page presents reviews of critical articles related to the
work of Raven Grimassi along with
rebuttals. Also featured is a collection of responses
criticisms that merit a response in order to counter the intentional misrepresentations
frequently fostered by Grimassi's critics.
EYE VIEW: Rebuttals by Raven Grimassi
WHEN IMAGINATION RUNS WILD
In a recent blog written by a
gentleman named David Griffin (aka Lupercus) I note some
very odd and unwarranted allegations against my character.
Mr. Griffin's defamatory attacks against my name appear to
stem from a post I made on the Traditional Witchcraft
forum. Mr. Griffin's apparent misinterpretation of my
comments seem to have resulted in what I consider to be a
very bizarre rant.
While much of what he says is a reinvention of the history
between us, and a misrepresentation of the facts regarding
me and my tradition, I feel that I should address his blog
anyway. Normally I do not like to give energy to false
accusations, but it seems wise in this case to make a
Mr. Griffin and I had early communications by phone and
email. He reinvents the history here by claiming that I
wrote to him seeking protection for my reputation and
wanting him to alert me to negative comments made against
me. However, the facts are I first contacted him directly
because people were writing to me inquiring about the
authenticity of these individuals. Before arriving at an
opinion, I wanted to go to the source. So, that is what I
In the beginning, communications were cordial. I tried to
help them deal positively with their critics, and David and
his Italian guests and I agreed to keep each other informed
about comments that people might make in an attempt to set
us against one another. I expressed my desire to have them
judged fairly by community, and I actively countered
anything on the Internet in which people without first hand
knowledge were saying negatively about them.
During the course of events, one of my initiates went into a
private forum without my knowledge or direction, and posted
a critical view of David and his Italian guests. Mr.
Griffin chose to regard this as a covert operation launched
by me, which of course it was not. In response, I wrote a
public post on Facebook pointing out that I did not agree
with my initiate's views, and did not set her out to post
against anyone. At the time this seemed to satisfy Mr.
In an attempt to keep boundaries clear, Mr. Griffin, his
Italian guests, and I agreed not to cross-pollinate (so to
speak) and it was decided out of courtesy that we not teach
each other's initiates and active students. However, in his
recent blog, Mr. Griffin reinvents this agreement, and
paints it in the light of fear on my part that my people
would learn the "true teachings" he and his guests hold,
which implies that mine are bogus. A clever maneuver, but
an easily seen through move on his part.
Among the odd things in Mr. Griffin's blog is the reference
to the Great Rite as indicator of the only true and
authentic form of Italian witchcraft, and he asserts that I
know nothing about it. This, of course, appears to indicate
an attempt to take away my credibility as a witch practicing
a form of Italian witchcraft. He also asserts that the
tradition of his Italian guests, which is known as The
Sublime Art, is the mark of authentic Italian witchcraft.
He then asserts that it is unknown to me (by that name) and
therefore what I teach is entirely made up. How sad to see
this "My way is the only true way" theme reappearing in the
Craft community. I remember this mentality from the 60's and
early 70's. I had hoped we had all gotten over this
nonsense and ego driven agenda.
For anyone actually interested in the facts, what I stated
that apparently upset Mr.Griffin was a factual clarification
of his position and not a condemnation. Here is what I
wrote (which Griffin edited on his blog) in response to a
question someone raised, asking if anyone knew something
about the Stregheria del Bosco Sacro (people). This appeared
on the Traditional Witchcraft forum, under the thread
someone else started, which was titled Stregheria del
Bosco Sacro -
"Yes, I have had several emails
and phone conversations with the people in question. In
the early stages of communication they claimed to be an
Italian witchcraft tradition of great antiquity,
which they stated continued in the Lake Nemi region of
Italy. They further claimed that the priestess in their
company comes from a lineage of 38 generations of
priestesses at Nemi (the former sacred site of the
temple of Diana).
The couple from Italy are staying with their sponsor
David Griffin, a name associated with the Golden Dawn
controversy. When I first spoke with him about the
couple, David told me on the phone that the "coming of
the Stregans" is going to be like when the Beatles first
came to the US, and that the impact on the Pagan
community will be unimaginable. However, following their
debut at the Pantheacon convention, it seems like things
turned out a bit differently than he envisioned.
Attendance at their talks was low, and the majority of
the reviews were not complimentary.
It is noteworthy that after Pantheacon, and
the resulting questions and objections raised, David and
his Italian guests are no longer referring to themselves
as "Stregans" or "Italian Witches". They have changed
the text on their website, removing all references to
Stregheria, Italian Witchcraft, and so forth. They are
now calling their tradition "the ancient Shamanic
tradition of the Great Mother in Italy". The use of
"Stregheria" on their site has now been replaced with
I have more information and am
happy to answer any questions related to this topic.
- Raven Grimassi"
Mr, Griffin chose to regard this as an accusation that I
consider the folks in question to be frauds. I did not say
that, and it was not my intention to depict them as such. My
intention was to demonstrate that they are no longer
referring to themselves as strega/Italian witches, which is
an important point and distinction that I wanted to make on
a forum devoted to traditional witchcraft. Nowhere did I
state these people are fake, I simply clarified their
position as conveyed to me. No one on the Traditional
Witchcraft forum asked me for my personal opinion about the
authenticity of these people and I did not offer one.
What Mr. Griffin chooses to leave out of his rant blog, is
my forum comment:
"I also have a problem with the idea of initiating people
on first meeting. I asked them about it and they replied
that this is their structure and how the system functions.
They inform me that after initiation the training begins,
but that initiation and oath-taking is required before
anything else. They have no "outer court" phase. It's
alien to what I was taught by my native Italian teachers.
But, to be fair, witchcraft differs in each region of
Italy. There is no "one size fits all" - but even
so.....further questions are begged.
- Raven Grimassi"
My comments were intended to convey that one tradition of
Italian witchcraft cannot be compared against another in an
attempt to mark authenticity. Each regional system
differs. But, as clearly indicated in Mr. Griffin's blog,
he apparently feels that his system is the only true one,
and if differences appear in mine, then mine cannot be
authentic. All of this reminds of the stage magician's trick
of misdirecting the audience's attention away from what is
actually taking place so as to leave the impression that
what he showed is real.
In closing, I suggest that Mr. Griffin and his Italian
guests should feel confident in who and what they are, and
not be threatened by something they misinterpret as a
debunking of them. People who are genuine have no need to
be fearful. Anger, it is said, is a fear based emotion. So,
Mr. Griffin and his Italian guests should embrace the
courage of their convictions, and go forth with their truth.
It's a much healthier approach than what appears on
Peace to all,
[Posted on 5/21/11]
To read David Griffin's blog, go to this URL:
FALSE ALLEGATIONS ON THE INTERNET:
that one of the costs of being a well-known author is to be
a target for criticism and ridicule. This is only to be
expected and most authors accept it as an unfortunate part
of their chosen career. But what is not acceptable is
the deliberate misrepresentations and falsehoods fostered by
critics. Internet forums and chat rooms are an overly
abundant source of misinformation and false allegations.
Unfortunately many people believe what they read there
without questioning or asking for proof.
the years a small but very vocal scattering of critics have
assaulted the Internet with an abundance of
misinformation, misrepresentation, and untruthful statements
about me, my tradition, and my writings. The
falsehoods have then been repeated and passed along on the
Internet. For anyone interested in the truth I have decided to
set the record straight here once and for all.
The following are
the most common false accusations made on the Internet, and
which appear without any attempt to substantiate them.
No real evidence is brought forth, and commentators merely
state they read it somewhere but that the sources have since
disappeared. Unfortunately there are people who regard this
hearsay as fact, and this only serves to keep falsehoods
I will start with
the allegation and then follow with the facts.
Grimassi claims in his book Ways of the Strega (later
re-titled Italian Witchcraft) that he is presenting pure
Italian witchcraft. But what he writes about is not
practiced in Italy or know to native Italians.
FACT: In the
introduction to Ways of the Strega, I clearly state that the system in the book is the Aridian tradition. I state that it is a modern system
created by me but based upon an older Italian model. I further state that the Aridian tradition is mixed with Wiccan elements.
In the new re-titled edition (Italian Witchcraft) I point
out that the Aridian system was created by me in the early
the rituals and other practices in the book are from the
Aridian system (as pointed out in the book) naturally
they are not native Italian rites. They are, however,
based upon Italian witchcraft but mixed with modern Wicca
themes. So, of course, native Italians
practicing non-Wiccan related rites are not performing the
rituals from my book. However there is plenty of
material within my books on Italian witchcraft that reveal
elements of native Italian traditions. Therefore it cannot
be reasonably argued that my books Italian Witchcraft,
and Hereditary Witchcraft, contain nothing about old
native Italian Craft tradition. They do indeed contain old
and authentic elements of Italian witchcraft.
believe that the negative allegations are designed to
mislead people into believing that I am trying to pull off a
veiled deception. This is simply not the case.
In my published material I present exactly what I claim to
present - a modern system called the Aridian tradition,
which I created (based upon Italian teachings but mixed with
false allegations have largely been spread on the Internet
by members of an organization known as Stregoneria
Italiana, and through the efforts of a woman known as
Rue. She operates a site called Rue's Kitchen.
Both sites contain material that is a hodge-podge collection
of common Italian folklore and magic that is conflated with
witchcraft. Unfortunately what is depicted as witchcraft on
these sites isn't, and remains outside of their grasp. This
is primarily due to the fact that Italian witchcraft is an
initiatory system, and from the material presented on
Rue's Kitchen and Stregoneria Italiana, it is
obvious that the individuals involved with these
sites are outsiders. However, critics of my work rely
heavily upon the material contained on these websites in a
failed attempt to discredit authentic elements of Italian
witchcraft presented by me.
standard operating procedure of these critics in their
assault against my work and my reputation can be summed up
with three words: misrepresent, distort, falsify.
ALLEGATION: Following the publication of Grimassi's
book Ways of the Strega in 1994, the real strega
complained to the Publisher (Llewellyn) and in response the
Publisher changed the title to Italian Witchcraft.
The title was changed by the Publisher after sales of
Ways of the Strega were not
as expected. Llewellyn felt that the inclusion of
"Strega" in the title was not clear enough to the average person as to
what the book was about (the term "strega" was not as well known back
in 1994). So it was decided that the book should be
re-titled Italian Witchcraft ( a title clearly indicating
to anyone what the book is about).
are several amusing things about the allegation of the "real
strega" and their efforts. First, it would take a very
large number of people to cause a publisher to go to the
expense of re-titling a book and creating a new cover.
The number would far exceed the population of Strega.
Second, there is no central authority to rally the Strega to
such an action, and so the claim that hordes of Strega descended
upon Llewellyn is utter nonsense. And, even if anyone
complained to Llewellyn, how would Llewellyn know who is
"real strega" and who is not? Are we to believe that
these so-called "real strega" presented
Llewellyn with diplomas from Strega University along
with their official
photo ID cards and certificates of authenticity? See
how ridiculous such an allegation this whole thing is? And
yet there are people who believe it is true.
earliest appearance I can find of this false allegation
shows up on the Internet, being posted by a person calling
himself "Brock" and by another person supporting the
allegation who goes by the name "Lark" (a husband and wife
team). From public information posted in
their bios, and from public information appearing in
websites from organizations these individuals belong to, the
real names of these people appear to be Blake and Carol
Kirk. They reportedly reside in Tennessee in or
around the Clarksville area (although one bio has Brock
living in Atlanta, GA).
encountered these individuals on the old Compuserve forums
sometime around 1994 (give or take a year). At that time I
personally found Brock to be quite ill mannered,
unreasonably challenging, and often completely wrong about
the things he was posting. Lark was less abrasive,
although her attacks were frequent and unwarranted. When
addressed in reply, Lark seemed inappropriately defensive in
recollection is that few people on the forums felt they were
credible back in those days. This caused them quite a
bit of flak. Because I was a frequent poster and
earned a certain status of respect, Broch and Lark
often targeted me in negative posts. I suppose
they felt that if they could discredit me it would then
elevate them. It is an unfortunate element of
frequently locked horns and the two of them often came
across looking pretty bad. Instead of taking any
responsibility for how their own behavior in a public forum
had its consequences, they apparently instead blamed me for
their poor reputation among fellow members. From
ongoing and recent posts, it appears that Lark and Broch
never got over it, and have seemingly waged a vendetta
against me and my writings for many years. This is evidenced
in a statement made by Brock on the site known as Live
Journal Wiccan Community.
2nd, 2008 (at 2:44 pm) Brock replied to a post confronting
him about the unsubstantiated allegations he made, and
pointing out that such attacks on an author's reputation can
harm his ability to make a living. Broch remarks:
I've been making these unsubstantiated allegations for more
than ten years now, and it doesn't seem to have had any
effect on Raven's career"
we see an admission that Broch has purposely kept up his
allegations since the late 1990s. This makes it apparent
that he is also the origin of the false story since it does
not appear earlier by anyone other than Broch.
Grimassi never received any initiations in any tradition.
Actually my first Wiccan initiation was in 1970 into a tradition
claiming to be Gardnerian. While the lineage claims
later proved to be false, the system itself was common place
Wicca. I was initiated into this system by a woman
named Lady Heather, in the San Diego area. I consider the
material she taught to be sound and valuable. It is only the
false claim of lineage to Gardner that has tainted the
I was initiated into a system called Brittic Wicca by a
couple named Phil and Joanne Wayne (or was it Wade?) who
lived in the San Diego area. They claimed to practice
an old tradition that was a blend of Basque and British
in 1983, I was initiated into the Pictish-Gaelic tradition
of Wicca by a man in San Diego named Mel Fuller (verifiable by the Elder of that tradition, a person named
Marilee Bigalow who lives in the San Francisco Bay area. I
was also initiated into the Traditionalist Celtic tradition
through The First Celtic Wiccan Church (Escondido, California)
and was bestowed the third degree initiation on July 26th, 2001 by Bill Eade. These can all be easily verified.
false allegations regarding my initiation background appear
to originate with Lark as I can find no earlier source for
the unsubstantiated claims. Her most recent allegation
appeared on a website called Wiccan Together. In a reply
dated November 19, 2008 at 5:17pm, Lark writes:
"I will point out
that Raven Grimassi's take on the history of Wicca is highly
inaccurate. It's kind of funny that now he choses to write
about Wicca. When I first met him back in the early 90's he
lost no chance to denigrate Wiccans and claim he was Stregha.
Then his claimed initiation into Stregha was proved false.
Later his claim to a 3rd Degree in Wicca was likewise proved
false. Let's see...twice proved a liar, and a poor
historian. Not an author I have on my recommended list."
When confronted on the forum and asked for the evidence to
support her unsubstantiated allegations, she fell silent and
shortly afterwards deleted her post. I think that speaks
volumes. Fortunately the website page was copied before it
was deleted and it was added to my legal file as a libelous
public accusation against my reputation and personal
character as an author.
ALLEGATION: Grimassi never earned the right to be called a
My early training was by native Italians who are lineage
bearers of Italian witchcraft. From
this line I am descended from a witch
named Calenda Tavani, who lived in the Naples area several
generations ago. The Strega tradition is my birth right and
is carried in my blood.
unfounded attacks on my Italian witchcraft training appear
to originate with Broch and Lark. The falsehoods are
also perpetrated by members of the organization known
as Stregoneria Italiana. None of these people have
direct personal knowledge of me but make personal
allegations despite the absence of any evidence.
date, the origins of all of the unsubstantiated claims
against my background of training in Italian witchcraft
appear traceable to the following individuals in
and Lark (Blake and Carol Kirk)
Solitario (Kyle de Franco)
Fahrun, aka Mary-Grace Roselli, aka Rue Roselli).
individuals have actively posted misinformation about me and
my writings on many website forums, various discussion
groups, and a variety of chat rooms. Their
unsubstantiated allegations have been regarded by some
people as facts, and this misinformation has then been
spread on the Internet like a cyber virus. This
would make an interesting study for social
ALLEGATION: Grimassi claims that the Triad Clans (Tanarra,
Janarra, Fanarra) dominate all of Italy.
Nowhere in any of my writings do I state such a thing.
I simply state that these traditions reside in
different regions of Italy.
ALLEGATION: In his books and writings Grimassi
believes that anything associated with Italian folk magic is
In all of my writings I argue that there is a difference
between folk magic and folk traditions versus witchcraft.
While I believe that pagan magical systems are the
foundational roots of contemporary Italian folk
magic systems, I don't regard the modern traditions as pagan
or witchcraft. Instead I view them as Catholic-based
believe that the old witchcraft and pagan traditions
were arrogated by Christian culture in an intentional
ethnocide against the pagan people and their beliefs and
practices. Their ways were displaced, transformed, or
eliminated as best suited the needs of Christian culture.
believe that witchcraft is not folk magic. It is a
pre-Christian system of archaic religion and magic.
Its power base is pagan theology, not Catholicism.
POSTED UPDATE 12/26/09
ARTICLE REVIEW NUMBER
Saints, and Streghe: Witchcraft, Folk Magic, and Healing in
by Sabina Magliocco.
This is a review
of the article titled Spells, Saints, and Streghe:
Witchcraft, Folk Magic, and Healing in Italy by Sabina
Magliocco. It first appeared in the Pomegranate magazine,
issue 13, August 200. At the end of this review is a link
to the entire article.
article is an interesting view of Italian folk magic systems
along with material on related lore and cultural
expressions. Unfortunately in my opinion the article is, at
its core, a
conflation of folk magic systems with Italian
witchcraft, which can and has caused some confusion since
its publication. I refer to the fact that some people
misuse elements of her article in an attempt to discredit my
To begin this
review I think it's important to make a few corrections
related to Magliocco's views of me and my writings.
"He [Grimassi] accepts at face value Leland's story of
Aradia as Diana's daughter and messenger on earth, seeing
her as a 14th century revivalist of la Vecchia Religione
(the Old Religion)"
This statement is actually
contrary to everything I've written and taught about Aradia
over the years. I do not view Aradia as the daughter of the
goddess Diana, and in fact I refer to her in quite human
terms. I do not view Aradia as a goddess at all.
Instead I refer to her as the Holy Strega, and describe her
as an avatar figure.
In another statement
"Each [tradition] is led by a Grimas,
or leader (for the record, there is no such word in the most
comprehensive dictionary of the Italian language; the
closest is the adjective grimo, "wrinkled, wizened" or
"poor, wretched" [Zingarelli-Zanichelli, 1977:777])"
As I've taught since before
the publication of Ways of the Strega, the name "Grimas" is
taken from the family name Grimassi, a family whose members
(according to legend) held leadership roles in the early
formation of the covens connected to the Aradia tradition.
In the U.S. we use the shortened version - Grimas.
Magliocco comments further:
"To be fair, Grimassi never claims to be reproducing exactly
what was practiced by Italian immigrants to North America;
he admits Italian-American Witches "have adapted a few
Wiccan elements into their ways" (1995:xviii), and
acknowledges that he has expanded upon the traditions he
learned from his Italian mother in order to restore the
tradition to its original state (Grimassi, pers. comm.,
1996). But in attempting to restore an ancient tradition,
Grimassi has in fact created a new one: a potpourri of
folklore, revised history, and contemporary magical practice
that bears little resemblance to anything that was ever
practiced in Italy, before or after the Inquisition"
I naturally disagree that I
present "revised" history, and I argue that I present
repressed history. While I strongly disagree that what
I present bears little resemblance to practices in Italy, I
will concede that the Wiccan material in my published works
has apparently caused some confusion (and has led to the
type of misunderstanding held by Magliocco and others).
However, as I noted in my book, the tradition I'm writing
about is a modern one, and therefore one should expect to
see some differences.
I want to state
from the beginning that I carry no ill will towards Sabina
Magliocco. We have met and talked from time to time over the
past several years. Magliocco and I have respectful
disagreements about the interpretation of data related to
folk magic and witchcraft. But there isn’t any personal
animosity on either side. Our meetings and conversations
have always been very cordial.
I ask that the
reader of this review keep in mind that my disagreements with
the article are not intended to cast a negative light.
However I do feel that some rebuttal is necessary because of
how this article is misused by my critics. Therefore this
review is designed to set the record straight, more than it
is a critical review of the article itself. That being
said, I will turn now to specific areas of the article.
establishes her expertise on the subject of the article on
stregoneria with the following:
interest in this topic stems from my personal background as
well as my field experience. But although I grew up in Italy
and the United States and maintain ongoing ties with Italy
through frequent visits, I cannot make any claims to a
family tradition of magical practice. Most of my knowledge
of Italian folk magic comes from ethnographic research and
fieldwork in Sardinia, an island off the western coast of
Italy where I spent 18 months living in a highland community
of sheep and goat pastoralists between 1986 and 1990 (Magliocco,
1993). I approach the study of folk magic from the
perspective of my training in folklore and anthropology.”
states that most of her knowledge of Italian folk magic
comes from ethnographic research and fieldwork in Sardinia,
where she spent a cumulative 18 months living in a highland
community of sheep and goat pastoralists over a period
spanning between 1986 and 1990. She also makes it clear
that her knowledge is in the area of Italian folk magic.
There is no claim by her to possess anything resembling an
intimate knowledge of Italian witchcraft (as practiced in
Italy or elsewhere). It seems likely that shepherds in
Sardinia did possess some knowledge of folk magic as many
Italian do. However, it seems reasonably certain that these
commoners knew little if anything of authentic forms of
witchcraft (because they aren't witches). Therefore they
cannot seriously be viewed as expert witnesses on Italian
comments on the influence of Charles G. Leland's Aradia,
or the Gospel of Witches, and goes on to say that
Leland's material does not bear a strong resemblance to
Italian folk magical practice as documented in the
ethnographic record of the last 100 years. She also claims
this is true of modern Italian witchcraft traditions.
Naturally there is little reason why Folk Magic and
Witchcraft should correspond because they are two different
systems. As noted by 19th century folklorist Lady de Vere,
the community of Italian witches possesses secret customs
community of Italian witches is regulated by laws,
traditions, and customs of the most secret kind, possessing
special recipes for sorcery” –
La Rivista of Rome, June 1894
witchcraft from the known material found in common and
popular folk magic traditions. It also more than suggests
that folk magic and witchcraft are two separate traditions.
mentions the following from his field studies among
self-proclaimed witches (as opposed to common shepherds, as
was the case with Magliocco’s field studies):
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 published ....” -
In this light
Magliocco’s views are difficult to reconcile with those of
professional Folklorists in the 19th century who performed
field studies among people who defined themselves as
witches. Magliocco comments that Italian-American
Witchcraft or Stregheria traditions differ from Italian folk
magical practice in several important ways. She first states
that Italian folk magic is not an organized or unified
religion, but a varied set of beliefs and practices. This
is true, which is one of the primary reasons it differs from
that while folk magic has deep historical roots, it is not a
survival of an ancient religion, but an integral part of a
rural peasant economy and way of life, highly syncretized
with folk Catholicism. This is another reason why it differs
from Italian witchcraft, which has pagan roots in
continues with the view that knowledge of magical practices
was at one time diffused throughout the rural population,
rather than limited to a secret group of magical
practitioners. Indeed such things were diffused, but they
were diffused from the secret societies into the common
population. However, the material was never understood by
the non-initiated, and was quickly Christianized to conform
to contemporary society. Within the “rural population” it
quickly transformed into a diluted and altered form that
today is known as folk magic.
comments that the context of Italian folk magical practice
differs considerably from that of contemporary
Italian-American revival witchcraft, so that materials are
not always easily transferable from one system to another.
This is precisely one of the main reasons why they need to
be understood as different systems. Their differences do not
render either as unauthentic but speak to different systems
that are not dependent upon one another.
In her article,
Magliocco states that all traditions are perpetually in flux
as their bearers constantly re-interpret and re-invent them
with each individual performance. She further comments that
revival and revitalization are part of the process of
tradition, even when the result is different from the
original practice itself. Ironically her argument is
therefore as true of folk magic as it would be of Italian
witchcraft. Consequently, since folk traditions transform
within the model that Magliocco supports, they cannot be the
measure of “authenticity” when comparing Italian witchcraft
or other systems. This would be particularly true of
anything that pre-dated the folk tradition, since the folk
tradition itself has transformed into something different
from its original roots.
that one of the problems with the idea of a unified
organization of Italian witches is that the Italian
peninsula could not be said to have anything resembling an
integrated culture between the end of the Roman Empire
(453ce) and the beginning of the 20th century, making the
existence of a secret, organized Italian witch cult nearly
impossible. However, the reality is that five folklorists in
Italy (during the 19th century) independently discovered a
commonality within witchcraft traditions in different
regions of Italy. Magliocco also comments that the
development of a unified Italian system of ritual magic,
diffused through oral tradition on a popular level, is
unlikely before the 20th century. She goes on to add that
any generalizations about an Italian folk culture need to be
treated with great caution. The latter statement is very
true, which is yet another reason why folk traditions and
folk magic systems cannot be the universal measurements of
authenticity in an investigation and comparison of Italian
All in all, I
feel that Magliocco’s article is very useful for people
interested in the Catholic-rooted folk traditions of Italy.
However, those readers interested in older and authentic
forms of Italian witchcraft with pagan roots will need to
find sources outside of this particular article.
GO TO ARTICLE
ARTICLE REVIEW NUMBER TWO:
Stregoneria, by Marguerite Rigoglioso
This is a review of the
article titled Stregoneria:The “Old Religion” in Italy
from Historical to Modern Times, by Marguerite
Rigoglioso. At the end of my review is a link to the entire
This article is an
interesting exploration of Italian folk magic and
witchcraft, although it does include the common
misunderstanding and conflation of the two subjects. Unlike
most members of the academic community, Rigoglioso does not
automatically discount the possibility of ancient roots and
survival elements associated with the witchcraft of Italy.
She appears to bring a balanced view into her consideration
of the topic, which I find refreshing.
Rigoglioso states the
much of the information in her article is based upon
personal interviews with Lori Bruno, Bellezza Squillace, and
a woman named “Fabrisia” (last name withheld). I happen to
know all three women personally. While Rigoglioso did not
interview me, nor did she have any correspondence with me,
she refers to me in several places within the article.
Since I am easy to contact through either my publisher or
personal website, I am surprised that no effort was made to
do so in connection with the topic explored in Rigoglioso’s
Rigoglioso begins her
article by questioning the authenticity of the word
“stregheria” compared to the common usage of stregoneria.
“I should note here
that the word for witchcraft in the modern Italian language
is ‘stregoneria.’ However, various writers, including
Charles Leland and Raven Grimassi, refer to it as
‘stregheria’ (or even the misspelled “stregeria,”), claming
that this is the term historically used by its
practitioners. As at this point in my research I have not
yet confirmed whether witches in Italy have in fact ever
called their craft “stregheria,” I will use the term “stregoneria.”
However, the word "stregheria"
is used almost exclusively in Apologia della Congresso
Notturno Delle Lamie, by Girolamo Tartarotti (1751) and
also appears as an entry in Vocabolario
piemonteno-italiano del professore di gramatica italiana e
latina - by Michele Ponza (1860), and in Vocabolario
Bolognese Italiano - by Carolina Coronedi Berti (1874),
and in Nouveau dictionnaire italien-francais et
francais-italien - by Costanzo Ferrari, Arthur Enkenkel
(1900). In the latter book, both "stregheria" and "stregoneria"
appear as separate entries with slightly different meanings;
the entry on stregoneria refers strictly to sorcery, whereas
the entry on stregheria refers to organized witchcraft in
connection with the Sabbat. The word "stregheria" also
appears in a modern Italian dictionary as a rare usage in
place of the modern word "stregoneria" (Vocabolario della
Lingua Italiana, edited by Nicola Zingarelli, 1970).
As noted earlier in my
review, I was not contacted nor interviewed by Rigoglioso.
I believe that had she taken the time to so do, the effort
would have been beneficial to the research for her article
in several areas.
I was surprised to find
that Rigoglioso refers to the views in my published material
as “purported,” while at the same time she seemingly accepts
at face value the statements of self-labeled “hereditary
Italian Witches” interviewed for her article.
“In his several
volumes, including the 1995 Ways of the Strega. Italian
Witchcraft: Its Lore, Magick and Spells, Grimassi presents
what he calls “the Aridian Tradition, originally established
in North America as a branch of Tanarra [the form of
stregoneria he says was traditionally practiced in central
Italy].” The remarkably systematized religion he presents,
a purported blending of several northern and central Italian
stregoneria practices, is, he notes, “an attempt to restore
the original Tradition.”
I find it odd that my
clarification of what constitutes the tradition that I
created is viewed as purported. Why not refer to it as
a reported blending? The use of the term “purported” strikes me as a
personal bias that has seeped into the article and caused
an avoidable contamination.
In her article,
Rigoglioso refers to a woman named “Fabrisia” as “a
hereditary Italian-American Strega” without providing
supporting evidence, but apparently accepting only
Fabrisia’s claim. Of personal interest to me is the fact
that Fabrisia first presented herself to me several years
ago as someone seeking to explore and possibly practice
Italian Witchcraft. She was quite novice in this area
as well as in the topic of witchcraft itself in general.
However, a little over a year later she had a
website with a bio wherein she claimed to have been raised
as a hereditary in Italian Witchcraft. I guess somewhere
along the line something must have jogged her memory and
allowed her to suddenly remember her past.
Rigoglioso also refers
to a woman named Bellezza Squillace, and again seems to
accept her claim to hereditary lineage without supplying the
reader with supporting evidence for accepting Squillace’s
claim. Rigoglioso goes to add:
“Bellezza is no doubt
one in a long line of priestesses of Persephone who have
operated in Italy, Sicily, and beyond as sacred mediators
between this world and the one beyond the veil.”
I think this would be
difficult to prove, and yet Rigoglioso seems to accept this
position (while referring to my “claims” as purported). I
find this very curious.
My strongest objection
to any statement in Rigoglioso’s article is with the
“Several of the
streghe told me that Raven Grimassi’s coven enacts the
“Great Rite” during certain celebrations. That is, the high
priest or high priestess has ritual sexual intercourse with
another coven member in front of the entire coven.”
Even if such an
allegation had any basis in fact, this would be something
unknown to anyone not an initiate of my tradition.
Non-initiates are not privileged to witnessing the rituals
of my tradition. The people interviewed by Rigoglioso are
not initiates of my tradition, and therefore have no
personal knowledge of what does or does not take place in
the rituals of my tradition. I think this was very poor
judgment on the part of Rigoglioso to include such
Rigoglioso does not limit her statements to hearsay, but
goes on to write:
apparently claims that this ritual is a part of the original
stregoneria tradition, my informants all tell me they were
not taught that this was a part of the Vecchia Religione”
Her statement that I
“apparently claim” this, strikes me as an admission on her
part that she’s neither heard nor read of any such claim
made directly by me. This makes sense because I certainly
never published any material asserting that initiates of my
tradition stand around in ritual circle watching the high
priestess and high priest engaged in sexual intercourse. I
am shocked that Rigoglioso includes such an unsupported
statement in her article. Her article for the most
part is a worthy academic exploration, but the inclusion of
certain things that are
better suited to the cheap tabloids takes away from what is
otherwise a noteworthy article.
GO TO ARTICLE
Article Review number
three: Who Was Aradia? The
History and Development of a Legend, by Sabina Magliocco
I have only a few
disagreements with the material in this fine article.
However, they are important differences of opinion, and I
would like to respond.
Essentially this article is
an exploration of the possible origins of the name and the
legend of Aradia. The article covers folklore, witch
trials, cultural views, and references to individuals
associated with the legend of Aradia from the time of Leland
through to modern times. One highlight of the article
for me was Magliocco's consideration that the legend of
Aradia may actually be connected to a living woman of the
past. I'll come back to that later in the review.
My first disagreement is with
the origins of the name Aradia being traceable to Herodias,
a commonly despised character from the Old Testament.
This is a complex mass of tangled elements, and this review
is not the place to take the necessary time to resolve it
now. I will write an article on this at a later time,
so please check back. But for now I will comment that
I disagree with Leland on the topic of Herodias and Aradia.
I also disagree with Magliocco that the name Aradia may have
its origins in the name Erodiade. What I was taught is
that the name "Aradia" was once the secret name of a
goddess, which was later used by the woman now attached to
this legend. I believe that the Church and its agents
intentionally created the link between Herodias and the
goddess Diana, which later conveniently served as a bridge
to include Aradia.
In her article, Magliocco
poses the question whether some women, inspired by the
legends of the Society of Diana, might have tried to
replicate the sect in medieval Europe. While that may
have happened, my view is that it was already previously
established and was the reason why the idea existed in the
first place. However, its depiction by the Church
distorted the actual ways of the sect and eventually led to
descriptions that placed it firmly in the realm of fantasy.
In a bone rarely tossed to
me, Magliocco's article contains this interesting passage:
"The existence of
ostension in the connection to these legends could also mean
that Grimassi's claim that Aradia was a real person may, in
fact, not be entirely out of the question; a healer who was
part of the society might have chosen to play the part, or
even take on the name, of Erodiade."
I agree that this may have
been a possibility, and it is an interesting road to
explore. This notion may have even played a part in
northern Europe with the legends of Robin Hood, where
perhaps real individuals kept the legend alive by taking on
the persona in some fashion. But that aside, I take
the position that a real person is behind any legend, and he
or she is the catalyst for the stories and ideas that evolve
over the centuries. I don't believe that a legend
develops out of thin air and then someone later impersonates
the key figure. I think they impersonate a figure that
"However, it is important
to remember that even if a group decided to enact aspects of
the legend of Diana/Herodias, it would not have been a
revival of pre-Christian paganism, but an attempt to act out
certain ritual aspects described in legends."
It seems to me that "an
attempt to act out certain ritual aspects described in
legends" is not an act (in this context) to deepen ones
faith in Christianity or endear one to the Church.
After all, the theme is contrary to Christianity of the era.
Therefore if the creation of a sect posing as the Society of
Diana is not a revival of paganism, and not a Christian
sect, then what else could it be? Is this just heresy
for the sake of heresy, and did its members risk torture and
death simply to enjoy or foster a pretense? This seems
unlikely at best.
Magliocco goes on to suggest
that the supernatural elements commonly associated with
witchcraft (such as flying) may have been generated through
imaginary visions and trances brought on through the use of
herbal potions. In other words the people who
"confessed" to such acts, believed themselves to have
participated (and were unable to discern between reality and
sheer fantasy). It is important to note, that for
people who use drugs for a religious or magical purpose,
their reality is that actually two worlds exist One is
the mundane word of mortal kind, and the other is the spirit
realm. The two worlds go hand-in-hand, and it is the
interplay between them that sustains both. To plow a
field for planting, and to fly to a Sabbat for a
celebration, is not a situation for a witch that calls into
question the reality or importance of either event.
Near the end of Magliocco's
article an interesting passage appears in her conclusions:
"What can we
conclude from this evidence about the legend of Aradia?
The evidence I have examined and presented here suggests
that the legend of Aradia has roots in archaic,
pre-Christian materials concerning societies of healers who
trafficked with spirits in order to cure. Healing may have
involved trance-journeys as well as ecstatic dancing. These
ancient materials combined with Classical legends of Diana
and Hecate, and during the middle ages became attached to
the New Testament story of Herodias, the eternal
While careful not to refer to
witches, the passage is still of value to survivalist views
as it demonstrates how traditions can survive and be passed
on in various guises.
Magliocco is quick to note
that "...the evidence does not support the idea that
Aradia was an early teacher of the Craft, although some
women may have called themselves Erodiade during ostensive
episodes." This seems a fair enough view,
to which I will add that perhaps one of these women was
charismatic enough to have inspired and led a band of
followers who embraced her teachings. If such a woman
existed then perhaps she was the catalyst for the legend of
Another point in the article
that I think is important to address is the following:
"There is no evidence of a
widespread revival of pre-Christian religion as a result of
the proliferation of this legend."
I assume this is a reference
to my tales of Aradia that relate how her followers traveled
and spread the teachings. If so, it was not my intent
to equate the establishment of several covens in various
regions of Italy with a "widespread revival." I'm not
even sure what constitutes a widespread revival. In
any event I believe in the oral tales that covens were
established over time and that their tradition survived in
secrecy as the centuries passed.
Magliocco's passage may also
refer to my mention of the writings of the Italian
inquisitor Bernardo Rategno. In his work titled
Tractatus de Strigibus (circa 1508), Rategno writes that
a "rapid expansion" of the "witches sect" had begun
approximately 150 years before his own time. He states
that his conclusions were drawn from a study of old trial
transcripts preserved by the Inquisition. Norman Cohn
states that the chronology suggested by Rategno is not
confirmed by other Italian documents. If so, this does
not mean that Rategno was in error, it simply suggests that
there is nothing outside of his view to prove his
conclusions. A lack or absence of evidence is not proof of
anything, it merely raises questions.
In Magliocco's closing, she
"Folklore, of course,
seldom dies; it transform itself according to new paradigms
and cultural discourses. So it is not surprising to read new
versions of this legend emerging today. Grimassi's expansion
of Leland's material must be understood in exactly such a
context, as the continuation of the legend begun so long
Here I will agree that the
story of Aradia is a living tradition, and the versions in
which it is retold are all part of the evolution of the
expanding spiritual understanding. The legend of
Aradia was never intended to be a "gospel" in the same
regard as the Christian legends about Jesus that comprise
the New Testament. In other words, the Aradia story is
not entirely fixed and constrained, nor is it designed to be
taken literally word for word. It is instead the
voice of the wind carrying the essence of Aradia's
teachings to future generations.
GO TO ARTICLE
WIKIPEDIA - ARADIA, GOSPEL OF THE
The Gospel of
Aradia, by Charles Godfrey Leland is, perhaps, one of the
most controversial writings on witchcraft. There are
many opinions regarding Leland's writings, and the Aradia
material in particular. Some of these opinions come
from people that have actually taken the time to do the reading
many misunderstandings regarding the Aradia material, and it
is indeed a difficult text to unravel. I do like to
take the time whenever possible to attempt a correction or
an alternative view. So in that light I want to
address one particular commentary.
In the online
encyclopedia known as Wikipedia, an entry appears within an
article on the Gospel of Aradia, by Charles Leland, stating:
reception of ''Aradia'' amongst Neopagans has not been
entirely positive. Clifton suggests that modern claims of
revealing an Italian pagan witchcraft tradition, for example
those of Leo Martello, and Raven Grimassi of Stregheria,
must be 'matched against', and compared with the claims in
I find it a
curious statement that a match "must" be in order,
especially considering the fact that within the academic
community the Aradia material is a disputed text. So
naturally (regarding Leland's Aradia material) matches and
comparisons for authenticity as envisioned by Chas Clifton
would require that the Aradia material be genuine throughout
the text. To date there is no proof that it meets such
a standard. Without proof that the Aradia material is
authentic and representative of Italian witchcraft it cannot
be the measure of authenticity. Therefore it cannot
effectively be used to discredit other writings or views on
Italian witchcraft, nor is it a representative ethnographic
foundation against which other writings or views "must" be
compared. The Aradia material is, unfortunately, a
disputed text with problems of its own when compared to the
usually accepted folklore, folk traditions, and folk magic
practices of Italy.
on Wikipedia's Aradia article reads:
further suggests that a lack of comfort with Aradia may be
due to an "insecurity" within Neopaganism about the
movement's claim to authenticity as a religious revival.
Valiente offers another explanation; that the identification
of Lucifer as the God of the witches in Aradia was "too
strong meat" for Wiccans who were used to the gentler,
romantic Paganism of Gerald Gardner and were especially
quick to reject any relationship between witchcraft and
appears to be another questionable view expressed within the
Wikipedia article. While some neo-pagans may be
uncomfortable with Leland's Aradia material, the reasons
need not stem from insecurity. One of the major
objections to the Aradia text is the inclusion of negative
stereotypes related to witches and witchcraft. This is
regarded as an insult by many neo-pagans (as opposed to a
feeling of insecurity). Because most neo-pagans reject
Leland's Aradia material as an accurate depiction of
religious witchcraft, its consideration in the context that
Clifton suggests, appears to be without merit.
However, the kernel of truth within the Aradia material is
the tale of the continuation and survival of the witches'
sect, and of this no true believer is in doubt or insecure.
Its appearance within a Christianized distortion (Lelands'
Aradia) is an unfortunate preservation of the survival of
religious witchcraft (fragmented and disjointed as it is in
Leland's telling). But there it seems to reside
become an interesting element related to the Internet, and
is sometimes misused as a tool for criticism and for
fostering personal agenda, as opposed to its actual noble
purpose and function. As recently as March 2008, a flurry of
deleted entries and aggressive edits of the Aradia article
have erupted. The question has since arisen regarding what’s
going on with the edits of this article. It’s been suggested
there’s an edit war being waged around text pertaining to
mention of my name and my position on various matters..
Perhaps I can
help clear up some things, and put to rest some
allegations/suspicions. One of them is that Rasenna is my
use of a sock puppet. Actually, Rasenna is one of my
research assistants on staff at the College of the
Crossroads. From time to time students and staff of the
College do frequent Wikipedia and various forums in their
spare time. I neither encourage nor discourage the use of
our computers for such personal time activities.
Second, to the
best of my recollection, I’ve never personally posted to any
article on Wikipedia. I have, however, from time to time
been alerted to various mentions of my name on this
encyclopedia. My staff suggested that I post a response on
my website to the matter of the Aradia article, since the
edits appeared to be suppressive of information intended to
expand the article. After looking over the edits, I
agreed that some action was warranted.
On the general
matter of my name appearing in Wikipedia articles, in the
beginning the entries were very negative and erroneous, and
attempts by various people to dispute these were vigorously
countered by a few editors and one administrator. I never
addressed them personally, as I believe that people should
be allowed their own views. Unfortunately this outlook is
not something reciprocated by the aforementioned
Due to the
constructive efforts of several individuals who believe that
the best opinions are informed opinions, truthful and
supporting text has remained in place within the articles
that mention my name (despite aggressive ongoing
deletions). It’s a sad commentary that such efforts are
necessary, and especially in a format like Wikipedia, which
is intended to be an accurate and unbiased resource for the
unfortunate that the mention of my name, and statements
related to my position within relevant articles, is a point
of contention. One administrator commented that he saw no
need for mention of my name or reference to my work (even
though the article pertained to topics that I frequently
write about in my published work, and inclusion was relevant
to the existing text within the Wikipedia article). This is
a sad state of affairs, and in my opinion it’s a misuse of
power and a violation of the encyclopedia's intent.
Many people feel
that personal bias and agenda has no place in Wikipedia
articles. Although this goes both ways, I do note that the
people who include my name and references to my work,
without implied criticism of me or my positions, are not the
ones who delete contrary entries. Deletion seems to be the
exclusive providence of those who have a problem with me or
my positions. Statements of implied criticism appear to be
allowed in the Wikipedia articles that include my name.
But anyone who tries to balance them with additional
information seems to be held to a greater standard and is
called to a stricter adherence of the rules. I believe this
situation is quite telling, and if someone wants to
understand what's going on with the edits, I feel they need
look no further than the core causation (which I have
In closing, I
regret that mention of my name and my position has caused
such a flurry of contested edits. I have no wish to see any
Wikipedia article subjected to disruption of any kind.
PUBLIC NOTICE: January
10, 2008INTELLECTUAL THEFT & COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT
today about the theft of an author's work by another person
who passes it off as his or her own book. This is known as
intellectual theft, and is illegal under copyright law. I
want to write about this because I recently became the
victim of plagiarism.
In December of 2007 I was alerted to the publication of a
book titled The Complete Book of the Holy Strega. Word came
to me that this book is a compilation of my writings
compiled by a woman presenting them as her own. She calls
herself Aradia della Toscana, and also uses the alias Lady
Strega, and Aradia de Toscana. The book was offered for sale
through Lulu.com but has been removed from that website
along with "Lady Strega's" store front.
Through a series of events I was sent a copy of this book,
The Complete Book of the Holy Strega. I quickly discovered
that the material is my own, word-for word, verbatim (but
my name is never mentioned). The fact is that the material in
the above mentioned book, The Complete Book of the Holy
Strega, all came from a book I wrote in 1980 and had
published by Nemi Enterprises in 1981, which was titled The
Book of the Holy Strega. It should be noted that the person
who stole my work did add Italian translations to my
previously published book (which contained only English).
However, the added Italian translation appears to have been
done through a translation program, and is very poor and
inaccurate. This is clear because tense, gender assignment,
and sentence structure are frequently incorrect in this
book, The Complete Book of the Holy Strega, which often
happens when relying on a translation program.
But for Aradia della Toscana (Lady Strega) the errors in
translation present a much larger problem. This is because
she claims that the Italian text is her grandmother's
writings as passed down in her famly tradition from Italy.
If so then this would mean that her grandmother did not
possess the necessary command of Italian (and yet is
described as a native who was raised in Italy). Another
problem in The Complete Book of the Holy Strega is the
English text itself. In my book I wrote in the Introduction
that my text is a paraphrase of oral and written Italian
material. In other words, the English is my personal
creation. And yet, Aradia della Toscana presents the exact
wordage from my book as the translation of her grandmother's
material (which she states is hundreds of years old). How
she thought she would get away with this deception is
One might assume that this person lacks intelligence, but
she actually appears to be clever and put some thought into
how to craft a deception. For example, she put a copyright
notice dated 1977 in her book, The Complete Book of the Holy
Strega. My copyright is 1981, and I assume that when caught
as a plagiarist her plan was to claim that I stole her
book. There are a couple of problems here for her. One is
that she would not be able to produce an official copyright
in court but I can.
Another problem is that she included several drawings in her
so-called 1977 copy that were actually drawn four years
later by one of my initiates. The copy of her book (The Complete Book of the Holy
Strega) that I now own states that it is a copy of the second
printing, 1977. But of course that is impossible. One of the
images used in this copy is an old Italian illustration from
a fairytale book that I reworked in Adobe Photoshop in 2007
and placed on the Stregheria.com website early last year.
Clearly this image was captured by Aradia della Toscana from
the website sometime in 2007, and yet appears in the
so-called 1977 printing of her book The Complete Book of the
Holy Strega. Well, on second thought maybe we should
question this person's intelligence afterall.
In the end the question of the day becomes why did this
person steal my work and present it as her own? I can't
answer that for her, but I do wonder how she reconciles the
spiritual nature of the teachings in the book with her
behavior of intellectual theft and plagiarism (not to
mention perpetrating a lie).
I believe that a person should obtain the results of his or
her labor. In this light, Aradia della Toscana (aka Lady
Strega, and Aradia de Toscana) should receive what she has
worked very hard for, and that is to be exposed for what she
did. It is my hope that what I have written here will help
accomplish such justice.
information on this person's legal name, email address, or
physical address, please contact me at: