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Thread: A Saint, a Pagan Goddess, 6 Bishops and a Tree

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    A Saint, a Pagan Goddess, 6 Bishops and a Tree

    Hello all.
    All this talk on the tv about fake documents reminded me of some notes I had regarding a specific south Italian legend - the tree of Diana at Benevento. (Long story short, there is a community in Italy called Benevento where according to the regional folklore witches would gather to dance around a tree, and their queen was the pagan goddess Diana.)
    I got started on this earlier this year when I was in Pittsburgh visiting with a friend who practices Neo-Pagan Stregheria. We got to talking about this legend which we were both familiar with through the writings of Raven Grimassi. [1] Being the skeptic that I am, my friend showed me an old tattered paper label that had been peeled off of a bottle of Liqueur Strega - a cordial liquor produced in Benevento. It looked like a reprint of a woodcut depicting witches dancing around a tree. This disturbed me quite a bit as I had never seen images of Italian witches in groups before. In Italian folklore they are solitary, usually half-human half-monster creatures, which parents frighten their children with at bedtime.
    After researching the legend a bit I wanted to write a book on this subject, but with a distinct possibility of the evil one getting reelected, I may have to forget about this project and concentrate more on financial concerns. Plus I really don't know how to write a book. So I'm posting my notes below. Maybe someone will have use for them. I should say that these notes get into Charles Leland's Aradia, so if that is a touchy subject for anyone, you might want to press that back button. Anyway, this is how the witches got on the label:

    Boring Geographic Information

    Since we are dealing with folklore, before we tackle the more tricky aspects of this legend, we might as well confront the mundane aspects of location and demographics.
    Benevento (Beneventum in Latin) is situated in the Subappennino region - just below the Appennine Mountains of Italy. The first inhabitants to have a recognizable culture in Benevento were the Samnites - a non-Latin Italic tribe. During the fourth century BC migrating Celtic tribes had pushed their way down the eastern side of the Italian peninsula. Though there was some shifting in populations, these particular Celts and the Samnites at Benevento seem to have merged into a new amalgamated culture which included a Celtic aristocracy and an Samnite plebiscite.

    Was Diana Ever Worshipped In Benevento? Some Inconclusive Evidence.

    After Pyrrhus left Italy, the Romans took Magna Graecia and cleaned up the Subappennino shortly thereafter. Benevento was incorporated as a colony in 268 BC and five years later sent an estimated 6,000 male colonists. [2] Out of a population which has been estimated at 63,300, this would mean that the colonists represented a mere 10% of the total population. [3] The critical piece of evidence would be some indication of the colonists' ethnicity which we unfortunately do not have. We do not know if the colonists were ethnic Latins, which if they were, would not necessarily mean that they would have worshipped Diana. So there is no way of knowing if Diana's worship was present in Benevento by this time. We can only state that worship of Diana would not have been present in Benevento before 263 BC, if she was ever worshipped there at all.
    Where history fails, linguistics may succeed. To this day the residents of this community still speak a particular dialect of Italian, dialetto beneventano, which is related to the neighboring southern dialects. This would indicate that the Latin presence in Benevento was not as strong as elsewhere in the peninsula.
    So there is no evidence proving that Diana was ever worshipped in Benevento and only a shred of evidence to disprove it. We can only hope that archaeology will one day fill in the blanks.

    Why Diana? The Christian Origins Of The Myth

    In the legend of the tree at Benevento, Diana is a goddess related to witchcraft. However there is no real basis for this association in the Roman mythology indigenous to Italy. How did Diana become associated with witchcraft in Italy? How is it that from the rather large pantheon of Roman deities, the insignificant Diana was chosen for this association?

    Here we should take a brief look at the most confusing aspect of Roman mythology, that is, why ancient Romans would have intentionally blurred the lines between their deities and the deities of other cultures, specifically the Greeks. [4]
    The poet Horace was the Roman equivalent of a Black Panther who despised the very culture which raised him. A traitor to all Italians, Horace referred to the heart of Italy as 'bumpkin Latium.' As a hellenist, when he wrote of Diana he meant Artemis - moon and all. Servius Tullius, inspired by the unity of Asian Greeks which was symbolized by the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, chose the nearest Roman goddess and built the temple of Diana in Rome. [5] Pliny the Elder, who was no friend of the Greeks, perhaps out of bitterness or perhaps out of convenience consistently refers to Artemis as Diana. [6] Virgil's purpose was to make Roman rule more palatable to Greeks by interweaving Greek and Roman mythology. [7] Even if it meant coming up with silly names such as Diana Triformis.
    In all we have four reasons why the lines between Greek and Roman deities have been blurred:

    • Romans who were referring to Greek deities. / Convenience. (Horace)
    • Romans who aspired to emulate Greeks. (Servius Tullius)
    • Romans who despised Greeks. (Pliny the Elder)
    • Romans who were trying to foster political unity between Greeks and Romans. (Virgil)

    In addition to the above we add ancient Greeks who were doing the exact same things in reverse order, as well as those who later misread the classics. [8] The latter have done the most damage. These were usually artists and historians who could read the words yet miss the meaning. For them, Diana is not merely a chaste girl who behaved the way Roman men thought little girls should behave, but an Artemis clone. The 16th century Fountainebleau painting of Diane Chasseresse is a prime example. In fact, the Diana described by Horace and the other authors I have mentiond has no cultural relevance to Italy other than the fact that she was mentioned by those same Italian authors. The Diana of the hunt and goofy-looking tiara is a paper goddess.

    In Acts of the Apostles 19:24 - 19:28, the silversmith Demetrius said to his fellow Ephesians, 'Moreover you see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that there are no gods which are made with hands. So that not only our craft, but also the temple of the great goddess Artemis should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worships.' [9] When the Ephesians heard these words they cried out, 'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians.'
    Through his words against idolatry, Paul had expelled the pagans from the temple of Artemis at Ephesus. The story had a simple message which was easy to remember. 'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians' became a mantra for the Church Fathers, proving the story of Paul and the temple of Artemis at Ephesus had a wide diffusion among early Christians. In addition, the diffusion of this myth already had an advantage. Herodotus claims that the city and the temple were saved from the attacks of Croesus by Ephesians who ran a rope from their walls to the temple, thereby escaping the invader's siege. [10] This was also the same Ionic temple which was supposedly burned the night Alexander the Great was born and rebuilt on the same spot. [11] When the story was repeated in the Latin West, early Christians simply rendered Artemis as Diana, just as Horace had done before them. For whatever reason, or no reason at all, Artemis of the Ephesians is the only goddess mentioned in the New Testament.

    From Pagans To Demons

    Saint Nicholas of Myra just might be the most famous saint in the world. This is probably because all of our knowledge of the saint is completely folkloric without any pesky historical facts to disillusion the image. Hagiographers believe he was born around 280 and died sometime between 345 and 352.
    Myth would have us believe that Saint Nicholas performed miracles, during his own life nonetheless, which bear a striking resemblance to those performed by Jesus. In all the myths of the saint, three qualities come to the forefront; omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. Saint Nicholas could raise the dead, knew right from wrong as an infant and could be in two places at once. Saint Nicholas was, without a doubt, Jesus repackaged.
    There is no evidence that Saint Nicholas is responsible for any of the accomplishments which have been attributed to him. It would seem that most, if not all of the legends surrounding Saint Nicholas, are the result of Christians who out of complete admiration have, centuries after the saint's death, inserted his presence in the most important events of early Christian history. What is important is that the legends surrounding Saint Nicholas are so fabulous that they have made his memory eternal. Of these, one is most important for this discussion: the temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

    The story has it that Saint Nicholas came to the temple of Artemis at Ephesus which was adorned richly. Saint Nicholas leveled the temple to the ground and scattered the rubble in order to vanquish the demons which dwelled inside. [12] In this story Saint Nicholas takes on the role of Paul and exorcises demons from the same temple from which Paul had expelled the pagans. Where Paul had used the words of God, Saint Nicholas used magic.
    Around 840, Methodius the Patriarch of Constantinople compiled the first Acts of Saint Nicholas. Methodius' telling of the story of Saint Nicholas and the temple of Artemis at Ephesus is the first recorded and it was from him that the story would take on a life of its own.

    Lies, Plagiarism & The New Pagans

    During the eighth to tenth centuries the simultaneous invasions of Vikings from the north and Arabs from the south created an us vs. them mentality within Christian Europe. The word Christianitas, meaning Christianity and Christendom first began to appear in the popular vocabulary. The word pagan, long extinct, was revived and applied to the invaders of Christendom. In Italy proper the vulgar Latin tongue, a theretofore strong muscle, became lazy and atrophied. Latin became Italian as Beneventum mutated into Benevento. Elsewhere in Europe the old Roman provinces of Hispania, Gallia, Germania, etc., unified under a Pope when before there was a Caesar, were now evolving into nation-states. Power was shifting to Madrid, Paris and Aachen as swiftly as the final consonants were falling from nouns. Martin Luther would not be born for centuries, yet the first rumblings of the Reformation were already being heard. In this war during which the authority of the Papacy was openly being challenged by kings, it would be the bishops and a rising petty-bourgeoisie who would fight literary battles. Europe would soon be covered by an avalanche of forged documents. Miscellaneous property deeds flaunted as proof of a monarch's privilege, and at the same time, edicts used to justify the authority of bishops known as False Decretals.

    Shortly after Methodius had compiled his Acts of Saint Nicholas, between the years 847 to 852 a person or persons somewhere in north-western France, writing under the pseudonym of Isidore Mercator was busy creating false religious decrees. Of all the fake documents written during this period Mercator's were the best. Mercator was wise enough to hide a lie within two truths. He always plagiarized pieces of older, actual church documents and classical works at the beginning and end of each decree to make them appear authentic, then hid his forgeries in between. In fact, of the 60 decrees in his collection (now generally referred to as the Pseudo-Isidorian Forgeries), 58 are fake. Mercator was able to disguise his trickery for the better part of a millennium by cleverly placing one wholly authentic church decree at either end of his collection. [13]

    But Isidore Mercator was not alone. In 860, John the Deacon of Naples shamelessly lifted Methodius' Acts of Saint Nicholas and wrote a biography. It was the first known to have exposure in Italy. In 899 bishop Reginone of Pruem wrote a collection of canon law entitled De Ecclesiastica Disciplinis et Religione Christianae. Published in 906, among several of Mercator's forgeries was one decree in particular which would confuse scholars for 900 years. Now known as the Canon Episcopi, the decree in typical Mercator fashion lifted fragments from an actual Frankish titular dated to 872, validated the authority of bishops as usual and contained three words in Latin which translate as: 'Diana, goddess of the pagans.' [14] The important line is reprinted here in its entirety.
    Illud etiam non omittendum, quod quaedam sceleratae mulieres, retro post Satanam conversae, daemonum illusionibus et phantasmatibus seductae, credunt se et profitentur nocturnis horis cum Diana paganorum dea, et innumera multitudine mulierum equitare super quasdam bestias, et multa terrarum spatia intempestae noctis silentio pertransire, ejusque jussionibus velut dominae obedire, et certis noctibus ad ejus servitium evocari. [15]
    It is also not to be omitted that some wicked women, after being perverted by Satan, seduced by illusions of demons and phantasms, believe and profess that in the hours of the night they ride upon certain beasts with Diana, goddess of the pagans, with a countless horde of women in the silence of the night and fly over vast tracts of country, and to obey her commands as their mistress, and to be summoned to her service on certain nights.
    For Mercator, the phrase 'goddess of the pagans' was simply a convenient means of making the decree sound ancient. However, Christian clerics would plagiarize Christian clerics and the Canon Episcopi would become official Church doctrine. Afterward, the Canon Episcopi would be debunked, forgotten and eventually discovered again and misquoted by disreputable authors in order to create the impression of an on-going witch cult.

    The Speculations Of Christian Clerics

    Between 887 - 890, a boy named Ratherius was born in the diocese of Liège. The patron of this diocese was Saint Nicholas and Ratherius was certainly inspired at a very young age by the saint's impatience while completely lacking the more pious traits. Ratherius was difficult, abrasive, tumultuous, zealous, ambitious, harsh, sloppy and yet strict with others. Between spending most of his life as the bishop of Verona, as well as that of Liège and going back and forth again, being imprisoned in Como and Aulne, Ratherius also produced no less than nine major works and dozens of influential Church pamphlets. It was his writings which more than any other give us an impression of the ninth century Christian mind.
    In his Praeloquia Ratherius tells us that many are deceived in believing that Herodias is a queen or goddess and that one-third of the earth is in her command. [16] This clever little rewriting of the Canon Episcopi is the best we will come across as it shows some level of originality. But what of Herodias? It is quite possible that Ratherius, as many in his time, believed in the antiquity of the Canon Episcopi and therefore took the liberty of replacing a pagan deity with a Biblical figure in order to give it some modernity. Ratherius' zealousness may also have been behind his replacement of Herodias for Diana since the former was the most infamous woman of the Old Testament, while the latter as stated earlier, was the only pagan goddess mentioned in the New Testament. This second theory behind the replacement makes sense as Ratherius did not seem to possess quite the extensive understanding of Roman mythology which later authors during the Renaissance would display. His most cryptic statement that 'one-third of the earth is in her command' could be a result of anti-Jewish sentiments, or that as Ratherius had elsewhere lifted several of Mercator's other forgeries, it is just as possible that Ratherius was quoting some other as yet unknown False Decretal. We may never know what had prompted this sudden outburst of creative license. If only Ratherius had left the canon alone it could have been listed among the Church's many forgeries. But his improvisation was not unheard of, as we shall see, and it would also spawn its own very distinct literary tradition.

    Before Reginald the bishop of Eichstaedt died in 991, this contemporary of Ratherius had written a metric entitled the Vita S. Nicholai - the Life of Saint Nicholas. Though the metric has not survived time it certainly served its function to keep the memory of the saint alive. This was just prior to the Papal Reform Movement where in order to establish some sorely needed uniformity in church matters, bishops compiled various decrees into collections. One of these by the bishop Burchard of Worms published in 1018 was simply named the Collectarium Canonum and contained over 150 different sexual sins with appropriate punishments. One of which was a love charm lifted from Ovid's Metamorphoses, demonstrating that some Christian clerics were well aware of the classics and still not very creative. The nineteenth book generally known as the Corrector seu Medicus, was frequently passed around as a work unto itself and contained two appearances of the Canon Episcopi.
    The first was the same as in Reginone's De Ecclesiastica Disciplinis et Religione Christianae with two exceptions; 1) He erroneously attributed the canon to the Council of Ancyra - an error which is unfortunately still repeated as fact, and 2) The phrase 'vel Herodiate' (or with Herodias) was added after the original reference to Diana. Burchard had produced a synthesis of Ratherius' work with that of Reginone so that the canon now read: 'cum Diana paganorum dea vel Herodiate,' meaning, 'with Diana, goddess of the pagans, or with Herodias.'
    The wicked wife of Herod was now inextricably linked with the pagan goddess from whose temple Saint Nicholas had exorcised demons, or should we say, from whose temple Paul had expelled the pagans.
    The second appearance of the Canon Episcopi in Burchard's collection was a rather transparent rephrasing where he replaced Holda for Diana. One can only assume this was done in order to explain Diana to his German readers. Here we should compare Burchard's with the original:

    The original canon:
    Illud etiam non omittendum, quod quaedam sceleratae mulieres, retro post Satanam conversae, daemonum illusionibus et phantasmatibus seductae, credunt se et profitentur nocturnis horis cum Diana paganorum dea, et innumera multitudine mulierum equitare super quasdam bestias, et multa terrarum spatia intempestae noctis silentio pertransire, ejusque jussionibus velut dominae obedire, et certis noctibus ad ejus servitium evocari.
    Burchard's rendition:
    Credidisti ut aliqua femina sit, quae hoc facere possit, quod quaedam a diabolo deceptae se affirmant necessario et ex pracepto facere debere, id est cum daemonum turba in similitudinem mulierum transformata, quam vulgaris stultitia Holdam (al. Unholdam) vocat, certis noctibus equitare debere super quasdam bestias, et in eorum se consortio annumeratum esse. [17]
    As you can see the phrases 'quod quaedam' and 'certis noctibus' appear in both. Burchard wrote 'equitare debere super quasdam bestias' instead of 'equitare super quasdam bestias', and also replaced 'Satan' with 'the Devil' by writing 'a diabolo deceptae' instead of 'retro post Satanam conversae.' When we place the original text next to Burchard's rendition the deception is apparent enough. But when separated, as the two quotes were in his collection, each took on individual roles. The first made the Canon Episcopi official Church doctrine. The second began a separate literary tradition among Germans. [18]

    In 1034 Saint Nicholas' hometown of Myra was taken by Saracens. By now the stories of Saint Nicholas were filled with such bravado that a number of Italian cities conspired to retrieve the saint's relics. The honor would go to the citizens of Bari who in 1087 executed a nighttime raid on Myra and freed (most of) the relics before iconoclastic Muslims could find the relics and do away with them as idolatrous. Since that day, the saint has also been known as Saint Nicholas of Bari. In 1090 the story of Saint Nicholas exorcising demons from the tree of Diana at Benevento first appears by an anonymous author. [19] The story itself appears rushed and was probably written to commemorate the raiding party from nearby Bari three years earlier. Which would seem to be confirmed as Sumeòn ’o Metaphrástes, the 10th century hagiographer who compiled the Menologion - ten books recounting the acts of the eastern saints, including those of Saint Nicholas, never mentions Benevento.

    For over a century Burchard's collection was the definitive guide for young ecclesiastics until the publication of the Law Book of Gratian (Decretum Gratiani) in 1140. The first written by an Italian, it contained nearly 4,000 decrees, corresponded with the rise of the Medici family, the Renaissance, the epicenter of Catholic thought migrating from Germany to Italy and also marks the entrance of non-bishops taking part in the canon's literary tradition.
    Even though we know practically nothing of Gratian, including his full name, we do know that the diffusion of Gratian's collection did perhaps the most for Diana and Herodias. Shortly after its publication the abbot Ugo da San Vittore quoted Gratian's version of the Canon Episcopi and in keeping with the reawakening of classical studies adds the name Minerva. By 1234 the collection was repackaged by Raymond of Pennafort and renamed the Liber Extravagantium. [20] 65 years later Boniface VIII reissued Gratian's canons and so did John XXII in 1317.

    Hard Times

    Giovanni Mansionario (Giovanni de Matociis) being from Verona, where Ratherius was once bishop, did as much for the revival of classical history as Erasmus did for Ciceronian Latin. He was also responsible for showing the world that there were actually two Plinys in ancient Rome - an elder and a younger. In his most excellent biographical compilation beginning with Augustus, the Historiae Imperiales published in 1313, Mansionario unfortunately compromised his scholarly work by writing that lay people erred in believing there was a secret society headed by a queen thought to be 'Diana, goddess of the pagans or Herodias.' [21] In other words, yet another rephrasing of the Canon Episcopi.
    Mansionario's contribution to this literary tradition was to add a secret society. An insignificant contribution at best, but as we have seen it has been and will continue to be minor improvisations to the Canon Episcopi such as Mansionario's which usually flourish.

    It must be emphasized that there is no evidence that by this time life was imitating art, i.e. - that there were lay people who actually believed in such a nighttime society. But rather, the historical record shows a literary tradition. One which may have been taken as common knowledge among clerics who were clearly reading the same documents. Furthermore, these clerics had no qualms with transposing characters from within the canon according to their own personal speculations or to make the names more familiar to their readers. Ratherius replaces Diana with Herodias. Burchard of Worms replaces Diana with Holda. Gratian plays it safe and includes both from differing versions. Ugo da San Vittore adds Minerva. Mansionario did not touch the characters, but replaced wicked women with lay people and conflates the canon's superstitions into a secret society.

    In 1390, two women in Milan admitted to joining the society of 'Madona Horiente' in their dreams. In later reprintings of the transcripts, the oriental Madonna was replaced with 'Diana and Herodias.' [22] Proof that Christian clerics were rewriting official documents to conform to the Canon Episcopi. This reference to an oriental or eastern Madonna was probably a reflection of fears instilled by Byzantines in the south of Italy. This would make sense as Italians have always referred to Byzantium as 'the east'. Or it could be a fear of Muslims. Or perhaps it was both and the distinction between Byzantines and Muslims was not relevant. Either way, these are matters which the two women from Milan would never have known of were it not for the sermons of clerics frightening them with mental images of the oriental horde coming to invade Italy. But we should not judge the clerics too harshly as their fears were not unfounded. Muslims had held Sicily for over two centuries, pillaged Rome in 846, maintained bases at Bari in 871, Agropoli and Garigliano in 915, Fraxinetum in 972, were still in Spain and were gaining considerable territory in Byzantium. [23] To medieval Italians the threat of eastern invaders was a very real problem. If that weren't enough, the enemy within - the undiagnosed cause of the plague, went unchallenged.

    From Demons To Witches

    Witchcraft was first identified as a heresy in 1450 by Jean Vineti in his Tractus Contra Demonum Invocatores. Conversely, Vineti would be followed by the cardinal Nicholas of Cusa declaring the False Decretals a forgery in 1464 and cardinal John of Torquemada followed suit in 1468. Then sadly, we find three centuries of ignorance with only sporadic bouts of enlightenment. There would now be inquisitors, professors and an odd monk or two who replaced the speculations of bishops with those of their own. As well as those rarest of individuals who refuted the Canon Episcopi, and in doing so, also kept it alive and well. [24]

    Bernardo Rategno's Tractatus de Strigibus (150 and De Strigiis in Lucerna Inquisitorum (1510) were preposterous works which espoused the physical reality of the witches' sabbath. Picking up on Mansionario's improvisation of a secret society, Rategno claimed that there was a 'witches' sect' (secta strigiarum) which began to expand a century and a half earlier. [25] He came to the conclusion that this witches' sect had no relation to the Canon Episcopi because the different versions of which appeared centuries before this supposed expansion. [26] In actuality Rategno was describing a pattern of superstitions and persecutions, first levied against lepers and Jews in France, which coincided with the spread of the plague. By Rategno's time the original cause of this witch hysteria had been forgotten. Luckily, Rategno's works would not be published until 1566 and therefore did little damage.

    According to Pietro Piperno's De Nuce Maga Beneventana, published in 1647, in the year 663 a bishop named Barbatus convinced the Lombard Duke of Beneventum, Romualdus, to fell the tree of Diana from which Saint Nicholas had exorcised demons. [27] This interaction between Barbatus and Romualdus never took place. As stated earlier, the legend of Saint Nicholas and the tree at Benevento was written to commemorate the citizens of Bari and their nighttime raid on Myra. Only later was the presence of Barbatus - the first iconoclast in the Benevento area, inserted into the local version of the legend. As we have seen, Piperno's rewriting of folklore was nothing new. [28]

    This is not a discussion of the legend's historical validity, but rather of the diffusion of legends. In the New Testament the pagans of Ephesus get the last word. In the folklore surrounding Saint Nicholas, he is the avenger of the Christians. In fact, his name in Greek means victorious people. Whether he is exorcising demons from a temple or a tree, the indirect object is irrelevant. Whether in Ephesus or Benevento, the setting is also irrelevant. Whether Artemis or Diana, the goddess too is irrelevant. The message was that the world was getting better. That the Romans, represented as demons, would soon be gone and that Christians were in fact, like Saint Nicholas the victorious people. It would be they and not the demons who would get the last word.

    On paper we have seen how Roman pagans were replaced by demons. In the madness surrounding the plague, in the need to blame someone, the demons were replaced by witches. Soon the fictitious bad guys would enter the folklore of the common people and life would imitate art.

    Life Imitates Art

    By 1640 the madness was more or less over. The plague had exhausted itself from Italy. The late Medieval was finally giving way to the Enlightenment. This was a time of reason during which more rational minds would prevail. David Blondel's Pseudo-Isidorus et Turrianus Vapulantes, published in 1628, proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that Mercator's canons were fake. The original Canon Episcopi itself, which escaped David Blondel, was proven to be part of the larger body of False Decretals by Pietro and Girolamo Ballerini. Girolamo Tartarotti, trying to make some sense of the witch crazes in his Del Congresso Nottorno Delle Lammie of 1749, guessed that the simple sorcery which many had been accused of just two centuries earlier was actually a remnant of ancient pagan beliefs. [29] His evidence for this were the numerous references to Diana, in both the different versions of the Canon Episcopi and other decrees inspired by that document. Though Tartarotti quoted Mansionario's speculation of a secret society word for word, his heart was in the right place. [30]
    By now the speculations of bishops and the inquisitors had entered the common folklore. Paolo de Matteis (1662-172 created an undated painting depicting Saint Nicholas exorcising demons from the tree of Diana. In Naples, the Acts of Saint Nicholas were repackaged with the Benevento version and published by Falconius the Archbishop of San-Severino in 1751. The Benevento version of the story made its way into academia where scientists named a dendritic structure of mercury and silver 'the tree of Diana.' A reference to this would go so far as to appear in Casanova. [31] In 1860, Giuseppe Alberti, a wine trader from San Felice a Cancello built a small distillery in Benevento. Shortly thereafter Alberti had learned of the now popular legend at Benevento and named one of his unique infusions Liqueur Strega. And that is how the witches got on the label.

    Rediscovery

    We have come a long way from Artemis of the Ephesians, her temple, Paul expelling pagans and Saint Nicholas exorcising demons. Mercator had by now been dead for a millennium and his edicts used to justify the authority of bishops were more or less forgotten. Of the two literary traditions we have been tracking; the Canon Episcopi and the tree at Benevento, the latter had worked its way into the common folklore and the former only appeared randomly in the works of historians who had not gotten the word of their falsehood. These two traditions have until now been separate, only crossing paths briefly on occasion. But the story is not over. These two traditions, which have their roots in Greek culture, will be blended together in Italy. They will be used as proof of an on-going witch cult and spawn a religious movement. What is most surprising is that all of this was the work of one person.

    Charles Leland (1824-1903) was a jack of all trades. Journalist, abolitionist, marxist, self-proclaimed folklorist, historian, linguist, vehement Protestant, Leland produced over 50 works and introduced the industrial arts into the American school system. Any American who enjoyed or hated Wood Shop has Leland to thank or curse. Leland was boastful, always curious, dishonest, prolific and at the same time had trouble concentrating on any one interest. During his life Leland was known mostly for his Hans Breitmann Ballads, a series of often humorous, sometimes anti-Catholic dialogues written in a grossly exaggerated Pennsylvania Dutch accent. However, posterity would remember Leland for a small text he wrote in Florence entitled Aradia or the Gospel of the Witches.
    It is not my intention to go over every line of Leland's works, but rather point out those more curious passages, particularly from his notes, which relate to our two literary traditions.

    According to the only biography ever written of Charles Leland, we have a letter from Leland to his niece dated March 26, 1889:
    A little while ago, I had given me, as a great Witch secret, a paper 'How to Make the Tree of Diana.' It is a mixture of chemicals to make a kind of foliage appear in a bottle. I had known it ever since I was a small boy, and so asked where the witchcraft came in? When I was told that Diana was the grand Magia or Queen of the Witches! Sure enough, in an Italian book 300 years old she appears as the Queen of the Witches. [32]
    From this excerpt it is clear that Leland was aware of 'the tree of Diana' - the dendritic structure, either from his childhood as he had written or possibly from its reference in Casanova. What is important here is that at least 10 years before Aradia was published Leland was investigating the source of 'the tree of Diana.'

    For twenty years Leland worked on Gypsy Sorcery & Fortune Telling. First published in 1891 it was the last book Leland would write before turning his attention toward Italy and the Etruscans, and also the last where he consistently listed sources. After presenting a spell of supposed Gypsy origin, Leland wrote the following:
    In reference to the name Herodias (here identified with Lilith, the Hebrew mother of all devils and goblins); it was a great puzzle to the writers on witchcraft why Italian witches always said they had two queens whom they worshipped---Diana and Herodias. [33]
    Leland made no attempt to answer this puzzle, i.e. - the continued appearance of Diana and Herodias in witchcraft literature. Later in the text Leland references Pietro Piperno, Paolo Grillando, Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola and Horst. [34] Which is very interesting as these are four authors who plagiarized the Canon Episcopi. So there is a distinct possibility that by the time Leland had sent the text to the publishers that he was not aware of the canon's literary tradition. Perhaps if Leland had read the Ballerini brothers or Nicholas of Cusa by this time there never would have been an 'Aradia'. Or perhaps being a disreputable author himself Leland was naturally attracted to the works of disreputable authors from previous generations.

    Before we examine what Leland knew and when he knew it, I should point out that neither Herodias nor Diana appear in any of the spells in Gypsy Sorcery & Fortune Telling, and that it was Leland himself who identified Herodias with Lilith. This identification is a recurring theme in Leland's later books and seems to have been a primary motivation. Leland's motives in this matter are cause for further research but do not need to be explored here.

    In the preface to Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition Leland tells us that two folklorists, one from the English Folklore Journal, the other from the American Folklore Journal, doubted the authenticity of his Algonquin Legends of New England. [35] Lacking the actual reports I can not tell if this was a coordinated "debunking" or independent observations. Either way, Leland had by now been discredited on both sides of the Atlantic. He then gives us a peek at his research method by writing that the Algonquins had learned that telling him a story was worth 'dollars and tobacco and pounds of tea.' [36] Leland didn't seem to have a problem with this method. Shortly thereafter in relation to the current work he wrote, '...I hold myself responsible for nothing whatever, limiting everything to this simple fact---that I very accurately recorded what was told me by others.' [37] Throughout the text Leland researches Italian folklore in reverse order of what common sense would dictate, e.g. - asking an informant if there is a moon-goddess named Losna instead of, 'Is there a deity related to the moon, and if so, what is the deity's name?' [38] Leading questions such as these made it easy for Leland's informants to fill in the appropriate blanks. So it is safe to say that if Leland was willing to pay for witchcraft he would get witchcraft.

    By the time Leland wrote Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition he had become aware of the legend of the tree at Benevento through Piperno's De Nuce Maga Beneventana. The witches in Piperno's text are true to form as they are of the malicious, supernatural type. Leland replaces the hideous witches with a 'beautiful lady,' who had a 'small white hand' and a 'soft sweet voice.' [39] In Piperno's text demons are expelled from the tree, not by Saint Nicholas, but the local hero Barbatus who continues his work against idolatry. Leland's version has the beautiful lady entice a young man into the tree where nothing interesting happens. In all, Leland's version is quite lame and a disservice to Italian folklore. Nonetheless it is a continuation of the story of the tree at Benevento. One which was perfectly suited to his audience.

    Later we find a very telling passage which warrants it being repeated in its entirety:
    Paulus Grillandus, in his Treatise on Witches (1547), a great authority in its time, speaks several times to the same effect, that witches---putant Dianam et Herodiam esse veras deas---"think that Diana and Herodias are true goddesses, so deeply are they involved in the error of the pagans." And he deduces all the evil of their ways from this false and heathenish beginning---ex qua omnes alii errores et illusiones successive dependent cum credant illas Dianam et Herodiadem esse veras deas. In which he very inconsistently ignores the fact that he has elsewhere declared Satan to be sole master of the entire sisterhood. [40]
    There are two matters of interest here:
    First, we should take note of the title. Paulus Grillandus (Paolo Grillando) never wrote a 'Treatise on Witches.' Leland is actually referring to a text entitled Tractatus de Hereticis et Sortilegiis, which translates as a "Treatise on Heretics and Fortune-tellers." Even though the Latin sortilegus (fortune-teller, soothsayer, diviner) is the root of the French sortilège (spell), there is no confusing sortilegus with any of the Latin words for witch (fascinatrix, incantatrix, maga, masca, saga, stria, striga, strix, etc.). [41] Leland was not being sloppy as he always paid close attention to words. He even worked up the etymology of Wicca in Gypsy Sorcery & Fortune Telling. [42] So it would seem Leland was not opposed to changing even a book title to suit his needs.
    Second, as much as Leland butchered the quote, by now the reader should recognize the hallmarks of the Canon Episcopi. Of course, no version of the canon ever mentions witches but only women, or in Mansionario's version, lay people. This shows us that Leland was willing to manipulate text in order to make a quote conform with his ideals. This also marks the exact point at which Leland had joined the canon's literary tradition.

    Leland refers to Gypsies as having a relation with the biblical Cain in the preface to Legends of Florence. He does so by calling them 'children of the Cainites,' and writes that their folklore illustrates 'the evolution of the Opposition or Protestant principle.' [43] Behind the Darwinism we see that Leland's love of all things occult and proletarian, which led him to the Gypsies in the first place, also led him to reward the Gypsies with undeserved accomplishments. This is something which George Borrow never did in his The Zincali: An Account of the Gypsies of Spain - a book which, in part, inspired Leland's later works. Nonetheless, Leland later worked Cain into some of the conjurations in Legends of Florence and gives a circuitous explanation of his identification of Cain as a rebel. [44]
    In dealing with charlatans, whether they be Leland or a select number of modern authors who cling to their pseudohistories no matter how embarrassing, we have two tools at our disposal; 1) A lack of evidence supporting their claims, and usually, 2) Evidence proving the contrary. Where Cain is concerned we have both a lack of evidence for his presence in Italian folk magic as well as evidence proving the contrary, namely, the cult of the saints. What is important is that as early as 1895 Leland had developed, in depth, a new symbol for his hatred of Catholicism. Which brings us to Aradia or the Gospel of the Witches (hereinafter Aradia).

    An overview of Leland's claims regarding Aradia is all that is necessary to know that it is a fake. Basically Leland claimed to have been given, in the form of a manuscript, evidence proving the continuation of pagan worship from antiquity to the present, which according to him, he lost. One would think that a discovery of such value would have warranted the purchase of a safe. Or that Leland would have immediately held a press conference in light of the manuscript's importance. Furthermore, Leland admits to altering, adding and removing information in the manuscript, which is very odd behavior from someone who considered himself a folklorist. The use of specifically Florentine Italian when the manuscript supposedly came from witches in the Romagna, the language which is soundly 19th century, the grammatical errors which are typical of an English-speaker and the thinly veiled call for class consciousness in marxist fashion are all dead giveaways of a hoax.

    The problem for classicists is that the Diana of Leland's Aradia is not the Diana indigenous to Italy but the paper goddess created by Roman hellenists. This Diana took centuries to develop in writing, from late medieval Christian clerics, through the Renaissance and beyond to the Romantic Era. In actuality, this Diana was still in the development process when Leland was writing Aradia.
    We see Leland's disregard for the differences between Greek and Roman mythologies in chapter 9 where he rewrites the ancient Greek legend of Endymion and the moon. He reworks it to include 'Tana,' a supposed Etruscan deity he claims was the same as Diana, and 'Endamone' for Endymion. [45] This is an epic, much like Endymion: A Poetic Romance written by Leland's poet-hero John Keats in 1816. The very epic which Leland quoted in the opening of Aradia. The reviewers were harsh on Keats and he admitted he deserved it. Still, Keats at his worst was better than Leland at his best. The latter should have known better.
    Throughout Aradia Leland references the Greek classics, Robert Browning and Chaucer's Knight's Tale to justify his Diana. In chapter 13 he associates Diana with the bow, arrows, the hunt and dogs. Clear references to the Greek story of Artemis and Actaeon - a story recounted by Roman hellenists and the early Church Fathers. Sadly, nowhere in the book do we ever meet Diana of the Italians.

    In relation to the 'Conjuration of the Lemon and Pins,' researchers have searched in vain for evidence of this practise among Tuscans and have looked as far away as Africa for evidence of some concurrence. [46] Yet they do not have to look that far. This practice was documented among Sicilians by Guiseppe Pitrè, whom Leland referenced often, and Phyllis Williams, who documented the practice among Sicilian-Americans. [47] Also, some of the conjurations and stories in Aradia, Legends of Florence (and Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition, as stated earlier,) contain references to Benevento. By now we have to wonder why witches, which Leland assures us were Tuscan, would have given him Campanian folklore and bits of Sicilian folk magic when campanilismo - a uniquely Italian sense of regional pride and prejudice would have forbidden it. [48] The answer to this question is pretty clear. Leland was taking multiple sources and merging them together as only he knew how.

    As for the incantations Leland presents us with, about half do actually follow the format for Italian incantations. [49] So Leland did have help with the incantations, either from reading the works of Guiseppe Pitrè or an informant. However, all are incredibly way too long. (One is forty lines long!) In addition, as stated with Cain earlier, no one has ever documented the presence of Diana or Herodias (or Aradia) in any Italian incantation, while there is much documentation recording the presence of God, the saints, Jesus, the Virgin Mary and even the Devil. Overall, Leland's incantations lack the very essence of Italian folklore; the typically Italian sense of fatalism, the overbearing predestination which some of us who were raised Catholic are still burdened with, the regional pride. All of these are missing from Aradia.

    In the appendix Leland writes of his Diana, 'that as a moon-goddess she is in some relation to Cain...' [50] The words 'some relation' would indicate that this is new material for Leland. But as I made sure to point out earlier Leland spent much time developing Cain into a symbol in Legends of Florence. When we put this together with Leland's hackneyed insertion of Virgil, either as flattering appreciation of Dante Alighieri or as an insulting stereotype, these are signs that we are giving more attention to Leland than he deserves. But someone has to do it.

    Many are surprised to learn that most of Aradia had already appeared in Leland's Gypsy Sorcery & Fortune Telling, Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition and Legends of Florence. It is curious that this manuscript, which Leland claimed not to have seen before January 1, 1897, is mostly made up of his own previously published material. [51] In fact, Leland had made claims of manuscripts before. [52] In all, there are only two differences between Aradia and Leland's other works:

    • The book portrays Italian witchcraft as an organized resistance against the Church.
    • The name Aradia.

    Italian witchcraft, being folk magic, is not a resistance movement but the practise of science without scientific knowledge. A practise which has gone into disuse since the Marshall Plan made folk healing antiquated and which is now on the edge of extinction. When Leland ventured out of prosperous Florence, he would have seen contadini - landless farmers who lived much like Russian serfs and not too different from the American slaves whom he tried to liberate. We can only guess what impact this would have had on his conscience. When Leland went to Italy the Italian nation was only a few years old. Pope Pius IX had earlier employed French troops to keep the Italian capitol out of Italian hands. As hatred of the Papacy was still in the air, Leland's proclamations of an organized resistance against the Church merely captured the popular sentiment. It also dates the work to the late 19th century.

    As for the name itself, earlier we have seen how Leland was willing to splice Paulus Grillandus' version of the Canon Episcopi to conform to his ideals. We have seen how he pleaded ignorance in regards to the association with Cain. Is it so hard to believe that he was incapable of inventing a name? Or maybe, for some it is just hard to believe that they didn't think of it first. At any rate we should at least remind ourselves that some of the names of deities in Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition share the same unfounded status with Aradia.
    Numerous researchers have spent years trying to find references to the name in Italian literature before Leland and have turned up nothing. According to Leland the name Aradia is evidently a mutation of Herodias. [53] Since the name Herodias in Italian is Erodiade, we could just as easily look at all the references to Erodiade in Italian literature since Leland, which would prove the name has not mutated. [54] It is not surprising considering how integral the name Aradia is to Leland's story of Italian witchcraft that the Italian name, Erodiade, does not appear even once. This contradiction would have been too hard even for Leland to explain. [55]
    If we may put all of this aside, Aradia still is a beautiful name. It has the proper number of vowels and consonants, rolls off the tongue and even sounds Italian. This is the true mystery of Aradia... why Leland never claimed his greatest invention.

    Embedded halfway through Aradia Leland tells us '...I am often struck by the fact that in these witch traditions which I have gathered there is a wondrous poetry of thought, which far excels the efforts of many modern bards, and which only requires the aid of some clever workman in words to assume the highest rank.' [56] Here we must remember that it was Leland who gently lifted concepts from classical to medieval works, then intricately wove them together in his own verse. That it was Leland himself who captured the mood of 19th century Italians wishing to see an end to the Papacy. Just as it was Leland who satisfied the desire of 19th century Anglo-Americans yearning for proof of the continuation of pagan worship. In other words, Leland was that clever workman.

    Notes
    1. Grimassi, Raven., Italian Witchcraft The Old Religion of Southern Europe. St. Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn. 2003.; Ibid., Hereditary Witchcraft Secrets of The Old Religion. St. Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn. 2001.
    2. Cornell, T.J., The Beginnings of Rome. New York: Routledge. 2003., p. 364.
    3. Ibid., p. 381; cit., Afzelius, A., Die römische Eroberung Italiens. Copenhagen: 1942.
    4. For continuations of some uniquely Italian forms of Roman mythology see: Laing, Gordon J., Survivals of Roman Religion. New York: Cooper Square Publishers, Inc. 1967.
    5. Livy., The Early History of Rome. Translated by Aubrey de Sélincourt. New York, New York: Penguin Group. 1971., p. 83.
    6. Pliny the Elder., Natural History. Translated by John F. Healy. New York, New York: Penguin Group. 1991., pp. 62, 96, 183, 307, 344, 354-355.
    7. Cf., Cornell, T.J., The Beginnings of Rome., p. 65.
    8. Elworthy, Frederick Thomas., The Evil Eye An account of this ancient and widespread superstition. London: J. Murray. 1895., p. 350.; Evans, Bergen., Dictionary of Mythology. New York, New York: Dell Publishing. 1991., p. 259.
    9. Acts of the Apostles, 19:27. Compare with the historian Pausanius' Guide to Greece: 4.144, '...but every city recognizes Ephesian Artemis, and people individually honor her above all the gods.' *
      * Pausanius., Guide to Greece, Volume 2: Southern Greece. Translated by Peter Levi. New York, New York: Penguin Group. 1979., p. 176.
    10. Herodotus., The Histories. Translated by Aubrey de Sélincourt. New York, New York: Penguin Group. 1996., p. 11.
    11. Botsford, George Willis and Robinson, Charles Alexander., Hellenic History. New York, New York: The Macmillan Company. 1969., p.360.
    12. De Groot, Adriaan D., Saint Nicholas A psychoanalytic study of his history and myth. New York: Monton & Co. 1965., p.146.
    13. New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 5. New York: McGraw-Hill. 1967., pp. 820-822.
    14. Caro Baroja, Julio., The World of the Witches. Translated by O.N.V. Glendinning. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1961., p. 61.
    15. Grimm, Jacob., Teutonic Mythology Volume I. Translated by James Steven Stallybrass. New York: Dover Publications Inc. 1966., p.283.
    16. Ibid., p.283-284.
    17. Ibid., p. 266-267.
      For those interested:
      It was believed that it was possible for some woman to do this, who had been deceived by the Devil, and confessed herself compelled to do it by a spell, by a demon changed into the form of a woman whose vulgar stupidity calls Holda (also known as Unholda), and should on certain nights ride upon certain beasts, and to be numbered among their company.
      In my opinion, the last sentence from Burchard's rendition, 'in eorum se consortio annumeratum esse' is reminiscent of Horace's 'Maecenas, amicus Augusti, me in numero amicorum habet.'
    18. Cf., Grimm, Jacob., Teutonic Mythology Volume I., p. 265.
    19. L'Adventus di San Nicola in Benevento. Benevento, Italy: Studi Beneventani. 1998. n.7.
    20. Metz, René., What is Canon Law?. Translated by Michael Derrick. New York: Hawthorn Books Inc. 1960., p. 8.
    21. Ginzburg, Carlo., Ecstasies Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath. New York: Penguin Books. 1991., p. 111; cit., Vallicelliana Library, Rome, ms. D. 13, c. 179 r.
      Adhuc multi laycorum tali errore tenentur credentes predictam societatem de nocte ire et Dianam paganorum deam sive Herodiadem credunt hujus societatis reginam.
    22. Ibid., p. 92.
    23. Johns, Jeremy., Article in The Oxford History of Christianity., edited by John McManners., New York: Oxford University Press. 1993., p. 174.
    24. To this list we should add Andreas Alciatus (Parergon Juris), Bartolomeo Spina (Quaestio de Strigibus), Bernardo Rategno (Tractatus de Strigibus and De Strigiis in Lucerna Inquisitorum), Franciscus Ponzinibius (Tractatus de Lamiis), Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola (Strix and the Italian version Strega), Girolamo Visconti (Lamiarum Sive Striarum Opusculum), John Chapuis (Corpus Iuris Canonici), Jordanes de Bergamo (Quaestio de Strigis), Paolo Grillando (Tractatus de Hereticis et Sortilegiis), Pietro Piperno (De Effectibus Magicis and De Nuce Maga Beneventana), Pietro Pompanazzi (De Naturalium Effectuum Causis), Samuel de Cassini (Question de le Strie), and Sylvester Prierias (Sylvestrina Summa and De Strigimagarum Daemonumque Mirandis).
    25. Cf., Ginzburg, Carlo., Ecstasies Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath., p. 71.
    26. Comensis, Bernardus., Tractatus de Strigibus. Cornell University Library. ms., p. 152.; Ibid., p. 162.
    27. Cf., L'Adventus di San Nicola in Benevento.
    28. Piperno and the anonymous author of the story of Saint Nicholas and the tree at Benevento had a like mind in Odericus Vitalis from England. Rewriting the story of Saint Nicholas and the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Vitalis replaced Saint Nicholas with Saint Taurinus in his Ecclesiastical History, v. 556. Vitalis seems to have borrowed a line from Caesarius of Arles when he wrote 'Hanc vulgus Gobelinurn appellat' instead of 'quod rustici Dianam vocant.' Or 'common people' instead of 'rustics' and 'goblin' instead of 'Diana.' * A closer look at Saint Nicholas may provide more revisions of this story in different places. If anyone is up to the challenge?
      * See Klingshirn, William., Caesarius of Arles Life, Testament, Letters. State College, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press. 2003.; Ibid., Caesarius of Arles The Making of a Christian Community in Late Antique Gaul. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. 1994.
    29. Hutton, Ronald., The Triumph of the Moon A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. New York: Oxford University Press Inc. 1999., p. 137.
    30. Cf., Ginzburg, Carlo., Ecstasies Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath., p. 111.
    31. 'I next saw the Tree of Diana of the famous Taliamed, whose pupil she was...'
    32. Martello, Leo Louis., Witchcraft The Old Religion. Secaucus, NJ: Castle Books. 1991., p. 47.
    33. Leland, Charles Godfrey., Gypsy Sorcery & Fortune Telling. Edison, New Jersey: Castle Books. 1995., p. 37.
    34. Ibid., p. 64.
    35. Leland, Charles G., Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition. New York: C. Scribner's Sons. 1892., p. 13.
    36. Ibid., pp. 13-14.
    37. Ibid., p. 15.
    38. Ibid., p. 90.; Note: Leland admits to doing the same in Legend's of Florence. Cf., Leland, Charles Godfrey. Legends of Florence, p. 238.
    39. Ibid., pp. 147-148.
    40. Ibid., p. 151.
    41. White, John T., A Latin-English Dictionary. Boston: Ginn Brothers. 1872., p. 576.
    42. Cf., Leland, Charles Godfrey., Gypsy Sorcery & Fortune Telling., p. 66.
    43. Leland, Charles Godfrey., Legends of Florence. New York: MacMillan and Co. 1895., p. ix.
    44. Ibid., pp. 260-262.
    45. The Italian name for Endymion is actually Endimione.
    46. Leland, Charles G., Aradia or the Gospel of the Witches., Custer, Washington: Phoenix Publishing Inc. 1990., p. 29.
    47. Williams, Phyllis H., South Italian Folkways in Europe and America, A Handbook for Social Workers, Visiting Nurses, School Teachers, and Physicians. New York: Russell and Russell. 1969., p. 154.
    48. Malpezzi, Frances M. and Clements, William M., Italian-American Folklore. Little Rock, Arkansas: August House, Inc. 1992., p. 29.
    49. For comparisons of Italian incantations see: Cf., Malpezzi, Frances M. and Clements, William M., Italian-American Folklore.; The Evil Eye A Folklore Casebook. Edited by Alan Dundes. New York: Garland Publishers. 1981.; Pitrè, Guiseppe., Biblioteca della Tradizione Populari Siciliane.
    50. Cf., Leland, Charles G., Aradia or the Gospel of the Witches., p. 101.
    51. Ibid., p. 101.
    52. Cf., Leland, Charles G., Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition., pp. 11-12.
    53. Cf., Leland, Charles G., Aradia or the Gospel of the Witches., p. 102.
    54. I Dizionari Sansoni Ingelese-Italiano Italiano-Inglese. Edited by Vladimiro Macchi. Firenze: Sansoni Editore. 1988., p. 490.; Erodiade e Gesù by Giuliana Pistoso (2001); Translations of Stéphane Mallarmé's Les Fleurs (1864) and Les Noces d'Hérodiade (189; Erodiade by Giovanni Testori (1969); Filippo Lippi's Erodiade in the Cathedral of Saint Stefano in Prato; Giovanni Francesco Barbieri's Erodiade suona il liuto in the Galleria Sabauda in Turin, etc.
    55. The name Erodiade does appear in Leland's Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition, which was written before Aradia. So Leland was familiar with the name Erodiade before Aradia.
    56. Cf., Leland, Charles G., Aradia or the Gospel of the Witches., p. 75.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by TYRRHENUS
    Hello all.
    All this talk on the tv about fake documents reminded me of some notes I had regarding a specific south Italian legend - the tree of Diana at Benevento. (Long story short, there is a community in Italy called Benevento where according to the regional folklore witches would gather to dance around a tree, and their queen was the pagan goddess Diana.)
    I am assuming that you and I cannot have any meaningful discussion about this topic since you made it publicly known in a MW poll that you “hate” my published books. Therefore it seems unlikely that anything I say will be of value to you. But, that aside, I feel I must comment for the benefit of others, because I believe there are significant errors in the theory you present that can mislead people who read your post. Your post is much too lengthy to tackle piece by piece, so I will just share some of my views.

    As a preface, I will add that I am not unfamiliar with Charles Leland, Italian folklore, or Italian Witchcraft, as I have studied these topics thoroughly for over 35 years. I have read the two volume bio on Leland, his personal journal in the Library of Congress, along with many letters of correspondence written between him and other folklorists of his period. This is why I will state that the portrayal of Leland, his so-called “admissions” and other things stated in your post about him are actually misrepresentative of his actual position on the topic of Italian Witchcraft.

    To better understand Leland and Italian Witchcraft as noted in the period, we can turn to other folklorists who were investigating Italian Witchcraft during the same era. These include J.B. Andrews, Lady De Vere, Roma Lister, and others. What is interesting is that they independently investigated Italian Witchcraft in different regions of Italy. Despite the regional differences, different dialects, different cultures, and different popular lore, each of them reportedly virtually the same theme related to the Witches’ sect that Leland did in his pre-Aradia material. This is very striking and very confirming of a surviving sect of Witches. This also supports Leland’s early reports. The Aradia material is a whole different story, but your post is inaccurate regarding this work as well.

    In your post you point to popular lore as an argument against the type of Witch reported by Leland and others. But this is as pointless as using the Pinocchio cartoon to learn about whale behavior. Italian folklore has been modified by a variety of influences over the centuries. To draw anything useful one would have to go back to the writings of Giambattista, circa 1637. If you are interested in some authentic and useful lore, there is a fascinating study by two Italian anthropologists who wrote on the popular Italian Witch figure known as Befana. The book is titled Una Casa Senza Porte (The House without a Door) by Claudia and Luigi Manciocco. They trace the Befana figure from Neolithic religion up through the centuries into goddess worship and the Witch sect, ending in modern times as an ancestral figure that connects the past generation to the present.

    The “history” of Italian Witchcraft that your post depicts is largely constructed on the views of Christians who were hostile to Pagan religion and intolerant of anything contrary to their theological views. The contrived association between Herodias and Diana is easily unraveled, and even Ginzburg notes that the name Herodias was inserted by various clergymen to intentionally displace the name of Diana in “confession” records.

    A more reliable view of the “Society of Diana” can be found in the writings of early saints such as St. Martin, and among the “wandering scholars of the Middle Ages” (a theme discussed by Helen Waddell). Here we find simple reporting through observation, as opposed to the agenda of secular courts and Church officials. One example that stands out is the worship of Diana in southern Europe during the 5th & 6th centuries CE. It is here that the phrase “Society of Diana” first appears. This phrase is repeated in Church documents and in trial transcripts from the 4th century through the 17th century (including trial transcripts in Benevento). Your claim that there is no ancient connection between the goddess Diana and Witches is not supported by the literary evidence. She was clearly associated with Witchcraft by such ancient writers as Horace, Ovid and Lucan. In fact Lucan places her in a triformis aspect along with Hecate and Persephone.

    As to the Witches’ tree in Benevento, this theme of antiquity is widely spread throughout not only mainland Italy but also in Sicily. It appears in writings as early as the 7th century where the legend is said to be very old, and it even appears in the persecution of the Sicilian Fairy cults of the 15th and 16th centuries. Something so widespread and tenacious is certainly rooted in great antiquity. The association of Diana with the Witches of Benevento is bore out by trial transcripts, and so Leland does not stand alone there.

    Best regards - Raven

  3. #3
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    Wow.... I read the title and thought that was the beginning of a goofy bar joke.

    I know you went to a lot of trouble to post this, but to be honest, my eyes just glazed over when I saw the length of it. Sorry.
    ~ * ~ * ~ Here's my latest art on Fine Art America ~ * ~ * ~

    I also do commissions, so if you're interested in having me paint something specifically for you, just contact me. Mention that you're an MW member, and get a 5% discount on your specially commissioned piece. And if the piece has an animal as the subject, I'll see to it that future sales of the prints also benefit a rescue organization devoted to that species/breed.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by raven grimassi
    I am assuming that you and I cannot have any meaningful discussion about this topic since you made it publicly known in a MW poll that you “hate” my published books.
    Ouch! I know its not a rule, but I've found it much easier to get along with others if we enter each post with a clean slate. (One would think that poll results would be anonymous anyway...) I don't really think we have to make this about your books. If we were, and a propos of the subject of this post, I'd have lots of questions about the timeline in chapter 2 of Italian Witchcraft in which 13 out of the 18 entries refer the Canon Episcopi and are presented as disconnected events and "evidence of the antiquity and survival of Italian Witchcraft." (p. 8. Grimassi, Raven. Italian Witchcraft The Old Religion of Southern Europe)
    Even though your capitalization of the words "witch" and "witchcraft" lead me to believe that you are of the Murray/Gardner witchcraft = religion school and that we would probably go back and forth speaking two different languages, I do think we could have a meaningful conversation on the subject which may very well bore the heck out of many others. So I'll try to be short and not too objectionable.

    The Aradia material is a whole different story, but your post is inaccurate regarding this work as well.
    If you'd like to expand on this it would be appreciated because I barely touched on that, I think.

    They trace the Befana figure from Neolithic religion up through the centuries into goddess worship...
    I've never heard of this, and frankly, it sounds a little fishy. The only Befana I know of is a bolognese-type of Santa Claus who gives candy to kids and comes out on the Epifania, hence the name. Sounds interesting though.

    The “history” of Italian Witchcraft that your post depicts...
    I depicted a history of Italian witchcraft? Man, did I fail. I thought I posted blurbs showing how two literary traditions were repeated by Christian clerics until Leland wove them together.

    ...and even Ginzburg notes that the name Herodias was inserted by various clergymen to intentionally displace the name of Diana in “confession” records.
    Ginzburg, as you know, was interested in the actual beliefs of the victims, and to a lesser extent what was going through the minds of the inquisitors. (I did the exact opposite in this post, I think.) But even Ginzburg said something to the effect of "it is hard to determine the beliefs of these women from the speculations inserted by the clerics." For instance the two women in Milan (1390). He tells us that neither confessed to worshipping Diana, but rather joining the society of Madona Horiente, and that Diana and Herodias were later inserted into the transcripts. So what can we believe?

    It is here that the phrase “Society of Diana” first appears. This phrase is repeated in Church documents and in trial transcripts from the 4th century through the 17th century...
    This is very interesting. Lacking the actual sources I can't refute or debate this. Only remind any others reading this that the rewriting of transcripts to conform to official Church doctrine, which happened often as I think I demonstrated, was the main point of the original post.

    She was clearly associated with Witchcraft by such ancient writers as Horace, Ovid and Lucan.
    This I thought I addressed. But then agian these were just notes from an abandoned project of mine, so they probably aren't very clear. I'll try again. Horace, Ovid and Lucan were all hellenists. Baroja was fond of quoting these three but I think he missed the point. The Diana these guys wrote of only existed on paper. Here's some sources for the Italic Diana: Catullus 34.21-2; Cicero In Verr. II 5.184; Laevius fr. 26; Statius Theb. IV 746-64; VI 633-37; Tertullian de Anim. 39; Valerius Cato Lyd. 41-4; Varro De Lingua Latina V 68-69.

    As to the Witches’ tree in Benevento, this theme of antiquity is widely spread throughout not only mainland Italy but also in Sicily. It appears in writings as early as the 7th century where the legend is said to be very old...
    In Benevento? I just hope you're not getting this from Paolo Grillando. As for Sicily, Bonomo's Caccia alle streghe recounts a number of Sicilian stories which are clearly inspired by the classics. For instance, I'm working from memory here forgive me, there is one about the Virgin Mary and a witch named Sibilla who get into an argument and the latter throws the former's books into a fire. Which sure sounds like the story of King Tarquin and Sibyl. One of the women in Milan was named Sibillia and Ginzburg says that was probably a nickname. Which I think would indicate that the recorders were using the same reference points.

    Something so widespread and tenacious is certainly rooted in great antiquity.
    I so totally disagree with this. People get around plus the Church has always had a very thorough network for transmitting information (and doctrines).
    Quote Originally Posted by NeferSesemet
    ...my eyes just glazed over when I saw the length of it. Sorry.
    Oh, that's understandable. I just wanted to put it somewhere where someone might have some use of it.

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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by TYRRHENUS
    Ouch! I know its not a rule, but I've found it much easier to get along with others if we enter each post with a clean slate. (One would think that poll results would be anonymous anyway...) I don't really think we have to make this about your books. If we were, and a propos of the subject of this post, I'd have lots of questions about the timeline in chapter 2 of Italian Witchcraft in which 13 out of the 18 entries refer the Canon Episcopi and are presented as disconnected events and "evidence of the antiquity and survival of Italian Witchcraft." (p. 8. Grimassi, Raven. Italian Witchcraft The Old Religion of Southern Europe)

    Even though your capitalization of the words "witch" and "witchcraft" lead me to believe that you are of the Murray/Gardner witchcraft = religion school and that we would probably go back and forth speaking two different languages, I do think we could have a meaningful conversation on the subject which may very well bore the heck out of many others. So I'll try to be short and not too objectionable.
    It was not my intention to make this personal. I can appreciate your dismay over finding that the MW poll was not anonymous. I don't have an emotional investment in your negative feelings regarding my books, and so I have no axe to grind. I was simply pointing out that I had no delusions of convincing you of anything due to your views of me as an author you strongly dislike. My post reply was for the benefit of other people. But I'm fine with the "clean slate" approach, and I bear you no ill feelings.

    Regarding your comments about the time line on "page 8" in my book Italian Witchcraft, and the alleged multiple references to the Canon Episcopi, you must have a different copy from the one I produced. The timeline actually begins on page 15, and there are only two references to the document to which you refer. Your confusion may reside in the fact that the same theme we find in the Episcopi is repeated in other reports related to Witchcraft. The theme shows up in different regions at different periods, and so the account is not a reflection back to the Episcopi document. It is instead an ongoing repetition of the beliefs first noted in the Epsicopi, which continue to be uncovered in various regions.

    Regarding your comments about the capitalization of the words "witch" and "witchcraft" in my book, this was the policy of the Publisher at the time. But, I do continue to capitalize Witch and Witchcraft, just as I capitalize Christian and Christianity. Your assumption that I am of the "Murray/Gardner witchcraft = religion school" is probably too broad a paint brush for me. Like Ginzburgh, I feel that Murray's theory contained a "kernel of truth" but I do not back Murray's overall position.

    When I look at ancient references to Witchcraft, I find the Witch Medea portrayed as a priestess of the goddess Hecate. The notion of a priestess does bring to my mind the idea of religion. Horace, Ovid and Lucan all portray Witches praying to various goddesses. The notion of prayer does bring to my mind the idea of religion.

    Historian Richard Gordon points out that in ancient Greece, Witches were considered to be practitioners of "illicit religion." He notes that the State sanctioned and acknowledged only those sects who built and maintained a temple. Witches had no temples, therefore they were practicing "illicit religion." But it is noteworthy that Witches are mentioned regarding religion itself. Gordon's essay can be found in the book Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: Ancient Greece and Rome (edited by Ankarloo and Clark).

    Historian Albert Grenier (The Roman Spirit in Religion, Thought, and Art) notes that people who did not belong to officially recognized sects, gathered outside the cities at night, coming together at the crossroads. Here, he says, they formed and practiced their own religion.

    Your confusion regarding Befana addresses an important problem. You refer to Befana as a bolognese-type of Santa Claus who gives candy to kids and comes out on the Epifania, hence the name. This is an example of the difference between popular folklore (an exoteric tradition) and its older form (esoteric tradition). Etchings that appear in the works of Bartolomeo Pinelli, circa 1825, depict Befana amidst the gathered harvest. The traditional burning of Befana in effigy, and the scattering of her ashes in the planting fields speaks to something deeper than a mere Santa figure. You may personally regard the research of respected anthropologists as “fishy” but what they present is bore out by the old customs associated with Befana in street processions and rural settings.

    On a side note, the reference you make to Befana's name being derived from "Epifania" is a common error (and most likely rooted in Christian modifications). The name is actually rooted in the Italian word 'bene" (meaning good or well) and the goddess name Fana. So, its older rendering is "the good Fana" (Bene Fana, or for short - Befana). Elements of the worship of Fana show up in the symbolism associated with the Befana festivals of Old Italy (which, BTW - show up in various regions of Italy, north and south).

    As to discussing the Aradia material, I'd be happy to, and perhaps this should be its own thread. I'll put something together soon.

    Best regards - Raven

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    Quote Originally Posted by raven grimassi
    Befana as a bolognese-type of Santa Claus who gives candy to kids and comes out on the Epifania, hence the name. This is an example of the difference between popular folklore (an exoteric tradition) and its older form (esoteric tradition). Etchings that appear in the works of Bartolomeo Pinelli, circa 1825, depict Befana amidst the gathered harvest. The traditional burning of Befana in effigy, and the scattering of her ashes in the planting fields speaks to something deeper than a mere Santa figure.

    On a side note, the reference you make to Befana's name being derived from "Epifania" is a common error (and most likely rooted in Christian modifications). The name is actually rooted in the Italian word 'bene" (meaning good or well) and the goddess name Fana. So, its older rendering is "the good Fana" (Bene Fana, or for short - Befana). Elements of the worship of Fana show up in the symbolism associated with the Befana festivals of Old Italy (which, BTW - show up in various regions of Italy, north and south).
    You got me digging back through my old books. I have a book called Festivals and Folkways of Italy, by Frances Toor. It was published in 1953. The author talks about Befana festivals that she encountered in Italy during her travels. She attended one in Sicily, Bari, and Sardinia. The author says that in Sardinia the festival of Befana included a procession to the crossroads and offerings to the spirits of the dead. This sounds like the older stuff you are talking about.

    I can't find my other book on Italian folklore right now, but I remember reading that in some festivals that Befana has a male consort called Befano. He dresses up like a horned animal with a hump on his back. Does that ring a bell with you ?

    Blessed be,
    Scarlet Witch

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    Tyrrhenus,

    Thank you for posting this, I found it really interesting, and the responses so far as well. I do have a few questions though...

    Witchcraft was first identified as a heresy in 1450 by Jean Vineti in his Tractus Contra Demonum Invocatores.
    Now, I'm no expert on the subject, but I'm a bit confused. It's my understanding that witchcraft had been viewed as a heresy before this time. Some sources say the Canon Episcopi declared it a heresy, but I can honestly say I'm not sure of their accuracy on this point...

    However, there are several cases of people being found guilty of magic (well, maleficium) and heresy in history, like the Bishop of Avila in 368AD. Then, if I remember rightly, there's the Knights Templars and so on, who were accused of all sorts of things, including diabolism, witchcraft, homosexuality and heresy (?). The inquisitor Bernado Gui issued a standard abjuration associating magic and divination with heresy in 1320:

    "I ____ of such and such a place...do abjure all errors and heresies raising themselves up against the Catholic faith of our Lord Jesus Christ; and in particular I abjure all baptizing of images or any other non-rational objects, and all re-baptizing of people who have been duly baptized already. I abjure any form of divination [sortilegium] or harmful magic worked or brought about with or at the expense of the sacred body of Christ, or with baptismal oil, or any holy oil which has been blessed...." From Witchcraft: A History, by P G Maxwell-Stuart
    Am I to assume that your reference of 1450 is the formal declaration as a heresy? If you have anything else to add on the Canon Episcopi front, I'd be interested....

    As for Italian witchcraft...

    My knowledge extends to a little bit of archaeology where we studied "things that aren't seen in archaeology", in this case the tradition of boys of a certain age being passed naked through the cleft of a tree in the name of Mary, to ensure fertility in the future. A tradition still extant today (albeit rurally), IIRC. There was a picture of it in the slideshow, anyway...

    And then the case of Matteuccia di Francesco of Perugia, in the early fifteenth century. I have to say that the records are from a Christian perspective, and therefore might conceivably not tell the whole story. But when considered in a wider context, they do bear a striking resemblance to practices elsewhere, and in this case, does not involve group practice as far as I know...Nor does it suggest to me any evidence of specifically pagan practice, in this example at least:

    Matteuccia was taken in on thirty charges of witchcraft, including flying on the back of the devil, who took the form of a goat. It was said that she would smear herself with an ointment made from the fat of dead bodies mixed with unbaptised bones, hair, feathers, mice and hooves which she used to cure ailments, and incite love or hatred in other people (something which reminds me of Horace's Canidia, I have to say). Folk would come to Matteuccia for help with their love lives, or to stop themselves getting pregnant, or for help with curing ailments and diseases.

    Her practices were widely known in her community, and it seems that she made quite a living from it, from the number of people who came forward and claimed to have made use of her services. The trouble came when St Bernardino came to town and found out about Matteuccia; to Bernadino's mind, those who knew about people who practised magic and didn't report them were as guilty as those who practised magic. He demanded it stop immediately, and Matteuccia was taken in and charged. The woman was apparently also involved in an embezzlement plot, and was accused of helping a fisherman rescue a body from the river so that she could use it for her ointment.

    The diabolical practices she was accused of included curing a man of paralysis - presumably because his ailment was God's will, and therefore should not have been contradicted by Matteuccia. Matteuccia had given a woman who was having problems with her husband an egg and some herbs, which she told the woman to give to her husband so that he would be less angry towards her. The woman's complaint was mainly that Matteuccia's ploy had worked - the husband was more kindly, but his kindness then infuriated him even more and ultimately made things worse. Many of the charms Matteuccia used involved reciting popular psalms or hymns; nothing so sinister on the face of it, but the underlying purpose was wrong, of course. Was Matteuccia simply using the hymns in aid of God's will, or perverting it? Matteuccia was convicted and burned in 1428.

    So (anyone...) how does Matteuccia fit in with a wider Italian practice of witchcraft? Is she the "norm", or an exceptional case?

    Quote Originally Posted by raven grimassi
    When I look at ancient references to Witchcraft, I find the Witch Medea portrayed as a priestess of the goddess Hecate. The notion of a priestess does bring to my mind the idea of religion. Horace, Ovid and Lucan all portray Witches praying to various goddesses. The notion of prayer does bring to my mind the idea of religion.
    But does this portray the practice of a religion of Witchcraft, or (in context of the subject matter/time it appears in) the author's intent of illustrating a perversion of religion (ie the pervsion of the accepted idea of religious practice, in the eyes of the author, at that time, at least)? Or the practice of witchcraft within a particular culture (like the cunning folk of Britain left records of Christian/Qabalistic magic, which could lead one to suggest the magic continued, but not necessarily the beliefs...I hope I'm making sense )

    From what I remember, Horace in particular had a bit of a downer on those "country bumpkins", and witchcraft was perceived (by him and poets like him) to be very much the reserve of the ignorant rural population - not the civilised urban population - or the circles he preferred to mix in, anyway. In this respect, he could be biased in showing a "perversion" of accepted practice, if you see what I mean. I'd appreciate your thoughts on this, so I can get a different perspective from most other sources I read.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by raven grimassi
    The timeline actually begins on page 15...
    Yeah, this is lack of sleep. Sorry. The timeline is in chapter 2 and the quote which points the reader to chapter 2 is on p. 8.
    Your confusion may reside in the fact that the same theme we find in the Episcopi is repeated in other reports related to Witchcraft.
    I think that verbatim quotes amount to more than a theme. But I'm ok with this.
    Like Ginzburgh, I feel that Murray's theory contained a "kernel of truth" but I do not back Murray's overall position.
    Ginzburg never should have wrote this line. How much you want to bet he wishes he had access to a time machine?
    Horace, Ovid and Lucan all portray Witches praying to various goddesses. The notion of prayer does bring to my mind the idea of religion.
    See I don't know who else these Roman "witches" would have been praying to. Or maybe we have to ask who else these authors thought witches would have prayed to. Which brings up that very tired debate about trying to separate people's practises from their religiosity. It is wrong to say that the two are mutually exclusive and at the same time wrong to claim they are one in the same.
    This is an example of the difference between popular folklore (an exoteric tradition) and its older form (esoteric tradition). Etchings that appear in the works of Bartolomeo Pinelli, circa 1825, depict Befana amidst the gathered harvest.
    Given the choice between an exoteric witch who brings candy and an esoteric one who brings in the harvest, I'll choose the bringer of candy every time.

    Thanks Raven, you've given me some brain food. But it does look like we are speaking two different languages here.
    Quote Originally Posted by Seren_
    It's my understanding that witchcraft had been viewed as a heresy before this time. Some sources say the Canon Episcopi declared it a heresy, but I can honestly say I'm not sure of their accuracy on this point...
    There may have been someone before Jean Vineti who first declared it a heresy, but all the sources I've read say he was the first. I was reading the Theodosian code the other day which does declare witchcraft a crime IF you willfully allow a witch into your home, but does not declare it a heresy.
    ... in this case the tradition of boys of a certain age being passed naked through the cleft of a tree in the name of Mary, to ensure fertility in the future.
    I've seen a picture of this ritual, very interesting!
    ...the records are from a Christian perspective, and therefore might conceivably not tell the whole story.
    I might add that the records sometimes show more than was really there given the known history of improvization and speculation. You're observation of the similarities between the accusations levied against Matteuccia di Francesco and Horace's Canidia says it all, I think.
    This very interesting story you posted about Matteuccia reminds me of Ginzburg's i benandanti / the Night Battles. Ginzburg may even have mentioned this case somewhere. Though he did not point this out, Ginzburg clearly marks out three types of witches; practitioners of folk magic, con artists and the mythological witch. The lines between the three are not always distinct.
    Last edited by TYRRHENUS; September 22nd, 2004 at 08:07 PM.

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  9. #9
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    [QUOTE=TYRRHENUS]Given the choice between an exoteric witch who brings candy and an esoteric one who brings in the harvest, I'll choose the bringer of candy every time. /QUOTE]

    Wow, what a fun way to ignore expanding ones knowledge and to self-impose a limited understanding! Very cool, I like that!.

    In Her service,
    Nemesis Descending

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seren_
    But does this portray the practice of a religion of Witchcraft, or (in context of the subject matter/time it appears in) the author's intent of illustrating a perversion of religion (ie the pervsion of the accepted idea of religious practice, in the eyes of the author, at that time, at least)? Or the practice of witchcraft within a particular culture (like the cunning folk of Britain left records of Christian/Qabalistic magic, which could lead one to suggest the magic continued, but not necessarily the beliefs...I hope I'm making sense )

    From what I remember, Horace in particular had a bit of a downer on those "country bumpkins", and witchcraft was perceived (by him and poets like him) to be very much the reserve of the ignorant rural population - not the civilised urban population - or the circles he preferred to mix in, anyway. In this respect, he could be biased in showing a "perversion" of accepted practice, if you see what I mean. I'd appreciate your thoughts on this, so I can get a different perspective from most other sources I read.
    I think understanding the period is important to understanding the themes that appear. A writer may have his or her own slant/agenda, but even the most effective fiction is based upon known elements of the culture or setting.

    If Horace stood alone in his theme, I might be more inclined to agree with you. But other writers such as Ovid and Lucan present the Witch in much the same manner. In my earlier reply I mentioned the ancient view of Witches noted by Historian Richard Gordon. He points out that in ancient Greece, Witches were considered to be practitioners of "illicit religion." So, Horace and other Roman writers inherit this earlier view, but they do not dismiss it. Instead they add their own story to the cultural view. The point is that they are not inventing the idea of Witchcraft being a religion of some sort. It was already viewed that way within their time period. The problem is that it was not acknowledged by the State, and indeed it was ridiculed as invalid.

    Your point about educated people looking down on the rural folks is part of why Witches were viewed as practicing an illicit religion. No diploma, no credibility. This snobbery has not changed over the centuries, and here over 2500 years later scholars still view Witches the same way. I find it fascinating that the disbelief of scholars is as ancient as the very things they disbelieve.

    The persistence of a goddess figure in Witchcraft down through the centuries is significant. To me , a goddess figure denotes religion. References to Witches and Witchcraft in connection to a divine female figure are numerous in the literature on Witchcraft. These range from a period as early as 700 BCE with the writings of Hesiod and Homer, and continue in an unbroken chain up through the centuries to modern times. These writings, joined together, present a view of ancient Witchcraft that includes the worship of the triformis Goddess: Hecate-Diana-Proserpina. Throughout the centuries in Europe, a horned deity that bears the horns of a stag, a goat or a bull accompanies the goddess.

    Carlos Ginzburg (in part 2, chapter one, of his book Ecstasies: deciphering the Witches' Sabbat) brings to light many interesting pieces of information associated with Witchcraft and a goddess figure over the centuries. When not viewed directly as a goddess, this figure is called the Queen of the Fairies. This theme appears throughout much of continental Europe and parts of the British Isles. It is interesting to note that the Goddess and the Fairy Queen in these cases is often accompanied by a male entity appearing as a king, a stag or goat. In this we can see the theme of the consort pair, a long-standing concept associated with Witchcraft.

    Ginzburg mentions cases in Scotland, during the 16th & 17th centuries, in which women who were tried as witches describe going "in spirit" with the Queen of the Fairies, who was attended by a king. The trial of Andrew man at Aberdeen mentions the "Queen of the Elves and a stag-horned consort. The goddess Diana, in connection with Witchcraft, often bears the title Queen of the Fairies. St. Gregory of Tours (538-594) wrote of a statue of Diana worshipped in the vicinity of Tours. St. Cilianus noted that the population of Franconia paid homage to the Great Diana. Witchcraft as the "Society of Diana" is a theme that appears in the literature on Witchcraft from the first century BCE through the 19th century CE.

    Ginzburg presents a map on page 98, depicting regions he claims were associated with "female divinities" in Witchcraft trials. These regions include Scotland, France, North-Central Italy, and the Rhineland. Ginzburg notes, in this chapter titled "Following the Goddess" that in Rumania ecstatic rituals are performed "under the protection" of a goddess called Doamna Zinelor, also called Irodiada or Arada. Irodiada also bore the title "Queen of the Fairies." Professor Eva Pocs, in her book Between the Living and the Dead, states that goddesses such as Diana, Hecate, Holda, Perchta, the Celtic Matrae and Matronae, and others appear in data connected to church laws in various regions of Europe.

    In chapter 3 of her book, Pocs states that Hungarian Witches are associated with Balkan goddess figures of Slavic or mixed origins, which appear in trial transcripts. Pocs also states that all goddess figures in Hungarian trial data carry chthonic features of fertility goddesses and are associated with spinning. She notes that Hungarian witch trials mention witches spinning, weaving, or carrying spindles.

    The 16th century trial of Zuan delle Piatte, in Val di Fiemme, bears some interesting elements. Piatte confesses to going to a mountain near Norcia where he was "initiated into the society of witches." Ginzburg notes that Piatte claimed to have been brought before "the woman of the good game." This is not unlike the earlier trial of a woman named Sibillia in 1390. Sibillia confessed to paying homage to a female divinity named Madona Horiente. The Milanese Inquisitor Friar Beltramino recorded that Sibillia confessed to going to the "game of Diana." Maria Panzona, tried by the Inquisition in the 17th century, confessed to paying homage to a "majesty" bearing the title "The Abbess."

    Historians tend to view such accounts independently rather than as a body of evidence, which makes it easy to dismiss singular accounts as an anomaly. However, the ongoing appearance of a goddess-figure and a horned consort of one type or another spanning many centuries throughout most of Europe seems to strongly suggest something more substantial.

    Best regards - Raven

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