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Thread: Stregoneria Italiana

  1. #1
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    Stregoneria Italiana

    Raven,

    There appears to be a strong conflict between what you know to be Italian witchcraft and what members of the Stregoneria Italiana Project believe is witchcraft. There's lots of misinformation being posted on the Internet these days, and I think it can be helpful to address this in one place (as opposed to the scattered bits on various Internet forums being used to post in). So, I hope you will share your experience and training in Italian witchcraft from the past several decades, and help sort this all out.

    To get started, here are some questions:

    1. Why is there confusion between Stregheria (witchcraft) and Stregoneria (sorcery) and why do some people believe that Stregoneria is witchcraft instead of a Catholic-based form of common folk magic?

    2. What is meant by "cultural violence" in terms of the views of Stregheria versus Stregoneria?

    3. What is witchcraft versus folk magic?

    4. When does the word "Stregheria" first appear? When does the word Stregoneria first appear?
    “There are survivals of pagan rites in Christianity, and in every man there is a survival of the pagan that preceded him; paganism is primordial fire, and it is always breaking through the Christian crust” (quote from the collected works of George Moore)

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    I believe Raven had once posted an article about this on his stregheria.com website answering these very questions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Son of Goddess View Post
    I believe Raven had once posted an article about this on his stregheria.com website answering these very questions.
    Yeah, he did write something about this. But it didn't go far enough or deep enough. The fact that BS is still being dropped here and there on the Internet shows that.

    Personally, I'm looking forward to Raven's replies. It's about time the best batter is called to home plate.

    Last edited by Vinny Mirabella; July 4th, 2008 at 05:14 PM.

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    From what I understand, there are beliefs and practices that originate in pre-Christian Italy that were later adapted into Roman Catholic terms, gaining new meaning and uses. However, I also believe that new practices arose in folk Roman Catholicism that were/are independent from pre-Christian Italy. The Italian peninsula and its people are renown for being superstitious throughout the ages, I highly doubt that the creative juices that inspired such things just stopped flowing when Roman Catholicism took hold.

    I suppose you could say that I loosely support both sides of the argument. :hehehehe:

    I think part of the major issue is how people interpret Raven's Italian Witchcraft. He quite openly stated in the beginning pages that things were adapted into the Wiccan model to suit the audience that was over populated with Celtic and other Northern European styled practices of Wicca. This tends to be ignored or just missed altogether.

    I believe the term "stregheria" was first used in a report on witchcraft during the Inquisition as referenced by Tarotti (I think that was the author, may not be remembering the name correctly though, lol).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vinny Mirabella View Post
    Personally, I'm looking forward to Raven's replies. It's about time the best batter is called to home plate.

    I do hope you'll behave yourself here, Vinny. No one needs to sleep with the fishes over this thread.


    Quote Originally Posted by Son of Goddess View Post
    I think part of the major issue is how people interpret Raven's Italian Witchcraft. He quite openly stated in the beginning pages that things were adapted into the Wiccan model to suit the audience that was over populated with Celtic and other Northern European styled practices of Wicca. This tends to be ignored or just missed altogether.
    You make a good point. In Raven's book Ways of the Strega/Italian Witchcraft he mentions in several places that the published material is mixed with "Wiccan elements" and that he's presenting a modern system that he created (called the Aridian Tradition). Nowhere in his wrtings does he ever claim that the published material is ancient or traditional (I refer to the rituals and such).

    Most of his critics want to ignore Raven's honesty here because it doesn't work for their agenda. But even a former critic of his (professor Sabina Magliocco) wrote at the time: "Grimassi never claims to be reproducing exactly what was practiced by Italian immigrants to North America..." (from her article in Pomegranate magazine, issue # 13: Spells, Saints, and Streghe: Witchcraft, Folk Magic, and Healing in Italy. So it appears that not all of Raven's critics are willing to distort facts in their attacks against him and his writings.

    Some of Raven's critics attack his knowledge by saying that he's never been to Italy and so can't know about the subject he's writing on. They completely ignore the fact that his relatives are native Italians, which means he is not separated from direct knowledge about Italian culture.

    Some of Raven's critics say he was never initiated into an Italian tradition. However, professor Magliocco, after interviewing him in person, wrotes in her letter to the Pomegranate Reader's Forum:

    "I had the pleasure of meeting Raven Grimassi during the summer of 2001, unfortunately after the final draft of my article had already been submitted to The Pom. He was very gracious and helpful to me. From information he revealed during our interview, I can say with reasonable certainty that I believe him to have been initiated into a domestic tradition of folk magic and healing such as I describe in my article."

    While Raven's critics love to use certain bits of text in Magliocco's article to try and discredit Raven, they always seem to avoid mentioning this particular statement of hers. I think that's very telling of their own honesty and integrity.
    Last edited by *Rasenna*; July 4th, 2008 at 07:38 PM. Reason: Additional thoughts
    “There are survivals of pagan rites in Christianity, and in every man there is a survival of the pagan that preceded him; paganism is primordial fire, and it is always breaking through the Christian crust” (quote from the collected works of George Moore)

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    Rasenna, I'm glad to see this thread because I've noticed a renewed smear campaign against Raven's character on the Internet by certain people. So I think this thread can help keep the record straight.

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    Quote Originally Posted by *Rasenna* View Post
    There appears to be a strong conflict between what you know to be Italian witchcraft and what members of the Stregoneria Italiana Project believe is witchcraft.
    Yes, and it will take the generation of additional information to resolve this situation. I am actually working on a book on Italian folk magic as well as a couple of magazine articles that focus on this subject. The Stregoneria Italiana project and its members are mentioned.

    Although I am well aware of the position taken by Stregoneria Italiana, I have only had conversations with three members that I know of, but unfortunately they have always talked at me rather than with me. So the conversations have been largely fruitless.

    Quote Originally Posted by Son of Goddess View Post
    From what I understand, there are beliefs and practices that originate in pre-Christian Italy that were later adapted into Roman Catholic terms, gaining new meaning and uses.
    That is certainly clear enough when we compare pre-Christian ritual and magical practices with modern folk magic practices. What is different is the perceived source of power and the shift from spirits to saints, and the shift from multiple deities to the notion of ONE GOD or Jesus. The latter being perceived as the former.

    Quote Originally Posted by Son of Goddess View Post
    However, I also believe that new practices arose in folk Roman Catholicism that were/are independent from pre-Christian Italy. The Italian peninsula and its people are renown for being superstitious throughout the ages, I highly doubt that the creative juices that inspired such things just stopped flowing when Roman Catholicism took hold.
    No argument here. It seems clear that things have been created/added to folk magic systems over the centuries. These things can be viewed as unique and special to a folk magic tradition. However it is also clear that many of the foundational elements of surviving folk magic traditions also appear in the pre-Christian era. Some examples are the use of herbs, charms, symbols, and offerings. Now these things are not, in and of themselves, the sole property of Paganism or pre-Christian religion in general. But their appearance in folk magic traditions cannot reasonably be automatically dismissed as the surviving roots. If they are inherited elements it does not mean that the folk magic tradition is pagan. By analogy if you inherit a coffee grinder from your grandmother it does not mean that when you use it you are making your grandmother’s coffee. But it does mean you are using her method.

    Quote Originally Posted by Son of Goddess View Post
    I think part of the major issue is how people interpret Raven's Italian Witchcraft.
    Yes, and I find it fascinating to see how my writings are twisted and words are put in my mouth that are not part of my position at all. People can be very creative and inventive.

    Quote Originally Posted by Son of Goddess View Post
    He quite openly stated in the beginning pages that things were adapted into the Wiccan model to suit the audience that was over populated with Celtic and other Northern European styled practices of Wicca. This tends to be ignored or just missed altogether.
    That is true. My intention in writing Ways of the Strega (later reprinted as Italian Witchcraft) was simply to provide something for people of southern European lineage. I certainly did not intend nor desire to offend anyone with my modification of the material as was the case with the mixture of Wiccan material. As my initiates know, what I have previously written publicly about Italian Witchcraft is different in several key ways from what I was taught and what I teach on the initiate level. But I do feel that what I have published so far is a good overview and example (albeit in a NeoPagan presentation). Some people have taken a hostile objection to my work, which is unfortunate.

    Quote Originally Posted by *Rasenna* View Post
    Raven,...I hope you will share your experience and training in Italian witchcraft from the past several decades, and help sort this all out.
    It would be my pleasure to do so. I will put together a reply for another posting.
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy...(from Hamlet).

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    Quote Originally Posted by *Rasenna* View Post
    I do hope you'll behave yourself here, Vinny. No one needs to sleep with the fishes over this thread.
    Hey, the Old Ways are the best ways.

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    Quote Originally Posted by *Rasenna* View Post
    1. Why is there confusion between Stregheria (witchcraft) and Stregoneria (sorcery) and why do some people believe that Stregoneria is witchcraft instead of a Catholic-based form of common folk magic?
    One of the problems is agreeing upon the definition of Witchcraft itself. In ancient times Witches were depicted (in Western Literature) as users of magic who called upon deities and spirits. Among the earliest depiction of a Witch is the figure Medea, who is portrayed as a priestess of the goddess Hecate. This ancient tale contains the oldest reference to a Witch being viewed within a religious context.

    During the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods Witchcraft was defined through its connection with the Sabbat. The Sabbat is another characterization of Witchcraft in a religious context (the claim that Witches gathered to worship the Devil). But magic was defined purely as a Craft, and its definition and understanding was not tied to the Sabbat. Therefore the Witches' Sabbat separated Witchcraft from magic or sorcery.

    The common belief is that the word Strega (a female Witch) is derived from the Latin word strix, meaning an owl. This is related to the Roman notion of beings known as striges or striga. These were vampire-like women who preyed on largely upon babies. This was the foundation for the folkloric Witch in Italy, commonly called the Night-Witch. Human nature worked to confuse the folkloric Witch with the actual human Witches that physically existed, and the two were compressed into one. This is mentioned in the book Witchcraft and Magic: Ancient Greece and Rome:

    "We have already encountered the distinction between the everyday witch and the night-witch, the one the kind of person one might well meet, and whom many people knew (of), the other the radical enemy of all human civilization such as the strix, the night-owl...but in narrative fiction the two refuse to remain distinct: the more powerful negative image constantly overwhelms the more realistic" - page 203

    So I personally reject the notion that the concept and the word Strega is legitimately derived from the Latin word strix. For concept I tend to look more to the earliest word used in Western Literature, which is the Greek word pharmekeute (indicating the Witch as an herbalist). Next to this I look at the Latin word saga, which means a seer. These seem more realistic and reflective of actual people as opposed to fantastic folkloric beings. I believe these words and concepts give us a better understanding of the roots of Witchcraft and the people that actually practiced it in ancient times.

    The confusion between Folk Magic and Witchcraft arises due to the fact that both use many of the same items and methods. However, the average old Italian grandmother would be quite upset to be told what she practices is Witchcraft. For her these things are part of Catholicism as she understands it. She calls upon Saints, uses the rosary, and believes in THE ONE GOD or Jesus, the latter being viewed as the former. She certainly would not call what she practices stregoneria, because to her this would be Witchcraft, an evil art.

    In Italian culture stregoneria is understood to be a negative form of magic often with diabolical connections. Any Italian dictionary will confirm this fact. To refer to folk magic as stregoneria is offensive to authentic folk magic users in Italy. This is because folk magic users in Italy regard themselves as Catholics, not as Witches.

    The members of Stregoneria Italiana appear to use the word stregoneria as an umbrella that encompasses all forms of Italian folk magic. This is contrary to the understanding of native Italians. Ask the average Italian what stregoneria is and you will be told it is harmful magic, and most likely you will be told it is being in league with the Devil. The same thing would happen if you stopped the average American on the street and asked him or her for a definition of Witchcraft.

    This is one of the reasons why I use the old term for Italian Witchcraft, which is Stregheria. I use the term 'stregoneria' to denote sorcery. In this light the term stregoneria can be applied to the folk magic tradition of Catholicism (meaning its Catholic-based forms of peasant magical craft). But such a use would not be accepted by the folk magic users of Italy as they would reject being called Witches. However, the members of Stregoneria Italiana use the word stregoneria to mean Witchcraft and they do apply it to the folk magic practitioners of Italy. They apparently dismiss the cultural understanding of stregoneria in Italy as defined by Italian dictionaries and the man on the street.

    Now how the words Stregheria and Stregoneria came to be is an interesting topic for research (and one that needs more study). At a surface glance, the word Stregheria contains the word "streghe" which means Witches in the Italian language. The word Stregoneria contains the word "strego" which means in the Italian language to "enchant by means of magic." This seems to suggest that the word stregheria is rooted in an understanding of Witchcraft as a community of Witches, a people if you will. Stregoneria seems to suggest a magical system as opposed to a people.

    When we look at the end of the word stregoneria we find a connection to nera or nero, which in Italian denotes something black or dark. Thus stregoneria translates literally as black magic. It is interesting to note the absence of this negative suffix in Stregheria. This strikes me as yet another good reason to use the word Stregheria for a more appropriate representation of Witchcraft.
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy...(from Hamlet).

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    Quote Originally Posted by raven grimassi View Post
    I am actually working on a book on Italian folk magic
    Most awesome!

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