides instruc ons for witches to threaten and torment her in order to obtain what they wish. This again appears to be tampering with a non-Christian original form of the gospel. In the following myths and legends you will find the witches’ gospel in a version much closer to what I believe pre-existed the material that came to Leland. I am not saying that the myths and legends as I present them here are the restored original texts. Instead what I offer is something more in keeping with authen c forms of the witches’ lore and the theology that resides within them. This is not what Leland passed on to us as much as it is what he could have passed on. But, being near the end of his life at the me the gospel material came into his hands, and desperately wan ng to have discovered the true witches’ gospel, I believe he made significant compromises in order to publish Aradia. Let us now move on to a presentation of the reworked gospel material.

Creation Myth In the beginning me, there was only endless night. And within the great darkness was the violent storm, unseen and unheard for no one lived to behold it. But Diana, who was the night and the darkness, was alone. Diana felt the first desire, which was to have a companion. But to desire

is to acknowledge what is absent, and what is absent cannot be found in desire. And so Diana remained alone. Then Diana looked within herself and saw the light which was her opposite, for she was night and darkness. Upon the darkness shone her face reflected as light, and by this the moon came to be. For even as the lake reflects the full moon, so too does the face of Diana appear in the darkness. But even in light, as in darkness, Diana was alone, for she was the first created before all crea on. And so she sought to know the light from the darkness, to know them not as one. Diana then divided herself; into darkness and light was she divided. Lucifero, her brother and son, her other half, arose between the light and the darkness, and became the brilliant light. And when Diana saw that the light was so beau ful, the light that was her other half, her brother Lucifero, she yearned for it with exceeding great desire. Wishing to receive the light again into her darkness, to swallow it up in rapture, in delight, she trembled with desire. This desire was the dawn of crea on. But Lucifero, the light, fled from her, and would not yield to her wishes; he was the light that flies into the most distant parts of heaven, the mouse that flies before the cat.

How The Sun And Moon Came To Be Many centuries ago there was a fairy spirit who served in the company of the Veiled Ones as a messenger to the gods. They were pleased to bestow upon the fairy the gi of running like the wind, so that whatever he pursued (be it spirit, animal or human) he would certainly overtake and catch. The fairy had a beau ful sister, who like him ran errands, but only for the goddesses. The Veiled Ones gave to this fairy, on the same day, the power to never be overtaken by anything that chased her. One day the brother saw his sister speeding like a flash of lightning across the heavens, and he felt a sudden strange desire in rivalry to overtake her. So he dashed a er her as she fli ed on; but though it was his des ny to catch, she was fated never to be caught, and so the will of the Veiled Ones became unbalanced by their own will. So the two kept flying round and round the edge of heaven, and at first all the gods roared with laughter, but when they understood what had happened, they grew serious and asked one another how it was to end. Then the Great Ones of the Mist said: “Let us change the sister into a moon, and her brother into a sun. And so shall she ever escape him, yet will he ever catch her with his light, which shall fall on her from afar; for the rays of the sun are his hands, which reach forth with burning grasp, yet which are ever eluded.” And thus it is said that this race begins anew with the first of every month, when the moon being cold, is covered with as many coats as an onion. But while the race is being run, as the moon becomes warm she casts off one garment a er another, ll she is naked and then she stops, and when she has once again dressed, the race begins again.

How Diana Came To Be Queen Of The Fairies All things were made by Diana, the great spirits of the stars, men in their me and place, the giants which were of old, and the dwarfs who dwell in the rocks, and all who once a month worship her with cakes. Diana had not made herself known to the spirits and fairies and elves who dwell in deserted places. Un l one day she hid herself in humility and became a mortal, but by her will she rose again above all. She had such passion for magic and became so powerful therein, that her

greatness could not remain hidden. And thus it came to pass one night, at the mee ng of all the spirits and fairies, Diana declared that she could make the darkness of the heavens sparkle with many lights. All the fairies replied: “If you can do such a wondrous thing, having risen to such power, you shall be our Queen.” Diana went out into a clearing in the woods. She took the bladder of a bull, and with a charm of silver she cut the earth, and filled the bladder with soil and many mice from the field. Then Diana blew into the bladder until it burst. And there came a great marvel, for the earth which was in the bladder became the round heaven above, and for three days there was a great rain. Then when the rain had ceased, all of the mice had turned into stars twinkling in the night sky. And having made the heaven and the stars, Diana became the Queen of the fairies. From then on was she known as the cat who ruled the starmice, the heaven and the rain. A er this there were men and women upon the earth. One night a young woman, who was poor and had no family, sat in a lonely place beneath the full moon. Although she was lonely, she thought how beau ful the moon was above her. Then there appeared a thousand li le fairies, shining white, dancing in the light of the moon. “What are you?” she asked of the fairies. “We are moon-rays, the children of Diana,” replied one of them. Then they all began to sing: “We are children of the Moon, we are born of shining light, when the Moon sends forth a ray, then it takes a fairy’s form.” Then one of the fairies came to her and said “You are one like us because you were born when the Moon, our Mother Diana, was full. You are kin to us and belong to our Race. For children who are born under a full Moon are sons and daughters of the Moon.” Then the fairies gave to her an enchantment sent by Diana upon the light of the Moon, and the woman became the first of all the Strega.

How Diana Came To Earth One day, Diana went to the Old Ones of the Beginning, to the Mothers, the Spirits who were before the first spirit, and lamented unto them that she could not prevail with Lucifero according other desires. And they praised her for her courage; they told her that to rise she must fall; to become the chief of goddesses she must become a mortal. And in the Ages, in the course of Time, when the World was made, Diana went on Earth, as did Lucifero, who had descended, and Diana taught magic and sorcery, whence came witches and magicians, and all that is like Man, yet not mortal. And it came thus that Diana took the form of a cat. Her brother had a cat who he loved beyond all creatures, and it slept every night on his bed, a cat beau ful beyond all other creatures, a fairy (but he did not know this). Diana prevailed with the cat to change forms with her, so she lay with her brother, and in the darkness assumed her own form, and so by Lucifero, became the mother of Aradia. But when in the morning he found that he lay by his sister, and that light had been conquered by darkness, Lucifero was extremely angry; but Diana sang to him a spell, a song of power, and he was silent, the song of the night which soothes to sleep, and he could say nothing. So Diana with her wiles of witchcra so charmed him that he yielded to her love. This was the first fascina on; she hummed the song which was as the buzzing of bees, and the spinning of a wheel; the spinning wheel spinning Life. She spun then the lives of Men, and all things were spun from the Wheel of Diana. And it was Lucifero who turned the Wheel.

How Aradia Came To Earth

Diana greatly loved her brother Lucifero, the god of the Sun and of the Light (Splendor), whose beauty makes the bright blessed day, but whose proud light must descend from heaven into darkness each day. For her love of Lucifero, Diana had by her brother a daughter, to whom they gave the name of Aradia. In those days there were on earth many rich and many poor. The rich made slaves of the poor. In those days were many slaves who were cruelly treated; in every palace tortures, in every castle prisoners. Many slaves escaped. They fled to the country; thus they became thieves and evil folk. Instead of sleeping by night, they plo ed escape and robbed their masters, and then slew them. So they dwelt in the mountains and forests as robbers and assassins, all to avoid slavery. Diana said one day to her daughter Aradia: “It is true that you are a spirit, But you were created to become again a mortal; You must go on earth And become a Teacher, To be a teacher to women and men Who will receive your schooling In the ways of witchcraft.” “You must not be like the ones of darkness, And to the race that became Wicked, infamous, because of their seed, You shall not go among them.” “You shall be the first witch; The first goddess to become a witch on earth. You shall teach the secret knowledge of plants To harm and to heal, And you shall teach the ways of power To bind and to slay the spirit of the oppressor.” “And where there is found to be a greedy peasant That has come to wealth in this way, Then you shall teach your witches, your pupils, how To ruin all his harvest With tempest, lightning and with thunder, With hail and wind.” “And when a priest shall do you spiritual injury By his benedictions, ye shall do to him Double the harm, and do it in the name of me, Diana, Queen of witches all!” “And when the nobles or priests tell you that you must believe in the Father, Son, and Mary, answer them that serve only devils, and say the true God is not your God,

and tell them to instead worship Diana, The Queen of all witches!” “You shall go on earth to teach this, And to destroy the evil of these people. Your poor people will suffer hunger And work wretchedly, And also suffer prison.” “But these are of one soul, One good and true soul And in the Otherworld they Shall be happy But their tormentors on earth shall discover That an ill Fate awaits them in the Otherworld.” Now when Aradia had been taught, taught to work all witchcra , how to destroy the evil race (of oppressors), she (imparted it to her pupils) and said to them: “When I have departed from this world, Whenever you have need of anything, Once in the month when the moon is full, You shall assemble in some deserted place, Or in a forest all together join and adore the potent spirit of my mother, Diana, and whoever desires to learn all witchcraft but has not won its deepest secrets, my mother will teach all things as yet unknown. And you shall all be free from bondage, And so you shall be free in everything; And as the sign that you are truly free, You shall be naked in your rites, both men and women also. And until the last of your oppressors is dead, You will play the game of Benevento. Extinguishing the lights, and after that You shall hold the Sabbat feast.”

How Aradia, As A Mortal, Came To Fame There is a peasant’s house at the beginning of the hill or ascent leading to Volterra, and it is called the House of the Wind. Near it there once stood a small palace, wherein dwelt a married couple, who had but one child, a daughter, whom they adored. Truly if the child had but a headache, they each had a worse attack from fear. Li le by li le as the girl grew older, and all the thought of the mother, who was very devout, was that she should become a nun. But the girl did not like this, and declared that she hoped to be married like others. And when looking from her window one day, she saw and heard the birds singing in the vines and among the trees all so merrily, she said to her mother that she hoped some

day to have a family of li le birds of her own, singing round her in a cheerful nest. At which the mother was so angry that she gave her daughter a cuff. And the young lady wept, but replied with spirit, that if beaten or treated in any such manner, that she would certainly soon find some way to escape and get married, for she had no idea of being made a nun against her will. At hearing this the mother was seriously frightened, for she knew the spirit of her child, and was afraid lest the girl already had a lover, and would make a great scandal over the blow; and turning it all over, she thought of an elderly lady of good family, but much reduced, who was famous for her intelligence, learning, and power of persuasion, and she thought, ‘This will be just the person to induce my daughter to become pious, and fill her head with devo on and make a nun of her.’ So she sent for this clever person, who was at once appointed the governess and constant a endant of the young lady, who, instead of quarreling with her guardian, became devoted to her. However, everything in this world does not go exactly as we would have it, and no one knows what fish or crab may hide under a rock in a river. For it so happened that the governess was not a Catholic at all, as will presently appear, and did not vex her pupil with any threats of a nun’s life, nor even with an approval of it. It came to pass that the young lady, who was in the habit of lying awake on moonlight nights to hear the nigh ngales sing, thought she heard her governess in the next room, of which the door was open, rise and go forth on the great balcony. The next night the same thing took place, and rising very so ly and unseen, she beheld the lady praying, or at least kneeling in the moonlight, which seemed to her to be very singular conduct, the more so because the lady kneeling u ered words which the younger could not understand, and which certainly formed no part of the Church service. And being much exercised over the strange occurrence, she at last, with mid excuses, told her governess what she had seen. Then the la er, a er a li le reflec on, first binding her to a secrecy of life and death, for, as she declared, it was a matter of great peril, spoke as follows: “I, like thee, was instructed when young by priests to worship an invisible god. But an old woman in whom I had great confidence once said to me, ‘Why worship a deity whom you cannot see, when there is the Moon in all her splendor visible? Worship her. Invoke Diana, the goddess of the Moon, and she will grant your prayers.’ This shalt thou do, obeying the Gospel of (the Witches and of) Diana, who is Queen of the Fairies and of the Moon.” Now the young lady being persuaded, was converted to the worship of Diana and the Moon, and having prayed with all her heart for a lover (having learned the conjura on to the goddess), was soon rewarded by the a en on and devo on of a brave and wealthy cavalier, who was indeed as admirable a suitor as any one could desire. But the mother, who was far more bent on gra fying vindic veness and cruel vanity than on her daughter’s happiness, was infuriated at this, and when the gentleman came to her, she bade him be gone, for her daughter was vowed to become a nun, and a nun she should be or die. Then the young lady was shut up in a cell in a tower, without even the company of her governess, and put to strong and hard pain, being made to sleep on the stone floor, and would have died of hunger had her mother had her way. Then in this dire need she prayed to Diana to set her free; when lo! She found the prison door unfastened, and easily escaped. Then having obtained a pilgrims dress, she traveled far and wide, teaching and preaching the religion of old mes, the religion of Diana, the Queen of the Fairies and of the Moon, the goddess of the poor and oppressed. And the fame of her wisdom and beauty went forth over all the land, and the people

worshipped her, calling her La Bella Pellegrina. At last her mother, hearing of her, was in a greater rage than ever, and, in ďŹ ne, a er much trouble, succeeded in having her arrested and cast into prison. And then in evil temper indeed she asked her whether she would become a nun; to which she replied that it was not possible, because she had le the Catholic Church and become a worshipper of Diana and of the Moon. And the end of it was that the mother, regarding her daughter as lost, gave her up to the priests to be put to torture and death, as they did all who would not agree with them or who le their religion. But the people were not well pleased with this, because they adored her beauty and goodness, and there were few who had not enjoyed her charity. But by the aid of her lover she obtained, as a last grace, that on the night before she was to be tortured and executed she might, with a guard, go forth into the garden of the palace and pray. This she did, and standing by the door of the house, which is s ll there, prayed in the light of the full moon to Diana, that she might be delivered from the dire persecu on to which she had been subjected, since even her own parents had willingly given her over to an awful death. Now her parents and the priests, and all who sought her death, were in the palace watching lest she should escape. When lo! In answer to her prayer there came a terrible tempest and overwhelming wind, a storm such as man had never seen before, which overthrew and swept away the palace with all who were in it; there was not one stone le upon another, nor one soul alive of all who were there. The gods had replied to the prayer. The young lady escaped happily with her lover, wedded him, and the house of the peasant where the lady stood is still called the House of the Wind.


CHAPTER 6 LEGEND OF THE HOLY STREGA In this chapter we will look at the figure of Aradia in her posi on known as the Holy Strega. When I first produced the previous 1981 version, I regarded the story of the Holy Strega, in the form it came to me, as one complete and cohesive tale that was faithfully passed down through the generations. These were the tales that I grew up on, and later came to join together into one story. In the later half of the 1990s I published two books through Llewellyn publica ons that reintroduced the teachings of the Holy Strega. This retelling of the story from my 1981 book was almost virtually the same. The only changes went to improving the wri ng style and grammar. But all things considered this material was li le more than a cleaner version. The problem with this approach is that it does not reflect the growth of an author’s understanding, which comes with the passage of time as experience is acquired and new insights arise as a result. Over the years there have indeed been new insights. Some came as a result of receiving addi onal informa on and insights from my own teachers. Others came from discussions with people of other tradi ons who passed on what I regard as missing pieces of the puzzle. There was much to discover from other na ve Italians outside of my own family line who shared material and teachings with me over they years. I now believe that the story of Aradia is a living thing that evolves through the bards that care to tell it. It is inspired and directed by Otherworld forces, but it cannot be constrained on paper for its telling belongs to the breath of true spirit and not to any one person or tradi on. For even when we u er a word it is no longer ours to control, but it is carried on the air and those who hear it make of it what they will. It is to this legacy, or to this spiritual lineage of tradi on, that I offer the following rendition of the Book of the Holy Strega. The story of the Holy Strega has remained important to me, and I have told it wherever I go. It has been an in mate part of my spiritual journey in this life, and I feel I have grown with it and it with me. The legend of the Holy Strega is something I believe in, and I have for the majority of my life. The story of the Holy Strega is like the moon itself; I first caught sight of it as a sliver of light and I have watched it reveal itself to me in its fullness. I have pondered it during the dark nights when my view of it was obscured, and I have returned to honor its light in every cycle that it has been my honor to observe and experience. In the tradi on that I prac ce, the full moon ritual contains a special set of words at the closing of the rite. The ritual text presents the following passages: “O’ Great Goddess of the Moon, Goddess of the Mysteries of the Moon, teach us your ancient mysteries, ancient rites of invoca on that the Holy Strega spoke of, for I believe the Strega’s story; when she spoke of your shining glory, when she told us to entreat you, told us when we seek for knowledge to seek and find you above all others…When our bodies lie res ng nightly, speak to our inner spirits, teach us all your Holy Mysteries. I believe your ancient promise that we who seek your [158]

Holy Presence will receive of your wisdom.”

It has been my experience, and that of others, that this request is granted each month. Something is indeed passed to us as our bodies sleep, and the teachings are encountered by our spirits in astral emana ons. The ritual also provides for a conscious interfacing with inner planes communica on through a session of mental projec on to a Sabbat experience on another level


outside of material existence. This is, of course, where the scien sts and academicians part company with the streghe. But for the streghe this inner planes encounter is as valid and productive as any archaeological dig, anthropological field study, or scientific study of any given phenomenon. When considering the “authen city” of the Holy Strega’s legend we must take into account that Italian witchcra has long been a secret society. It is common to find a “mythical history” within secret socie es that serves to provide a founda on upon which to build rituals such as the rites of ini a on. This typically involves some type of drama in which an element of the mythical history is reenacted. A mythical history also serves as a template through which various teachings, beliefs and prac ces can be organized and presented in some official form. This usually manifests as a book or a series of “knowledge lectures” that convey the religious and spiritual elements of the tradition. Mythical histories also contain symbolic elements that relate to the mys cal teachings and practices of the secret society. There is often a political component within the mythos that signifies the place or role of the secret society as it contrasts with the larger society of the culture in which it resides. In the case of the Holy Strega mythos, Aradia is born on August 13, 1313. This is meant to connect her to the goddess Diana and the numerical symbolism of a mys cal nature. August 13th was the date of the ancient fes val day of Diana. The number thirteen is linked to the moon in witchcra beliefs and es in with various elements of lunar symbolism. This ranges from the fact that there are thirteen new moons or full moons in the course of a year, to the numerical system of the lunar mansions. Each mansion represents one day’s travel of the moon and therefore [160]

corresponds to roughly thirteen degrees along the elliptical beginning at the vernal equinox. The symbolism of the year 1313 is meant to indicate the power of the moon doubled, and in this we see the idea of the mother (Diana) and the daughter (Aradia) as twin values of thirteen paired together. The presence of this symbolism doesn’t automa cally mean that Aradia wasn’t actually born in 1313. I am sure someone was born in the year 1313, so it is not impossible that Aradia was one such birth. Was anyone born on August 13th of that year? That seems likely, but is it even important or vital whether or not Aradia was born on this date? I do not believe that it is. The poli cal element within the Aradia story pits the wealthy and the poor against each other. It is a portrayal of persecu on and abuse in which one fac on of society takes advantage of another. In some ways this is a form of the mys cal interplay of good evil, light and darkness, sun and moon. In the Aradia story this theme is reflected in the se ng of cruel lords who mistreat their servants, and in Leland’s version we can add the idea of Lucifer and his connec on with that version of the witches’ gospel (when viewed through a Judeo-Christian lens and filter). It is not uncommon within a secret society to find references to sacred and secret wri ngs associated with the sect. Some mes this appears in the form of a book, a set of scrolls, an emerald tablet, golden tablet, stone tablet, an obelisk, and so on. In the legend of the Holy Strega we encounter a set of nine scrolls, and in this number we find lunar symbolism. Nine is a triple form of the number three, and three represents the triformis goddess of witchcra : Hecate, Diana, and Proserpina. Therefore the nine scrolls, as a mys cal element of Aradia’s legend, represent the teachings of the lunar cult (the mysteries associated with the three goddess forms and the various connections to them related to the beliefs and practices of witchcraft). In the legend of the Holy Strega we find what some people regard as parody of the tale of Jesus and his followers. It is true that there are some similari es, and these may simply be because the story of an avatar or savior figure contains a commonality in whatever area of the world in

which it appears. In the case of the Holy Strega, she gathers a band followers just as disciples collected around Jesus. She performs acts of magic that cause her followers to believe that she is beyond simple human form, and we see this same theme in the tales about Jesus and the miracles he performed. The Holy Strega also faces plots against her, just as does Jesus, and is likewise arrested and faces death. While it may be true that Chris an themes influenced the evolu on of the story (or perhaps elements of the cult of Guglielma), it may also be true that the theme itself is an older template of the mystery tradition into which Jesus and Aradia are both placed. Allega ons have been made that I created the en re story of the Holy Strega which, although quite fla ering is completely untrue. But I freely admit that my hand in its presenta on created a much more cohesive and elaborate story than what existed in any single form of which I had knowledge. With the wri ng of this current version of the Book of the Holy Strega, I at first believed it would be easy to separate what I added to the storyline in terms of embellishing what already existed. But this has proven to be more difficult than imagined. The major obstacle is, as explained in the introduc on, that I no longer possess the original material from which I worked. My recall of working on this project almost 30 years ago is not clear enough today to give me confidence that I can accurately ferret out the details of my own hand in the verses of the story. I liken this to a project where two authors write a book together. One voice must arise in the way the text appears. One example of this is the companion book for the Well Worn Path divina on deck, coauthored by Stephanie Taylor. The phraseology in the book is mine, it is my voice. However, the concepts arose from a blending of two authors that discussed and conceptualized all that came to be the book in its final form. This is how I see the Book of the Holy Strega. It was, and is, my voice arising from joining together the source material (whether wri en or oral) with my vision and understanding of what has been passed down over the centuries. With this in mind, I offer the story of Aradia as she appears in the mythos of the Holy Strega.

The Legend Of The Holy Strega In the town of Volterra on August 13, 1313 a female infant was born to a wealthy family. Growing up, even as a child there was a strange sense of spirit about her, and her parents hoped that she might someday become a nun (themselves being of the Catholic Faith). But her aunt had other ideas, for she was of the Old Religion of pre-Christian faith. In the course of me the aunt was hired to care for Aradia, and she began to tutor the young child in the Old Ways. Aradia listened with great interest to the tales of forgo en gods and ancient spirits. Her spirit grew and she understood the inner truths of these stories. Then, on her thirteenth birthday, Aradia was ini ated into the Old Religion (as was the custom). It was then that something awoke inside of her, and she began to remember other realities. More than anything, Aradia was a true child of the spirit, and even in her youth she heard the voices only the ancients once knew. Her parents were always fearful of Aradia’s strange ways, and when this worsened under the care of the aunt, they began to spy. Before long the parents discovered that Aradia was being trained in the Old Ways of witchcra . This was too much for them, and so they gave Aradia over to the priests who kept her near a church. Here they prayed and tried to correct Aradia in the error of her ways. At night, when Aradia was alone, she prayed to the goddess Diana as she had been instructed through the teachings her aunt had passed on to her. And one night, a young man who was in love with Aradia, came to her rescue. The couple fled and eventually came to the city of Rome where the young man tried to make a living to support themselves. But it was not in Aradia’s true heart

to become a wife and keep a home. Aradia became involved with some vagabonds and one night she slipped off to join their company. In me she traveled with them on their wanderings, which eventually brought her near the place known as Diana’s Mirror (Lake Nemi). In the early hours of the dawn she walked among the Alban hills near Lake Nemi. And one day, a er having journeyed far into the hills, she grew red and took her rest beneath the shade of a large tree. As she centered her thoughts within her mind, a voice spoke to her saying: “Look well into the skies, and know that you are chosen.” Aradia gazed upward, the skies darkened, and a voice whispered to her the words “moon shadow”. Something within her awoke, and she understood the path that lay ahead of her. Looking about from the hillside, she saw the beauty of Crea on and the equality of all things. An understanding of the inner workings of Nature awoke within her, and with this enlightenment she opened up her heart and mind to the vastness of all she perceived. Then Aradia beheld the oppression of the peasant people, knew their sorrows, and was greatly moved with compassion. In the me of Aradia, many peasant slaves had escaped into the hills and forests. These people gathered into bands of outlaws in order to survive. Aradia sought them out, living with them for a period of me in the woodland camps near Lake Nemi. There she listened to the plight of her people. Many suffered persecu on from the Church because they worshiped in the Old Ways. Others were made slaves by evil Lords who held power in the land. Among these outlaws Aradia came to know many witches who were also in hiding. In me Aradia went down into the villages and towns in order to give hope to the people. She taught them saying: “Blessed be the free. Blessed be they who rejoice in truth and love, and seek not to maintain evil and misguided teachings. Know that the spirit is upon you all, and that spirit is love. Love punishes not, neither a day nor an eternity. Do not lend yourselves to teachings of fear and restric on. Blessed be the free in spirit for their kingdom is of both worlds. They are the Children of the Earth who neither hate, nor teach hate, fear nor teach fear, restrict nor teach restric on. These same are the Children of Spirit.” Aradia gathered disciples and taught them the inner mysteries of the Old Ways that their ancestors once embraced. She revealed the true nature of the name Aradia, taken in honor of the ancient mythological daughter of Diana. Many people knew Aradia in her home town of Volterra, and in Benevento, before she took this name. Her fame soon spread to all regions of Italy; people came to listen to the words of Aradia and to join her as followers. She taught them the doctrine of reincarna on, and about the old gods. Aradia revealed the secrets of the earth and the knowledge of ancient teachings. Because of her fame, Aradia fell into disfavor with the Church, and the priests plo ed against her. Soldiers were sent to arrest her for heresy, and she was placed inside a prison. There Aradia suffered humilia on and torture. The officials feared her popularity among the peasants and desired to sentence her to death. When morning arrived on the day the priests were to meet, they ordered Aradia brought before them, but she was not found in her cell. A search began for Aradia, but she could not be located anywhere in the region. Later, in the south of Rome, Aradia appeared again and con nued to teach. The people were amazed because they believed she had been killed or imprisoned for life. Hearing the news of her appearance in Rome the soldiers came to retrieve her. But none ques oned by the soldiers claimed to know anything about Aradia. A er the soldiers departed,

the priests sent spies to dwell among the peasants in hopes of discovering the location of Aradia. In that same month some people discovered Aradia si ng with her disciples and instruc ng them. Aradia saw that they were joyful to encounter her, and she stood to teach them, saying: “Blessed be the free in spirit and they who love without profit. For love is the greatest a ainment. It is the gi of the spirits blessing. Therefore never betray a love, nor deceive one [by denying yourself what is beneficial to your growth]. Love each other and care for each other, and for each thing, with the heart and soul of a poet.” “Strive to see the world as does the ar st. Go, seek, and capture the beauty which is there. And take care that you hurt not even one that is among you. But love, and live, to the fullest, in awareness and compassion to the minds and hearts and souls of everyone around you. Live in peace.” Many people began to ques on one another concerning Aradia. Her disciples came to her and said, “My Lady, some say you are a prophetess, and some say you are a Magus, what shall we tell them?” Aradia picked up a handful of earth, and looking at the crowd she said: “I am the Daughter of the Sun and the Moon. I am the Earth. I am the love of freedom which is the love of the gods. And whosoever shall believe in me, the same shall be a child of the Mother and Father who dwell in all things.” A spy from the Church approached and asked, “Lady, we know that you are a holy one, tell us of the God from which your power comes.” Aradia replied: “Though men shall call upon many gods, there is but One, which is the many. A man in his life is called by many names. Some may know him as Father, or a friend. To some he may be an enemy or a brother, and to another a cousin. Yet is he not still the one man?” Another spy asked her, “ The priests tell us that God is male, and that women must submit to men. What do you say?” Aradia answered, “Does not even Nature show you, in all ways, that all is equal? In all flora and fauna, there is male and female. Who among you can truly say which is more important? One cannot be without the other.” A er this a disciple asked, “Lady, if all you speak is so, why then do the priests not tell us?” Aradia replied: “These priests tell what they have been told. It is with they who are above the priests that the truth is known, and hidden. There are many greedy and power-hungry men who profit from the Church. It is be er for them to control with false teachings, that restrict and threaten independence from the priesthood.” The spies returned to the priests and reported what they had heard. The priests were angry and spread lies concerning her teachings claiming they were evil. After Aradia and her disciples had le the area the soldiers returned again seeking to arrest her. On the road they surrounded Aradia and her followers, taking her into custody. As they traveled back to Rome a band of outlaws approached them. The leader was a slave who Aradia had converted to moon worship in the cult of Diana. A fight resulted in which Aradia was freed and taken by the outlaws into a hiding place. The outlaws escorted Aradia and her followers to their camp in the forest. There she chose twelve of her disciples, six male and six female, and took them into a clearing in order to instruct them. Aradia spoke to them: “With you I now re-establish the Old Religion. Know that there are others who s ll worship in the ways of their ancestors. Seek them out and tell them the Mother is with Child, and they will

understand my meaning. Seek out also they who will come to follow us.” The disciples asked her, “Who is this Child? Tell us of her.” Aradia answered: “The infant is the Child of the Mother of the Earth. She shall be known as that which is reason and wisdom. She shall come to the world and deliver all people of all na ons from the rule of kings, and of authori es. In this Age of the Daughter, great changes shall occur such as the world has never known. This shall be a time of renewal.” Her disciples asked her “When shall this occur?” She told them: “The dawning of the Age will be signaled by the Will of the Daughter. Her words will be heard among the words of men. Then women shall walk in the ways of men, and the law shall know no difference. When this occurs the Age has begun. And my prophet shall then restore my teachings, making ready the dawn of the Age for she who will come. And in the year of this prophet’s birth there shall be a sign for which all witches may rejoice. For this year shall be the rebirth of the Old Religion.” Aradia spoke further: “Yet before this me there shall be death among our people. The me is near when my followers shall be taken before the courts. And they shall persecute you and deliver you to the dungeons. And my people shall be tortured and killed by order of the Church. Even as they were once persecuted, so shall the Chris ans persecute you. But the Age of the Son shall draw to an end, giving way to the Age of the Daughter.” “You have heard the priests tell you of hell, and of damna on. But I say to you, believe not in such things. For the spirit of the Great One is love, and love damns not, but blesses. For a Father’s and Mother’s love does not forget the child, nor does it put one child away and keep the other.” All that day Aradia instructed her disciples and answered their ques ons. She taught them the secrets of magic and the knowledge of ritual. Aradia and her disciples went again out into the villages and towns in order for her to heal the sick and teach the Old Religion, even though they feared for their safety. Soldiers came accompanied by several priests to arrest her. Realizing she was trapped, Aradia looked upon them sternly saying: “I rebuke you, and I cast you out from the people because you teach punishment and shame to those who would free themselves from the slavery of the Church. These symbols and apparel of authority which you bear serve only to hide the nakedness in which we are all equal. You say that you serve your God, but you serve only your own fears and restrictions.” The soldiers seized her even though many people tried to protect her. Her disciples fled to avoid being captured themselves. In the town of Benevento they took refuge among the followers of Aradia already living there. Aradia was put into prison and was condemned for heresy and treason. While in prison a certain guard was very moved by her beauty and charm. Aradia allowed him to come to her as a lover. On the eve of her execu on, Aradia persuaded him to take her into the courtyard, so she could pray out in the open. Two other guards overlooked the courtyard as she prayed. A er she had finished, a storm gathered and the guard told Aradia to return to her cell. As she complied, the storm crashed over them with great fury. An earthquake shook the ground and the buildings fell stone by stone. When calm returned at last, only a few people were found alive. Word spread far and wide that

Aradia had perished. Seven days later, Aradia appeared in the camp of the forest outlaws, and everyone was amazed to see her because it was reported that she had died. Aradia would not speak to them concerning this, and she gathered together those disciples who s ll followed her and le the forest. They journeyed into the hills near Nemi. When they had se led for the night, Aradia came to them and said, “The time is now marked, and I shall remain with you but for a short while longer.” Aradia marked a circle upon the ground, spanning nine paces from the center. She gathered her disciples into the circle and formally instructed them. Following this, Aradia addressed them: “When you have need of anything, gather then in secret when the moon is full, and worship the spirit of the Queen of all Witches. Gather yourself within the circle of the arts, and secrets that are as yet unknown shall be revealed. And you shall be free of mind and spirit, and as a sign that you are truly free, you shall be naked in your rites. For such is the essence of spirit and joy upon the earth. And your law shall be love unto all. Be true to your own beliefs. Keep to your ways beyond all obstacles. For ours is the key to the mysteries, and the cycle of rebirth, which opens the door unto the womb of enlightenment. I am the Spirit of all Witches, which is joy and peace, and harmony. In life does the Queen of all Witches reveal the knowledge of Spirit. And from Death does the Queen deliver you unto peace and renew your life again.” Aradia next taught her disciples about the secrets of the circle. She spoke of the gods and the Old Ones, known as the Grigori (Watchers). She taught them all types of enchantments, signs in the sky, and of the seasons. When Aradia had revealed these things to her disciples she told them: “In memory of me you shall eat cakes of grain, wine, salt, and honey. These shall you shape like the crescent of the moon. Then shall you bless them in my name and partake of them upon your sacred gatherings. As of old, you shall hold sacred the first day of May, and of August its eve, and also the eve of November, which is the me of Shadows. Of February shall you observe its eve and celebrate it to the second day. Also shall you observe the sols ce of mid-summer and mid-winter, and the equinoxes of spring and autumn. To all who observe these sacred mes will the Queen of Heaven give the power. And you shall enjoy success in love. And you shall have power to bless and to consecrate. And you shall know the tongue of the spirits, obtain knowledge of hidden things, and raise forth the spirits from beyond the void. You shall understand the Voice of the Wind, and the knowledge of the changing of forms. To you shall the future be known and secret signs revealed. And you shall have power to cure disease and to bring forth beauty. Wild beasts shall know you and cause you no harm. Know that the power is gained through knowledge, and the knowledge is gained through understanding. Know therefore that you must obtain the balance. Everything which lives is of male and female essence. Do not exalt the one without the other. Come to know both as to be complete. Blessed be the free in spirit. When you hate, or despair, or do not understand, it is because you are not in balance with yourself or your surroundings. I do not speak alone of masculine and feminine, but of elements and causes and forces. Seek first the balance, then you will understand, and understanding you will overcome what you must.” Aradia stood in the midst of her disciples and spoke: “My purpose is firmly set forth, and to you I now give the Power. In my name shall you go forth and teach the ways of freedom and magic.” Aradia let her garments fall, fully revealing herself to her disciples. She took one of them by the hand and brought him beside her upon the ground. There upon the sacred earth, beneath the star-filled night, they were joined in love. A er this, each disciple was joined to the other. In this way the power passed in love among the followers of Aradia.

It was early morning when the disciples gathered again to hear Aradia speak. She said to them: “With you I now establish a covenant, between you and me and likewise to all who shall come to follow in the ways.” Aradia then placed a scroll into the hands of the disciples upon which were wri en thirteen laws. She also gave them the nine sacred scrolls that she had wri en. This was the founda on of all the teachings that she had come into this life to teach. Aradia spoke again to her disciples: “Soon you shall go forth among they who dwell outside of the Ways. And you shall meet ignorance, fear, and misunderstanding. Therefore, protect yourselves in all ways. And you shall come upon many who truly seek to be one with the nature of things. Teach all who you find sincere and truly worthy. Yet take care that you do not become judgmental. Keep your own manner of being separate, and do not expect everyone to be a likeness of yourself. “Show love and warmth to all persons, for if you do not then many shall turn away from you. How then shall you serve the ways? Know that your first allegiance is to the God and Goddess, your second allegiance is to the Old Ways, and the third is to Witches all. If you serve yourself then you do not serve. When you serve your own self-importance you are out of balance with Nature. For in Nature all things are equal. Nothing is more important than any other thing. And yet all living things have the right to do what they must to survive. This is to the disadvantage of other living things which become the essence for survival. Who can speak against the order of things?” “Therefore, live your life as you must, according to the laws which I have given you. Enjoy each day and long not for the next. The only certainty is now. Do not become bi er or cold at the seeming harshness and unfairness of Life. For love has the power to overcome all things. Nothing lasts forever and nothing remains the same, for everything is even now moving towards that which it will become. Therefore I tell you to observe the cycles of everything, within you and outside you.” It was her prac ce to teach her disciples in this manner. As the me for instruc on was almost completed one of the disciples asked Aradia to speak again of the coming Age. Aradia told them: “The Age of the Daughter is the final Age to dawn upon the earth. The first Age was that of the Mother, when all people worshiped the Great Goddess. The second Age was that of the Father and the third Age is the Son. Under the Mother there arose all goddesses and their cults. With the Age of the Father arose the gods which came to then dominate the female cults. It was then that the warrior cults began to rule the world. The dawning of the Son brought love and compassion to the world. From this Age arose the Christ spirit, but men clung to their stern Father God.” “Now when the Age of the Daughter shall come, then shall reason be restored and the world shall be in balance. To herald the coming of the Daughter, and to keep it remembered upon the earth, there shall arise a prophet every two hundred years. This prophet shall be a great teacher, and shall give life to the Old Religion. When the Age of the Daughter draws near, there shall be an awakening in the awareness of women, and their will shall be asserted. Laws will then change and women shall walk in the ways of men.” “And there shall be a me when the last of the laws which persecute and suppress us shall be removed. In that year all of streghe shall rejoice. When the Age of the Daughter begins to replace that of the Son, then shall my prophet appear. And many shall call this one the Silent Prophet. At this

me there shall come many changes. Changes shall occur in the earth which the people of that me have never seen before. And there will be great renewal and upheaval. When the Age of the Daughter replaces that of the Son, then shall she appear who is to establish reason. And she will be thirty-six at this me. And she will come in Power, for the Silent Prophet will have established the way.” “As this Age progresses great trial and tribula on shall befall the people of all na ons. And out of the ashes shall arise the new world of reason. People shall no longer be ruled by governments. Nor shall one people oppress another. There shall be no rulers, but only teachers and counselors. No one shall possess power over another, nor shall anyone restrict or control any other person. The earth shall be of one people, and they will all live under the emanating rays of love, peace, and reason.” All that day and into the evening Aradia spoke of future events. Her disciples departed as instructed, the next day, in pairs of male and female to teach others the Gospel of Aradia. She had bid them farewell and directed them to go out into all the towns and villages. In the days that followed, the fame of Aradia and her wisdom and beauty went forth over all the land. People began to worship her, calling her The Beau ful Pilgrim. There were those who said she was the Goddess in human form. Her disciples travelled with a heavy heart because Aradia had spoken of the darkness of the mes to come. They carried with them the thought of the many centuries that were to pass before the promised Age would dawn. A er travelling from village to village the disciples returned to the town of Benevento. There they gathered the covens of Aradia which she had favored. The disciples taught them each the final words which Aradia had spoken, and they shared the knowledge of the sacred scrolls with them. The followers of Aradia formed into Clans, and a covenant was established to secure the teachings of Aradia for the future. The Laws of the Covenant of Aradia were established at this time in order to unite the Clans in the Old Ways. These groups then departed to distant places fearing further persecu on by the enemies of Aradia. However, there remained those followers who would not depart. Aradia was not seen again by the people of that region. But her followers remembered her teachings, and gathered and celebrated as the Holy One had bid them, even as they do to this very day.

The Time Of The Covenant In the last days before Aradia departed, her disciples gathered before her one evening. To each of those gathered were the final instruc ons made known. Varro, who was greatly loved by Aradia, was called before her and was given charge over the favored disciples. Aradia spoke to Varro, in front of the twelve disciples, and she said: “Swear now before me and my followers, and join yourself to solemn covenant, for all things such as I have told you. For you have agreed, and given your sworn oath, to fulfill my words now and at the appointed times.” Then when he had so sworn and sealed this covenant, Varro began to ques on Aradia concerning those who would not receive him or accept him. Aradia answered him, saying: “Truly there shall be those who cannot, and those who will not, receive you. Such has it always been with those who speak of Spirit and of Truth. And among those who know you and love you, shall your greatest adversaries be.” “Say to all who do not receive your words, that which I now say to you: I speak of that which I

know, beyond mere belief. And I tell you of things which I have seen, and of ways. If you cannot believe me when I speak of Nature, and of common ways, how then can I speak to you of higher things and different ways?” “If you say to me prove this or prove that, and shall put to the test all which I tell you, how shall I make you understand that which you are not prepared to receive?” Aradia rose up and began to pace within the clearing. A er a short me she turned to the disciples and said: “Those who put you to the test and who ask for things beyond their own understanding, are like li le children who ask ques ons which cannot be answered. And so you must make up stories for them and give simple replies, lest they become frustrated and confused.” “Therefore, speak not of the heavens to children, neither speak of the mysteries to fools. You have seen the light of the campfire, how insects are drawn into its flame. And you have seen the wild beasts flee before it, for they dare not to approach it. Yet do we not gather around it ourselves, and draw from it comfort? So is it with your own light unto all who behold it.” A er Aradia had spoken to them concerning these things, she went with Varro into the woods that they might speak alone. And half the day was spent in this manner. When Varro returned the disciples began to ques on him concerning what Aradia had spoken to him. Varro told them many things that disturbed them; he was chosen to bear her words in the me to come and many of the disciples were jealous. When Aradia heard the disciples arguing, she was angered and rebuked them, saying: “Have you not understood as I have taught you? Tell me what thing is greater than another, or what person? Who among you knows the course of things which are to be, and who among you has power and vision to secure the future? I am no greater than any one of you, yet I stand upon a hill and can see that which you cannot. I stand where I stand because I have journeyed there. This place belongs to me, yet only for an instant. Then I am no longer at the end of my journey, but once again at the beginning of another. You have called me your teacher, and you have followed me. I ask now that you trust me. You have seen my light, you have heard my words. Receive me.” Upon hearing her speak the disciples were ashamed and they went to Aradia and pledged their love and their loyalty anew. Aradia welcomed them into her arms. Then Aradia departed from the camp and Varro remained with the disciples answering their ques ons and speaking of prophesies. The next morning Aradia gathered all of her disciples together and with great sadness she spoke to them: “The me is near now when you shall go forth and teach the people, but not for me alone. This you do for She who is greater than all things. This you do for freedom, and for libera on. But take care that you be not like the Chris ans; speak instead of your own truths and respect another’s. Do not force the teachings upon anyone, not by sword nor clever tongue, nor threats of everlas ng torment. This is not our way.” “Do not fill your heart and mind with pride, nor be self-righteous. Do not place our ways above another’s. Speak only of the words which I have given you, lending not your own. If you must add to what I have spoken, then better it be that this shall serve to clarify or aid in understanding.”

“Be not discouraged at what shall come upon you as you wander. Remember that you plant the seeds of a harvest that shall ever spring forth. Even though our enemies shall cut it down and burn it, it shall return even as the Spring. And what I have spoken will not be forgo en, neither will you be forgotten.” “We are of the Old Religion. Our ways are the roots of all races. We are the founda on of all things upon this world. And we are the key to the gates of the next world. But do not think that we are the only way.” “There is much work to be done, within both worlds, to undo the injuries which the Church has inflicted, and will inflict. There is much work to be done to restore our ways and to teach the truth. But this we shall not see in our life me, nor in an age of life mes. But we shall be reborn in the me to come. Then shall the world see our return, and know that we have come again into power, as it was in the days of old.” “And know that all of you who now stand before me shall see this me of power arise. And my messenger, who stands now beside me, shall draw you to himself. And you shall know and remember. Remember then also she who loved you.” “Soon I shall leave you, though stay I would if it could be allowed. But I am to be called away now, for my me is almost gone. Go forth in peace and despair not. I am with you in spirit even as I have been with you in these days so quickly passed.” “If it could be that the world would forget what I have spoken, and I should be remembered but for one thing, then I would will that it be recalled that I was loved by such as you, my disciples.” Aradia soon departed from the region and was not seen again by those who dwelled there. Varro journeyed from the Alban hills, taking with him the twelve disciples to the city of Benevento. In the city of Benevento the disciples went about and gathered the followers of Aradia who s ll remained in the city. Once they came together the disciples passed on the words of the Holy Strega, so that her final words would be remembered. When all had gathered at the mee ng place (now called the Stre o di Barba) the disciples spoke with them concerning Aradia and the Covenant. They shared with Aradia’s followers the nine sacred scrolls that Aradia had wri en. A er they had spoken long into the night, the disciples departed with Varro and slept outside of the city, taking with them the scrolls of Aradia for safe keeping. When morning came, Varro awoke the disciples and spoke with them. Then it was decided who was to depart, and to what places. The disciples journeyed to Naples and to Rome, and to many of the towns and villages of these regions. In their wanderings many followers were drawn to the Old Ways. The disciples established the Triads (three clans to a region) wherever they were welcomed. As the number of Clans and followers grew, the men in power became concerned and they struck out against the disciples. Soldiers were sent out to the villages and they found the outlaw camp. The followers of Aradia engaged the soldiers in ba le. Here many of the disciples were slain along with the followers of Aradia. The survivors fled with the outlaws. Thus were the disciples once again scattered. Maria and Niccolo (of the house of Landulphus) journeyed to Cologne and came to dwell in

France a er a me. Madrona, the new disciple, went to Florence. Alono and Teresa returned to Benevento. Varro passed through to the other world in the fi y-first year, having lived his last days in Benevento. With his passing Teresa was made Guardian of the Clans (and Keeper of the Knowledge).

Words Of The Covenant Of Aradia 1. Observe the times of the sacred gatherings, for therein is the foundation of the powers. 2. When good is done for you, you are bound to return it threefold. And if you shall help another you will not accept payment but shall bind the one served to likewise help yet another three (people). 3. Use not your power or knowledge of the Cra , neither call forth your aids, for your own glory or as proof of your standing. Work instead for the good of your coven or for those who are outside (should they prove worthy). For your own need you may work if no harm is done to the innocent through your gain. 4. Take not the life of any living thing except it be to preserve another life. If you take a life to provide food, then all of its being must be used in respect to its life force. That which cannot be used must be returned to the Earth with blessings made. 5. Give not your word lightly for you are bound by your words, and by your oaths. 6. You shall not recognize any authority over you except it be that of the Creators, or their emissaries. All others are worldly ego. 7. You are bound to teach and ini ate all who appear worthy, and to aid in the con nuance of the Old Religion. 8. Beli le not another’s beliefs nor degrade another for their ways. But offer your own truth without argument and strive to dwell in peace with those who differ. 9. As there be no harm to the innocent, then let your ac ons be as you will. Love and freedom are the essence of the Law. 10. Strive to live your life in compassion and awareness to the minds and hearts of all who share in your presence. 11. Be true to your own understanding and strive to turn away from that which is opposed within you. 12. Destroy not, neither scar, the beauty of Nature around you. Hold reverence for all things in Nature, second only to the Creators. Waste nothing. 13. Remain open in your heart and in your mind to the Great Ones, the Creators, and to your brothers and sisters alike.

The Wanderings This is the account of the followers of Aradia in the days subsequent to her disappearance. Aradia presented the nine scared scrolls of the Teachings to her followers who were called the Keepers of the Covenant of Aradia. The Holy Strega requested that all the Clan should know of the final Teachings and of the Covenant. So the followers of Aradia assembled in the city of Benevento, and to them was made known all that Aradia had spoken. There was sorrow among the Clan because of Aradia’s absence, and no one could say where she had gone. All of the twelve, favored of Aradia, formed a group and separated themselves from those who had gathered in Benevento. Then it was decided who was to depart and to what places. Teresa and Alono departed for Rome with Martea and Leo. To Naples went Maria and Niccolo with Sophia and Marcello. To the towns within the Kingdom went Andrea and Giovanni with Laura and

Owen (the Celt). In the days that followed, the Teachings of Aradia were brought to the people wherever the disciples journeyed, and all were amazed at what they heard spoken. But not everyone welcomed the words of Aradia, and some went before the authori es to report all they had heard. The men in power remembered Aradia and, wishing to suppress support for her followers, they sent soldiers out among the people to threaten and cause fear. The soldiers then went out on the roads under orders to capture fleeing heretics and pagans. Many of the people turned against the disciples of Aradia for their own safety, and the disciples were forced to flee from Naples and Rome. Martea and Leo were ambushed as they fled. Leo was slain and Martea was never seen or heard from again. Teresa and Alono fled to the old camp of the outlaws and were given shelter. When word reached the other disciples concerning the death of Leo, they too journeyed from Naples to the camp of the outlaws. On the third day the disciples arrived within the camp and spoke of the path ahead. The sacred scrolls were given to Andrea, and the Covenant of Aradia was placed in the hands of Alono. The disciples pledged their loyalty, renewed their love, and decided to depart to the north of Italy. Owen swore to guard the scrolls and Andrea with his life, and accompanied her to Volterra. He had been one of the Condottiere and was skilled with the sword. He was a large and powerful man. The disciples journeyed to the north and began to teach in that region. They went forth as Priests and Priestesses of the Goddess, and established the Old Ways among the people. In the second year following the departure of Aradia, the disciples returned to the city of Benevento. With them were many followers who had come from the north, for there was danger from the mercenaries of powerful families (for Christian and pagan alike.) Therefore, in the region of Benevento, the disciples went in secret and taught the people, establishing many Groves (covens). They divided the Kingdom into separate Clans, so that within the Kingdom of Naples there were three Clans. Andrea departed towards Rome with Owen, Laura and Giovanni. They journeyed to the sacred hills of Nemi, and established yet another three Clans in the region of the Alban hills. All that winter the disciples were given shelter by outlaws. In the spring the other disciples joined them from the south. In the summer the people of the region came and joined in the teachings and the feasts. One day there came to the camp a woman who was called Madrona. She was a strega, well known for her powers in that region. At great length did the disciples speak with her, and together they shared much concerning the Old Ways. Madrona decided to travel with the disciples, and in her company was a man called Olar (some say he was a Gypsy). O en he would entertain the disciples with strange songs and stories of distant places, and from Olar the disciples learned many things. Olar was a man of many powers, and his ways were not unlike those of the Old Religion. The disciples were pleased to number twelve again. Olar and Madrona swore to the Covenant of Aradia, becoming true followers of Aradia. In me word came to the outlaws that the people of Rome were summoned for an official proclama on. So the disciples went into Rome to obtain knowledge of this occasion. There they found a man who spoke out against the Nobles of Rome, claiming power for himself. This man began to call himself by the ancient tle of Tribune, and the disciples were divided by their hopes for the future of the Old Religion. In a short me the Nobles rose up against the Tribune and a ba le occurred. But they were not successful and many were killed. The disciples le Rome and returned to the hills. The outlaws were joyful at the news that the disciples brought because there was no love for the Nobles among any who dwelled in the camp. But word came to the disciples, as winter

approached, that the Nobles had again taken control of Rome. The disciples returned to Rome for awhile, but it was discovered that they came and went in the company of outlaws dwelling in the hills of Nemi. So the Nobles decided to send figh ng men out against them, claiming that all were threats to the peace and safety of honest men. With them were priests who began to ques on the people of the region about the sacred scrolls of Aradia. When word of this reached the disciples they were angry and saddened that someone had betrayed them. Then they began to regret that they had stayed so long in Rome. The soldiers of the Nobles set out and arrived at the place known by outlaws as Diana’s Embrace. The outlaws ambushed them with bow and with sword. Some of the soldiers slipped through the passage during the ba le and came upon the camp where the disciples were hiding. They stormed the camp and set fire to the shelters. The disciples, and all within the camp, tried to flee, but many died that day. Owen was the first, as he took up his sword to protect Andrea who escaping with the scrolls. The soldiers rushed him but he fought with such fury that even the soldiers were moved by his courage. There were many soldiers who never lived to see him fall. Andrea fell to the arrows of the enemy, and they took her bag containing the scrolls, killing Giovanni who rushed to her side in an a empt to rescue them. Then the soldiers killed Marcello, and with him Laura and Sophia. Olar was captured as the other disciples escaped into the hills. The soldiers returned to Rome, and the priests were given the sacred scrolls of Aradia which they send to the Pope in Avignon. Fearing the end had come for the followers of Aradia, Alono took the other four disciples and departed to the north once again. The disciples of Aradia went to the city (known now as Florence) bringing with them a small band of followers they had gathered during their journey. In that city many people were dying, for the Black Death had come upon them. The disciples began to despair and to regret their lot. They said among themselves: “How can it be that we find so much sorrow, for are we not true to the ancient ways?” Alono and Madrona comforted them and reminded them of the teachings of Aradia, saying, “Did not our mistress bid us not to strive against the order of things, and has she not spoken of the dark mes through which we must pass?” So the disciples stayed in Florence, helping the ill and giving comfort to the souls of both the living and the departed. Within the region of Florence the followers began to establish another three Clans. In the second year of the plague, several of the followers of Aradia perished. And the disciples decided to separate to ensure that the Teachings would survive. Maria and Niccolo con nued north and le Italy, eventually arriving in France at their journey’s end. Madrona remained in the region of Florence and con nued to teach the people. Teresa and Alono traveled to the southern region and se led for a me. They did not teach in that region, neither did they establish any Clan. A year later, Teresa and Alono returned to Benevento and remained in secret. They wrote an account of the days which they had spent with Aradia, and of the mes which followed (Teresa had been educated in the home of a Noble family some years before.) These wri ngs they called the Gospel in order to speak openly about the Teachings in safety. In Benevento they con nued to teach the followers of Aradia, and the Clans still beneath the sacred walnut tree. The disciples of Aradia gathered all the teachings, that could be remembered, which Aradia had recorded in the Sacred Scrolls. They wrote these teachings down so that some por on of the scrolls might survive, and the disciples called this the Words of Aradia. In peace the followers of Aradia lived within the region, awai ng the prophecy that would mark the beginning of all that

Aradia had spoken would come to pass: “Now there shall shortly come the me when the Pope shall return to Rome. And he shall establish the ancient city again as his capital. This is the beginning of the sorrows which shall come upon our people. For this is the sign that the Church shall move against us in full power. But before the me of death, which we shall suffer at their hands, they shall pervert all knowledge of us and our ways. And they shall interpret scriptures against us and pass laws against us. All this shall come among the first sorrows. Yet this is not new to their ways. And for a me they shall prevail against us, and we shall seemingly vanish from the world. Yet we shall always remain. For we shall be reborn, and we shall remember, though they kill us a thousand mes. And my words shall be spoken again and again. And my Teachings shall be restored. For there are none upon the earth who have power to slay the Spirit.” Here End The Wanderings

CHAPTER 7 THE TEACHINGS OF ARADIA This chapter is dedicated to the occult or metaphysical concepts associated with the beliefs and prac ces that are part of the spiritual lineage inherited from Aradia so many centuries ago. It is not the official posi on that the teachings of Aradia, as they appear in this chapter, were dictated by her and copied down by her followers. The teachings of Aradia in this chapter reflect the heart and soul of the Old Religion, and as such have been added to over the centuries by those devoted to this path. I am one of them. Since the early days of my wri ngs on Aradia, her story, and her teachings, I have emphasized that they are not to be regarded in the same way the New Testament is by Chris ans. The only similarity between the New Testament writings about Jesus, and those written about Aradia, is that both are oral tradi ons wri en years a er the death of their founders. It seems likely to me that in both cases the stories and deeds have been exaggerated over me, and even the character of the founders has been elevated to a degree that was absent during their life mes. What seems certain is that the figures of Jesus and Aradia have inspired people deeply in their religious and spiritual lives (evidenced by the fact that both are s ll talked about and wri en about centuries after their disappearance). I believe that at the core of each tenet within the teachings of Aradia is the kernel of truth. In other words I believe that the teachings of Aradia reflect what she taught her followers and what they understood, but not necessarily what she said word for word. This is my personal belief in the ma er, which is rooted in the story of the “nine scrolls” wri en by Aradia. Reportedly the scrolls ended up in the hands of the Church, and the followers of Aradia later set into wri ng what they could remember about her teachings. To me this means that we do not possess precisely what she [161]

said, but instead we possess the memory of what her teachings s rred or inspired. We possess the essence of what Aradia left to us. The teachings of Aradia contained within this chapter are not iden cal with those published in my previous Book of the Holy Strega. The perspec ve of that earlier book was that of a young man in his twen es. Over three decades have passed since then, and with this new book I bring deeper insights gained through study, experience, medita on, and inner planes work. In the following teachings, I have kept the words that appeared in the previously published version but have added addi onal text. The added text appears enclosed in [brackets] and the font is italicized. The inclusions serve two purposes; one is to complete the meaning of the former text, and the other is to reveal a deeper meaning. The need for this became apparent when I reread the former book and was faced with the understanding I had twenty eight years ago. But there have been significant changes in my views over this period of time. In the original 1981 Book of the Holy Strega, the “Words of Aradia” sec on was my own rendering. In the introduc on is the statement “The material you are about to read is a paraphrased transla on of the original Italian wri ng…When transla on of our material first began, we were faced with a colloquial dialect of Italian which translated very poorly into English. For this reason we found it best to paraphrase the en re work.” I realize now that some people took this to mean that the en re Book of the Holy Strega had been wri en in Italian and was a complete tome as it sat before me. This was neither the case nor the intended understanding I wished to convey.

In fact the original introduc on goes on to say, “The original wri ngs were not arranged in the ‘chapter and verse’ style of this present format.” But me has proven that cri cs and skep cs chose to ignore this statement in the book in favor of promo ng the no on that I claimed the book had come down to me in a complete form preserved for centuries. I am clearly at fault for adding to this misunderstanding, because in the 1981 introduc on I stated: “The Book of the Holy Strega was originally wri en during the late 14th century in the city of Benevento. Since that me it has been passed down through the family. It would be nice to believe that that the text has come to us unchanged, but there is no way to be sure.” I did not mean to indicate that what I produced was that book in an English transla on, or that “the family” was my family back in the 14th century or today (I refer instead to the witch family line in general). Although the story certainly exists that such a book was wri en, I never saw anything complete in book form. I had always believed that what was passed to me were the “Teachings of Aradia” and I naturally assumed these came from the legendary Book of the Holy Strega. I s ll do hold to that belief. But it was not my posi on back in 1981, nor is it now, that my family possessed the actual 14th century “Book of the Holy Strega” in physical form. For those who feel that I claimed possession of the original book, I can only apologize for the poor phraseology in my earlier 1981 edi on, and point out that in my professionally published books, Ways of the [162]

Strega/Italian Witchcraft, and Hereditary Witchcraft, this was corrected. I must emphasize that the Book of the Holy Strega, in whatever form I have published it, is a compila on of oral and wri en tradi on. The wri en parts were taken largely from the Book of Ways, which contained sec ons of ritual text referring to Aradia in one way or another. This was li ed from various ritual texts and then pieced together to form a composite portrait. To this was added the oral teachings and individual wri en anecdotes that were passed to me over many summers during visits from na ve Italian family members staying in my home while on vaca on. The process involved fi ng the oral tales into the wri en material, making sure the context matched and the chronology was appropriate. With the ritual text, oral teachings, and anecdotes side by side, it was rela vely easy to join them together into what became my Book of the Holy Strega. It long remained my belief that through this process I had collec vely restored the old teachings of Aradia (as much as possible). I have not abandoned this posi on. Prior to working on this new edi on of the book, I brought the ma er to a full moon ritual circle experience. Through a prescribed guided pathworking technique used in my tradi on of witchcra , I “journeyed” to the walnut tree at Benevento (that is to say, its astral mee ng place). There I encountered the Crone figure of legend, and I put the ques on to her regarding my hand in the presenta on of the Holy Strega legend and the words of Aradia. She replied “You are of the streghe, you cannot create anything here, you can only remember.” It is in this light that I present the following teachings of Aradia. The dialogue is my own, the teachings are not.

Concerning Nature Nature is the Great Teacher [of the inner mechanism of divine consciousness and its process]. In Her are all things revealed [for therein is the blue print of crea on]. Nature reflects the Higher Ways of Spirit [and we see here the principle of “as above, so below”]. The Creators established the laws of nature so that through them we might come to know the laws of the Great Ones.

Therefore, observe the ways of nature around you, both great and small. Everything has purpose and reason. Be not confused by its seeming cruelty, for there is a duality in all things. Respect nature in all ways. Take only that which you must from her, and remember nothing can be taken except that something be given. This is law for all streghe. Know that the wind speaks of the knowledge of the earth, and the spirit of the kindredness of all living things emanates from everywhere. [For the old spirits of the land s ll speak today as they did in the me of our ancestors. When we listen with ancient ears we hear the voice of the wind, as did our ancestors]. Nature teaches all living things all that must be known. She teaches birds to make their nests, animals to hunt and survive, children to crawl and walk. She teaches life. Once she taught all people of her ways, but they chose to go their own [and separate] way. They chose to oppose her and to control her. But for the streghe there can be no other way than Nature. The streghe must live in harmony with the forces of nature.

Concerning The Earth The earth is the nurturing power of the Mother. She nourishes us and from the soil She returns that which we sow. She gives us healing herbs and herbs by which we work our Magic. The very earth gives us life, without which we would perish. There is a [natural] healing power in the earth, and a vital force [that is generated from within the earth and in its encompassing ether as well]. We know that a wounded animal will lie against the earth to heal its wounds. They understand, and we are one with them through our religion. I have taught you the secrets of the circle, for therein is the secret of the power of the earth. Everything that the world does, it does with a circle [in the way of a cycle]. The earth teaches us the doctrine of Cycles [and through this pa ern we come to realize the greater cycle of our own soul of which we are a part]. The sun, the moon, and the seasons come and go, and return again and again. Even so is it with the cycles of our own lives [and the journey of our soul through many lifetimes]. The earth teaches us just as nature does, for they are one. Earth is the body, and nature is the Spirit [and the aura of the earth contains its consciousness]. We must live in harmony with the earth and with nature. To do otherwise is to court disaster. The forces of the earth are greater than any power we can safely master. To strive against these forces is foolish. [By living in “common causeâ€? with nature, we reintegrate]. Do nothing to the earth that shall take away from the purpose its serves in nature, for this is the natural balance. And the earth shall always move against us to restore itself. Is the ller greater than the soil he lls? Is the family greater than the crops they help grow? Is not the life within the soil, and within the crops, our own? How shall we be without them? What you do to the earth you do to yourself [as a result]. Do not think that we are greater than the earth, or than nature. For surely they shall both crumble and dissolve all that we shall erect. And there shall be oods and earthquakes, and hostile weather to show us our errors, and teach us perspective.

Concerning Life We live upon the earth because we are not prepared to live in the ways of the Spirit. We are not physical beings and this is why physical life is often difficult [for our race is of the stars]. It is not our way to disregard the physical [world], for we dwell within it. So it is best to live in harmony with the world. But for us to become involved in the physical so as to disregard the spirit is likewise harmful. This binds us to rebirth, and to unhappiness [and we must remember that the

ways of the Old Religion are meant to move us into liberation]. A strega respects life, and all living things. Life must not be taken without necessity. The purpose of physical life is to learn the higher ways of spirit through knowledge of the lower. And to prepare our spirit for the existence for which it was created. [Life is life, no ma er what contains it, be that plant, mammal, fish, bird, insect or reptile].

Concerning Death Every beginning is also the ending of that which came before it. Every ending is likewise a beginning of that which is to follow. Coming and going are simply the two sides of the one journey. Death is simply a change of awareness and of form. It is not feared by the spirit, but o en feared by the personality of the dying one [for the personality clings to its known reality, but the soul looks forward to another reality]. Yet the realm of Death is like the dream worlds to which we journey in our sleep, and just as brief. Know that the spirit always moves to a higher state, and always toward the Light [that guides the soul into enlightenment and transforma on]. The shadows of Death cannot keep us [from the renewing Light]. Upon dying we are purified by the [four] elements as we rise into the ether [for the body dissolves away and its essence is absorbed back into crea on]. From life we go to dwell upon the moon (within the lunar and astral realms) and there await our return [or our release from material reincarna on, and therefore birth into the higher realms]. In Luna we are given vitality and made strong again [so that we can envision and prepare for the lessons obtainable in the next life experience]. If the Great Ones, who created all things, have seen within us the purity of Light, then shall we go forth to be forged by the sun and taken to dwell among the stars, in our new divine form. If this is not to be, then shall we be given unto rebirth (according to our deeds) within the world of physical ma er. [ Herein is the principle of “like a racts like” and through which we are drawn into a life experience within a realm that is compatible with the current nature of our being.]

Concerning Love Love is the gi of the spirit’s blessings [for it draws the soul closer to its source]. It is the emanation of spirit within. Love is the Great Attainment [of full spiritual consciousness]. Receive love when it is offered, and offer love regardless. Yet do not allow the duality of love to cause you despair. For love can lift up your heart and it can likewise drag it down [and it is in the experience of its loss that we gain a deeper understanding of love]. Accept love in the manner in which it comes to you. Do not possess it, or a empt to control it or shape it. For love is free, and shall come or go in its manner [for if you control or manipulate those you claim to love, then love is no longer joined heart to heart, it is joined hand to chain].

Concerning Sexuality The sexual power of a man or woman is the strongest power that may be raised from the body [as generated energy]. The Chris ans teach that sexuality must be repressed, and thereby rob the people of their personal power. Do not be confused by the duality of sex, for it can be physical alone or it can be spiritual alone. It can also be both together. Share your sexuality with whomever you may, in whatever manner you may. For all acts of love and pleasure are rituals to the Goddess and to the God. It has been wri en that you shall be free, and so shall you be free in body, mind, and spirit

[for to be under the will of others is to be an extension of others, to the degree that we can lose ourselves in the surrender]. Be not like the Chris ans who teach shame and modesty, and false morality. Blessed are the free [for it is these who choose, instead of obey, and choice is the sign of free will]. You have heard it said that homosexuality is unnatural, yet I say to you that heterosexuality is likewise unbalanced [meaning that extremes exist at opposite ends, and that harmony resides where balance exists between polari es]. Everything is masculine and feminine in essence, and all bear the divine spark of the God and Goddess within them. Realize this, and do not exalt the one above the other. The streghe must live with inner and outer harmony [for they seek always to maintain balance]. You have heard the Chris ans condemn adultery, and say that the spouse is the property of the other. Yet no one may rightly dictate the will of another. Do not confuse love with sex or sex with love [for conflict exists where one thing forces another to be nature of the other]. Remember that pleasure belongs to everyone, and rightly so. Therefore harm no innocent one through your own will [to impose limita ons], nor place your will above another’s [in order to control or constrain their behavior or desire].

Concerning Marriage When a man and a woman join their lives together through ritual, and the love which they share, then are they linked to each other in another life to come [for energy bonds are formed that will draw souls to meet again in future incarnations]. Yet being together, know that each of you must be alone. Understand that even though you are bound together, let this not be as captives. There shall always be others with who each of you may desire to share a closeness, either physical or spiritual. This is as it should be. Let your love desire fullness of life for each other and also pleasure for each other. Honor each other with openness and honesty [in ways that allow you libera on, for if you deny yourself then what you share with others is compromise, and a self that is compromised is only half a truth. Those who you love deserve you in your fullness of being]. Because you have joined your lives together, you are sanctuary and comfort for each other. Together shall you stand in all things, for you are true friends. You are together because of your love, and you remain for this reason. Yet if this reason for coming together is forgo en, or fades, then it is well to part if needs be such. You do not honor the joining by remaining without love. Neither do you honor each other.

Concerning The Gods Know that the gods need our worship, even as we need food and drink [for there is nourishment in the energy of venera on]. Do not think that they serve us, for we are the servants. Therefore do not bargain or demand through prayer or ritual. The gods shall provide that which is needed [for they see the ends that we cannot, and they realize that needs outweigh desires]. Do not blame the sorrows of life upon the gods. For it is humankind that creates the despair on Earth. [The gods wish only a full life for us and a successful spiritual evolution.] Do not doubt the reality of the gods, for they do exist and are many. They have been since long before the people walked upon the earth. Yet as we are capable of understanding them, they are no older than ourselves. For they are not the personiďŹ ca ons, nor the images that we establish [and through which we commune]. But the gods do respond to us through these forms. We are linked to them by virtue of our yearning toward a higher nature [and that which we seek can

be found at the center of our being where the spark meets its source]. The gods are a racted to our rituals because of the sacred signs that we use [in which they recognize the descendants of those who openly venerated them], and because of our worship (which is vitality). They are a racted by the ritual fires and incense, and by the purity of our naked bodies. They give and take the vital essences that we both need, through the power that we raise [for it is in this that we interface with the gods]. Each god is like us for our ways are but reflec ons of theirs. Each God has likes and dislikes, and must be approached in accordance. Each God is linked to the culture of the people who give worship to it, and must be called by the appropriate es [for it is in established pa erns that the gods recognize themselves in connection with the people that call upon them]. Yet beyond all of this are the God and Goddess who together are the One; herein does the true worship belong [and that “truth” is the purity of the divine that is less diluted by the limita on of human perception and expectation].

Concerning The Goddess The goddess is the life force inasmuch as she is the fer lity in all things. It is through her ac vity that we are born, and that seeds push up through the earth and grow into plants. She moves the god to create through his desire for her. The goddess is the joy of life, she is the passion to live. Compassion, love, gentleness, and kindness are the essence of her spirit. All women carry the goddess within in various aspects and degrees. Yet there is a duality in all things, and the goddess can manifest as sterility, vengeance, and destruction. She is the soul of nature. The goddess rules the night, and the moon is her symbol. All women are linked to her through the moon, which influences the flow of blood. The night is the essence of the mystery which all women possess. This is the elusive quality which all women bear, but can never be known or touched upon. The desire of men for women is the desire of god for goddess. It is the a rac on of the life force. The goddess is known as the Queen of Heaven. She is clothed in stars and wears a silver crown adorned with a crescent moon. She is the Earth Mother, clothed in green and endowed with large breasts that rise as rounded hills rise beyond the lush green meadows. She is pregnant with the Child of Life, which she bears each year. She is the Virgin Maiden, naked and beau ful. She is youth and lust for life. She is the Enchantress and Temptress. She is all women. The goddess does not accept live sacrifices as were given in ancient mes. She is the goddess of life and all living things. She demands respect for life. If you give offerings in her honor, then better it be of fruits or grains, or things of beauty. The goddess is Queen of all the streghe, which she calls Her Hidden Children. We are her servants, she is not ours. She gives us life and receives us in the A erworld. She teaches us the ways of nature and spirit. She gives us power and magic. She reveals all mysteries and gives light to the night. And to the wise, she imparts her sacred name.

Concerning The God The god is known as the stern and demanding aspect of divinity. He is perceived as the death force that transforms. He is Lord of the A erworld who restores and rests the soul, which is prepared for a new life. This is performed through the union of the god and goddess.

Yet there is a duality in all things, and the god is also the vitality and strength. He is the sun, the Lord of Light. He can give life or death through his ac vity. He ascends and vitalizes all living things, but in his journey he descends and brings darkness and cold. This is his Realm of Shadows, to which he carries all departed beings. The god is the desire to create, dwelling in the state prior to crea on. Through the a rac on of the goddess he is moved to create. He is the Lord of the Heavens, clothed in the sun and bearing a golden rod. He is Lord of the Earth, horned and hooved. He is Lord of the A erworld, dark, lonely, stern, and just (thus are the two faces of Janus). Through him is order established and discipline mastered. He is the inner strength of the individual. He is the essence of inner strength and defense. Yet he is also the warrior and the destroyer. He is power and strength. All men bear His essence. He is all men. There is a side of the god that can be seen by those who desire to love him. It is a gentleness, a compassion, and an understanding. His gentleness comes from his awareness of his strength and power. His compassion is born of his understanding of justice. The god is sexual desire and virility within the male. He is a rac on, sensuality, and sexuality. He is physical nature, just as the goddess is spiritual nature. In death, He is the comforter and the renewer. He is the great ini ator and teacher. He rules the A erworld and dispels the darkness with his presence. He is the illuminator and reveals all that is hidden. He scatters all falsehoods and establishes truth.

Concerning Tana And Tanus Tana is the sacred name of the Great Goddess, she who is all goddesses. Upon the earth she is known as Fana, in the heavens she is Diana (the moon), and in the universe she is Tana (containing them all). Lakes, hills, streams, and beaches are sacred places to Tana. The animals that are sacred to her are dogs, owls, and cats. Her sacred plants are moonowers and willows. Lemons and apples are also sacred to Tana. Tana is all that is feminine. She is total beauty and love. She is the Divine Lover, Enchantress, Temptress, and Mother. At mes she is the eternal virgin, at mes the mother, but truly, she is free, loving, sexual, independent and powerful. Tana loves her followers with unequaled passion. She never forgets nor neglects her own. She is generous and protective to all who love her. Tanus is the Great God, who is all gods. On Earth He is Faunus, in the heavens He is Janus (the sun), and in the universe he is Tanus. All mountains are sacred to Tanus. His sacred animals are horses, wolves, woodpeckers, and ravens. His sacred plants are the fig tree, oak, dogwood, laurel, and the bean plant. Tanus is all that is masculine. He is strength and will. He is the power of fer lity (which is shared with Tana) and the desire behind all of creation. Tana is the source for all creation. At mes he is the hunter and provider, and at mes he is the destroyer. But truly he is wise and powerful. He is the freedom of things that are wild. He is loving and sexual, independent and powerful. Tanus loves his followers with a demanding love. He protects and provides, but he is stern and judgmental. He expects strict adherence to his ways and his laws. But he is always fair and just. Faunus is the Eternal Child, for we see in him the frolicsome Pan. Yet the noble side of

Faunus can be seen in the grace of a beau ful stag in the forest. We can see his spiritual nature in the circling of a hawk. And in the playful bun ng of young goats can we see the lighthearted Faunus. All of these are lesser reflections of Janus and Tanus in their own natures. Tana is the balance to Tanus, and he is the balance to her. Without Tana, the god would be a judge without compassion, He would be stern without understanding, He would control without loving. Without Tanus, the goddess would have compassion without direc on, understanding without foundation, love without form. The god and goddess complete each other, and together they are the One True Creator and Maintainer of the Universe.

Concerning Worship Remember to keep, and observe, all the sacred gatherings. For therein does the power flow, and emanate forth into our being [and in this we are bathed in the natural vibra on of the earth’s energy, which becomes condensed in the ritual circle, where we immerse ourselves and become one vibration]. Observe the time of the full moon, and all the Holy Days of the goddess. Honor the sun and moon, for they are the sacred symbols of the god and goddess (which they placed in the heavens as a token of their covenant with us). But do not worship them, for they are but images of the Great Ones [through which we interface and align with the source of all things at the center of our being]. And you who are priests and priestesses, remember the times of union (and the rite thereof). All acts of reverence toward nature, and towards life, are acts of worship. So is it too with love and pleasure. Therefore, let each day be your rituals of adora on to the Great Ones [for in bringing the Old Ways into everyday life we are the ambassadors of the gods whose essence emanates from nature].

The Times Of Gathering: Shadowfest: October 31st [through to the third day] Winter Solstice Lupercus: February [eve, and through to the 2nd day] Spring Equinox Tana’s Day: May Eve/May 1st Summer Solstice Cornucopia: August Eve Autumn Equinox The Holy Days: Festival of Diana: August 13th Festival of Fana: December 19th Festival of Tana: May 1st Festival of Jana: January 1st

Concerning Freedom We have been enslaved. We are persecuted, hunted, and murdered by the Chris an Church. We are outlaws. Because of our plight we have come to know the meaning of Freedom. To be free is the

essence of life. Freedom allows the mind, body, and spirit to be rid of shame, guilt, and restric on (which the Christians teach) [meaning that the teachings of Christianity instill shame, guilt, and restriction]. The freedom to act as you desire, without harming the innocent by your deeds, is the gi of Freedom. The Old Ways free us from the restric ons of society and the expecta ons of other people. Therefore, you shall be free. And as a sign that you are truly free, you shall be naked in your rites. And you shall sing, dance, and make love. [When we feel a resistance to this expression of freedom, it is wise to examine our feelings, and to discern whether or not this rises from the painful memories of mistreatment by others. If so, then through our resistance to the “signs of freedom” we are allowing past treatment to dominate our choices. It may also be that we surrender our free will to the mandates of social acceptance, taking the path of least resistance.]

Concerning The Law Of Return Every act that you perform will draw to itself three times the nature of the act (affecting us on three levels: the soul, mind, and body). Such is the Law [this means that one act has a threefold affect upon our being, but it does not mean that the energy of our ac ons come back to us with three times the intensity]. This affects not only the acts of each day, but reaches into the future as well. Here the Law establishes those debts that must be paid [meaning that the a achment of energy requires a resolution in order to eventually release its affect or influence]. Therefore, consider well your ac ons. Nothing escapes the Law, nor is anything hidden from it. The Law does not punish nor reward. It only returns the intent of each ac on to its origin [for the magnetic principle here is that “like attracts like”]. If you step off from a high place you will fall, and this is consistent. There is no intent, there is nothing good nor evil. It may be good to leap upon your enemy from a high place and surprise him, or it may be bad to fall and be injured. But the nature of the descent itself is only a law. So too is the nature of the Law of Return.

Concerning The Prophecies Now it shall come to pass that our ways will no longer be mere heresy in the eyes of the Church. But they shall make of our prac ces an evil thing, and they shall seek to destroy us. So shall they steal independence from the people, and make them dependent upon the Church and its priests. When the Pope shall come again into Rome and establish his power anew, then shall you know the first of all the sorrows. With this shall the eyes and ears of all the Churches be upon our ways. And they shall make strict laws against us. Then shall come the great sorrows, for they will openly hunt us down and slay us. In their prisons shall they torture us and create all manners of lies, forcing us to bear witness to all that they say. Not shall this me pass quickly, for the Church shall grow in power. But their me of power shall not last, for the Age of the Son will pass away, and the Age of the Daughter shall come upon the world in all its glory. Now when the Age of the Daughter shall come, then shall reason be restored and the world shall be complete. To herald the coming of the Daughter, and to keep it remembered upon the earth, there shall arise a prophet. And a prophet shall come among the people every two hundred years, [so] that

our ways shall not be forgotten. Then when the Age is near my prophet shall arise, and prepare the way for she who will establish reason. When the Age is near there shall be an awakening in the awareness of women, and their wills shall be asserted. Laws will then change and women shall walk in the ways of men. And the followers of the Old Religion shall receive a sign, for the last of the laws which persecute us shall vanish. In that year my prophet will be born, and will prepare the way for she who will come. This prophet shall be a teacher of the Old Ways, whom many will call the Silent Prophet. When the Age of the Daughter replaces that of the Son, then shall the Daughter appear and establish her power. And she shall be thirty-six at this me [this may be her physical age or have meaning as a colloquial expression, or be connected to some future symbolism of one nature or another]. Such changes will occur in the earth, which the people of that me have never seen before. And there shall be upheaval and renewal. Out of the ashes shall arise the new world of reason. People shall no longer be ruled by governments. Nor shall one people oppress another. There shall be no rulers, but only teachers and counselors. No one shall possess power over another, nor shall anyone restrict or control any other person. The earth shall be of one people, and they shall all live under the emana ng rays of love, peace, and reason.

Concerning Magic There is a force that dwells in all things, which is called the numen. The power of an object is the power of its numen. This essence has, of its own accord, a definite consciousness. If you are in harmony with the Ways, then you may call upon any numen that you desire, and it will assist you. This is but one aspect of magical rapport. Know that all things of the same nature (or essence) are as links in a chain. Through one you may influence the other. By this law do we make use of clay images [poppets]. Yet even the mind is linked by thoughts and has power to reach out on its own. The substance of magic is best controlled and directed through the use of ritual. Ritual a racts power, and through repe on it is then accumulated. Certain channels of power are formed through ritual, which becomes a link to the desired response or contact. Thus do we make use of the secret signs, symbols, and gestures (which are thus empowered). Repe on is necessary as well as is consistency. As streghe, we draw power down from the moon, and also do we draw power from nature. The god and goddess oversee our works, as do the Grigori. When our magic does not produce the desired effects, it is because a greater power resists its power. This is o en a sign that the nature of the magic was improper. Yet it can be that another strega works against you. If this becomes the matter, then seek this person out and resolve your differences. Understand that you must always work in harmony with the phases of the moon, and under the blessings of the God and Goddess, and in accordance with the laws and ways. The moon symbolizes the hidden things revealed in the darkness. The night is the side of life that is unknown. The light of the Moon is subtle and active on hidden levels. So too is our magic. The powers which are obtained through the knowledge of the Old Ways are neither good nor evil, it is only the way in which you use them that is good or evil [in the sense of human judgment and perception]. The mind is most recep ve to the influence of power when the person is intoxicated or

asleep (within two hours of awakening). This is true also of trance, which is induced through chant and dance. The mind that dreams (the subconscious) is directly linked to the Moon Worlds (the Astral Realms) just as the mind that knows the daylight (the conscious mind) is directly linked to the Physical World. It is through the dream mind that the Moon Worlds are contacted. It is through the Moon Worlds that magical influences, and magical forms, are created. These, in turn, influence the Physical World. It is the purpose of symbols to speak to the dream mind, and plant the magical seeds that will manifest. It is the purpose of rituals (and spells) to establish the pa erns of power. These patterns are established to either draw upon power or to raise power (or both). Magical and ritual correspondences are incorporated to take advantage of the numen qualities in objects, times of power, links to deities, and states of consciousness (awareness). The art of magic is a blending of inner or personal power with that of natural powers and divine powers.

Concerning The Elements There is a vaporous, subtle, and invisible quality to each of these things that are called the physical elements. The ancients have told us that all of crea on was brought into being when the Spirit drew the four elements unto itself. These elements are called Earth, Air, Fire and Water. And they are controlled by Spirit. Each of these elements possesses an etheric double. It is this essence which gives vitality, or fer lity, to the physical object [meaning that “physical form” exists because one or more ac ve elemental forces join together and establish a “conscious agreement” which in turn maintains a specific material form]. Just as the physical realms of ma er contain their own forms of life, so too do the etheric realms. These en es have been personified as the many spirits and creatures of myth and legend. It is their ac vity that creates and maintains the vital essence within all ma er [for the old teachings are that the elemental spirits animate nature]. The etheric powers of the elements also give potency to spells and works of magic. It is within their realms that magical powers ebb and flow. Thus are the spirits of the elements summoned to assist us.

Concerning The Grigori Before the people walked upon the world, there dwelt those beings which we call the Grigori [who are also known as the gray ones, or the misty ones]. Some have called them spirits and gods. Some have spoken of them as powers and forces. The old legends tell us that the Grigori once were physical beings, but that they are no longer. It is said they dwell among the stars. They are the Watchers of the Worlds, and of the entrances and exits to the [inner and outer] Worlds. Once it was said that the stars were the campfires of their armies, ever watching over us. The Grigori have set their towers at the four quarters of the world, and stand vigil over the portals which lay between the worlds [meaning that there is a consciousness that created and maintains an order to things pertaining to actions that influence the realms of existence]. Once they were called the powers of the air, and so did they come to be linked to the winds. Then were they known by the La n names of Boreas, Eurus, Notus, and Zephyrus. Yet these were but their titles. Know now their ancient names: Tago, Bellaria, Settrano, and Meana.

The Old Ones come to our rituals to witness our rites, for we have a covenant with them. So do they watch over our works and help us. Our covenant with them was established at the end of the Second Age, and from this time do we mark the years of our ways. The Grigori observe our rites, protect us, and escort us to the Moon Worlds when we pass from the Physical World.

Concerning Rebirth The human body will eventually fade away a er the death experience. Yet the soul cannot be destroyed, nor is it subject to physical ac ons or restric ons. A er the death of the body, the soul is still connected to its form for three days. For a period of seven days the soul is earthbound. After this it will be escorted by the Old Ones to the Moon Worlds. For the streghe, the desire is to enter the world of Luna and be prepared for rebirth. The streghe also desire to be born among the loved ones that he or she knew in lives that have passed. The ancient teachings tell us that the soul enters a cycle of seven lives through which it strives to be complete. Each cycle is followed by another un l the soul is complete and physical life is no longer necessary. The memory of a past life is o en hidden from the present consciousness so that each life is unique. Yet the memory can be recalled if truly desired. The memory of each life is contained within the soul. The soul is the true self. Each physical body (and personality) is only a garment worn by the soul. It is not important whether you are a man or a woman, for each is but a small lesson, and you shall be both many times. The Law of Return governs the life experience and condi on in each new life. But beyond all of this is the realm of Tartaru, which is the abyss. Here are the souls that are inclined toward evil. Here are they kept in restriction until the Great Ones decree their fate.

Concerning The Act Of Rebirth A er the death experience has been completed, then the soul is made ready to be born again. When a couple is engaged in sexual union, a whirlpool of energy (a vortex) is created above them. This energy a racts souls who are awai ng rebirth, from the plane which is harmonious to the energy of the union (the vortex is a composite aura of the couple). Once a racted, the soul will be drawn into the female womb and will enter into a new physical life (all conditions being procreant). Before being born again, the soul will obtain knowledge of the life to come. Then is the plan realized.

Concerning Luna Luna is the purest of all the Moon Worlds. It is where the soul is taken to rest and be renewed. It is the place of eternal youth. Here there is union with the Gods and with those streghe who have gone before. The portal to Luna is in the west, beyond the sunset and beyond the Ocean. Luna is a place of beau ful forests and meadows. A place of clear streams, rivers and lakes. Nature spirits inhabit these places as do all the beau ful creatures of ancient myth and legend. In Luna it is always summer. Each soul experiences Luna in the manner that is most suited to its life experience. This is as it should be.

In ancient mes, it was said that the shape of the Moon grew as it received the souls from the Physical World, and that it depleted as they were reborn. But we must realize that the moon is not truly the world of Luna, but only a symbol. Yet if you could see between the worlds, you would see that the moon is Luna. From the Physical World, and by the physical senses, you can never see or know the World of Luna.

Concerning The Astral Plane The Astral World, through the Plane of Forces, receives the thoughts and vibra ons of ac ons from the Physical World. Just as solid materials are used to create objects in our world, thoughts and vibrations create etheric objects on the Astral Plane. Therefore, what people strongly believe in enough can be created astrally. This is one method by which ritual magic is performed. Energy is first raised with a specific purpose in mind, then this is given up to the Plane of Forces, where it is drawn and channeled to the Astral World, and so obtains a thought form. The true purpose of the [inner realm of the] Astral Plane is to prepare us for future lives and existences by burning out (purifying), or exhaus ng, all of our fears, desires and false concepts. These bind us to the lower worlds. So it is our a erlife experiences in the lower astral worlds which transforms us [and this relates to the teaching of “release from a achment.” For anything that keeps our a en on (posi ve or nega ve) binds us to me, space and energy. This can stunt advancement or spiritual evolution. It is through non-attachment that we gain liberation]. The Astral World is under the Divine Law of Cause and Effect, ac on and reac on. It is the essence of the Three-fold Law [meaning that energy a aches itself, and the imprint of that energy contains a “recording” in terms of the vibra onal nature (what we call a feeling of good or evil). This “charged” energy that a aches itself to us is magne c in behavior and therefore draws “likeness” to it, and so we enter into a realm whose nature is like the nature reflected in our personal character]. The Astral Planes contain all the heavens and hells which the followers of all religions believe in. They will experience that which they believe awaits them [through their own judgment, which is why personal liberation from socially imposed codes of conduct is important]. On the Astral Plane, thoughts are things. And as you believe, so shall it be.

Concerning Christianity You have heard the Chris ans say that only through Jesus Christ can you enter into the Great Realm. So I tell you that Jesus was the spirit of love, and only by love may you enter in [meaning that true love is found in liberation from judgment]. You have heard the Chris ans say much concerning the teachings of Jesus, but how many have you seen follow them? So I say to you that Chris anity, as Jesus taught it, died with him on the cross. Even his own disciples were more concerned with their self-images, and self-importance. The Chris ans say that we are evil and dangerous, but who is the more so? They believe the world will end and teach others concerning this, speaking of the destruc on which their God will bring. The mind has great power, and many minds of one belief have much power (even to accomplish a great destruc on). So I say to you that there shall indeed be this me of sorrow [meaning that the ac ve belief of Chris ans in the Book of Revela ons, and its prophecy of death and destruc on, is brought about due to the power of many minds with the same vision]. But out of the ashes shall arise the new World of Reason. For the Great Ones shall use this to fulfill the plan, through the teachings of the Daughter.

There shall never be peace between our religions, for they ever strive against us. It is useless to a empt to reason with them, for they have never been known for their ability to reason. They choose to have faith in place of understanding. Therefore, it is best to avoid them so as not to anger them. For anger always follows lack of understanding. Remember also the me of persecu on to come, and reveal nothing to them that shall harm our people or our ways. It is sad that our ways of spirit cannot be extended to, nor be shared with, the Christians. Here End The Words Of Aradia

CHAPTER 8 WITCHES WITHOUT A GOSPEL In this closing chapter we will look at Italian witchcra outside of any connec on with the Aradia material. Witchcra in Italy existed before the me of Aradia, and obviously there were witches prac cing the ways at an earlier period. According to the legend of Aradia, she was taught by her aunt (or by some accounts a nanny). What form of witchcra did this woman prac ce? Did Aradia pass this on or did she redesign it into her own vision as a messianic figure? When we examine ancient Mediterranean witchcraft we find two basic concepts. The first is a magical system of a chthonic nature. The second is the calling upon of a goddess and spirits associated with the earth, night, stars, and moon. The ritual or magical tools of the witch at this me are the wand, dagger, and cauldron. There is also men on of the altar and of circling round the altar three mes. These are all classic components in the ancient tales of the Greek witch, Medea. Scholar Amy Wygant, in her wri ngs, presents an interes ng overview of Medea and the [163]

witchcra she prac ces. Using accounts given in Ovid’s ancient wri ngs, Wygant describes Medea se ng two altars, one of which is to her “tutelary goddess” Hecate. Wygant also refers to an image appearing in the work tled La Metamorphose d’Ovide figuree, by Bernard Salomon. It depicts Medea kneeling beneath a crescent moon in the sky with her hands clasped in prayer (and the caption reads that Medea prays to the stars using great words of sorcery). The connec on between witchcra and the stars is very ancient and yet s ll appears later in witchcra trials of the Chris an era. One example is found in the trial transcripts of a woman named Gabrina Albe who confessed to going out naked at night and worshipping the brightest star in the sky. This “star” would, of course, have been the planet Venus. Mythologist Ev Cochrane refers to Venus as the “witch star” in Babylonian lore: “If indeed the witch-like characteris cs of various goddesses reflect ancient concep ons associated with planet Venus, one would not be surprised to find an explicit connec on between the planet and witchcra . On this score the ancient sources will not disappoint. Babylonian astronomical texts denote the planet Venus as the ‘witch-star’ (kakakb kassaptu)…A reminiscence of the planet Venus as witch is also apparent in ancient Norse lore, as Grimmm pointed out long ago: ‘There is perhaps more of a mythic meaning in the name nah are for evening star’ (Heumanni opusc. 453.460), as the same word is used for the witch or wise-woman [164]

out on her midnight jaunt.” It is interes ng to note that the invoca ons spoken by Medea in the literary works of Roman poets such as Horace, Ovid, and Lucan, are strikingly similar to ancient Babylon invoca ons actually used centuries earlier. For example, compare the historical invoca on from Babylon with two literary Roman texts: BABYLONIAN:“I invoke you, gods of the night, with you I invoke the night, the veiled bride, I invoke (the three watches of the night) the evening watch, the midnight watch, and the dawn watch...stand by me, O Gods of the Night! Heed my words, O gods of des nies, Anu, Enlil, Ea, and the great gods! I call to you, Lady of the silence of the night, I call to you, O’ Night, bride ...” ROMAN:“Night and Diana, who command silence when secret mysteries are performed, now aid me; now turn your vengeance and influence against my enemies’ houses...” ROMAN:“Night, trus est keeper of my secrets, and stars who, together with the moon, follow

on from the fires of the daylight, and you Hecate of the three heads, who know all about my designs and come to help the incanta ons and the cra of the witches, and Earth, who furnish witches with powerful herbs, and Breezes, Winds, Mountains, Rivers, and Lakes, and all the gods of the groves and all the gods of the night, be present to help me. Night-wandering queen, look kindly upon this undertaking.” It is in the ancient references and views that we see something of the witch as she was in the days of an quity. How the witch evolved over the centuries is the topic of much debate, and there are people who believe that the witch (in whichever region she or he lived) remained the same despite the cultural transforma ons brought by conquerors and poli cs. However we view history, we must consider that the witch who lived in a city, town, village, or forest co age had different experiences and environments that colored his or her witchcra . There was no “one size fits all” but there were certainly elements that separated the witch from the sorceress. The primary element that separated the witch from the sorceress was the pagan orienta on and how this maintained the witch’s view of spirits and dei es (as well as defining the rela onship). When we examine the invoca ons/evoca ons used by witches (as appearing in ancient wri ngs) they seem to indicate a partnership between the witch and what she desires to summon. This is evidenced by such phrases as “come to my aid” and other words of that nature. The sorceress on the other hand seems to demand and command without the proper sense of partnership (and, in effect, behaves like the cruel master). Once the witch and the sorceress become conflated it is difficult to sort out the differences. Witchcra in Italy has long been a secret art and one that is not taught publicly. The few things known about witchcra are the things that the witch’s client saw performed on his or her behalf. More o en than not these things were misunderstood or misinterpreted by the non-witch who was, a er all, an outsider not trained to comprehend the symbols, gestures, chants, and paraphernalia of the witch. This confused view of the non-witch, retold to friends and family, formed the ideas about witchcra that are now within the public domain. These misrepresenta ons were eventually wri en about and discussed and over me became the public [165]

knowledge, which people then grew up believing to be the reality. The majority of what the witch believed and prac ced was never displayed or spoken about publicly, not even with clients. The witch’s clients saw only the occasional spell or some type of divinatory work (the outer forms). Therefore very li le of what comprised Italian witchcra was ever know by non-witches. Today the ma er is complicated by the fact that some people decide they are witches even though they have not been trained by an actual witch. Some of these grew up in families that prac ced bits of folk magic. These individuals mistake folk magic for witchcra , and believing themselves to be witches they are unable to recognize authen c witchcra because it [166]

doesn’t match what they knew growing up. The idea of a family tradi on of witchcra is a very old one. Seventeenth-century Witch Hunter Francesco Guazzo believed that witchcra was passed through family lines. Concerning this belief, Guazzo wrote: “The infec on of witchcra is o en spread through a sort of contagion to children by their fallen parents, when these study to find favour with their Cacodemons by so doing. For the greed of Satan was ever infinite and insa able: thus, when once he has go en a foothold on any family, he is never known to relinquish it except with the greatest difficulty. And it is one among many sure and certain proofs against those who are charged and accused of witchcra , if it be found

that their parents before them were guilty of this crime. There are daily examples of this inherited taint in children, for the devil is always busy to increase the number of his own. And there can be no more frui ul means of a aining this end than by urging and compelling those [167]

who are already in his power to corrupt their children.” Naturally not all witchcra comes from family tradi ons. There have always been outsiders taught by hereditary families for a variety of reasons (including marriage, roman c involvement, and in special cases to ensure the survival of the teachings when family lines were ending). These are the non-blood witches who went on to teach others. They o en have a singular interest in the art of magic and divina on, passing only this type of the witchcra on to others (usually for a fee or service). Most of these witches have no religious involvement in the old ways, and were/are the most common witches from which people obtain charms and have their fortunes told. There is another type of prac oner in Italy that is o en mistaken for a witch, however this person always maintains that she or he is a Chris an. One example is a woman named Vanna who lived in Sicily in the 1920s. Author Eliza Heaton describes her in the book By-Paths in Sicily (E.P. Du on & Company, 1920) and shares an encounter with the woman. Vanna was a woman who lived between the worlds. She venerated the Madonna and was also dedicated to the fairy cult of old Sicily. She bore the nickname “the grasshopper eater” (in Italy grasshoppers have long been associated with magic and chthonic sects). Vanna wore what the author calls “elf locks” – two long braids of hair that designate one who belongs to the fairies. Heaton writes: “These tails were the ‘trizzi.’ Never cut, never combed, treated with respec ul neglect which is their proper care, they marked Gna Vanna as a person living under a spell; the protégée from birth of the mysterious ‘women of the outside,’ or ‘women of the house’ – the li le ‘ladies’ who have many names. Her fearsome pixy locks set Vanna apart as one who, taught by witches, [168]

possessed some at least of the seven faculties of the witch…”

Elf Locks Vanna was asked what would happen if her braids were cut, and she replied that she would literally meet her death. Even if the braids were to be undone and combed, something would s ll happen to Vanna. Her belief in the power of the elf locks was very strong because they connected

her to the ancient and mys cal beings of the fairy realm, known to her as the ronni. Heaton writes of Vanna: “With much drama c gi the weird old creature told me how some mes in the night she waked to see in her room twenty-four lovely little ‘women of the house’, ladies and fairies.” “When the ‘ronni’ appeared the whole room glowed with light. They wore bright, beau ful clothing and some mes they sang. Some mes they talked in ny li le voices, but mostly they were mute. Some mes they played games. One of their favorite tricks was to pitch ‘the old man,’ whom they did not like, out of bed. Once when ‘the old man’ would give her nothing to eat they showed her the key of the box where he kept bread and wine. Some mes they caressed her hair and made new tresses.” “Li ing her gray locks she pointed out li le curls against her neck, sacred like the tresses. But even she was not safe from their anger. Some mes, if she went bare-footed, they gave her bea ngs because they insist on cleanliness. She pulled up her skirts to show her white, well-kept flesh. Oftenest of all they danced.” “I looked on dazed while Vanna the grasshopper-eater whirled around the room in a wild dance in imita on of the ronni, her brown, wrinkled face full of uncanny anima on, yellow eyes glowing, elf-locks swinging, her grotesque hops scaring the hen out of the nest under the fireplace.” “Not scanning details too closely, I did not doubt the good faith of words or ac ons, because I have long understood with what literal truth Pitre says that in certain environments we cannot listen to tales told in all honesty without remaining uncertain ‘whether these men and these women are a prey to con nual visions, or whether we ourselves are dreaming with our eyes open.’ Rather through this woman so garrulous and so secre ve, so simple and so shrewd, so vindic ve and yet so kindly, so credulous and so posi ve, I seemed to catch glimpses of an obscure brain-life like that of a witch of the fifteenth century.” “Up to a certain point she would believe in herself and others would believe in her. Witches have always carried magic in their hair, and hence the foes of witches have cut it off. [169]

Sibilla herself was unkempt and her hair tangled like a horse’s mane.” Vanna most o en wore her braids coiled around a small dagger which she inserted into her hair to secure the braids in place. Heaton writes the local people o en came to Vanna because she wore the braids and gave her gi s because they desired her prayers. Vanna explained to Heaton that the people had no faith in the priests for the priests have no power: “The priests speak against these razioni, but they themselves cannot help the people. What do priests do but say the mass and eat and sleep? If people want my help they must come to me; therefore they respect me. I cannot read prayers out of a book, but I have many wri en [170]

in my mind. Always for good, never for evil, are they.” Heaton men ons a love spell that Vanna created for a man she wanted to help. This spell involved a red thread ed into three knots while Vanna kneeled at the window looking at a star in the night sky. Vanna recited an invocation to the star and she also evoked “the devil of Mt. Etna” in the love spell. Heaton asks Vanna why she calls upon “the evil one” and Vanna replies because “he has great power.” But, as Heaton points out, Vanna always “tacks on” a “Holy Trinity tag” at the end of every enchantment. This is a Christian marker, and Vanna insists that she is Christian. At the end of the spell, Vanna looked back upon the star to see whether it had “shut and then opened again.” Vanna explains that this sign means the star heard the prayer and is in agreement

with it. She ends by saying to Heaton “Our stars give us the grace we ask of them.” During her me with Vanna, Heaton (seeking a reac on) read to her from a book, the following passage: “Do thou, my Lady Moon, shine clear and fair, for so ly, Goddess, to thee will I sing, and to Hecate of hell. The very whelps shiver before her as she fares through black blood and across the barrows of the dead. Hail, awful, Hecate! To the end be thou of our company…” Vanna remarked that for something from a book it was not bad. The type of magic used by Vanna is very old, but as we can see it includes newer elements such as the inclusion of the Devil (who Vanna curiously refers to as Saint Devil). In Italy we find a fusion of old magic with Chris an “power” added to it. One example is a love spell that requires a red cord. The cord must be smuggled into a Catholic church and be hidden inside a shawl. At the moment of the consecra on of the host, the cord must be ed with three knots, and the following words must be whispered: “I do not come to mass to hear, nor yet to worship Christ so dear. I come to bind with this my noose; I bind, I tie, I do not loose till my love does all my pleasure. His feet I tie with this my noose his hands I bind, I do not loose till my love does all my pleasure” But in this type of magic are we looking at witchcra and the work of witches? No, for these prac ces are folk magic at best, or sorcery at the very least. What separates the witch from the people using spells that incorporate Chris an elements is the absence of a belief in Chris an power. The witch of old Italy relied upon pagan spirits and the power of ancient sites, along with the relics of associated symbols and charms. We catch glimpses of her in the field studies of 19th century folklorists in Italy. In the book Home Life in Italy: Le ers from the Apennines, by Lina Gordon, the author talks about the Italy she knew in 1908: “In Italy we live in two worlds, the old and the new. We are among a people in the process of awakening: the greater number of them are shaking themselves free of tradi on and searching for something to replace the ancient order of things which as yet they have not found; but others, mostly peasants and ar sans, are s ll content with the beliefs and customs of their [171]

fathers.” The author goes on to describe the prevalence of what she calls supers on in Italy. One example is that of discovering who has cast illness upon a child. This involves taking the sick child’s clothing and placing it in the family cauldron. As the water begins to boil, and the clothing starts to tumble in the bubbling water, a sign will come as to who has cast the spell. The author writes she witnessed this, and that when the water began to boil, a knock came at the door. When the visitor saw the boiling clothes in the cauldron, she broke down and begged for forgiveness. Gordon makes men on of an old technique for breaking the spell of the evil eye. To do this requires a black cat. As night falls, just at the me when the lights are being lighted, the cat is to be grasped by the hind quarters. The cat must mew seven mes and then immediately be released. The seventh mew will make the evil eye (malocchio) disappear. The author writes of an illiterate man she knows who is named Pietrino. Because he cannot

read or write, Pietrino keeps “his accounts on a notched s ck” from which he recalls tales of magic. One of Pietrino’s stories involved a local man who possessed “a wonderful book in which were wri en all the secrets of the magic art.” The man became prosperous through the powers of the book, but one day it was destroyed by fire when his son got hold of it. The house was destroyed along with the book and the boy. Gordon states that the local spirits of the Fortezza are restrained by holy water sprinkled by priests on Easter. But she writes that: “Only ten miles away up the valley the witches s ll dance of a night in a half-ruined house just above the road. Strange lights appear at the window, and the witches dance in a circle round a cauldron, ‘naked as they were born.’ How my friends, who pass beneath the house at a trot with their heads muffled in their shawls, know all this, is very wonderful, [172]

but then Italians always seem to know more than they see.” The author comments on a local witch called Violante: “The witch of flesh and blood, to whom the disappointed lovers go, to weave strange spells and brew love po ons, live in quiet back streets in the towns or are to be found in isolated hill villages. One old fortune-teller, a real strega, I found at Carrara. La Violante lived in a low quarter of the town, to which Mariannina’s cousin refused to conduct us, but one morning we escaped his vigilance and paid her a hasty visit. Her one room gave on a side road, and through the half-open door we saw a bed, a bare table, and a li le charcoal range; the lintel was guarded by a small bas-relief of the Madonna. Dressed in a patched gown, a tawny kerchief on her head, beneath which fell a few wisps of white hair, La Violante looked as poor as her lair. But Mariannina says that a good many soldi are hidden away somewhere, for she has an appointment for every moment of the day and no one gives her ‘less than twopence and sometimes they give her a silver franc.’ ” “She shot stealthy glances at me and kept up a running commentary as she threw the greasy cards in fantas c pa erns upon the table: ‘Oh, I tell the truth—proprio la verita—and if you come on Friday the cards go best of all. My clients all know that La Violante is as good as her word, they are not always so good at keeping a bargain. Only the other day I foretold that a Signora would give birth to a son. ‘Now, Violante,’ she said, ‘if you are right I’ll give you a new cloak.’ Well, the Signora got her son but I never got my cloak.’ And her eyes twinkled, though she shook her head sadly.” “ ‘Fiori, fiori, fiori’ mumbled Violante as she turned up the court cards, ‘and they are all fiori del Morettino,’ for the dark-haired knave always appeared at every cut of the pack.” “ ‘Do you know a More no who is in love with you?’ and she turned on me a searching look, but she evidently did not expect me to answer so compromising a question.” “ ‘My husband is fair,’ I remarked.” “ ‘Yes, there is a Biondino too, but Ecco il More no, who loves you well: here are le ers to delight you and all good things, always from the More no, Flowers, flowers, flowers, from the little dark one.’ ” “The absurd thing was that Violante predicted I should receive a le er containing a sum of money, which was to be en rely for myself, and within a fortnight I received a small and totally unexpected legacy, which arrived by cheque in a le er. Consequently, Mariannina now believes more than ever in La Violante, and keeps a sharp look out for the Morettino.” “In Naples you can get a witch to knock, with many charms and incanta ons, twenty-four clout-headed nails, and six wire nails, into a green lemon, and fasten them together with string, which must be crimson. ‘Then you put this deadly symbol, Fa ura della Morte, in the house of


your enemy and await the result.’ ”

Violante the Witch from Home Life in Italy: Letters from the Apennines It is in this depic on of the witch that we find a non-Chris an flavor, and indeed there are witches in Italy that will s ll do this kind of work for hire. It is an example of how the absence of a [174]

religious or spiritual center can result in “an -social” forms of witchcra . Italian witchcra tradi ons that possess a spiritual/religious center do not use the arts to harm the innocent. However, it needs to be known that anyone who provokes the witch has thereby lost the protection of being an innocent. One last type of witch must be included in this chapter. This is one who works with an en ty called the Devil. However, this en ty is not acknowledged as the fallen angel of Judeo-Chris an mythology. Therefore this is not Satan, but is instead a powerful spirit of the dark night. The use of the term “the Devil” is used by these witches to ins ll fear in the minds and hearts of their enemies (for fear is a “raised power” that can be tapped by witches of this sort). However, in this form of witchcraft there are obvious Christian elements contaminating an older model. One example of the devilish witches of Italy is found in an ar cle wri en on Neapolitan [175]

witchcra by folklorist J.B. Andrews. Although typical in many ways of the stereotype depic on of witchcra , the ar cle does present some valuable elements obtained by Andrews directly from na ve Italians who iden fied themselves as witches. Of par cular interest is the men on of witchcra being passed within family lines, and the reference to tradi onal teachings not taken from available published books (of the period). Also noteworthy is the statement that witchcra is divided into specialty arts. The article deals with them in the realms of earth, sea, and stars. In the ar cle by Andrews we encounter the stereotypical non-sense regarding witches flying and being in league with the Chris an Devil. While this type of distor on makes it difficult to discern the authen c elements, a keen eye can discover small gems that point to a living tradi on of Italian witchcra during the 19th century. The lore recorded in this ar cle is both deligh ul and disturbing. The authentic elements include: Colored cords used in knot magic The mystical use of shadows The connection of the moon in spell casting

The employment of pins and needles in spell casting Invocations of stars The use of body fluids for magical purposes The crossroads as a place to perform magic The Christianized distortions include: Invocation of the devil Pact with the devil Grave robbing (although using bones in magic is authentic) Diabolism Andrews gives the following description of this sect of witches: “There are special departments of the art - there is that of the earth and of the sea having their special adepts. The first will only be treated of now; any witch can, however, render service to sea-faring folk, in giving a good haul of fish or aver ng a storm. Amongst witches by birth are women born on Christmas Eve, or on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Whoever invokes the devil on Christmas Eve before a mirror may become a witch.” “An instruc on in the methods is by itself sufficient; it is frequently given by the mother to her daughter, but not exclusively; any one may learn the art, even those knowing only a single incanta on can make use of it. When a new witch has completed her educa on, the two women open a vein in their arms; having mixed the blood, the older witch makes a cross with it under the le thigh of her pupil, who says: ‘Croce, croce, sciagurata sono.’ There is no visible sign by which to detect them, they recognize one another by looking into their eyes; then the one who first leaves salutes the other by striking her with her le hand on the le shoulder and simply [176]

saying: ‘Me ne vo.’ ” The spirits of “devils” evoked in this form of witchcra include the Diavolo Zoppo (the lame devil), Lucibello, Lurdino, Lurdinino, Quisisizio, Turbionone, Scartellato, and Baldassare. It is reportedly dangerous to work with these beings and care is taken by the witch who works with them. The inherit dangers of working with “Otherworld” beings is something every true witch understands and takes into account. Andrew’s witches are frequently called upon by people seeking love spells. It is interes ng to note, that in ma ers of love, witches undertake to punish the unfaithful. Andrews reports that they: “prepare three cords with knots, a black cord for the head, red for the heart, white for the sexual organs. To cause pain in the head, they take hold of the black cord, gaze at a star, and say: ‘Stella una, stella due, stella tre, stella qua ro, io le cervella di N–– a acco, glide a acco tanto forte, che per me possa prendere la morte.’ This is repeated five mes outside the witch’s door. For the heart, say: ‘Buona sera, buona sera, N-- mio, dove e` stato? Diavolo da me non e` accostato; diavolo, [177]

tu questa sera me lo devi chiamare e qui me lo devi portare.’ ” Portraying witches as the avengers of infidelity is a change from the stereotypes we typically encounter. In contrast to the evil witch figure intent on bringing harm to the community, Andrews describes a different natured witch. His field studies uncover witches who can be hired to break spells. They also can perform healing. Andrew states that “some mes a dance of naked witches takes place round the bed of a sick person, recalling the devil dances in Ceylon, the object of both being to cure the illness. There must be three or five witches; if five, one remains at the back, one stands at each corner of the bed, holding between them cords which must cross the bed diagonally,


then dancing, they sing…” Andrews states that the witches he interviewed cannot cast the Evil Eye on people but they know how to avert its influence. This report is contrary to the belief of the average Italian na ve that it is the witch who casts the Evil Eye on people. In this we see an example of the difference between a common belief and the actual view of practitioners. The author concludes his ar cle by wri ng: “The foregoing informa on was obtained quite recently from witches in Naples. When asked what books they used, they answered None, that their knowledge is en rely tradi onal. The incanta ons, o en composed in verse, have become in me so damaged that it has seemed be er not to a empt to indicate the verses. S ll, literal accuracy in repea ng the spells is believed to be of the greatest importance. A scarred tongue was shown to me [179]

as the consequence of a mistake.” In this chapter we have looked at various customs and tradi ons associated with witchcra . Whether or not they are authen c forms of witchcra , and belong to the defini on of witchcra , is an ongoing debate. I believe, that in a remark made by Maddalena (Leland’s witch informant), we can find the point of balance. Leland gives this account of Maddalena words: “ ‘I call myself a Catholic—oh, yes—and I wear a medal to prove it.’ —here she, in excitement, pulled from her bosom a saint’s medal — ‘but I believe in none of it all. You know what I believe.’ ‘Si; la vecchia religione’ (‘the old faith’), I answered, by which faith I meant that strange, diluted old Etrusco-Roman sorcery which is set forth in this book. Magic was her real [180]

religion.” In summary, we have seen that there are several forms of witchcra that are na ve to Italy. We have also seen that the form of witchcra associated with Aradia (stregheria) does not contain [181]

them all. Stregheria is but one form of Italian witchcra . We also noted in this chapter that other customs and tradi ons are regarded as witchcra by na ve Italians. However, it has also been revealed that even na ves can, and do, misunderstand things related to the culture in which they are raised. We live in a me when the “Old Ways” of both the witch and the non-witch are disappearing within regional cultures. On the Internet we find much bickering about what is authen c and what is not. There is a great deal of mean-spiritedness on various internet forums that discuss Italian witchcra , and here we encounter character assassina on, nega ve depic ons, and a plethora of unsubstantiated charges (which some people accept as fact). This ill behavior is a “turn-off” for many readers seeking informa on and guidance, and many of them lose interest in pursuing the path further. When they behold prac oners openly displaying juvenile behavior, it harms the Old Ways we all profess to honor. How can anyone respect the tradi ons and customs we say we love, when we the people who preserve them throw mud on one another? In the end, ironically, we may be contribu ng to the demise of these old tradi ons simply because we fail to show the true spirit of those who love the Old Ways, but instead choose to show the ugly face of misguided bigotry. This is all nonsense, and should be discouraged.


Charles Godfrey Leland Charles Leland was a folklorist and prolific author of books on a wide range of topics. In the field of witchcra he is most noted for his books Aradia; or the Gospel of the Witches, and Etruscan Roman Remains. His 19th century field studies in Italy revealed what he regarded as the existence of a surviving “Witch Cult” from ancient mes. Elements of what he discovered about Italian witchcra were later adopted into author Gerald Gardner’s form of witchcra in England (most noted is the opening paragraph of the Charge of the Goddess). Many people today think of Gerald Gardner as the founder of modern witchcra (or Wicca). Gardner’s books on witchcra (published in the 1950s and 1960s) brought about a growing interest in the Old Religion of pre-Chris an Europe. However, over half a century earlier, Leland wrote on many of the same topics, which were later popularized through Gardnerian witchcra . Some examples include the theme of witches mee ng at the me of the full moon, being nude in ritual, calling their ways The Old Religion, celebra ng with ritual cakes and wine, and worshipping a god and a goddess. All of these components appear in Leland’s wri ngs on Italian witchcra circa 1896. Despite this fact, many people regard them as Wiccan crea ons on the part of Gerald Gardner (thereby rejec ng the reality of their earlier existence in Italian witchcra as depicted by [182]

Charles Leland). In Chapter four of his book Gypsy Sorcery & Fortune Telling, published in 1891, Leland makes the earliest connection between Wicca and modern witchcraft: “as for the English word witch, Anglo-Saxon Wicca, comes from a root implying wisdom...” Leland’s footnote here reads: “Witch. Mediaeval English wicche, both masculine and feminine, a wizard, a witch. Anglo-Saxon wicca, masculine, wicce feminine. Wicca is a corrup on of witga, commonly used as a short form of witega, a prophet, seer, magician, or sorcerer. Anglo-Saxon [183]

witan, to see, allied to witan, to know...”

Of interest is Leland’s “pre-Gardnerian” reference to Wicca as witchcra . Of special interest is the fact that no single element of the basic structure of Gardnerian witchcra (Wicca) is absent in Leland’s earlier wri ngs. The only excep on is the clear men on of a ritual circle. However, in the

Italian witch-hunters manual (Compendium Maleficarum, 1608) we do find a woodcut of Italian witches gathered in a circle traced upon the ground. Therefore the historical support for this aspect of Italian witchcra may have been obvious enough for Leland to have felt no need to address it specifically.

Woodcut of witches gathered in a circle traced upon the ground from the Compendium Maleficarum But who was this Leland character, and why should we take par cular no ce of his wri ngs in the first place? Charles Godfrey Leland was a famous folklorist who wrote several classic texts on English gypsies and Italian witches. He was born in Philadelphia on August 15, 1824 and died in Florence, Italy, on March 20, 1903. Leland was fascinated by folk lore and folk magic even as a child, and went on to author such important works as Etruscan Roman Remains, Legends of Florence, The Gypsies, Gypsy Sorcery, and Aradia; or the Gospel of the Witches. In 1906 a two volume biography of Charles Godfrey Leland was wri en by his niece Elizabeth Robins Pennell. In Chapter one, recounting his personal memoirs, Pennell writes of his infancy: “In both the ‘Memoirs’ and the ‘Memoranda’ he tells how he was carried up to the garret by his old Dutch nurse, who was said to be a sorceress, and le there with a Bible, a key, and a knife on his breast, lighted candles, money, and a plate of salt at his head: rites that were to [184]

make luck doubly certain by helping him to rise in life, and become a scholar and a wizard.” Pennell goes on to tell us that Leland’s mother claimed an ancestress who married into “sorcery.” Leland writes in his memoirs: “my mother’s opinion was that this was a very strong case of atavism, and that the mysterious ancestor had through the ages cropped out in me.” The biography of Charles Leland is filled with accounts of his early interest in the supernatural, an interest that turned to a life long passion. Of this passion Pennell writes: “It is what might be expected...of the man who was called Master by the witches and Gypsies, whose pockets were always full of charms and amulets, who owned the Black Stone of the Voodoos, who could not see a bit of red string at his feet and not pick it up, or find a pebble with a hole in it and not add it to his store - who, in a word, not only studied witchcra with the impersonal curiosity of the scholar, but practised it with the zest of the initiated.”184 As a young boy Leland grew up in a household that employed servants. According to Pennell, Leland learned of fairies from the Irish immigrant women working in his home, and from the black servant women in the kitchen he learned about Voodoo. Leland writes of his boyhood: “I was always given to loneliness in gardens and woods when I could get into them, and to hearing words in [185]

bird’s songs and running or falling water.” Pennell notes that throughout Leland’s life, he could never get away from the fascination of the supernatural, nor did he ever show any desire to do so.

Fluent in several foreign languages, at age eighteen Leland wrote an unpublished manuscript, an English transla on of Pymander of Trismegistus, a herme c text now commonly known as Hermes Trismegistus: His Divine Pymander. The Pymander, as it was o en called for short, was the founda on for much of the herme c wri ngs that inspired many Western Occul sts during the later part of the nineteenth century and early part of the twentieth century. In 1870 Leland moved to England where he eventually studied Gypsy society and lore. Over the course of me he won the confidence of a man named Ma y Cooper, king of the Gypsies in England. Cooper personally taught Leland to speak Romany, the language of the Gypsies. It took many years before Leland was totally accepted by the Gypsies as one of their own. In a le er dated November 16th, 1886 Leland wrote to Pennell: “...I have been by moonlight amid Gypsy ruins with a whole camp of Gypsies, who danced and sang...” Having penetrated their mysteries to such a degree, Leland went on to author two classic texts on Gypsies, establishing himself as an authority on the subject among the scholars of his time. In 1888 Leland found himself in Florence, Italy, where he lived out the remainder of his life. It was here that Leland met a woman whom he always referred to as Maddalena. She reportedly worked as a “card reader” telling fortunes in the back streets of Florence, and later married a man named Lorenzo Bruciatelli. Leland soon discovered that Maddalena was a witch, and employed her to help gather material for his research on Italian witchcraft. Maddalena introduced Leland to another woman named Marie a who assisted her in providing him with research materials. Pennell, who inherited the bulk of Leland’s notes, le ers, and unpublished materials, refers to Marie a as a sorceress but Leland’s own descrip on of her in his published works is less clear. At one point Leland mused, in a le er to Pennell dated June 28th, 1889, that Maddalena and Marie a might be inven ng various verses and passing them off as something of an quity. However, Leland seems to have had a change of heart, as reflected in another letter to Pennell written in January of 1891. Here Leland writes: “It turns out that Maddalena was regularly trained as a witch. She said the other day, you can never get to the end of all this Stregheria - witchcra . Her memory seems to be inexhaus ble, and when anything is wan ng she consults some other witch and always gets it. It is part of the educa on of a witch to learn endless incanta ons, and these I am sure were originally Etruscan. I can’t prove it, but I believe I have more Etruscan poetry than is to be found in all the remains. Maddalena has wri en me herself about 200 pages of this folklore – [186]

incantations and stories.” In another le er dated April 8, 1891 (wri en to Mr. Macritchie) Leland indicates s ll other witches who assisted him in his research: “...But ten mes more remarkable is my MS. on the Tuscan Tradi ons and Floren ne Folk Lore. I have actually not only found all of the old Etruscan gods s ll known to the peasantry of the Tuscan Romagna, but what is more, have succeeded in proving thoroughly that they are s ll known. A clever young contadino and his father (of witch family), having a list of all the Etruscan gods, went on market days to all the old people from different parts of the country, and not only took their tes mony, but made them write cer ficates that the Etruscan Jupiter, Bacchus, etc. [187]

were known to them. With these I have a number of Roman minor rural deities, &c.” In Florence, Leland spent all of his spare me collec ng witch lore, and purchasing items of an quity as he chanced upon them. In a le er wri en to Mary Owen, Leland says “I have been living in an atmosphere of witchcra and sorcery, engaged in collec ng songs, spells, and stories of

sorcery, so that I was amused to hear the other day that an eminent scholar said that I could do well [188]

at folk-lore, but that I had too many irons in the fire.” Leland describes the Italian witches he met as “living in a bygone age.” It was an age that Leland apparently longed for himself. Leland, apparently, did more than interview Italian witches, or simply share their company. A passage from his book Etruscan Roman Remains strongly suggests that Leland was himself ini ated into stregheria, as indicted in the last sentence of the following: “But, in fact, as I became familiar with the real, deeply seated belief in a religion of witchcra in Tuscany, I found that there is no such great anomaly a er all in a priest’s being a wizard, for witchcra is a business, like any other. Or it may come upon you like love, or a cold, or a profession, and you must bear it ll you can give it or your prac ce to somebody else. What is pleasant to reflect on is that there is no devil in it. If you lose it you at once become good, and you cannot die ll you get rid of it. It is not considered by any means a Chris anly, pious possession, but in some strange way the strega works clear of Theology. True, there are witches good and bad, but all whom I ever met belonged en rely to the buone. It was their rivals and enemies who were malade e streghe, et cetera, but the la er I never met. We were all [189]

good.” There is another passage given in the same book. In the chapter tled “Witches and Witchcra ” Leland is interviewing a strega, and asks her how a certain priest became a stregone. In doing so he asks her how he (the priest) “came to prac se our noble profession.” By the use of the term “our noble profession” Leland seems to be referring to the strega and himself as being part of something which the priest had also joined. One of the most puzzling aspects of Leland’s wri ngs on Italian witchcra is the fact that he goes back and forth between speaking of witchcra in common Chris an stereotypes of the period and portraying witches as “good” and “noble” followers of the goddess Diana instead of the devil. His book Aradia; Gospel of the Witches is certainly a shocking turn from his general theme of the good witches of Benevento. Was he trying to please both sides or was he laying the founda on for a greater revela on to come? Perhaps we may never know, as Leland died without comple ng his work on Italian witchcra . One of his last wishes was to ask that someone compile all of the material he had wri en on the subject into one single volume. This sen ment is expressed in the appendix at the close of Leland’s book Aradia, in which he writes: “It would be a great gratification to me if any among those into whose hands this book may fall, who may possess informa on confirming what is here set forth, would kindly either [190]

communicate it or publish it in some form, so that it may not be lost.” I am currently nearing comple on on such a project. It is tenta vely tled The Witches’ Lore: A Compila on of the Wri ngs of Charles Leland on Italian Witchcra , and I expect to have it published in the summer or fall of 2010.


Maddalena Taluti In the history of Italian witchcra there is perhaps no figure more mysterious than the witch known as Maddalena. As described by folklorist Charles Leland in several of his books, Maddalena was an Italian fortune teller and witch. She supplied Leland with a great deal of Italian witch lore including the text he later published as the Aradia: or Gospel of the Witches in 1899. Maddalena was also known to folklorists Roma Lister and Lady de Vere (to who she was introduced as “Margherita”). New findings related to Maddalena have recently come to light through some research I conducted at the Library of Congress. At the Pantheacon conference, on February 17th, 2008, I presented a copy of a page from The Interna onal Folklore Congress: Papers and Transac ons, 1891. On page 454, Maddalena’s name appears as a contributor to an exhibit presented by Charles Leland. Her name is given as Maddalena Talu . In the modern Pazzaglini transla on of Aradia, contribu ng writer professor Robert Mathiesen wrote that he believed Maddalena’s last name to be Talen . In light of new findings he is incorrect, but he does state that her name was almost illegible in the document he examined. According to Leland, in his book Etruscan Roman Remains, Maddalena was originally from the [191]

town of Rocca Casciano, which is now called Rocca San Casciano. It is located in the Province of Forli-Cesena in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. She reportedly traveled a great deal, making a living telling fortunes and selling charms. According to Leland, Maddalena claimed to have been trained in a family tradi on of Italian witchcra , which was passed on to her by her aunts and by her step-mother. The Aradia material obtained for Leland differs greatly from the material that Maddalena had previously supplied to him. In the book Etruscan Roman Remains, Leland describes the witches of Italy as being both good and bad. By contrast the Aradia material portrays witches in a nega ve light. It is noteworthy that he describes a group that he calls the “beau ful witches of Benevento.” This will later contrast sharply with his depiction of witches in the Aradia material. A er receiving material from Maddalena, which became the founda on for the books Legends of Florence and Etruscan Roman Remains, Leland made another request. In 1886, he asked Maddalena to try and locate a text he had heard of that was a type of Witches gospel. Eleven

years later she sent Leland some material that he published as Aradia; or the Gospel of the Witches. It is noteworthy that Maddalena had fulfilled Leland’s previous requests for material within a short period of me. The fact that it took her ten years to present the Aradia material [192]

strongly suggests that she was originally unaware of it. This further suggests that the tradi on it represented was not the one she personally practiced. The tradi on that Maddalena most likely prac ced is reflected in Leland’s books Etruscan Roman Remains, Legends of Florence, and Legends of Virgil. The portrayal of witches and witchcra in Leland’s Gospel of the Witches does not reflect the same image as his earlier works. This is another indica on that the material came from a system outside of Maddalena’s own knowledge and experience. A le er from Leland to his niece, which I presented a copy of at the Pantheacon conference, describes Maddalena performing a ritual in which she invokes a goddess and a god. During the invoca on, Maddalena reportedly went into convulsions, and Leland had to send out for two pints [193]

of brandy in order to restore her back to normal. This speaks to Maddalena as a genuine prac oner of the Old Religion. Leland goes on in the le er to say that if ever there was a true depiction of the witch, Maddalena demonstrated it through her magic. In the book Aradia, Leland notes that he lost touch with Maddalena a er receiving a le er from her that she was marrying her shoemaker (Lorenzo Bruciatelli) and immigra ng to America. As a result of this comment, the view has been held that Leland never heard from Maddalena again, and that what became of her is unknown. Fortunately, another recent discovery by me came in the form of a le er found in the archives of the Library of Congress (buried in a stack of old le ers). The le er, wri en by Leland to his niece, men ons that Maddalena did not move to [194]

America, but left her husband and went to Genoa to make a living there on her own. She wrote to Leland le ng him know what happened, and she asked him if he could send her ten francs as she was in a difficult financial situa on. He complied, but it seems that the two never met again after this communication. But who was this person called Maddalena? Pennell men ons running across her name in one of Leland’s manuscript notes, where he writes of Maddalena: “a young woman who would have been taken for a Gypsy in England, but in whose face, in Italy, I soon learned to know the an que Etruscan, with its strange mysteries, to which was added the indefinable glance of the Witch. She was from the Romagna Toscana, born in the heart of its unsurpassingly wild and roman c scenery, amid cliffs, headlong torrents, forests, and old legendary castles. I did not gather all the facts for a long me, but gradually found that she was of a Witch family, or one whose members had, from me to immemorial, told fortunes, repeated ancient legends, gathered incanta ons, and learned how to intone them, prepared enchanted medicines, philtres, or spells. As a girl, her Witch grandmother, aunt, and especially her stepmother brought her up to believe in her des ny as a sorceress, and taught her in the forests, afar from human ear, to chant in strange prescribed tones, incanta ons or evoca ons to the ancient gods of Italy, under names but li le changed, who are now known as folle , spiri , fate, [195]

or lari - the Lares or household goblins of the ancient Etruscans.”

As noted earlier, Maddalena worked with another witch (or a sorceress) named Marie a, and together they provided Leland with research materials. Leland comments that Maddalena has an “inexhaus ble” memory when it comes to ma ers of witchcra , which suggests that she can


recount on the spot as opposed to having to go off and invent something for him. Leland also men ons there are mes when Maddalena does not possess the informa on he wants to know, and she then consults other witches. This suggests integrity on the part of Maddalena, a trait that critics avoid attaching to her character. Many unsubstan ated rumors surround Maddalena. Among the allega ons is that Leland had an affair with her. But Leland’s mentions of her (even in his private diaries and journals) reveal nothing to even suggest a romantic or sexual relationship. However, it is clear that Leland was fond of her as a friend and genuinely cared about her well being. Her poverty bothered Leland a great deal, and he sometimes gave her money that was not attached to payment for information. In his book, Legends of Florence, Leland comments regarding his first meeting with Maddalena: “In the year 1886 I made the acquaintance in Florence of a woman who was not only skilled in fortune telling but who inherited as a family gi from genera ons, skill in Witchcra - that is, a knowledge of mys cal cures, the relieving people who were bewitched, the making of amulets, and who had withal a memory stocked with a literally incredible number of tales and names of spirits, and strange rites and charms. She was a na ve of the Romagna-Toscana. Where there s ll lurks in the recesses of the mountains much an que-Roman heathenism though it is disappearing very rapidly. Maddalena - such was her name - soon began to communicate to me all her lore. She could read and write, but beyond this never gave the least indica on of having opened a book of any kind; albeit she had an immense library of folk-lore in her brain. When she could not recall a tale or incanta on, she would go about her extensive number of friends, and being perfectly familiar with every dialect, whether Neapolitan, Bolognese, Floren ne, or Vene an, and the ways and manners of the poor, and especially of witches, who are the great repositories of legends, became in me wonderfully well skilled as a collector. Now, as the proverb says, ‘take a thief to catch a thief,’ so I found that to take a witch to catch witches, or detect their secrets, was an infallible means to acquire the arcane of sorcery. It was in this manner that I gathered a great part of the lore given in my Etruscan-Roman Remains.”


In Legends of Florence, Leland men ons that it was from Maddalena that he first heard of the goddess Diana referred to as the Queen of the Witches. He also states: “But to her only worshippers now le on earth – such as Maddalena – Diana is far more than this, for she is the queen of all witchcra , magic, sorcery, the mistress of all the mysteries, of all deep knowledge, and therefore the greatest of the goddesses – all the rest, in fact, except Venus and Bacchus, who only exist in oaths, being now well-nigh forgo en and unknown to them.” – page 79 Leland paid Maddalena five francs a week to be his informant (as he called her). He was very impressed with her knowledge, and once made the comment that Maddalena “is as far ahead of Madame Blatvasky as sun to moon.” Blatvasky was a very popular occul st and mys c of the period. In 1886, Leland told Maddalena that he had heard of a witches’ gospel, and asked her to try and obtain a copy during her travels to various parts of Italy. Years later she eventually delivered the material to Leland. This came to be published as Aradia; or the Gospel of the Witches, and resulted in placing Maddalena and Leland permanently in the history of witchcra . It is likely that Maddalena never dreamed that future generations would speak of her across the world. We may never know more than we currently do about Maddalena. Did she ever have children, and were they trained in the same arts she prac ced? If so, are her descendants now

reading fortunes and selling charms in the back ways of some Italian city? There is sadness a ached to the high probability that these ques ons will go answered for all me. In his le er dated August 6, 1895, Leland makes a comment that I feel is a good way to end here: “…I felt sad to think I have seen the last of her – ‘twas as if a light has left the Florentine sky…”


Leo Martello Connected to the story of Aradia is the name Leo Martello, a witch who prac ced a Sicilian form of witchcra . Martello was born in Massachuse s on September 26, 1930 and crossed from material life on June 29, 2000. He helped con nue interest in the Aradia legend by self-publishing Leland’s Gospel of the Witches, and offering a correspondence course on his form of Italian cra (sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s). In 1973, Martello wrote a book titled Witchcraft, the Old Religion. Here he revealed himself as a witch from a Sicilian family tradi on. Martello o en referred to himself as an “Old Religionist” by which he meant a person believing that witchcra is an ancient religion that survived (in one form [198]

or another) in to modern times. In his day this view was not as embattled as it is today. Martello was well aware of the controversy surrounding the “claims” that Italian witchcra was an ancient religion. He commented in Chapter two of his book: “When Leland’s Aradia was first published, the general feeling of closet cri cs was that his witchconfidante Maddalena was either pulling his leg or taking him for a ride. They completely ignored the fact that he did independent inves ga ons of her asser ons and discovered that [199]

they agreed.”

The phenomena of ignoring and dismissing the evidence gathered by Leland and other folklorists of the 19th century has become a favorite past me of modern day cri cs and [200]

skeptics. Among the most ignored evidence is the repor ng of several 19th century folklorists who independently gathered data from different regions in Italy. Among them were J.B. Andrews, Lady de Vere, Roma Lister, and Charles Leland. These individuals interviewed na ve Italians who referred to themselves as witches. Despite performing field studies in regions of Italy that had different dialects and unique customs, the portrait of witchcra was strikingly similar. This included a surviving family tradi on of witchcra . Scholars dismiss this body of work as an anomaly, which conveniently means they don’t have to consider it as evidence. In Sicily, Martello’s grandmother (Maria Conce a) was a well known strega and priestess of [201]

the “secret goddess of Sikels.” On September 26, 1951, he was ini ated by his cousins into the Sicilian coven. This involved a “blood oath” never to reveal the secret teachings of the Old Ways.

Martello kept to his word and never publicly published what he was taught in secret. He would eventually also be ini ated into other witchcra systems including Alexandrian and Traditionalist witchcraft. Concerning the antiquity of witchcraft, Martello made the following comment: “The Craft is an underground spring which has existed for centuries and predates the JudeoChris an and Muslim faiths, and occasionally rises to the surface in small streams and lakes. The modern cra movement reflects a worldwide rising of this underground spring coming with such force that it cannot be dammed by our enemies. The force behind this dal wave is the murdered souls of the Witches condemned by the Inquisi on! We are back and are going to stay to guide people to truly know what peace and respect of humanity is. Hail to our Goddess and [202]

God.” Outside of being a witch of the Old Ways, Martello is perhaps best known for his efforts in advancing the early witchcra movement in America. He founded the Witches An -Defama on League, which was later renamed the Witches An -Discrimina on Lobby (WADL). It was dedicated to ensuring religious rights for witches. By the late 1980’s, chapters of the League had been established in every state in the U.S.A. Martello is also remembered for organizing the first public [203]

gatherings of witches in New York City’s central park. This was the seed from which Pagan gatherings and festivals would later spring forth. I never had the honor of mee ng Leo Martello but we were aware of each other within the community as a whole. At the me I lived in California and Leo was in New York. Reports came to me that he was displeased with my wri ngs, which at the me consisted only of magazine ar cles. I have always been one to go directly to the source instead of accep ng hearsay as fact. So I wrote to Leo informing him of the rumors and asking what, if anything, he had a problem with regarding my ar cles. I never received a reply and never a empted contact again. I le the ma er behind as an unfortunate episode, and if any ill feelings ever existed, I consider them based upon a misunderstanding. The Leo Martello we should all remember was a man devoted to witchcra and a love of the Goddess and God. He was a reless defender of the Ways, and one of the true pioneers who fought on the frontlines against discrimina on and suppression. Others have con nued the fight in the spirit of Leo Martello for a new genera on. But nothing is forgo en; nothing is ever forgotten.


Raven Grimassi with old Book of Ways In the oral tradi on of the Triad (a union of three systems) we are taught that the system uses three books that contain the beliefs, prac ces, and magical arts. These texts are known as the Book of Ways, Book of Calls, and Book of Magic. The body of knowledge contained in these volumes was not originally divided into three books. The change reportedly took place some me during the era of persecution. The Book of Ways contains all of the ritual material and per nent symbols, procedures, and so forth. The magical elements of these rituals, and the invoca ons/evoca ons appear in either the Book of Magic or the Book of Calls. This was done in order to render any of the individual volumes incomplete, and therefore if captured, the material was not func onal in the hands of the captors. Even if all three books were captured together, there are no wri en instruc ons about what fits where into the other books. Only the ini ates were able to incorporate the three books into one operative system. Tradi onally the books are hand copied by the ini ate under the watchful eyes of her or his ini ator or teacher. This is meant to ensure that no copying errors take place. The witch is a careful preserver of tradi on. The Book of Ways pictured in this sec on is referred to in the introduction, and if you haven’t read it yet, please do so now in order to be informed. Very li le is known about the book pictured here. There is nothing on any of the pages that iden fies the company that produced the book, no copyright no ce, date, or place of origin. I find this very curious and disappoin ng. I do not possess any knowledge of who originally owned the book, and I cannot say with certainly that the book was made in Italy. I have seen old ledger books from this period, made in England and America, and from appearance alone I cannot tell the difference. The only obvious connec on to Italy is the text itself (handwri en in Italian) and the fact that it was gifted to me by my uncle who lived in Naples.

The old Book of Ways, showing the missing pages.

Hand written pages appearing in the old Book of Ways.

When I composed a Book of Ways for ini ates of the Arician tradi on there were certain constraints (due to oaths) to which I had to adhere. This resulted in an edited version that came to be used by ini ates of the Arician tradi on. Although the edited version was based upon the older Book of Ways, elements that I regarded as “blood material” were not placed into the new version. It has long been tradi onal that “blood material” is not shared outside of family lines. In order to share “blood material” the ini ate must have outlived the elders of his or her lineage, thus becoming the living elder of the tradition.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY Anglicus, Bartholomew, Medieval Lore, London: Eliot Stock, 1893 Ankarloo, Bengt, and Clark, Stuart, Witchcra and Magic in Europe: Ancient Greece and Rome, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999 Birnbaum, Lucia Chiavola, Black Madonnas: Feminism, Religion & Poli cs in Italy, New York: IUniverse, 2000 Blunt, John J, Ves ges of Ancient Manners and Customs Discoverable in Modern Italy and Sicily, London: John Murray, 1823 Burckhardt, Jacob, Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, New York: MacMillan and Co., 1904 Cleke, E.M. Fable and Song in Italy, London: Grant Richards, 1899 Carr, Comyns, North Italian Folk Sketches of Town and Country Life, London: Cha o and Windus, 1878 Craufurd, Tait, The Nooks and By-Ways of Italy: Wanderings in Search of its Ancient Remains and Modern Superstitions, Liverpool: Edward Howell, 1868 Davies, Owen, Grimoires: A History of Magic Books, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009 Doniger, Wendy, Britannica Encyclopedia of World Religions, Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 2006 Evans, G.W.D., The Classic and Connoisseur in Italy and Sicily, London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green & Longman, 1835 Filotas, Bernade e, Pagan Survivals, Supers ons and Popular Cultures, Toronto: Pon fical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2005 Gen lcore, David, From Bishop to Witch: The System of the Sacred in Early Modern Terra d’Otranto, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992 Ginburg, Carlo, Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath, New York: Pantheon Books, 1991 Gordon, Lina D., Home Life in Italy: Le ers from the Apennines, New York: The MacMillan Company, 1908 Green, C.M.C. Roman Religion and the Cult of Diana at Aricia, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007 Guazzo, Francesco, Compendium Maleficarum, New York: Dover Publications Inc., 1988 Heaton, Eliza, By-Paths in Sicily, New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, 1920 Herbert, J.R., Legends of Venice, London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1938 Johnston, Sarah, Restless Dead: Encounters between the Living and the Dead in Ancient Greece, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999 Hekate Soteira: A Study of Hekate’s Roles in the Chaldean Oracles and Related Literature (American Classical Studies, No. 21, Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990 Jewett, Sophie, Folk-Ballads of Southern Europe, London: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1913 Kors, Alan, and Peters, Edward, Witchcra in Europe: 400-1700, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001 Leland, Charles Godfrey, Etruscan Magic & Occult Remedies (formerly tled Etruscan Roman Remains), New York: University Books, 1963. Aradia: Gospel of the Witches, Custer: Phoenix Publishing Inc., 1990 Mac Donell, Anne, The Italian Fairy Book, London: T. Fisher Unwin LTD., 1925 Mac Farlane, Charles, Popular Customs, Sports, and Recollec ons of the South of Italy, London:

Charles Knight & Co., 1846 Mar n Ruth, Witchcra and the Inquisi on in Venice 1550-1650, New York: Basil Blackwell, 1989 Mormando, Franco, The Preacher’s Demons, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999 Ogden, Daniel, Magic, Witchcra , and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Source Book, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002 Night’s Black Agents: Witches, Wizards and the Dead in the Ancient World, London: Continuum UK, 2008 Oldridge, Darren, The Witchcraft Reader, London: Routledge, 2001 Pazzaglini, Mario & Dina, Aradia: or the Gospel of the Witches, Blaine: Phoenix Publishing Inc., 1998 Philpot, J.H., The Sacred Tree or the Tree in Religion and Myth, London: MacMillan and Co., 1897 Piozzi, M, Glimpses of Italian Society in the Eighteenth Century, London: Seeley and Co., Limited, 1892 Stephens, Walter, Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002 Villari, Luigi, Italian Life in Town and Country, London: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1902

[1] [2]


These are part of the Whistler-Pennell collection and appear as a sub-category within the collection . There are significant differences between my published material on Italian witchcra and the previous form that I prac ce and teach ini ates. The published material is what I call the Aridian tradi on, which I created around 1981. What I teach ini ates is the Arician system, which is based upon what I was previously taught. However, the rituals of the Arician system do not contain all of the components of the tradi on from which it was formed. This material is what I refer to as the “blood teachings” and these exist in the original Book of Ways of the family tradi on that pre-exists the Arician system. This material was never passed to my ini ates due to a decision that was made not to share certain things outside of the blood line. This is a decision I now regret and am trying to correct. Naturally not all period beliefs about witches reflect actual prac ces. They can, however, lead to the origins of such beliefs, which in turn can reveal the founda ons. It is then necessary to peel away the overlay of supers on. Once the founda on is

seen without distortion, the authentic practices begin to emerge. [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

Bart Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted (HarperCollins, 2009), 104 – 105. Ehrman, 148. Ruth Martin, Witchcraft and the Inquisition in Venice 1550-1650, (Basil Blackwell, 1989), 143. Darren Oldridge ed., The Witchcraft Reader (Routledge, 2001), 98. Martin, 248.

Martin, 37-38. [10] Walter Stephens, Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief (University of Chicago, 2002), 132. [11] Franco Mormando, The Preacher’s Demons (University of Chicago Press, 1999), 66. [12] Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (MacMillan and Co., 1904), 524. [13] Burckhardt, page 529. [14] It should be noted that the ancient Greeks referred to witchcra as an “illicit religion,” which basically means that despite its associa on with the goddess Hecate, it did not meet the requirements to officially qualify as a religion (according to the standards of the authorities of the time period). [15] Martin, 225. [16] Sally Scully, Journal of Social History, volume 2, 1995. [17] Martin, 234. [18] Folengo wrote the Maccaronea under the pseudonym of Merlin Coccai. [19] Montague Summers, Geography of Witchcraft (Kessinger Publishing, 2003), 552. [20] W.G. Waters, The Italian Novelists: The Face ous Nights of Straparola(Privately published for members of the society of bibliophiles, 1901). [21] Montague Summers, History of Witchcraft and Demonology (Kessinger Publishing, 2003), 86-87. [22] Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum, Black Madonnas: Feminism, Religion & Politics in Italy (IUniverse, 2000), 27. [23] Birnbaum, 27. [24] Birnbaum, 28. [25] Birnbaum, 168. [26] Birnbaum, 51. [27] Birnbaum, 168. [28] Daniel Ogden, Magic, Witchcra , and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Source Book(Oxford University Press, 2002), 88. [29] Compare this invoca on with that of a historical one from Babylonia culture: “I invoke you, gods of the night, with you I invoke the night, the veiled bride, I invoke (the three watches of the night) the evening watch, the midnight watch, and the dawn watch...stand by me, O Gods of the Night! Heed my words, O gods of des nies, Anu, Enlil, Ea, and the great gods! I call to you, Lady of the silence of the night, I call to you, O’ Night, bride.” - Erica Reiner, Astral Magic in Babylonia (American Philosophical Society, July 1995). [30] This topic is discussed in the book Witchcra and Magic in Europe: Ancient Greece and Rome, Bengt Ankarloo and Stuart Clark, ed., (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999). [31] Bengt and Clark eds., 251. [32] Wendy Doniger ed., Britannica Encyclopedia of World Religions (Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 2006), 1130.

[33] [34] [35]

Christopher Thacker, The History of Gardens (University of California, 1985), 13. Cyril Bailey, Phases in the Religion of Ancient Rome (University of California Press, 1932).

Among hereditary witches I know, there is a story that long ago witches popularized a theme that in order to prevent witches from entering a home, the inhabitants must place food or grain outside a door or window. When the custom fell into prac ce, the witches went about at night gathering up the food and grain to supplement their supplies. [36] Like any creature of nature, the witch prefers to be le unmolested, but if provoked will fiercely defend herself. Unlike Wicca, Italian witches do not adhere to the philosophy of “harm none.” Instead they have a law not to harm the innocent. People that provoke the witch, for whatever reason, are not innocent. [37] A History of the Inquisi on of the Middle Ages, by Henry Charles Lea. Pages 94-95: “The history of the Joachites has shown us the readiness which existed to look upon Chris anity as a temporary phase of religion, to be shortly succeeded by the reign of the Holy Ghost, when the Church of Rome would give place to a new and higher organization. It was not difficult, therefore, for the Guglielmites to persuade themselves that they had enjoyed the society of the Paraclete, who was shortly to appear, when the Holy Spirit would be received in tongues of flame by the disciples, the heathen and the Jew would be converted, and there would be a new church ushering in the era of love and blessedness, for which man had been sighing through the weary centuries.” [38] Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Feminine Consciousness (Oxford University Press, 1994), 91. [39] Geoffrey Ashe, Encyclopedia of Prophecy (ABC – CLIO, Inc., 2001), 96. [40] Who Was Aradia? The History and Development of a Legend, by Sabina Magliocco: The Pomegranate: The Journal of Pagan Studies, Issue 18, Feb. 2002. The passage reads: “What if some women, inspired by utopian legends of the Society of Diana/Herodias, decided to try to replicate such a society in medieval Europe? Though we have no proof such a society ever existed, it is not inconceivable that a few inspired individuals might have decided to drama ze, once or repeatedly, the gatherings described in legends. The use of the term giuoco (“game”) by Sibillia and Pierina suggests the playful, prankish character of ostension. A “game” based on legends of Diana/Herodias and the fairies would probably have been secret and limited to the friends and associates of the crea ve ins gators, who might well have been folk healers. One or more women might even have played the role of Diana or Herodias, presiding over the gathering and giving advice. Feas ng, drinking and dancing might have taken place, and the women may have exchanged advice on ma ers of healing and divina on. The “game” might even have had a healing intent, as was the case for many comparable circum-Mediterranean rituals, and may have involved trance-dancing. This is one possible explana on for the remarkably consistent reports of Sibillia and Pierina, tried within a few years of each other. The existence of ostension in connec on to these legends could also mean that Grimassi’s claim that Aradia was a real person may, in fact, not be en rely out of the ques on; a healer who was part of the society might have chosen to play the part of, or even take on the name of, Erodiade.” [41] Carlo Ginzburg, Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches Sabbat (Random House, 1991), 104. Hereafter citied as, Ecstasies. [42] Ginzburg, 90. [43] Carlo Ginzburg, Storia Notturna. Una decifrazione del sabba (Torino 1989), 81. [44] Bonomo, Giuseppe, Caccia alle Streghe (Palumbo, 1959). [45] Aeschylus, Hiket, p.667-7 and “Juno-Lucina”, Catullus’ Hymn to Diana. [46] Ecstasies, 90. [47] Ginzburg, 71. [48] I refer the interested reader to The Preacher’s Demons, by Franco Mormando (University of Chicago Press, 1999). The book deals with 15th century witchcra through the eyes of Bernardino of Siena. Pagan roots and elements are examined in a fair and balanced view. [49] Charles Godfrey Leland, Aradia; or the Gospel of the Witches (Ballantyne, Hanson & Co., 1899), 68. Hereafter citied as Aradia. [50] T.C. Lethbridge, Witches (The Citadel Press, 1962), 13 – 14. [51] Aradia, 68. [52] Matthew Dickie, Magic and Magicians in the Greco-Roman World (Routledge, 2001), 139.

[53] [54] [55]

Jeffrey Burton Russell, Witchcraft in the Middle Ages (Cornell University Press, 1984), 48. Russell, 58. Montague Summers, Witchcraft and Black Magic (Dover Publications, 2000), 115.


Notes and Queries: A Medium of Intercommunica on for Literary Men, General Readers, etc ., Published at the London Office, 20 Wellington Street, 1894. [57] Bush R.H., Curiosi es of Supers on in Italy (Notes and Queries a Medium of Intercommunica on for Literary Men, General Readers, Etc., Sixth Series – Volume Ninth, January-June 1884), 6. [58] Keith Whitlock, The Renaissance in Europe: A Reader (Renaissance in Europe series) (Yale University Press, 2000), 341. [59] Hans P. Broedel, The Malleus Maleficarum and the Construction of Witchcraft (Manchester University Press, 2004), 134. [60] Mircea Eliade, Occul sm, Witchcra , and Cultural Fashions (University Of Chicago Press, 1978), 81 & 82: “All of these maladies are successfully cured by the choreographic and cathar c ritual of a group of dancers, who cons tute a sort of secret society (Mannerbund) called calusari, a name derived from the Romanian term for ‘horse’ cal (<Lat. Caballus). Now, surprisingly enough, the patroness of this secret cathar c society is the ‘Queen of the Fairies“ (Doamna Zinelor) – the Romanian metamorphosis of Diana. She is called Irodiade (=Herodias) or Arada, both names famous among western European witches.” [61] Pagan Survivals, Supers ons, and Popular Cultures. Pon fical Ins tute of Medieval Studies, 2005, page 19: “In a prac cal sense also, the word ‘survivals’ is misleading when applied to reprobated prac ces in the early Middle Ages. Except for Roman religion, there is li le informa on available about those pagan rituals and beliefs that le no traces in archaeology and for which the only source is the writings of Christian clerics.” [62] Steven Kaplan ed., Understanding Popular Culture (Mouton De Gruyer, 1985), 311. [63] Kaplan ed., 44. [64] Mormando, 66. [65] Stephens, 132. [66] Alan Kors and Edward Peters, Witchcra in Europe, 400-1700: A Documentary History (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), 111. [67] [68] [69]

Franco Mormando, The Preacher’s Demons (University of Chicago Press, 1999), 66. Ebenezer Brewer, Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (Westview Press, 2007), 1283.

James Hall, Dic onary of Subjects and Symbols in Art(Westview Press, 2007), 341. The symbolism of the walnut, ascribed to it by St. Augus ne, is also discussed in the book Symbols of the Chris an faith, by Alva Steffer (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002). [70] Mark Sheridan ed., Genesis 12-50 (InterVarsity Press, 2002), 202-203. [71] This may reflect the ancient custom of establishing a new sacred grove by cu ng branches from the old grove and using them as torches to pass the sacred spirit of the grove into the new setting. [72] W.O. Oesterley, Sacred Dance in the Ancient World (Dover Publications, 2002), 67. [73] Gaston Vuillier, History of Dancing from the Earliest Ages to our own Times (Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2004 – originally published in 1898), 14. [74] Vuillier, 15. [75] Joseph Ennemoser, The History of Magic (Henry G. Bohn, 1865), 195. [76] Francesco Guazzo, Compendium Maleficarum (Kessinger Publishing, 2003), 93. [77] Frances Elliot, Pictures of Old Rome (Leipzig Bernard Tauchnitz, 1882).

[78] [79] [80] [81] [82] [83] [84] [85] [86] [87] [88] [89] [90] [91] [92] [93] [94]

Charles M. Skinner, Myths and Legends of Flowers, Trees, Fruits, and Plants (Lippincott, Philadelphia, 1925), 298. Ovid, The Heroides or Epistles of the Heroines â&#x20AC;&#x201C; The Amours, Art of Love and Minor Work (Bell & Dadly, New York, 1869). William E. Burns, Witch Hunts in Europe and America (Greenwood Press, 2003), 20. Margaret Murray, The Witch-Cult in Western Europe (Forgotten Books, 2008), 176. C.M. Green, Roman Religion and the Cult of Diana at Aricia (Cambridge University Press, 2007), 135. Charles Leland, Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition (T. Fisher Unwin, 1892), 156. Green, 185. Green, 146. Green, 201. Doniger, 294. Jean Dominique Fuss, Roman Antiquities (Oxford, 1840). Fuss, 372. James F.K. Hewitt, History and Chronology of the Myth-Making Age (James Parker and Co., 1901), 34, 441-452. Guazzo, 42.

Julio Baroja, The World of Witches (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), 65. Baroja, 17.

Jules Michelet, Sorceress: A Study in Middle Age Superstition (Charles Carrington, 1904), 35. [95]. Michelet, 43. [96] Ginzburg, 6. [97] Ginzburg,130. [98] Raven Grimassi, Italian Witchcraft (St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 2000), 15-16. [99] Bello Civili 6: 700-01. [100] Sarah Iles Johnston, Restless Dead (University of California Press, 1999), 60-61. [101] Sarah Iles Johnston, Hekate Soteira (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990), 73-74. [102] Martin, 41-42. [103] Martin, page 42. [104] Mar n, 42. Like most scholars Mar n dismisses any connec on between this theme and witchcra , seeing it instead as simple unrelated folk beliefs that have no connec on. Such a narrow view is likely due to the fact that scholars dismiss witchcra as bearing surviving elements of paganism, and instead view it as a product of supers on and fear in an unenlightened period. Such an approach dismisses the roots of folk belief that extend from earlier periods, and negates the cultural connections to themes woven into folk beliefs about witchcraft that survived and were later distorted by the Church. [105] Aeschylus, Hiket, 667-77. [106] Jacob Rabinowitz, The Rotting Goddess (Autonomedia, 1998), 19. [107] Katharine Briggs, The Vanishing People (New York: Patheon Books, 1978), 39. [108] W.Y. Evans-Wentz , The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries (New York: Citadel Publishing, 1994), 253. [109] Briggs, 47.

[110] [111] [112] [113] [114] [115] [116] [117] [118]

Briggs, 174. Briggs, 173. Briggs, 54. Briggs, 23. Lewis Spence, The Fairy Tradition in Britain (Kessinger Publishing, 1948), 322. Johnston, 60-61, 207-210. Evans-Wentz, 336. Evans-Wentz, 337.

Rabinowitz, 51. [119] Lesley & Roy Adkins, Dictionary of Roman Religion (New York: facts on File, Inc., 1996), 117. [120] Bailey, 44. [121] James Frazer, The Golden Bough (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1928), 163. [122] Bailey, 48. [123] Frazer, 164. [124] Johnston, 171. [125] Pausanias, The Description of Greece, 3-10-7. [126] Jennifer Larson, Greek Nymphs (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 259. [127] Larson, 100. [128] Larson, 101. [129] Johnston, 69-70. [130] Johnston, 227-228. [131] Johnston, 188-189. [132] The Gello were the spirits of virgins who died and were therefore denied the opportunity to have children. As a result they sought vengeance against the living. The strix was a owl-woman spirit much like a vampire that fed on babies. [133] Alexander S. Murray, Who’s Who in Mythology (Crescent Books. New York: 1988), 116. [134] Hans Biedermann, Dictionary of Symbolism (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1992), 96. [135] Johnston, 167. [136] The Hieros Gamos, or “holy wedding,” is a means of coupling between a human and a deity. In ancient mes this rite was generally conducted in the spring, and par cipants believed they could gain profound religious experience through sexual intercourse. Par cipants assumed the role of bride and groom, and through sexual union they obtained symbolic and literal fertility for themselves, the land, and their people. [137] In a previous chapter it was men oned that the witches’ gatherings at Benevento were called the Benevento wedding. It is therefore interes ng to consider Hecate‘s tree, and the walnut tree at Benevento, as being one and the same concept (beneath which Hecate is the wedding attendant). [138] Johnston, 211. [139] Walter Otto, Dionysus: Myth & Cult (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1965), 169. [140] Jane Ellen Harrison, Prolegomena (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 429.


Gerald B. Gardner, Witchcraft Today (Secaucus: Citadel Press, 1973), 82 & 88.


[143] [144]

Ovid, The Art of Love: Book 1.

Stuart Clark, Thinking with Demons (Oxford University Press, 1997), 23.

Hodder M. Westropp and J.G.R. Forlong,Primi ve Symbolism as Illustrated in Phallic Worship or the Reproduc ve Principle (Folkways Press, 1946), 48. [145] John Davenport and Alan Hull Walton, Aphrodisiacs and Love Stimulants (Lyle Stuart, Inc., 1965) , 98. [146] Jeffrey Burton Russell, The Prince of Darkness: Radical Evil and the Power of Good in History(Cornell University Press, 1992), 114. [147] Guazzo, 41-42. [148] Margaret Alice Murray, The Witch-Cult in Western Europe (Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1921), 11-12. [149] Carlos Ginzburg, The Night Ba les: Witchcra & Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries(The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982), 42. [150] Mormando, 276. [151] La Rivista of Rome, June 1894. [152] Charles Godfrey Leland, Legends of Florence (Kessinger Publishing, 2004), viii. [153] Albert Grenier, The Roman Spirit in Religion, Thought, and Art (Alfred A. Knopf, 1926), 371-372. [154] I have studied and researched Leland’s wri ngs for over 35 years and have been a prac oner of Italian witchcra for a longer period. It is through this background of experience that I feel qualified to perform this task and create an expansive understanding. [155] Mario & Dina Pazzaglini, Aradia. or the Gospel of the Witches (Phoenix Publishing, 1998), 50. [156] Richard Allen, Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning (Dover Publications, 1963), 62. [157] Theodor Gomperz, Greek Thinkers – A History of Ancient Philosophy (Gomperz Press, 2007), 117. [158] A version of this passage appears in The Grimoire of Lady Sheba, a 1974 publica on by Llewellyn. In this book is a sec on tled “The Adora on of Diana, A Request for Wisdom” that presents a ritual incorpora ng the text. At the me of its publica on Lady Sheba claimed authorship for several poems and ritual texts that were actually wri en by Doreen Valiente. The inclusion of the Holy Strega text is a curious addi on to the Grimoire, and demonstrates the adop on of Italian witchcra elements into northern European tradi ons. The Charge of the Goddess (or Charge of Aradia) is another example, and despite the popular version a ributed to Valiente, it is clear that it drew upon the Italian verses appearing over half a century earlier in Leland’s Gospel of the Witches. [159] The Sabbat itself takes place in the material world, however, at a certain point in the ritual there is a group projec on through which the par cipants journey in spirit to another realm. Some mes this journey is directed to a specific se ng, and other mes it is not. One of the directed projec ons is to the “walnut tree at Benevento“ which is, in modern terminology, an astral realm. Therefore, the Sabbat takes place in the material world but also extends into an astral realm as well. [160] An interes ng idea appears in the Journal of the Asia c Society of Bengal(volume 17, part 2, page 671) where it is said that the mansions of the moon alterna vely watch each other. The ar cle explains that each awaits the appearance of the next before it departs (like an exchange of night watchmen on duty). The ar cle men ons that at any given me there are 14 mansions above the horizon and 14 below. This is intriguing in terms of the concept of the “Watchers” (or Grigori) that appear in the theology of Wicca or witchcra . Perhaps further inves ga on of a Lunar astrology system is warranted in order to explore the possibility of an older star mythos joining the Watchers with the Mansions of the Moon. [161] Personally, I feel it is more appealing to be taught by living Muses as opposed to adhering to stone tablets wri en by an invisible and absentee god. [162] The 1995 publication of Ways of the Strega reads: “The stories and legends of Aradia have been passed down through family lines since the fourteenth century” – page 243. But please take note that it does not say “my family line” since the fourteenth century. My personal family line of witchcraft is only five or six generations old.



Amy Wygant, Medea, Magic, and Modernity in France (Ashgate, 2007).

Ev Cochrane, Martian Metamorphoses: The Planet Mars in Ancient Myth & Religion (Aeon Pr., 1997), 149.


This type of thing is very apparent among na ve Italians. It is the same situa on with Americans, and were we to ask “the man of the street” what witchcra is, we would hear about the Devil, live sacrifice, and other ill conceived no ons. Therefore just because the average person believes something about a specific group of people, or a practice, does not make it a fact. [166] One example is the Internet organiza on known as Stregoneria Italiana and its members. Unfortunately they appear to foster a great deal of misinformation and misrepresentation through various Internet forums and chat rooms. [167] Guazzo, Book Two, 96. [168] Eliza Heaton, By-Paths in Sicily (E.P. Dutton & Company, 1920), 17 [169] Heaton, 18-19. [170] Heaton, 21. [171] Lina Gordon, Home Life in Italy: Letters from the Apennines (The MacMillan Company, 1908), 230. [172] Gordon, 238. [173] Gordon, 238-240. [174] The witch has always been portrayed as evil and dangerous, but when we consider that all minori es (and secret socie es) have long been vilified in such a way, it becomes clear that there are two sides to every story. Racial slurs, and mean-spirited remarks rooted in bigotry, do not equate to evidence concerning any sect. This includes the allega ons made against the witch. [175] J.B. Andrews, Folk-Lore Transac ons of the Folk-Lore Society, Volume III, March, 1897 No.1, Neapolitan Witchcraft, herea er citied as Neapolitan. [176] [177] [178] [179] [180] [181]

Neapolitan – page 2. Neapolitan - page 5. Neapolitan – page 8. Neapolitan – page 9. Leland, Etruscan Roman Remains, 10

Some commentators have misrepresented my depic on of the “Triad tradi ons” within Stregheria that are known as the Tanarra, Fanarra, and Janarra. They state I claim (in my book on Italian Witchcraft) that these clans dominate “all of Italy” and are the definers of Italian witchcra . But, of course, I have never wri en nor spoken anything of the kind. What I wrote is that the three clans descend from the time of Aradia and reside in northern and central Italy. [182] When I published the Aridian system of Italian witchcra , that contains the same basic components appearing in Leland’s discoveries, some commentators called it Wicca with marinara sauce or Wicca alla Floren ne. Here again the pre-existence of Italian elements are ignored. However, if anyone is mixing cultures, then more accurately we should call Gerald Gardner’s system Italian witchcraft in Yorkshire pudding. [183] Charles Godfrey Leland, Gypsy Sorcery & Fortune Telling, (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1891), 66. [184] Elizabeth Robins Pennell, Charles Godfrey Leland A Biography - Volume 1 (Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1906), 6. [185] Charles Godfrey Leland, Memoirs (D. Appleton and company, 1893). [186] Elizabeth Robins Pennell, Charles Godfrey Leland A Biography - Volume 2 (Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1906), page 341, hereafter citied as Biography 2.

[187] [188] [189] [190] [191]

Biography 2 – page 346. Biography 2 – page 315. Leland, Roman Remains, 197 Pazzaglini, 120. Leland, Roman Remains, 141.


Some skep cs believe that Maddalena invented the Aradia in order to make some money off Leland. However, no Italian con ar st is going to wait ten years to make a few francs (the currency Leland paid her). As described by Leland, Maddalena was very poor, and therefore would have supplied Leland with the Aradia material much faster than ten years down the road. [193] This episode is reported in a le er from Leland dated August 15, 1893. There is also another of Leland’s le ers dated January 25, 1891 that also reports that Maddalena went into convulsions while repea ng incanta ons. This suggests that Leland and Maddalena engaged in theses ma ers for purposes other than just a demonstra on of Maddelana’s abili es. Some skeptics regard Maddalena as acting in these cases in order to cause Leland to believe in her as a witch or sorceress. [194] Letter was found in box 367 of the Whistler-Pennell collection, and is dated August 6, 1895. [195] Biography 2 – page 309-310. [196] Biography 2– page 341. [197] Leland, Legends of Florence (first series), vii. [198]

In Chapter one of Witchcra the Old Religion, Martello wrote that the Old Religion has always worshipped both a hornedgod and goddess. He mentions that the goddess was generally known as Diana, but also had many other names. [199] Leo Louis Martello, Witchcraft: The Old Religion (Kensington Publishing Corp, 1998), 54 [200] It is as if they fear what the truth may reveal and so work very hard at suppressing it. I suspect that in certain cases this is based upon a dread that by comparison their own prac ces will be revealed to be en rely modern inven ons. Therefore they must try and debunk older themes in order to secure their own agenda. [201] In Chapter one of Witchcra , the Old Religion, Martello writes that his grandmother was the village strega and as such was both hated and envied by the Catholic priests. He also mentions that witchcraft had been in his family line “for centuries”. [202] This is taken from a tribute to Leo Martello wri en by Lori Bruno, a well-known strega in the New England area. The ar cle can be found on the Internet: [203] The event took place on October 31, 1971. Ini ally, New York City denied the issue of a permit, but later produced one when faced with a law suit backed by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Raven grimassi the book of the holy strega