Stregheria is an archaic Italian word meaning "witchcraft"[1], that has been revived, principally by Raven Grimassi, to refer to an Italian-based tradition of religious witchcraft. It is sometimes called La Vecchia Religione (the Old Religion).

Italian-American Leo Martello claimed to belong to a "family tradition" of religious witchcraft in his 1970s book Witchcraft: The Old Religion, but did not use the word 'Stregheria', preferring "the Strega Tradition". Usage of 'Stregheria' came to prominence within Neopaganism after Grimassi's publication of Ways of the Strega in 1994. Unlike most other religious witchcraft traditions, with the notable exception of Gardnerian Wicca, Stregheria has received attention from the academic community.

While Grimassi remains the principle name associated with Stregheria, there are also people who identify with the tradition, and Grimassi's history of it, but do not recognize him as a religious leader[2], and other parties interested in Italian witchcraft have been critical of both him and his writing[3]. Grimassi himself teaches the "Arician Tradition" or "Aridian Tradition" (both are used), a variant of Stregheria.

Origins and history Edit

Stregheria, as described in Grimassi's books, especially Ways of the Strega, claims a seven-hundred year history. This history incorporates historical and anthropoligical evidence from Italian history with a religious origin myth unique to the tradition.

Witchcraft in Italy Edit

Italy in the late medieval period and early Renaissance was a stronghold of Roman Catholicism, and was less effected by the witch craze that gripped much of Europe during that period[4], to the point that it was somewhat overlooked by mainstream witchcraft historians, such as Jeffrey Russell[5]. Witchcraft trials nevertheless took place in Italy, where witchcraft was largely conflated with heresy in the view taken by Inquisitors.

Microhistorian Carlo Ginzburg, after studying manuscripts of these trials, discerned an unusual constellation of beliefs about witchcraft amongst some of the accused. In his two books on the subject, Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbat and, especially, Night Battles, Ginzburg described the beliefs of a group of people called the Benandanti. While the Inquisition treated the Benandanti much the same as it did others suspected of witchcraft in Europe, the Benandanti themselves believed that they were Christians engaged in a supernatural fight against witches (or the "Malandanti"). Grimassi views the Benandanti as secretly being witches[6].Anthropologist Sabina Magliocco has criticized interpreting Italian folk traditions as a religious survival as doing "violence" to the practitioners[7].

In 1899 Charles Godfrey Leland published Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches. Leland claimed that the material in the book, which describes a secret messianical Pagan religion, was found for him by his assistant Maddalena in the course of studying Italian folklore. In the myths given in the text, the goddess Diana has a daughter named Aradia, who comes to Earth to teach witchcraft to the oppressed. Leland's claims of authenticity have been disputed, but the book became very influential, fifty years after its publication, as a primary source for Wicca and other Neo-paganism. Grimassi's position on Aradia is that Leland had published a "distorted version"Template:Ref label of the story of Aradia, and that, instead, there really had existed a mortal woman named Aradia di Toscano.

Grimassi's history Edit

Grimassi describes the roots of Stregheria as a syncretic blend of Etruscan religion, "Tuscan peasant religion", medieval Christian heresy, and Saint worshipTemplate:Ref label.

Grimassi claims that Aradia di Toscano passed on a religion of witchcraft, based on ancient Etruscan Paganism, to her followers (whom Grimassi calls "The Triad Clans"). The Triad Clans, "an alliance of three related Witch Clans known as the Tanarra, Janarra, and Fanarra"Template:Ref label in turn, passed on the myths and practices until the modern day, when Grimassi published them in Ways of the Strega.

Along with references to Ginzburg and Leland, Grimassi points to a number of historians, anthropologists and other scholars who have mentioned witchcraft beliefs in Italy as demonstrating the survival of Aradia di Toscano's religion[8].

Stregheria popularized Edit

Grimassi has been teaching his Aridian Tradition since 1980 in the San Diego area. After the release of Ways of the Strega, people who had not studied under Grimassi began to adopt Stregheria practices, using the book as either a guide or as an addition to Eclectic Wiccan practice. Grimassi published additional books on the topic, such as Hereditary Witchcraft, now manages an annual spiritual retreat for practitioners, and is developing a "mystery school".

Practices Edit

Like Wicca, Stregheria uses a pentagram as an important symbol. Grimassi and other members wear a pentagram ring, which Grimassi suggests was used by Roman Pythagoreans. Stregheria uses the ritual tools of cup, wand, pentacle and blade, which are seen in the suits of the tarot and amongst many systems of Western occultism[9]. Stregheria rituals take place in a circle, with an altar facing North. Ritual actions include prayer, and the blessing of food.[10]

Stregheria celebrates eight holidays, called "Treguendas", and practices "ancestor reverence through spirits known as Lare". Some Stregheria groups (a Stregheria group is called a Boschetto) practice their religion skycladTemplate:Ref label. The Arician tradition contains a rite of initiation, similar to some Wiccan traditions. Unlike Scott Cunningham and Silver RavenWolf, his contemporaries at Llewellyn Publications[11], Grimassi emphasizes the importance of initiation.

Practitioners of Stregheria are encouraged to think of themselves as witches, and to believe that magic can have an effect upon reality. Like other books published by Llewellyn PublicationsTemplate:Ref label, Ways of the Strega contains a great deal of information on casting spells (as did Leland's Aradia). Stregheria contains a specific belief about the influence of spiritual beings on magic. Grimassi believes that the Grigori, or "Watchers", a kind of guardian Lare, must witness the "ritual display of prescribed signs and gestures", and that they have the power to "negate magickal energy" from the "astral plane". Grimassi notes that those outside Stregheria erroneously "dispute the role of the Grigori"[12].

Relationship with other traditions Edit

Stregheria shares commonalities with both Wicca and polytheistic Reconstructionism. Stregheria is one of a number of ethnicity or culture-oriented traditions of religious witchcraft, such as Celtic Wicca, Kemetic Wicca, or Seax-Wica. Some Stregheria members attempt to distance themselves from Wicca, in a manner similar to Pagan Reconstructionism, or argue that their belief system pre-dates it[13]. Some adherents of these traditions also reject the label of "Neopaganism", preferring to emphasize a cultural continuity with the past[14]. While those interested in the pre-Christian belief systems of the Celts, "Kemetic" (Egyptian) religion, or the beliefs of the Norse, can readily find information on either associated Wiccan traditions or as Reconstructionist projects in books and websites, information on Etruscan or Roman Reconstructionism has yet to become available through book publishing.

In comparing Stregheria to Wicca, Grimassi notes both similaritiesTemplate:Ref label between the two and differences. The differences include holiday dates, and the element of "ancestor reverence"Template:Ref label. Grimassi has defended his material as being significantly different from Wicca[15].

Notes and references Edit

  1. ^  Nuovo Dizionario Italiano-Latino, the Società Editrice Dante Alighieri (1959). The word for 'witchcraft' in modern Italian is stregoneria.[16]
  2. ^  See, for example Template:Web reference. Her disagreement with Grimassi is mentioned at Template:Web reference
  3. ^  See, for example Template:Web reference
  4. ^  Template:Book reference
  5. ^  Template:Book reference
  6. ^  Template:Note label Template:Note label Template:Note label Template:Note label Template:Note label Template:Note label Template:Web reference
  7. ^  Template:Journal reference url
  8. ^  Template:Web reference
  9. ^  Template:Web reference
  10. ^  Template:Book reference
  11. ^  Template:Note label See Cunningham, Scott (2002) Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. 0875421180 and Template:Book reference
  12. ^  Template:Note label Template:Web reference
  13. ^  See, for example Template:Web reference, and Asatru.
  14. ^  Template:Web reference
  15. ^  Template:Web reference

External links Edit

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