The ABC of Aradia and Other Subjects
- One of the leaders of the Game of the Good Society in medieval lore. Her
name is related to Habondia and Dame Abunde, which were names of the medieval
Queen of the Witches. Doubtless these names derive from the minor Roman Goddess
Abundantia. See Habondia.
- According to the late 13th century Roman de la Rose, thirdborn children were required to
travel in spirit-form with "Abonde" (Abundia), three times a week to the homes of neighbors. Their bodies
remained behind motionless as if in a deep sleep. If somone turned an immobile body face down while its
spirit was abroad, the spirit would not be able to reenter the body.
- acqua della concordia
- A potion used by Neapolitan witches to restore love between parents and children, as well as
between husbands and wives.
- acqua di San Giovanni
- Gathering herbs plants and flowers to make l’acqua di San Giovanni (the water of St. John)
is a custom in Umbria and some other parts of Italy. Supposedly a hundred different fresh plants including
l’erba di San Giovanni (St. John’s wort, Hypericum perforatum) should be collected
on June 24 to make this special water. Plants also often include broom, rose, lavender, chamomile, rosemary,
mint, thyme, sage, bay, walnut, wild fennel, etc. The wildflowers, herbs, scented leaves, etc, are placed in a
tub of water to soak overnight outdoors. The plants infuse their scents in the water perfuming the concoction.
According to one tradition, both San Giovanni and the Madonna are abroad and bless this special water
during the night. It will also absorb dew or guazza that forms during the night before
La Festa di San Giovanni Battista. This dew or guazza traditionally has been thought to
have various mystical powers including promoting fecundity, blessings, good fortune, etc. It is said,
La guazza di Santo Gioanno fa guarì da ogni malanno, meaning "St. John’s dew cures all ills."
Thus l’acqua di San Giovanni is a potent charm that can turn aside the effects of the malocchio,
sundry curses, as well as and ward off malign spirits.
- An aetites is a certain stone that was said to possess magico-medical properties connected to childbirth.
It is a type of hollow geode, about the size of a walnut; inside, small loose pieces rattle when shaken.
- In his Natural History, Pliny describes these as stones with another stone inside. This charm
was allegedly found in the nest of an eagle. It was said a pair of eagles could not breed without the aid of an
aetites. Marbodus of Rennes calls this stone "the guardian and defender of nests."
- The word "aetites" is singular in Latin and derived from the Greek aetos, meaning "eagle." In
Italian, this charm was known as "aquilina," "pietra d'aquila," "pietra aquilina," or "ethite." It was likewise
refered to in Europe and England as the "aquilaeus," "gagites," "the pregnant stone" and "eagle-stone." In
magico-medical traditions, this charm was attached in an animal skin usually to a woman's arm to prevent
miscarriage, or to her thigh to shorten the natural process of labor pains for an easy full-term birth. The
4th-century c.e. magico-medical text Cyranides claimed that the aetites worn as an amulet could
prevent miscarriage. Ruberto Bernardi in his 1364 book of popular medical lore likewise stated an aetites
ought to be carried by pregnant women on their right sides. The Italian Renaissance philosopher Ficino
attributed the ability of an aetites to ease childbirth to the astrological influences of the moon and the
planet Venus. In 1494, the marchesa of Mantua, Isabella d'Este, expressed her confidence in the virtue
of this charm.
- This stone was said to have other virtues. An aetites worn on the left arm of a woman or man
brought victory and popularity; it conferred sobriety, increased riches, and even moved the wearer to love.
Some claimed the stone could also be used to detect the idenity of a thief.
- An aetites was also said to be located in the stomach or throat of an eagle, which makes it sound
like Pliny confused some lore about an eagle pellet with some lore about a certain type of geode.
- Eagles, hawks, and owls are raptors. Eagles and hawks eat their prey animals by tearing them into
small pieces, picking out the flesh, and avoiding most of the fur and bones. They also have strong stomachs
which can digest most of the bone material which they might eat. The relatively small amount of indigestible
bone and fur that remain will be compacted by their gizzard (muscular stomach) into a stone-like pellet and
then regurgitated. The regurgitated pellet is known as an "eagle pellet." In the past, it was sometimes called
an "eagle stone."
- Age of Aquarius
- An astromonical-astrological Age starting in about 2700 c.e. when the sun rises in the sign of
Aquarius on the morning of the vernal equinox. Aquarius is the sign of the zodiac known as the
Water-Bearer. According to some occultists, the Age of Aquarius is the time period when veneration
of the Sacred Feminine will be the dominant religion on earth. Some link the Age of Aquarius with the
Age of the Daughter mentioned in Grimassi's writings.
- Fata Albina is a faery associated with the white barley flour. She was also associated with the dawn.
Apparently, Albina was sometimes known as Alba or Alphito.
- Fata Alcina or "Alcina the Fairy" was a character in The Stolen Crown, a folktale collected by
Italo Calvino, Italian Folktales (1956). In the folktale, Fata Alcina was a dangerous faery, and
whoever kissed her would be transformed into stone.
- Previously, Alcina appeared as a minor character in two Italian epic poems, Orlando innamorato
(Orlando in Love) and Orlando furioso (Mad Orlando). The enchantress, Alcina, transformed
her former lovers into animals, trees, or stones to become part of her magical garden.
- A Roman prophetess, not to be confused with the Greek she-goat
that suckled Zeus. She was the Cumaean Sibyl, the prophetess of the
Sibyllian oracles of Rome. She brought nine books (scrolls) of oracular
advice to Tarquin, the king. He refused to pay her asking price for the
books. Almatheia promptly threw three books into the fire, and then
increased the price for the remaining six. Again her price was refused.
The Sibyl threw three more into the fire, and increased the price amount
for the last three books. The king bought the remaining three without
complaint. These three books remained in the temple of Jove Pater and
were consulted as needed, until the temple was destroyed by fire in
- In Renaissance Italian art, the amoretti were chubby infant boys with tiny wings depicted. In Greece, these
same spirits were known as putti. In contempoary American Enlish, they are sometimes known as
"Cupids" or "Erotes." They are the guardians of beautiful ladies and romantic and erotic love.
- angelica root
- Angelica, aka garden angelica in English, is known in Latin as Archangelica officinalis
or Angelica archangelica. Its Italian name is angelica arcangelica or angelica. Angelica can refer
to aromatic stems or leaves or roots of Angelica archangelica. The root of this plant is
associated with angels, especially the archangel Michael as well with the Holy Spirit. According one
explanation for the name of this plant is that it blooms on May 8, one of the feast days of San Michele
Arcangelo (St. Michael the Archangel). It is also known in English as "angel root" or "archangel root."
It is used as protection against evil spirits and malificant magic. Angelica root was also called "The Root
of the Holy Ghost," and is used to promote long life. It is likewise believed to encourage spiritual aspirations.
- Candied Angelica stalks are said to be delicious. The stalks can also be blanched and cooked as a
vegetable, or they can be crushed and cooked together with fruit for marmalades. Angelica is the
characteristic flavour in Benedictine-liqueur. Its seeds were put in wine possibly for protection or flavoring.
However, angelica does not seem to have become a common part of Italian cusine.
- Angelica root was worn or carried in the Middle Ages to guard against infections and the "plague."
Angelica oil was rubbed on wrists and temples for the same reason. It was also used in incense. Angelica
was viewed as a solar herb, associated magically with the sun.
- Angelica root essential oil is produced by steam distillation from the roots of the plant. Angelica
root essential oil should first be mixed with a diluting or carrier oil, rather than used directly on the skin.
Thought this plant is magically associated with the sun, folks are also advised against rubbing the angelica
root oil into their skins and then sitting in direct sunlight. Pregant women should also avoid using the oil or
- Angelica root is still carried in some protective charms connected with San Michele Arcangelo
(St. Michael the Archangel).
- anima mundi
- A Latin term literally meaning "soul of the world." In ancient, medieval,
and Renaissance thought, the anima mundi was the indwelling consciousness of
the world or cosmos. This concept, which dates back as far as Plato, was later
connected with the concepts of spiritus mundi and corpus mundi. In
modern thought, the anima mundi serves as a repository for the collective
unconscious in Jungian thought.
- animals of Italy
- Few wild animals remain in Italy, except for the wild boars in Sardinia.
Foxes, black bears, ibex, chamois, and a few wolves reside in remote mountain
- Conservation projects in the 1980's and 1990's have helped raise the
number of wolves from 100 to about 500. Today, most of Italy's wolf population
dwells in nature reserves and national parks.
- This word, animism, derives from Latin anima, meaning "soul, spirit,
mind." It is a belief in a spirit or spirits ensouling inanimate
objects and phenomena of nature, such as stones, rivers, trees, with consciousness.
It is also belief in the existence of spirits separable from bodies.
- An Italian name meaning "fair and beautiful altar." Variants and
diminutives of the name include Arabelle, Ara, Bel, Bella, and Belle.
Myth Woodling used Arabella as the birth name of Aradia in her tale,
"The Secret Story of Aradia."
- Aradia, the book
- In the late 1800's, the folklorist, Charles G. Leland, received some
folklore, a "vanglo" from an Italian woman, Margherita (aka Maddalena), which
he published under the title of Aradia or the Gospel of Witches. Among
the other spells and stories, the vanglo recounted the story of Diana and
her daughter Aradia. Aradia was born to Diana by her brother Lucifer, the
sun God. Diana took pity upon the suffering of the poor and oppressed.
Observing how they suffered from hunger and toil while the upper class lived
in luxury, Diana sent Aradia, who had existed in the celestial realm, to Diana's
people. Aradia gave them witchcraft as a
tool against a corrupt system of Church and State. Having completed her mission,
Aradia returned to Diana's abode, from whence she may be invoked.
- Leland said this fragmented collection of spells and stories was
evidence that in Italy there was a living, though hidden, religion of the
moon Goddess, Diana.
- Perhaps because of some of the material's anarchistic and anti-Christian
nature, or because of some of its sexual frankness, Leland's book seemed to
fall into obscurity. Curiously, it escaped the notice of Margaret Alice
Murray in her witchcraft research.
- However, Fortuna must have smiled. For as serendipity would have it, both
Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente independently stumbled upon Leland's
Aradia. Gardner, the Grand Old Man of Wicca, became the person most
responsible for the rebirth of the Old Religion in twentieth century England and
the USA. When Valiente became Gardner's High Priestess, she recognized the use of
some of the material from Leland's Aradia in Gardner's Book of Shadows.
Valiente also used some of the "traditional material" from Leland's Aradia
to write, or re-write, the now famous "Charge of the Goddess," a cornerstone
of Wiccan ritual.
- Aradia, the Goddess
- A modern Wiccan Goddess who is at least 100 years old, she may date back
to the 14th century. Nevertheless, in 1899,
Charles G. Leland published Aradia or the Gospel of Witches, where Aradia
is described as the daughter of the moon and sun. Wiccans frequently invoke her
as a lunar Goddess, a protector of the poor and the oppressed, and a Goddess of
witchcraft. Due to questions about the
antiquity of the name, "Aradia," she is not listed in the "Goddesses
Dictionary." Aradia's name, in Italian, means "altar of Diana" or "altar of the
Goddess." Her name may be related to the female figure in Sardinian folklore,
- The material in Leland's book is fragmentary and some modern Wiccans have
sought to "fill in the chinks." Numerous oral and written traditions about
Aradia abound. In particular, there is the assertion that chapter 11, "The House of
the Wind," in Leland's Aradia, described the life and childhood of
Aradia as the messiah of "la vecchia religione."
- Aradia, the name
- The name, Aradia, was first recorded by Charles G. Leland in Aradia or the
Gospel of Witches (1899). It is usually derived from Herodias, which in Italian
is spelled, Herodiade or Erodiade. The pronunciation of the Italian variation of the
name is Air-oh-DEE-dah, which is very similar to the pronunciation of the name of
Aradia among Wiccans, Ah-ra-DEE-ah.
- A female figure in Sardinian folk legend. There are apparently two different spirits known as Araja.
- One spirit is known as S’Araja Justa, "the just Araja." S’Araja Justa is the female leader of the night
assembly which enters into homes, rewarding the thrifty and punishing the lazy.
- The other spirit is S’Araja Demoniu,"the demon Araja," who rides at night at the head of the train
of the restless ghostly dead.
- Scholar Sabina Magliocco speculated that the Sardianian "Araja" and the Italian "Aradia" are related
- This archaic word is an obsolete term from Latin, literally meaning "art."
It specifically indicates the "art of magic."
- The word, astrology, derives from Middle English astrologie, from
Middle French, from Latin astrologia, from
Greek, from astro, meaning "stars," -logia, meaning "study of."
Astrology is the divination of the supposed influences of the stars and planets
on human affairs and terrestrial events by their positions and aspects. It is
also an archaic word for "astronomy."
- The scientific study of objects in the heavens or outer space, such as stars,
planets, and other bodies. This study deals with the positions, energy, changes,
etc., of such celestial matter in the cosmos.
- Divination based largely on the appearance and behavior of animals,
especially birds, insects, spiders and their webs, mice, snakes, and other
wild animals. It could also include observing the behavior of, or patterns
made by, sacred animals kept at temples, which specifically included snakes,
chickens, and mice.
- In ancient temples in which animals were sacrificed to the Gods, priests
would examine the internal organs and entrails of the sacrifice to determine
the animal's physical health (important since most of the offerings were
cooked and eaten) and to divine any messages from the Gods.
- The original Augurs in ancient Rome were nobles who interpreted natural
signs for the government of Rome. The Augurs dressed in white robes with
scarlet stripes and a purple border. Also as a symbol of the office, an
Augur carried a special staff called a lituus. By the time of Julius Caesar,
there were 16 official Augurs, thought records indicate that originally they
only numbered three. Roman Augurs were expected to divine signs from birds,
signs from animals, meterological events such as thunder and lightning,
falling stars and comets, and any unusual events, such as an earth tremor.
They also used to oversee the casting of lots and examination of animal
- Divination by patterns formed by ritually spilled wine, aka oenomancy,
and by patterns formed in ashes of burnt offerings (grain, incense, or
animal fat and bones) to the Gods, aka tephromancy, were both considered
forms of augury.
- Babbo Natale
- "Babbo Natale" (Papa Nativity) entered into the Italian Christmas lore, along with Christmas trees,
after World War II. He is said to be a great friend of La Befana, except he delivers his gifts on Christmas
Eve (December 24), while La Befana brings gifts on Epiphany Eve (January 5). Babbo Natale resembles the cheerful
grandfatherly Santa Claus, dressed all in red, as depicted in a series of illustrations by Haddon Sundblom
for Coca-Cola advertisements introduced in 1931. See Befana.
- bacchetta magica
- This Italian phrase literally means a "magic wand."
- balli angelici
- An Italian term literally meaning "angel ball," apparently refering to
assemblies in which the
bonae res or "Good Things" dance. See bonae res.
- ballo a tonda
- The ballo a tonda was a type of round dance also known as vidda or ruota.
- balneum Mariae
- This Latin term literally means "bath of Mary." It is an alchemical term for
a vessel of water set on top of a heat source, with another vessel set in the
heated water or the steam.
- The balneum Mariae is the forerunner of the modern double boiler,
which is known as a bain-Marie in French.
- basil, sweet
- The Latin name of this tender low-growing herb is Ocimum basilicum.
In Italian, it is known as basilico and erba reale ("king of herbs"). The words "basil" and
"basilico" comes from the Greek basilikon/basileus, meaning "king," "kingly," or "royal." Basil is still
considered the "king of herbs" by many cooks. There are many
varieties of this culinary herb, but sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) is the most common.
This fragrant and flavorful herb features prominently in Italian cuisine and has been associated with both good
fortune and romance in Italy.
- Interestingly, sweet basil is a common ingredient in love spells in several different cultures.
- There is a gruesome, old Italian folktale, which involved a young Italian maiden and her
sweetheart dating back to at least the 12th century, which is when Boccaccio wrote it down. Her wicked
brothers murdered her beloved. The ghost of the young man appeared to the maiden, to tell her of his fate
and where her brothers buried his body. The heartbroken maiden secretly unearthed her beloved's head,
and reburried it in a pot of basil, which she watered with her daily tears. Hence, a pot of basil is a symbol of
love and fidelity in present-day Italy.
- Sweet basil is also known in Italian as bacia-nicola ("kiss me Nicholas"). A pot of basil is
thought to attract husbands to wives. At one time, Italian maidens would place bacia-nicola on
their windowsills to indicate they were looking for a suitor.
- There is also tradition involving pots of basil and love in Portugal where St Anthony is a matchmaking
saint. On St Anthony's feast day (June 13), pots of basil are displayed on almost every balcony in Lisbon,
Portugal. The pots are often given as gifts with little verses. These verses either invoke St. Anthony or the
verses state love and affection for the recipient. A suitor, for example, may present a pot of basil to the young
lady he hopes to wed.
- Modern folklore stated that if a woman desired to keep her husband faithful to her she should rub
dried powdered basil leaves on her breasts.
- Basil leaves are a significant ingredient in "Pizza Margherita." Raffaele Esposito, owner of the Pizzeria
di Pietro e Basta Cosi in Naples, was credited with creating the standard tomato and mozzarella pizza topped
with basil leaves in honor of Margherita Maria Teresa Giovanna di Savoia in 1889, when she visited Naples.
The simple combination of mozzarella cheese (white), tomatoes (red) and basil (green) and was meant to
represent the colors of the Italian flag. The story stated Queen Margherita enjoyed this excellet Neapolitan
delicacy--thus, it is still known as "Pizza Margherita."
- In England, basil was sometimes known as "St.Josephwort" or "St. Joseph Wort" and was used to ward
off insects and malignant spirits. (It may have been associated with St. Joseph, the earthly spouse of the
Madonna, as a symbol of fidelity and fortitude. It is also possible it was associated with St Joseph of Aramathea
who laid Jesus in a new tomb. There is apparently an obscure legend that St. Helen found basil growing either
near the True Cross or the tomb of Christ.) It is possible that "St.Josephwort" is Ocimum tenuiflorum
or "Holy Basil" which seems to be also known as "Holy Communion Basil."
- This Italian gift-giving spirit is also known as La Befana, Saint Befana, La
Vecchia (the Old), and La Strega (the Witch). She is an old woman who is
very kind and very old. She brings gifts and fruit, or sweets (“caramele”) to good Italian children and
coal (“carbone”), onions or garlic or maybe a bundle of sticks to naughty children on the night of January 5,
"Festa della Befana." A tradtional dish cenci is served on Epiphany Eve in honor of La Befana. The
name of the fried treat, cenci, translates as "rags" or "ribbons." There are many versions of a
traditional children's rhyme about Befana that described her as having a torn and patched skirt and apron.
Others describe her as being dressed in Roman clothing--probably refering to her being dressed like a nona
from mid to southern Italy.
La Befana vien di notte,
con le scarpe tutte rotte,
s'è scucita la sottana: s'e
viva, viva la Befana!
(La Befana comes by night,
shoes all broken,
ripped her skirt:
viva, viva la Befana!)
La Befana vien di notte,
con le scarpe tutte rotte,
col vestito alla romana:
Viva viva la Befana!
(La Befana comes by night,
shoes all broken,
a dress Roman:
Long life to the Befana!)
- She is often pictured with a broom,and Befana is said to sweep the floor of each home
she visits just before leaving. Befana is a scaccia guai, one who "chases away troubles"
with her broom. Befana also acts as a porta fortuna, "bringer of fortune." Befana is not listed on
the "Goddesses Dictionary" because, apparently, she does not pre-date Christianity in Italy. Her name,
"Befana," most probably derived from the feast of Epiphany, January 6, known as "La Festa dell'Epifania."
- Sometime children leave La Befana a snack on January 5, which might be a cup of espresso, Italian
cookies, Italian pastry (including cenci), a glass of asti spumante, or Strega liquore.
- Folklore associated with holidays is constantly evolving. After World War II another gift giving figure
"Babbo Natale" (Papa Nativity) entered into the Italian Christmas lore. The white bearded "Babbo Natale"
is dressed in a red suit with jacket and pants, trimmed with white fur, and the iconic USA "Santa Claus"
pompom-topped cap. Babbo Natale, who delivers gifts on Christmas Eve (December 24), is friends with
La Befana, who brings her gifts on Epiphany Eve (January 5).
- In the Friuli district of Northern Italy, the benandanti (good walkers) engaged in night battles against the
malandanti (bad walkers). The Friuli region had influences from Italian, Slavic, and Germanic magical traditions and
folklore which are intertwined in the beliefs about the benandanti. The benandanti were part of an agrarian visionary
tradition which is theorized to have had roots in pre-Christian shamanic practices.
- Between 1575 and 1675, the benandanti were tried as heretics by the Roman inquisition and a great deal
of information about them has been preseved in the transcripts.
- The benandanti openly professed that they traveled out of their bodies while in a deep "sleep" or trance. They
battled on four times a year during the Ember days. The benandanti, armed with fennel stalks, fought the malandanti,
who were armed with sticks of sorghum.
- As one explained, "I sleep because the benandante journey with the others to fight four times per year, in the
Ember days, at night, invisibly with the spirit, the body remains... we stick with the fennel and they fight with the
sorghum canes..." ("Io sonno Benandante perché vò con li altri a combattere quattro volte l'anno, cioè
nelle quattro tempora, di notte, invisibilmente con lo spirito et resta il corpo…noi con le mazza di finocchio
et loro con le canne di sorgo...")
- The benandanti, which included both men and women, reported leaving their bodies invisibly, but sometimes in
the shapes of mice, cats, rabbits, or butterflies. Other reports have them traveling astride goats, cats, or horses.
- The benandanti explained they were summoned to protect crops in order to ensure a good harvest. If the
benandanti won this spirit battle, then there was abundance and prosperity for the community, while if malandanti
prevailed, the people were plagued by blight, disease, and famine.
- The benandanti professed to be good Christians in the service of God. They believed that they were marked
for this sacred task by being "born with a caul," nati con la camicia.
- A "caul" is the membrane or amniotic sac that sometimes covers or wraps around the infant at birth.
- To be born with a caul is uncommon, and many cultures attached significance to this event. Being "born with
a caul," or in British lore "born with a veil on one's face," is often associated with divining the future and "second
sight." In Italian, the word used to describe this membrane, camicia literally means "shirt." Those born with
"the shirt" or la camicia were destined to become benandanti Un tempo i nati con la camicia erano
destinati a diventare benandanti. In la leggenda dei benandanti, "the shirt" la camicia gave them
the ability to participate in the nocturnal visionary trances of the night flights and night battles.
- The benandanti also helped heal those who were believed to have been harmed through malign magic. Some
of the benandanti fought the malice [le malie] even in ordinary life by treating people affected by the
malocchio and incantations. [I benandanti combattevano poi le malie delle streghe anche nella vita
ordinaria curando le persone colpite da malocchio, da incantesimi collaborand.] It was said they would
"toglitore di malocchio," which apparently means they would jab at the malignant gaze.
- Usually, the men among the benandanti engaged in these battles. However, the women benandanti often
performed other tasks on their night journeys. When the women left their bodies, they flew to a great banquet, where
they drank, feasted, and danced, while consorting with a procession of spirits, animals, and faeries. At these revels,
the women learned of future events for the forthcoming year.
- In one account, this faery-tale revel was presided over by a woman, "the abbess," who sat in splendour on the
edge of a well.
- In 1599, donna Florida, the wife of the notary, Alessandro Basili, was the first member of the benandanti
accused of practicing malign magic and of giving the malocchio. It seems that donna Florida was one of those who
cured diseases with prayers (cura malattie con orazioni). She stated that she participated every Thursday
night in the procession of the dead (che ogni Giovedì sera deve recarsi in processione con i morti) and
fought against those casting malign magic.
- Carlo Ginzburg, a noted Italian historian, has written two excellent books about the benandanti, the night battles,
the night flight, and the night assembly in Italian folklore and history. The titles of these books in English are:
The Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries and
Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath.
- Carlo Ginzburg has compared these spirit assemblies with others reportedly attended by similar groups
elsewhere in Italy and Sicily. These other spirit assemblies were sometimes also presided over by a female deity-like
figure who taught magic and divination.
- See malandanti, Ember days, fennel, sorghum, and malocchio. Also see bonae res, bonae mulieres,
balli angelici, cult of Herodias, Game of the Good Society, Gulfora, Richella, Bensoria, Signora Oriente, Herodiana,
Abundia, Habondia, Herodias, Aradia, the name, la notte delle streghe, and Festa di San Giovanni Battista.
- Literally "good intentions," a classification of magic involving healings,
blessings, and transformations. Among Wiccans, benefica, or ethical magic,
uses and creates power-within, and also creates power-with others.
Benefica has also been called "ethical magick", "white magic", "positive magic",
or the "right-hand path."
- It is the opposite of malefica. See malefica.
- One of the Italian names of the queen who led the troop of dominae nocturnae or fatae that visited
households at night to feast. If the house was in good order and their was food enough for the spirits to feast,
the queen would magically restore everything they ate and drank before they left, and leave a blessing of
continued abundance. Her name could be interpreted to mean "Good Sister."
- In French, her name can be translated as "Good Neighbor". Like Habondia,
Nocticula, and Satia, she is one of the folkloric Queens of Witches in France,
specifically to those in or near the Basque regions. Possibly her followers,
like the Italian benandanti, practiced a form of spirit travel which they used
to heal as well as to curse enemies.
- bonae mulieres
- A Latin phrase literally meaning the "good women." It refers to mature women who travelled at
night either with spirits or Goddeses. The women who travelled with Diana at night are one of the types
of groups of Good Women. See bonae res.
- black moon
- The English term, "black moon," is not one that is used frequently and has no exact definition.
- Some astronomers use the term "black moon" as a name for the second new moon in a calendar month. When used in this manner, the term is
similar to another term used by astronomers, "blue moon," the second full moon in a calendar month.
- If a new moon falls in the first couple of days of a month in the Gergorian calendar, then another new moon will appear near the end of the
month. Like blue moons, this type of black moon happens about once every 2.5 years.
- This first definition of the term "black moon" seems to be the one that is becoming popular in the early 21st century, as I (Myth Woodling) have
randomly been running across it being used in this context. (As far as I know, no one has tracked down the orgin of this term. I first came across the
term on David Harper and Lynne Marie Stockman,
Two New Moons in one month, copyright 1995-2002, probably first accessed this infomation some time between 1999 and 2007.
- The term "black moon" is also sometimes used to describe a calendar month when no full moon appears. Mathematically speaking, this type
of "black moon" can only happen in February, since February only has 28 or 29 days, which is fewer days than the complete moon cycle of 29.53
days. See blue moon.
- blue moon
- The term "blue moon" has been used by astronomers, planetarium show hosts, and Almanac writers.
- According to popular definition, a "blue moon" is the second full moon to occur in a single calendar month. As the average interval between
full moons is about 29.5 days, while every month, except February, lasts either 30 or 31 30.5 days. However some months will contain can contain
two full moons. This type of blue moon happens about once every 2.5 years. Every month in the Gregorian calendar typically has a full moon, although
rarely the month February will not have a full moon.
- According to popular definition, a "blue moon" is the second full moon to occur in a single calendar month. This definition only dates back to 1946
when term was defined this way by Sky and Telescope . There is an older, traditional meaning that was used in farmers' almanacs in the 19th
century in which the term "blue moon" labeled the third full moon in a season which has four. See black moon.
- bonae res
- A Latin term, literally meaning "Good Things." The phrase implies benificent spirits, like faeries or
the bonae muliers ("Good Women"), dominae nocturnae ("Night Women"),
belle signore ("Beautiful Ladies"), or donne di fuori
("Women from the outside"). See balli angelici.
- boni homines
- A Latin term literally meaning "good men." It refered the Cathar perfecti or "perfects" who
travelled in pairs as wandering preachers in Italy. The boni homines devoted themselves to ascetic life of
purity, prayer, frugality, chasity, and charitable work. Clad in simple robes with cord belts, the perfects
refrained, except for fish, from all animal food (meat, cheese, eggs, milk, and butter).
- boschetto, bosco
- These Italian terms mean "grove."
- This term is the Italian name for charm bags worn around the neck to protect
against malocchio and other bad influences. In function, they are
similar to the bullae described by Roman sources.
- When used in Italian magic, this household item symbolized clearing away
- Brother Fire
- See frate focu.
- Brother Sun
- See frate sole.
- Brother Wind
- See frate vento.
- The ancient Etruscans believed talismans engraved with the head of a bull
were most powerful. They brought good health and long life and success in love.
- This amulet or charm, described by Roman sources, was made by women to
protect Roman children against bad luck. When the child reached adulthood,
the bullae was offered to the shrine of the family lar.
- In Neo-Paganism, Caffeina is definetly honored with gentle tongue in cheek as a "Roman Goddesss."
I have an approximately 4" inch tall Greco-Roman style statuette of "Caffeina" which I purchased circa
1995-96. She was one of several little whimsical "Office Gods." "Office Gods" were a bunch of collectible
figurines, sculpted in Greco-Roman style, of "Computa," "Faxus," "Photocopia," "Phonus," and "Caffeina."
Apparently, the statuettes are no longer being made by Talus, Inc. with Briggs and Virginia Cameron.
Neo-Pagan devotion to Caffeina predated these figuines. In circa 1990-91-92, I knew someone who had
a daily morning devotion in which she would stand with a morning cup of coffee in hand, facing east, turn
clockwise, and then would salute the east with her cup. I saw her do this ritual with a cup of coffee at a
Neo-Pagan gathering. She explained, "I do that every morning," adding it could be done with tea or orange
juice, but coffee was better. She took a swallow and said, "Hail Caffeina!" The veneration of Caffeina has
been a part of contemporary American life for several generations. There are devotees who refer to her as
a spirit of a many cultures and a Goddess of Many Names, Cappucino, Latte, Breve, Mocha, Au Lait, and
Chai. Her adept servants are known as Baristas.
- MANTRA: Awake, Awake, Awake!
- GEMSTONES: Garnet, bloodstone, tourmaline, smoky quartz
- ESSENCE: coffee beans.
- FEAST DAY: September 29, (National Coffee Day in the USA)
- DEVOTIONAL PRAYER: "OH, mama, I NEEDED that!" (often uttered after drinking coffee)
- All that being said, Caffeina is a modern Goddess, sometimes what is called a "found deity" or "found
Goddess." These terms relate to the concept of Morgan Grey and Julia Penelope's book,
Found Goddesses: Asphalta to Viscera (1989). Grey and Penelope had become rather tired of
all the references to "ancient, lost Goddesses in the 1980's" and decided they would instead look for some
"found Goddesses." This concept has since been embraced and expanded upon by others. A "found deity"
does not belong to any ancient pantheon and has been created (or "found") to fill a modern need that our
ancestors would not have dealt with in daily life. For example, "Squat" who presides over parking space
or "Gympea or Gympia, the Limping One," who presides over handicap parking spaces.
- This Latin word literally means "candle."
- In Italian folklore, candelas are little faery spirits who appear as a
group of tiny, twinkling lights, like fireflies.
- Canticle of the Creatures, The
- "The Canticle of the Creatures" (Il Cantico delle Creature), aka "The Canticle of Brother Sun and
Sister Moon" (Il cantico di Frate sole e Sorella Luna), is a 13th century devotion written in Italian by Saint
Francis of Assisi.
- To the Romans, the cat was a symbol of liberty, and sometimes accompanied
the Goddess Libertas. In Leland's Aradia, Diana takes the form of a cat.
- chiesa di Santa Maria della Febbre
- Chiesa di Santa Maria della Febbre literally means "Church of Holy Maria of the Fever." It is a chapel
or church in Rome dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of Madonna della Febbre (Our Lady
of the Fever). It contained a famous image of the Madonna which was venerated for protection against malaria
- Church of Santa Maria della Febbre
- See chiesa di Santa Maria della Febbre.
- A powerful Italian amulet or talisman, cast in silver, worn to bring good
fortune and divert evil influences. The cimaruta is a representation of
the protective herb rue (Ruta graveolens). Several symbols are added to
the silver rue to increase its potency, often including a vervain flower, crescent
moon, key, fish, and flaming heart.
- Vervain was another protective herb and was associated with a number of
deities including Juno and Diana. Leland's text associated vervain with Diana's
daughter, Aradia. The crescent moon was the symbol of Diana, and silver was
symbolically the metal of the moon. The fig sign was a human fist with the thumb
between the index finger and the middle finger. It was originally a protective
gesture against the evil eye, malocchio. The key was an old charm, originally
the symbol of Jana, queen of secrets. Jana had a lunar aspect and was, as such,
often associated with Diana. Fish were fertility symbols often linked to
Venus-Aphrodite. Nevertheless, fish could also be linked to Diana as mistress of
the moon, ruler of the ocean tides. The flaming heart probably indicated a
Christian influence, as it belonged to the Madonna, the sacred heart of Mary.
- There were apparently more than one design of cimaruta. Some cimarutas might
have other symbols entwined with the rue, including a dagger, cock, or serpent.
- A ritual that involved walking around a person or an object three times in
succession. The custom was known to be common among the Romans, as well as the
- coins, old
- According to Leland, old coins could be used by the Italian streghe in various charms, especially to
make "witch money."
- coins put in water
- The custom of tossing coins into a public fountain has connections to the customs of tossing offerings
into bodies of water as offering to deities or residing spirits. In ancient Roman religion, the Fons were the
female spirits residing in fountains. They were worshiped at the Fontinalia (October 13), along with the
Camenae, by throwing wreaths upon their waters. Camenae inhabited lakes, springs, and rivers.
- According to modern tourist lore in Rome, it still brings good fortune to toss coins into Fontana
di Trevi (Trevi Fountain). One coin tossed into the fountain guarantees the vistor will return to Rome.
Two coins tossed in the fountain guarantees the vistor will return and fall in love. Three coins tossed in
the fountain guarantees the vistor will return, fall in love, and get married.
- Colombo, also Cristoforo Colombo
- Cristoforo Colombo (1451?-1506) was an Italian navigator and explorer born in the Republic of Genoa, in
northwestern Italy. While in the service of Spain searching for a better route to the "spice islands" of the East Indies,
he brought the "discovery" of the Americas to the attention of Europe. He is known in Spanish speaking countries
as "Cristóbal Colón."
- The name "Columbia" has been used as 1) a poetic, feminine personification of the Americas, 2) a feminine
personification of the USA, 3) a feminine personification of Washington DC (District of Columbia), and
4) a nickname for the bronze allegorical statue of "Freedom," aka "Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace,"
located on top of dome of the USA Capitol in Washington, DC (District of Columbia).
- Some have claimed "Columbia" is derived from the Latin columba, meaning "dove"
(as in "dove of peace").
- Historically, however, the name "Colombia" was derived name of the Italian explorer, Cristoforo Colombo
(Christopher Columbus), who brought the "discovery" of the Americas to the attention of Europe; thus "Columbia"
orginally meant "land of Columbus." The American cities of Columbia in Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi,
Missouri, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia (Washington DC) take their names from "land
- A contadino is one of the contadini, or peasant Italian farmers. Basically, they were
sharecroppers who worked for the profit of their landlord. For most contadini, the living conditions
were rather harsh. In Charles G. Leland's Etruscan Magic and Occult Remedies, 1892, a young
peasant farmer figured in a story called
"Bella Marta and the Young Contadino." The young man
succeeded in acquiring a powerful spirit as a patrona to improve his lot in life.
- Copper is one of the few metals to occur naturally. Copper has been in use by humans for about
10,000 years. In the Roman era, copper was principally mined on the island of Cyprus, thus the metal
was known as Cyprium, "metal of Cyprus," or cuprum in Latin. Copper was sacred
to the Roman Venus and Greek Aphrodite in mythology as well as in alchemy. It is likewise associated
with the planet Venus in astrology. Due to copper's association with Venus, copper is used to attract love
and health. Copper bracelets may be worn by both women and men for good health and luck.
- corno, cornicello
- An Italian good luck charm that looks like a long, twisted or wavy animal
horn. It is also warn as a protection against the evil eye or malocchio.
- corpus mundi
- A Latin term literally meaning "body of the world." In renaissance magical
philosophy, corpus mundi represents the physical manifestation of the
cosmos. (See anima mundi or spiritus mundi.)
- Corrotto was the Italian term for the traditional mourning and lamentations.
- A crescent moon, when increasing, meant good luck for travelers.
A fortunate amulet for travelers was the moon's image as a waxing crescent.
The moon itself was often viewed as protecting travelers, illuminating their
path at night.
- Talismans of the moon were especially employed for safe journeys across
water. Such a talisman was auspicious for sea journeys due to the moon's
rulership of ocean tides and current.
- These are a place of magic. Shrines to Hecate were erected at places where three
roads met and garlic was left as offerings to her. The Lares compitales
were honored at crossroads.
- Cuccagna was the Italian name of a folkloric, earthly paradise in which food and drink appeared already
- cult of Herodias
- A cult of Herodias was mentioned in some medieval
sources. In medieval
folklore, a group of women were believed to worship the biblical character Herodias
along with the ancient
Roman moon goddess, Diana. Fables of this cult began to spread sometime around the
10th century and
were denounced by the Catholic church as superstition. For example, John of
Salisbury, bishop of Chartres,
France, made a comment on these fables in his book Policraticus (circa 1159),
naming the goddesses, Herodias and Noctiluca.
See game of Erodiade.
- Dance of La Volta
- A dance unique to Italian witchcraft was La Volta. This dance was
described as fast and furious, and culminated in leaps and hops, high into the
air. The height of these leaps and the complexity of the dance steps allegedly
indicated that the dance could not be successfully performed without the aid of
- In the text of Leland's Aradia, the streghe are instructed to play
the game of Benevento. According to the Pazzaglinis, the full name of the
"game" is moccola di Benevento, and may refer to leaping or hopping,
like the English "Jack be Nimble" high over a candle stub. This game may have
been similar to a dance and could have also referred to a leap or "hop into
another world." (362) Was the moccola di Benevento game similar to the dance of
- Dance of the Tarantella
- See Tarantella, Dancers, and Tarantism.
- As Diana was a Goddess of hunting, the dog was one of her animals. In Italian
art, Diana was often depicted with a dog. Interestingly, the dog was also sacred
to Hecate, who was accompanied by black dogs and a spectral train.
- As a Goddess of animals, Diana was frequently depicted with a stag,
and does and fauns were said to be sacred to her as well. Later, when Diana
was assimilated with the Greek Artemis, she absorbed the myth of Actaeon.
While hunting with his dogs, Actaeon spotted the Goddess of the Hunt and her
attendant nymphs bathing in a moonlit mountain stream. As a hunter, Actaeon realized
that this was none other than Artemis, but he stayed to spy upon the Goddess,
voyeurism. His impiety was fatal, as Artemis realized his presence. In her
rage, she transformed him into a stag, and with his own hounds, she hunted
him to death.
- The word, "divination," derives from Middle English divinacioun, from
Latin divination-, divinatio,
from divinatus related to Latin soothsayer, from divinus.
- It is the art or practice that seeks to foresee or foretell future events or
discover hidden knowledge,
usually by the interpretation of omens or by the aid of divine or supernatural
powers, augury, auspices, astrology. See augury, astrology, Erodiade, and
- donne buone di Diana
- The Italian phrase donne buone di Diana literally means "good women of Diana."
- The "good women of Diana" (donne buone di Diana) or "night ladies" (le signore della notte) were well-known
in Italian folklore by a number of names.
- In the 10th century, the Canon Episcopi maintained the orginal position of the Catholic Church. Magic was only
a delusion and had no power. It was the Christian devil who deceived foolish women with illusions and phantasms in
Some wicked women, perverted by the devil, seduced by of demons believe and animals to ride at night in the
company of Diana, the goddess of the pagans, and a huge crowd of women and believe deeply in the silence of the
night to travel great spaces of the earth obeying his orders as to their mistress and to be called to serve her on certain
--Canon Episcopi, 10th century.
- Apparently stories about the cult of the Goddess Diana (culto della dea Diana) and "good women of Diana"
(donne buone di Diana) and/or the "night ladies" (le signore della notte) continued to circulate. Even after the
establishment of the Church in in Val di Fiemme, a Ferrara a Mantova, there were the women of bon zogo, the wise
Sibilla (la sapiente Sibilla). The Inquisitor at Como spoke of nocturnal gatherings called "game of the good
society" (gioco della buona societa).
- In Italy some women belived that they flew out at night for benevolent purposes under the guidance of a
supernatural queen. One woman explained, "Since my youth, every week on Thursday nights with Oriente and its
society." Oriente literally meant "East" and is apparently a title of the supernatural queen, "Signora Oriente" or "Lady
of the East." Thus, Oriente was a reference to Erodiade/Herodias/Aradia.
- Erodiade sometimes flew with Diana and a numberless train of women in the night flight. There is a 12th century
version of the Canon Episcopi.
Certain women, converted to Satan, believe and confess that in the night hours they ride with Diana, the goddess of
the pagans, or with Herodias and Minerva and a numberless train of women and obey their commands. But you are
crassly stupid to believe that these acts, which are imaginative, actually occur.
--12th century tract, authorship uncertain.
- Herodias and Minerva, whose sacred animal was the witchy owl, had joined Diana along with
- In Italian lore, the bad girl of the New Testement, Herodias was known as Erodiade. She was condemed to
wander the sky at night, particularly on the feast of Saint John the Baptist. In Italian folklore, Erodiade, the "Jewish
oriental lady," joined Diana's numberless train of women.
- In 1390, two women Sibilia and Pierina in Milan believed and professed that they attended to the game (gioco)
of Oriente or Madona Horiente. Below is a confession of their belief to the Inquisition:
I paid tribute to the Oriente ["Signora Oriente" or the "Lady of the East" also called "Madona Horiente] and did not
think it was a sin, saying, "Be well, Madona Horiente." Oriente [Signora Oriente/Madona Horiente] responded
"Welcome to my daughters." In the presence of the Oriente [Signora Oriente/Madona Horiente], the name of God
is never spoken. The Oriente [Signora Oriente/Madona Horiente] teaches the virtues of herbs, remedies to cure
diseases, how to find the stolen goods, and how to loose the power of malign spells. Oriente
[Signora Oriente/Madona Horiente] knows how to restore life to dead creatures. Her followers sometimes kill cows
and eat the meat, then they collected the bones and put them in the skins of animals killed. At this point, Oriente
[Signora Oriente/Madona Horiente] struck the skins with the pommel of her wand, and the animals rose from the
dead. Plow animals raised were no longer able to work.
- They had already been condemned as heretics in 1384. In 1390, they were again tried as relapsed heretics and
this time sentenced to death.
- Oriente/Horiente might well be assumed to refer to the Italian folkloric figure, Erodiade, who was conflated with
the Roman mythological figure, Diana.
- Ember days
- The Ember days are known in Latin as the quattuor anni tempora (the "four seasons of the year"), or
formerly as the jejunia quattuor temporum ("fasts of the four seasons").
- The term, "Ember days," is a corruption from the Latin phrase quattuor temporum which means
"four times." The correct Latin term is quattuor anni tempora ("four seasons of the year"), or formerly as
the jejunia quattuor temporum ("fasts of the four seasons") The "Ember days" are the four days in association
with the four seasons which are days of fast and abstinence, according to the Catholic church.
- The "Ember days" are observed on:
- the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Ash Wednesday (a moveable fast, 46 days before the feast of Easter)
- the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Whitsunday/Pentecost (a moveable fast, seven weeks after Easter Sunday)
- the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Exaltation of the Cross (September 14)
- the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the feast of Santa Lucia (December 13)
- These dates of the Ember days are noted in the Latin verse:
Dant Crux, Lucia, Cineres, Charismata Dia
Ut sit in angaria quarta sequens feria
They give Cross, Lucia, Ash Wednesday, Pentecost Day
It may be a your service in the fourth week following
- During these days Catholics are to pray, fast, and abstain from meat in order to thank God the Creator for
the four seasons and the seasonal gifts of nature, to instruct humans to make use of these gifts in moderation, and
to embrace charity by giving assistance to the needy.
- In the folklore of northern Italy, the Ember days were the four times a year that the benandanti (good walkers),
armed with fennel stalks, were summoned to fight the malandanti (bad walkers) in order to protect the crops from
destruction. See benandanti, malandanti, fennel, and sorghum.
- erba di San Giovanni
- Erba di San Giovanni is an Italian name for the plant known in Latin as Hypericum perforatum
known in English as "common St. John's wort." It is also known in Italian as "perforata," "iperico," "millebuchi,"
"scacciadiavoli," and "erba trona." It blooms around the Festa di San Giovanni Battista (feast.day of John
the Baptist on June 25). Possibly due to the flowers' association with the saint, this herb is considered to be
so obnoxious to evil spirits that a whiff of it would cause them to fly.
- Its Latin name Hyperieum is derived from the Greek words, hyper and
eikon meaning "above the (holy) image," apparently alluding to the use of flowers hanging above
the sacred image. The Italian term "perforata" from the species name perforatum refers to the
presence of of this plant are covered with small translucent oil glands that cause the leaves look like a sheet
which has been "perforated." The plant has five petaled yellow flowers and a reported lemony scent.
- It was believed that this herb sprung from the blood of San Giovanni Battista (St John the Baptist),
and it was used as a protection against disease and malign spirits. There was an old custom to place a bunch
of erba di San Giovanni under one's pillow on the evening before the saint's feast day, in the belief that the
sleeper would be protected by the saint. If San Giovanni appeared in a dream, the sleeper would be
protected from death for a entire year. Allegedly during the Middle Ages, knights wore the plant under
their armor to protect them in battle.
- The red oil derived from the flower buds or seed pods was used in folk medicine in treating skin
irritations, itching, insect bites, and sunburn. As the plant was deemed able to expel the malign influences
from the body and mind it was also used to treat melancholy and depression.
- Another Italian alternate spelling of this name is Herodiade. See Herodiade and the game
- facina, facinata
- Another Italian term for the evil eye, malocchio. It comes from the
- faerytale, fairytale
- A tale that is a magical story or wondertale set in an enchanted landscape, often featuring supernatural
beings and magical items along with mortal heroines and heros. Faerytales are a form of folklore.
- Famiglia literally means "family" in Italian. It carries the concept of a tight bond among those who are
related, not only by blood or marriage, but also by commitments of friendship.
- A fantasma is the Italian word for "ghost" or "apparition." It orginated from the Latin word, phantasma,
meaning "vision" or "image."
- fata buona
- Literally, in Italian, a fata buona is a "good faery," who may randomly decide to assist someone.
Fata buonas are common in Italian fiabias or folktales. The fata buona often appears as an older woman.
Such a figure of folklore is sometimes called a fata buona della fiabe.
- Fata Morgana
- Fata Morgana was a Sicillian faery queen who magically crafted a beautiful
palace of crystal deep beneath the waters of the Straits of Messina. She rules
over both water and terrestrail faery-spirits.
- Sicillians credited Fata Morgana with creating an optical illusion which
confounded travelers in the Straits of Messina. Known as the Fata Morgana, this
mirage consists of multiple images of cliffs, buildings, vessels, etc. which are
distorted and magnified, resembling some ancient mystical structures of
- The phenomenon of the Fata Morgana illusion led to sailor's tales of
ensorcelled boats sailing above the ocean and golden castles floating in the
air, which vanish as sailors head towards them.
- Fata Morgan also has a home called Mongibello or Mongibel near the foot
of Mount Etna, where she transported her brother, Artu, after he was severely
wounded in battle.
- Fattuccchiere is one of the Italian lables of magical practioners. The term means "fixers."
Sabina Magliocco explained in Spells, Saints, and Streghe: Witchcraft, Folk Magic, and Healing in
Italy: "Healing formulas are passed on from one family member to another at calendrically significant times
of year such as Christmas Eve or St. John's Eve (June 23)."
- fava beans
- This bean was grown in ancient Italy and is also known as the vica fava,
fabu bean, broad bean, field bean, or horse bean. Fava beans are one of the oldest
plants under cultivation. They became part of the eastern Mediteranean diet
around 6000 bce.
- In Italy, fava beans are associated with the dead and may have been the beans
used in the ceremony to appease the lemures at the Lemurra in May. They were used
In ancient Roman funerary rites.
- In modern Italy, fava beans are associated with the November celebration of
All Soul's Day. Small cakes called fave del morte, meaning "beans of the
dead," are made in the shape of fava beans. Traditionally fava beans are planted
on November 2.
- On May 1, Roman families traditionally eat the new crop of fava beans cooked
and served with Pecorino Romano cheese.
- Some Italians curry dried fava bean for luck. Supposedly a dried fava bean ensures
one will always have the essentials of life.
- There is a tradition in Sicily that fava beans once provided food when the
other crops failed. The local population gave thanks to St. Joseph for saving
them from starvation with fava beans.
- Fava beans are sometimes placed on St. Joseph's altar on his feast day.
- Fava beans must be eaten cooked, because favism is a metabolic
disorder found in some people of Mediterranean descent who have a severe reaction
to ingesting uncooked beans.
- Fava beans are often served steamed with olive oil, salt, and lemon.
- Fennel is a hardy, perennial herb, with yellow flowers and feathery aromatic leaves. Its Latin name is
Foeniculum vulgare. One of its names in Italy is finocchio, [plural] finocchios It is also known as
fenoci. The plant grows in the wild in the Mediterranean area.
- Fennel features prominently in Mediterranean cuisine, where bulbs and fronds are used, both raw and cooked,
in side dishes, salads, pastas, risottos and vegetable dishes.
- Fennel seed is a common ingredient in Italian sausages and meatballs. The seeds are also used to flavor breads.
Fennel seeds likewise were used as a condiment and believed to be helpful for digestive problems. Fennel tea was
said to be good for the digestion.
- "Florence fennel" (Foeniculum vulgare dulce) also known as "bulb fennel" or "sweet fennel" is a
cultiva group with inflated leaf bases which form a bulb-like stem base and is eatten as a vegetable. Florence fennel,
chopped finely or quartered, is served in some Italian salads, often tossed with chicory (radicchio), or it can
be braised and served as a warm side dish. Florence fennel can be baked, steamed, boiled, or braised. It has a mild
licorice flavor, similar to anise or tarragon, that mellows with cooking. One of the known key ingredients in the
secret, "magical" reciepe for the Italian Liquore Strega is fennel. In some places, fennel seed was used as an
appetite supressant on Church mandated fasting days.
- Fennel figured in Italian mythology and folklore. Ancient Romans regarded fennel as the herb of sight. The
Roman author of The Naturalis Historie, Pliny (23-79 ce), believed that serpents ate and rubbed against
fennel plants because it was able to improve their eyesight after shedding their skins. Some ancient writers viewed it
as a remedy for snake bite. In Greco-Roman mythology, Prometheus used the stalk of a fennel plant to steal fire
from the Gods in order to give it to primitive mankind. In a very interesting Italian folktale collected by Italo Calvino,
Sant' Antonio also used the stalk of fennel to hide a spark and bring the gift of fire to humanity from the infernal
regions. Equally interesting is that fennel stalks were the weapon used by the benandanti (good walkers). Four times
a year during the Ember days, the benandanti claimed they flew out of their bodies, armed with fennel stalks, during
a deep sleep to fight the malandanti (bad walkers).
- Fennel was said to be disliked by fleas, thus powdered fennel had the effect of warding off fleas from stables
- Garlands of fennel were hung at the windows to ward off evil spirits. Over doorways, fennel was thought to
protect a home from wandering ghosts. Fennel seeds inserted into keyholes protected the inhabitants of house from
any night spirits entering. In the Middle Ages, fennel was considered "un antidoto contro la stregoneria,"
a protection against sorcery.
- Here is another example of fennel being used as a weapon against malicious magic [il finocchio è usato
come arma contro le streghe]. A Beneandante at an invalid's bedside, after miraculously
[ miracolosamente ] defeating the malaise [ le malie], suggested the family put "garlic and fennel"
[ "aglio et fenocchio,"], under the pillow or at the bedside so that the person would not be harrassed
[ molestare] during the night. See benandanti, malandanti, garlic, and sorghum.
- Festa di San Giovanni Battista
- The Festa di San Giovanni Battista has been celebrated in Italy since medieval times. The
official dates are June 23 (St. John's Eve) and June 24 (The Feast Day of St. John the Baptist). Some Italian
festivals celebrating the Festa di San Giovanni lasted from June 21 to 24. There were many diffentent local
traditions connected to the night before Festa di San Giovanni: fireworks, bonfires, gathering
erba di San Giovanni, making the acqua di San Giovanni.
- Brides who desired children might sit on the grass moist with la guazza di Santo Gioanno,
that is the dew that collected during the night. The dew can also be collected for love charms. The women in
Celano must collect the dew with a non-metal object and use it heal eye problems.
- It's on St. John's Eve that Erodiade (Herodiade, Aradia) flies at midnight seated across a ray of fire. Thus,
the night of June 23 is also known as la notte delle streghe. Led by Erodiade, they travel to their
"night assembly." "A Roma i giovani si radunavano davanti alla Basilica di San Giovanni in
Laterano e accendevano dei fuochi per aspettare l'arrivo delle streghe guidate da Erodiade."
- The night before Festa di San Giovanni is one of the dates on which certain healing formulas
used by the fattuccchiere can be passed on from one family member to another.
- On the night before June 24, girls would divine their future husbands by placing three fava beans under
their pillows. One fava bean would be a regualar un-peeled bean, another bean just half-peeled, and a third
one would be completely peeled. On the morning of June 24 the girl would reach under and choose one of the
beans. If she grabed the un-peeled one, her husband would be very rich, if she picked the half-peeled one, she
would marry a man neither poor nor rich, if the peeled one, then she would marry a poor man.
- In Abruzzo, people divine their futures with egg whites. The white of a single egg is cracked into a
transparent glass or bowl and left overnight. The person must check the egg white before sunrise. The
patterns created by the night dew ought to provide the prediction of fortune told.
- It is interesting that in ancient Rome, June 24 was the feast of Fors Fortuna, the Goddess of good fortune.
- A story of a fabulous nature, such as wondertales, fables, or fairytales. These stories often contain
supernatual or magical beings, such as dragons, fatas, stregas, giants, griffins, talking animals, etc, as well
as mortal heros and heroines.
See storia folcloristica.
- ficari, fauni
- The ficari, also known as fauni, are bloodthirsty, malicious, and violent spirits in the folklore of Sicily.
Supposedly, they inhabit fig trees, each sitting on a separate fig leaf. Interestingly, their name literally means
"Big Fauns," and these fig tree spirits seem to have inherited the violent and dangerous tendencies of their Roman
classical name sakes, the Fauns.
- Any traveler resting in the shade of their fig tree risks attack. Sometimes one will appear as a nun carrying a
knife. This nun will ask which end of the knife to take, the person ought to specifically request the handle. Otherwise
the hapless traveler will be stabbed with the knife's blade.
- Fig trees have been cultivated by man for over 10,000 years. The common fig, whose Latin
name is ficus carica, is native to the Mediterranean region and southwest Asia. It is said
that a woman may charm a man by giving him figs. In Sicily, a fig tree is symbol of prosperity
- fig sign
- A human fist with the thumb between the index finger and the middle finger.
This gesture, known as the mano fico, was used in Italy against the
evil eye, malocchio. An ancient charm, examples of the fig sign have been found
dating back to Roman and Etruscan times. It is still worn as a protective amulet.
- Probably due to its original fertility connection, it is now considered
a rude and insulting gesture in modern Italy.
- filtro di amore
- An Italian phrase literally meaning "philtre of love" or "love potion." A love potion is a magical
mixture which supposidly can cause the one who drinks it to fall in love with a certain person. In Italy,
cumin-seed was often an ingredient in love potions.
- Representing the abundance of the sea, fish have often been a fertility
symbol. In Italy, fish were associated with Venus, partially because of her
connection with the Greek Aphrodite, whose titles included Anadyomen (rising
from the waters), Euploia (prosperous voyage), and Pontia (sea).
- Yet fish could also be seen as emblems of fertility simply because of
their phallic shape. In modern popular Italian terminology, the male sex
organ is still euphamistically referred to as a pesce, meaning "fish"
or uccello, meaning "bird." Sardines are associated with St. Anthony.
- These Italian spirits were described by Robert Burton (1577-1640) in The Anatomy of Melancholy.
Folits were able to transform into the form of a hare, crow, or black dog. Folits often inhabited ruins and caused
- frate focu
- Frate focu (in modern Italian fratello fuoco) is the term in the 13th century "The Canticle of the
Creatures" (Il Cantico delle Creature), aka "The Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon" (Il cantico
di Frate sole e Sorella Luna). Frate Focu or Fratello Fuoco is literally translated as "Brother Fire." In English translations of
"The Canticle," it is usually rendered "Brother Fire."
- frate sole
- Frate sole (in modern Italian fratello sole) is the term in the 13th century "The Canticle of the
Creatures" (Il Cantico delle Creature), aka "The Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon" (Il cantico
di Frate sole e Sorella Luna). Frate Sole or Fratello Sole is literally translated as "Brother Sun." In English translations of
"The Canticle," it is usually rendered "Brother Sun."
- frate vento
- Frate vento (in modern Italian fratello vento) is the term in the 13th century "The Canticle of
the Creatures" (Il Cantico delle Creature), aka "The Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon" (Il cantico
di Frate sole e Sorella Luna). Frate Vento or Fratello Vento is literally translated as "Brother Wind." In English translations
of "The Canticle," it is usually rendered "Brother Wind" or "Brothers Wind and Air."
- The bronze frog was said to be a symbol of Diana, probably in her
connection with water, night dew, and rain. At Nemi, during her mid-August
festival, Diana was implored for a harvest free from the ravages of storms.
There was a Latin proverb:
"He who loves a frog regards it as Diana." The frog served as an amulet for
fertility and abundance. It was also sacred to Venus and Hecate. Supposedly
there was a frog amulet associated with Hecate inscribed with the words,
"I am the resurection."
- fuochi fatui
- The small fuochi fatui are usually bluish flames, which hover over the ground at night in the vicinity of
cemeteries, marshes, and ponds. In ancient times the presence of these phosphorescent lights, especially if they
appeared near the cemetery, was believed to be clear proof the existence of the soul (anima).
The best time to observe the phenomenon is said to be in the cold autumn evenings.
- The singular Italian term for just one light is fuoco fatuo. The Italian term, fuoco fatuo, could be translated
to mean "foolish fire" or perhaps "faery fire."
- The similar Spanish term fuego fatuo is literally translated as "fatuous fire" (aka "foolish fire"). The
names fuoco fatuo and fuego fatuo thus may be related to the medieval Latin term
ignis fatuus (from ignis ("fire") + fatuus ("foolish"), plural ignes fatui) for the
- Supposedly, there are many different legends about the fuochi fatui. Nancy Arrowsmith in her
Field Guide to the Little People, stated only, "...the Italian Fuochi Fatui are said to be souls in Purgatory,"
(p.19) which echoes some French legends. In which case, a small prayer might be appropriate when seeing one:
O Madre di Dio, Maria, abbiate pietà di me, ed abbiate ancor pietà di quelle Anime sante che ardono
nel fuoco. [The Italian is from a longer prayer for the souls in purgatory and may not have traditionally been
used in connection with the fuochi fatui. It translates as "Mother of God, Maria, have pity on me, and still have
pity on those holy souls who burn in the fire."]
- This phenomenon of flickering phosphorescent lights is possibly caused by spontaneous combustion of gases
emitted by rotting organic matter. The phenomenon is also known as "will o' the wisps" in English.
- Gaia hypothesis
- A theory named after the Greek Goddess of the earth, Gaia, which proposed
that the biosphere of the planet Earth could be understood as a single entity
that preserves the temperature and atmosphere and chemical composition of the
oceans by complex ecological feedback systems. These systems are similar to
those that maintain temperature and blook chemistry in a living organism. The
Gaia hypothesis was advanced by climatologist James Lovelock in the mid-1970's.
Lovelock published a 1979 book, Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth.
- Interestingly, long before Lovelock's first publication on this subject,
Neo-Pagan writer Tim Zell, also known as Otter G'Zell and now known as Raven
G'Zell, had already proposed in 1970 a thealogy linking the Great Goddess, or
Mother Earth of Neo-Paganism, with the ecology of our planet. Zell was hoping
for the development of a telepathic connection between humans and all of Earth's
lifeforms in the indwelling soul or spirit of Mother Earth.
- Zell, however, originally drew on the Latin name of the earth mother,
Tellus Mater or Terra.
- These ideas involved modern concepts of the earth as a planet,
with intricate ecological systems, which must be prserved through conservationism,
plus an idea of the anima mundi.
- Game of Benevento
- In the first chapter of Leland's Aradia, Aradia taught her pupils and said, "And ye shall make the game
of Benevento..." In Leland's Italian text it was called giuoco della moccola di Benevento. See
moccola di Benevento.
- game of Erodiade
- In Milan in 1390, Pierina de Bugatis confessed during questioning to participating in the "game of
Erodiade." Particpants would in a group visit the wealthy homes. The assembly would eat and drink and
they would bless homes that were neat and clean. They would slaughter livestock for a feast. At the end of the
feast, Signora Oriente would put the bones back into the animal skins and resurrect them with her magic
wand. According to Pierina, Signora Oriente would give instructions to her followers about the properties
of various herbs and answered their questions about illness.
- Game of the Good Society
- In Italian folklore, one of the names for the night assembly. The Game of the Good Society might be
headed by Madona Horiente, Abundia, Richella, or Fortuna. In this assembly, women paid homage to
their good mistress. with cups of water, wine, and food. In return, the maternal spirit imparted healing herb
lore and granted visions so that her followers could answer questions to aid the community. The women
bowed their heads in veneration saying: "Be well, Madona Horiente." The leader replied: "Welcome, my
daughters." In a dream-like or faerytale-like manner, animals eaten at her gatherings were believed to be
restored to life afterwards. Like the Benandante, the Good Society met during the weeks of the Ember Days.
- Roman soldiers ate garlic to inspire courage in themselves. This culinary
item's Latin name is Allium sativum. It was often used as a medical herb,
and Romans believed eating it would
make one strong. Indeed, garlic has a reputation as a powerful
healing agent and protective agent in folklore from many cultures. Interestingly,
garlic was not often used in food seasoning among the elite of the Roman Empire,
although the lower classes seemed to have used in their food.
Garlic was offered on the altars of Hecate in her shrines where three roads met.
- Garlic also figured in Italian folklore. For example, a Beneandante suggested the family put "garlic and fennel"
[ "aglio et fenocchio,"], under the pillow or at the bedside of invalid so that the person would not be
harrassed [ molestare] during the night.
- An ancient recipe using garlic is in Mark Grant's Roman Cookery,
1999, p. 73, Moretum, Garlic and Herb Spread
- A more modern recipe is: Spaghetti with Garlic
and Olive Oil
- Genius, Iovilis
- In ancient Rome, a tutelary spirit which appeared at the birth of a
baby boy, which the Genius was supposed to protect. The Genius fostered growth
as well as intellectual and moral development. This spirit remained with the
man throughout his life. How powerful one's Genius was seemed to be a matter
of luck. On his natalicium or birthday, a man offered his Genius incense
and three libations of undiluted wine.
- Gezabele, Regina
- Gezabele was queen of Israel through marriage to king Achab (Acab or Acabbo) [Ahab] who
reigned 875 to 852 bce. She was a Phoenician princess identified in the bible as the daughter of King
Ithobaal I of Tyre [Ethbaal]; king of the Phoenicians. Her story was told in passages scattered throughout
the First and Second Books of Kings. Gezabele and Achab had two sons Geroboamo
[Jehoram] and Achaziah [Ahaziah].
- Her name probably meant either "Where is His Highness, Baal?" "Woman of Baal," or "Baal exists."
Gezabele brought a large entourage of priests and prophets when she came from her homeland, Phoenicia,
and maintained them at her own expense. She promoted the worship of Baal over that of YHVH and
persecuted the prophets of the rival sect, which preached against Baal. She may have been a priestess
of Astarte or Asherah.
- Gezabele was a powerful woman, who was known for her strength and beauty.
- While Achab was married to Gezabele, he permited temples of Baal and Asherah (Astarte) to operate
in Israel. Indeed these sects received royal patronage as Achab erected an altar to Baal inside the temple of
Baal, which he built in Samaria.
- A dramatic story is told in 1 Kings 18. After a three-year drought in Israel, the prophet of YHVH,
Elias [Elijah], challenged Achab to bring the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, which
ate at Gezabele's table, to Mt. Carmel. Elias proposed a test to determine which God was supreme: YHVH
- Elias succeeded in ending the drought by pouring four large jars of water over the sacrificed bull and
wood to illustrate to YHVH that rain was needed to pour over the land. The fire of YHVH fell from the
sky onto the body of the bull on the altar, which probably was a lightning bolt, and ignited the sacrifice and
the wood. The heavens became black with clouds and wind, and a great rain poured over the lands.
- When Elias succeeded in ending the drought, he ordered all the prophets of Baal slain with the
sword, "Prendete i profeti di Baal; non lasciatene scappare neppure uno!" Not one of them was spared,
nor shown any mercy, nor allowed to return to Phoenicia.
- When Gezabele learned of the murder of 450 prophets under her protection, she sent a messenger to
Elias, "Gli dèi mi facciano cosí e anche peggio, se domani a quest'ora non avrò fatto di te come uno
di loro." (So may the Gods do to me and even more, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like
that of one of them.) Elias fled. To escape Gezabele's reach, Elias ran first to Beersheba, Judah and eventually
all the way to Syria. Gezabele outlived Elias, but according biblical accounts did not succeed in her vendetta
- Later, after Achab died due to a wound from an arrow during a battle with Syria, Gezabele's two sons,
Geroboamo and Achaziah, were crowned as kings, the heirs to their father's throne. Geroboamo ruled as king
of Israel and Achaziah as king of Judah.
- Seeking to overthrow the house of Ahab, the military commander Jehu slew both of Gezabele's sons,
Geroboamo and Achaziah, in a military coup. Upon learning of Jehu's rebellion, Gezabele dressed herself in
finery, tiered her head, applied make-up and kohl, and donned jewelry as befitted a queen. Regally attired,
she awaited the arrival of the military leader at an upstairs window.
- When Jehu entered the gate, Gezabele taunted him, "Rechi pace, Zimri, uccisore del tuo signore?"
(Had Zimri peace, who slew his master?) Incidentially, Zimri was a was a military commander who
murdered king Elah and became king of Israel for only seven days. The name, Zimri, had become
synonymous for a murderous traitor.
- Ignoring her taunt, Jehu called to her servants, asking who would betray her. Two or three eunuchs
at his urging, pushed the queen mother out the window to her death. Jehu had the horses ride over her
bloodied body. He left her corpse in the street. After he feasted, Jehu said, "Andate a vedere quella
maledetta donna e seppellitela, perché è figlia di re." (Go, see now this cursed woman, and bury her: for
she is a daughter of a king.) However, as the street dogs had been at the corpse, only her skull, feet, and
hands could be located.
- The spirit of Regina Gezabele is still associated with beauty, strength, power, and control. Jezebel is
known as a powerful African queen in American hoodoo folk magic, and the roots of the Louisiana Irises
plants, Iris fulva, Iris hexagona, and Iris foliosa, are known as Jezebel Root or
Queen Root. Jezebel Root is used to empower many women's spells in hoodoo.
- I am seaching for more specific Italian folklore or practices relating to
Gezabele. There is an Italian song, which describes a woman named "Gezebele"/"Jezebel" in sultry, erotic
terms. Gezabele Song.
- ghirland delle streghe
- Translated as the "witches' garland," this term allegedly referred to an
old Italian death curse using knot magic.
- To form a witches' garland, a certain number of knots were tied with
ritual curses and maledictions in a length of rope at equal intervals. In
each knot, a feather of a black hen was inserted. The witches' garland
was then buried. As it rotted, the individual cursed became ill and
- In order to break the spell, the knots had to be untied and the components
- It is possible that the practice of legare mentioned in Leland's
Aradia referred to this type of ghirland delle streghe. No
contemporary, modern strega or stregone I have been in contact with has any
surviving traditions about this nefarious practice of malifica. See
legare and knot magic.
- Woodland sprites from Northern Italy; interestingly, they carry a little
spinning wheel with which they can divine the future.
- gioco della buona societa
- The Italian phrase, gioco della buona societa, literally means the "Game of the Good Society" See
"Game of the Good Society." See game of Erodiade, moccola di Benevento, Herodiade, Herodias, Aradia, the
- gioco d'Erodiade
- The Italian phrase, gioco d'Erodiade, literally means the "Game of Erodiade." See game of Erodiade, Herodiade, Herodias, Aradia, the name of.
- gioco di Diana
- The Italian phrase, gioco di Diana, literally means the "Game of Diana" See "Game of the Good
Society" (gioco della buona societa).
- The gnomi are little people.
- Gobbo was a masculine hunchbacked Italian spirit of luck, abundance, and
fertility. Gobbo in Italian literally means "hunchback." There was an
old belief that anyone touching the hump on a hunchback would receive good
luck. The belief probably has roots extending back to ancient Egypt involving
the god, Bes, and the Italian god, Priapus.
- In Italy, folks can now buy Gobbo good luck charms, which dangle from
key chains and car rear view mirrors.
- The modern folklore attached to this Gobbo charm is that it will bring
that person good fortune. Gobbo also will break the power of the malocchio or
- A Neapolitan name for the hunchback spirit is Scartellato. Scartellato brings luck.
- goetia, goetry
- Ceremonial magic involving the control or assistance of evil spirits.
- Good Women
- See bonae muliers and bonae res.
- This high order of angels is also called the egori or egoroi.
Their name in Hebrew meant "watchers." In Jewish lore, they are tall guardians who never sleep,
but watch eternally silent. The holy grigori dwell in the 5th heaven, and are said to include Uriel,
Raphael, Michael, Gabriel, Raguel, Zerachiel, Remiel. Some Rabinic liturature speaks of holy and
fallen grigori. The grigori were once sent to earth to instruct humans, but these grigori fell from grace
when they started cohabitating with women. These fallen grigori dwell in the 3rd heaven and are said to
include Azazel, Sariel, Shamshiel, Semyaza, and Satanil.
- In Streghria, some modern practioners invoke four grigori or watchers to guard their circle, but
this practice is not followed by all practioners.
- The New Testement, Revelations 7, speaks of the four angels "standing on the four corners of the earth,
holding the four winds." Though the angels are not named, they have been sometimes identified as Michael,
Raphael, Gabriel, and Phanuel, or Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Uriel.
- Acorrding to Thomas Heywood, The Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels, 1635,
the "Angels of the Four Winds" are Michael over the east, Uriel over the south , Raphael over the west,
and Gabriel over the north. The angels of the four elements are sometimes said to be Cherub over air,
Seraph or Nathaniel over fire, Tharsis or Tharsus over water, and Auriel over earth. These angels of the
winds and elements are often identified with the grigori in modern occultism.
- Gulfora was one of the names of the medieval Queen of the Witches. She led the
night ride on
"the days of Jupiter." Giove is the Italian name for Jupiter or Jove, and Giovedi is the Italian name
for Thursday, which is "the day of Jupiter."
- In English folklore, Habonde is the name of a beautiful dark-haired faery woman crowned with a golden circlet
and a star. Her consort was a Northern English hob-spirit, known as Hobany. She is likewise refered to as
Wandering Dame Habonde.
- Like Diana and Herodias, Habondia was one of the names of the medieval
Queen of the Witches. Her name, quite likely, derived from the Roman
Abundantia, a minor Goddess who personified abundance. She was also
a nocturnal spirit, as she was credited with entering the households of her
followers at night to bring prosperity. See Abundia.
- Leland stated in a footnote to the tale, "Tana and Endamone, or Diana
and Endymion": "The exchanged of locks [of hair] by lovers is possibly
connected with magic." (178) Hair is often used as a magical link--that is
linking the owner of the hair to the effect of the spell cast--in numerous
cultures. Hair can be used as a link in either benign or baleful magic,
as examples of its use in healing spells, love charms, protection spells,
and curses are found world-wide. Hence to willingly give someone a lock of
hair as a love token was both a vow to one's lover and an act of trust in
- If a practitioner wished to curse or manipulate someone against her or
his will, he would have to acquire the lock of hair by other means.
- There is an old spell, very unethical, which supposedly allowed a woman
to gain absolute control over a man whom she desired as a lover. Under the
cover of darkness, she had to travel naked and unobserved to his bedside in
perfect silence. Without awakening him, she then must cut a lock of his hair
and return to her own quarters, still unobserved. This operation was said
not to be without peril. If any person interupted her to or from his
bedchamber, the magic was spoiled and she would have to try again later.
Finally, if the man awoke during the operation and discovered her there,
the spell would be reversed and she would be hopelessly in his power.
- Do I need to state that the above operation falls into the category of
"spells which no Wiccan should touch with a 10-foot wand?"
- This term is taken from German and derived from the Greek hen- or heis "one" and
theos "god." It is used to describe the belief in, devotion to, and worship of one deity, without
denying the existence of other Gods. It is also used to mean the worship of a particular deity, as by a
family or tribe, without disbelieving in the existance of others within a polytheistic world view. The deity
was often treated as a patron/matron deity of the family, tribe, or individual.
- In the late Roman Empire, Mithraism was a form of henotheism. Its male devotees were certainly
permitted to worship other deities, but service to Mithras must be offered first.
- The term henotheism has also been used to designate the ascription of supreme divine attributes
to whichever deity is addressed at that time--as in certain ancient hymns.
- This name is an alternate spelling of Herodias, found in an article by
J. B. Andrews,
Neapolitan Witchcraft (Folk-Lore Transactions of the Folk-Lore Society,
Vol III March, 1897 No.1) The female spirit that led the night ride through
the skies had several different names in Europe: Holda, Holle, Habondia,
Noctiluca, Bensozia, and others. Diana was named as the leader of this troop
in the Canon Episcopi, circa 10th century. At some point, Herodias became
associated with Diana's night flight of the wild hunt.
- According to J. B. Andrews, at midnight eve of St. John Baptist's Day, Herodiade may be
seen in the sky seated across a ray of fire. As this apparition passed,
were heard to cry: "Mamma, mamma, perche` lo dicesti?" and "Figlia, figlia,
perche' lo facesti?" See Herodias and Habondia. This translates as "Mamma, Mamma,
why did you say it?" and "Daughter, daughter, why did you do it?"
- Saint John's Day is the feast day in June of John the Baptist. These voices
hark back to the Biblical story of his beheading. According to the Bible,
Herodias's daughter asked Herod for the head of John the Baptist at the request
of her mother.
- Another Italian alternate spelling of this name is Erodiade.
- A combination of the names of Herodiade and Diana in the 12th century in Italy. Herodiana was one
of the legendary queens who led the faery-spirits (dominae nocturnae)
who traveled abroad at night.
- Carlo Ginzburg in his Ecstasies: Deciphering the witches' sabbath (1990) speculated that
the nocturnal spirit refered to as Herodiana, could have orginally been "Hera-Diana."
- Leland associated the figure of "Herodias" with Aradia, the daughter of
- There was a persistent folk belief in women joining in the Wild Hunt of
Diana, which was attested to in the Canon Episcopi, a Catholic
eclesiastical law written circa 10th century.
- Somehow Herodias got attached to Diana's train of nymphs, women, and
- The biblical Herodias demanded the death of John the Baptist. In
Christian folklore, she became a condemned spirit, like the Wandering Jew.
Herodias was condemned by the Christian God to wander the sky until
the end of time. She was only permitted to rest in treetops between
midnight and dawn.
- Jeffrey B. Russell, author of A History of Witchcraft, Sorcerors, Heretics,
and Pagans (1980) speculated that the name of the biblical Herodias was
substituted by Church scribes for another pagan Goddess whose name started
with an H, Holda. According to Germanic folklore, Holda was
accompanied by witches and the souls of the dead in her nocturnal Wild
Hunts across the sky.
- Leland seems to have been the first to propose a connection between Herodias and Aradia.
Two alternative spellings of Herodias in Italian are
Herodiade or Erodiade. See Herodiade and Habondia.
- The wife of King Orfeo, in King Orfeo and Queen Herodis, was kidnapped
and enspelled in the Realm of Faerie. By playing beautiful harp music, Orfeo thus won a reward from
the Faery King, and therefore succeeded in liberating his wife. This medieval fairytale was obviously
derived from the ancient
Greek story of Orpheus of Thrace and his wife, Eurydice, whom Orpheus failed to
rescue from the realm of Hades.
- Holly was adored in pagan Rome. It symbolized friendliness and good will
and was sent to friends as gifts around the winter solstice. It is still
believed to be a protection from malocchio, the evil eye.
- This natural sweetener is used by modern Italian folk magic practitioners
in offerings and blessings, as well as attraction. There are references to honey
being used in some ancient Roamn rituals.
- Etruscans built horn-shaped icons into their architecture, particularly
on the corners of their houses to drive away evil and bring luck.
still make "the sign of the horns" (mano cornufo) by extending the
index finger and little
finger in an otherwise clenched fist to ward away the evil eye, malocchio.
- huomo selvatico
- The legendary figure of the hairy wild man, aka woodwose, which appears in literature and artwork
throughout medieval Europe is known as the huomo selvatico in Italy. In most descriptions, the European
wild men are naked and covered in hair. They are also known in Latin as pilosi meaning "hairy ones" or
"hairy all over."
- A number of local names also exist--some of which could suggest connections with figures from ancient
mythology. A term common in Lombardy and the Italian-speaking parts of the Alps is salvan or
salvang which may derive from the Latin God, Sylvanus or Silvanus, a rural God, guardian of woods,
forests, and fields. The name may also derive from his attendants, silvani or silvestres. In other
parts of Italy, this figure of folklore was known as the orco or huorco. This name derived from
Orcus, a Roman and Italian God of death. The medieval huomo selvatico concept also drew on lore
about similar legendary beings from the Classical world, such as the Roman fauni and silvani,
and the Greek satyrs or pans.
- There are several folk accounts or tales about the wild man that relate to ancient beliefs. For example, there is
a tale of Italian peasants attempting to capture a wild man by getting him drunk and tying him up in hopes that he would
give them some wisdom in exchange for freedom. This story indicated a connection to very old story. There is a tale
in which shepherds captured a supernatural being associated with the woods or wilderness--either Faunus or
Silenus--by getting him drunk, and tying him up--for the very same purpose. This tale is recorded by Xenophon in
the 2nd century bce. It also appeared in the works of Ovid, Pausanias, and Claudius Aelianus.
- Sundry Christain writers conflated the pilosi (hairy ones) with silvani, pans, fauni of the
Sicarii, daemones, and incubi.
- Historically, celebrants at masquerades also dressed as wild men. In 1393 France, there was an incident
which became infamously known as the Bal des Ardents during which six of four masquers were fatally
burned in their hairy wild men outfits. In Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale (1611) there is a description of
twelve dancing "Saltiers" (satyrs): "Masters, there is three carters, three shepherds, three neat-herds, three
swine-herds, that have made themselves all men of hair, they call themselves Saltiers,and they have a dance which
the wenches say is a gallimaufrey of gambols..."
- Garbled accounts of apes may have contributed to both the ancient and medieval conception of the wild men.
For example, Pliny the Elder, had described in his Natural History, a race of silvestres creatures
who had human-like bodies with fur, fangs, and did not speak. This description fitted gibbons in India. Later reports
of chimpanzees may have also affected perceptions the folkloric European wild men.
- ice witch
- See strega ghiaccio
- Il Cammio di San Giacomo
- In the night sky, the Milkyway was known as il Cammio di San Giacomo which literally means
"Saint James Way." It was the way that the dead continued to communicate with the living. San Giacomo was the
patron saint of alchemists.
- I Re de Becchi
- This Italian name literally means "King of the Goats."
- An incantatrix was a term for a female enchanter, who practiced her art via the use of
- Literally, incantesimo is an Italian term for "magic words" or an "incantation."
- iron implements or amulets
- Iron symbolized protection. Iron was associated with the God, Mars. It was
also associated with horses and their horseshoes. The Romans, like the Greeks,
nailed horseshoes to their walls to give protection from plagues, or simply drove
iron nails into house walls as a plague antidote. According the Roman writer, an
iron nail was a matter of "transfixing" the sickness to cancel out its effects.
Pliny also stated
that an epileptic could prevent future seizures if an iron nail was driven into the
ground where he had fallen in his seizure. Likewise, Pliny stated, an iron nail
drawn out of a sepulchre could protect someone from nightmares and terrifying
phantasms, if the nail was laid upon the threshold of the bedroom. Livy recorded
a custom that in the Etruscan town, Volsinii, an iron nail was hammered into the
wall of the temple of Nortia annually on the Ides of September. Iron was forbidden
in the grove of Dia, in Italy.
- Iuno, Juno, natalis Juno
- In ancient Rome, a tutelary spirit which appeared at the birth of a baby
girl that the Iuno or Juno was supposed to protect. The Iuno fostered growth,
as well as intellectual and moral development. This spirit remained with the
woman throughout her life. How powerful one's Iuno was seemed to be a matter
of luck. On her birthday, a woman honored her Iuno with a triple offering of
cakes and triple offering of undiluted wine.
- In Sardinian folklore, these faeries dwelt in caves or Neolithic shaft tombs in the mountains. They were
expert weavers and singers, and may interact with humans and sometimes marry them Their name derived
from the Italian dianas, indicating their link to the Roman Goddess.
- This word, jettatura, is an Italian term to describe someone who has
been cursed by the ability to project
the malocchio, the power of the evil eye. A
jettatura is an unfortunate soul that is said to be born with the ability to
unintentially project this venomous glance almost constantly.
Someone who squinted a lot was often thought to have the power of the evil
eye as was someone with a hard, piercing stare. High-ranking noblemen or clergy
were sometimes thought to be jettaturas. Pope Pius IX (1846-78) and
Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) were both believed to
be jettaturas. Allegedly, a person so cursed
can counteract this ability by staring at his or her left nostril.
- key charm
- The ancient Romans invented locks and attributed their original creation
to Janus, God of doors and gates. However, the deity, whose symbol was the
key, was his consort, Jana, queen of secrets. The moon Goddess, Diana, was
associated with Jana, who had lunar attributes.
- Worn as a charm, or placed in a charm bag, a key could be used as a
protective charm or a guarantee of prudence. Some key charms were cast in
silver (the moon's metal) and had heart-shaped handles, indicating a
connection to love charms. The Romans also attributed the key to "...Hecate
Proserpine who was the guardian of the underworld and could release the
spirits of the departed." William Pavitt, The Book of Talismans,
Amulets, and Zodiacal Gems 1914, 1922, 1929, 1970 (p. 89) See lock.
- knot magic
- The practice of tying knots to enact a spell was a well-known folk
practice in many cultures.
- In 19th century Naples, a certain number of knots were tied in a cord,
bound around a magnet. This charm would be discretely worn by someone hoping
to attract a lover.
- Modern streghe have told me about knots being tied in colored ribbons for
certain magical purposes. There is also supposedly an Italian protection charm
involving knotting red string, but I have no specific information about either of
these methods. Handkerchiefs may also be used in some form of Italian knot magic.
In other cultures, there are references to knots being used to charm away warts.
- According to J. B. Andrews, in his Neapolitan Witchcraft (Folk-Lore
Transactions of the Folk-Lore Society, Vol III March, 1897 No.1), the
local witches were said to prepare three differnt color cords to punish unfaithful lovers with knots.
- A black cord is used for the head, red for the heart, white for the sexual organs. To cause pain in
the head, a witch took hold of the black cord, gazed at a star, and recited: " Stella una, stella due, stella tre,
stella quattro, io le cervella di N-- attacco, glide attacco tanto forte, che per me possa prendere la morte."
This incantation was repeated five times outside the witch's door. For the heart, a red cord was tied and
this incantation recited: "Buona sera, buona sera, N-- mio, dove e` stato? Diavolo da me non e` accostato;
diavolo, tu questa sera me lo devi chiamare e qui me lo devi portare." If a witch used a white cord, the
incantation was: "Diavolo, to in mano ho questo laccio; to gli gli lego c---i e c-o, da nessuno
possa f/--e ed impregnare; solo a questa f-a possa adorare." (The use of the white
cord in this 19th
century Neapolitan magic is reminiscent of the French malefica aiguillette
ligature, both of which were also supposed to cause impotence via knots.)
The Neapolitan witches supposedly hid these enspelled cords on their persons in order to make sure
no one found them and untied them. If the knots were untied, the spell was broken.
See ghirland dell streghe.
- Krampus is a winter spirit from Austrian folklore who inhabits the Alps. His name derives from the
Old High German word krampen, which means "claw." Krampus is the companion of Saint
Nicholas (Sankt Nikolaus or der Heilige Nikolaus) serving as the good saint's enforcer.
It is a customary to have people garb themselves in claws, furs, chains and bells, and horned Krampus
masks. They threaten to "punish the wicked." One Krampus or many Krampussen armed with birch
switches, may accompany the saint on December 5, the night before the feast of Saint Nicholas (December 6).
- In parts of northern Italy, which abuts the Italian Alps, a hoard of the Krampus spirits may accompany
San Nicola on the saint's feast day. San Nicola brings gifts to good children, while the Krampus may frighten
little children who do not recite a little prayer. The Krampus is under control of San Nicola and he does not
- There is an Italian Christmas Ale named after Krampus, Birrificio del Ducato Krampus.
- la notte delle streghe
- St. John's Eve (June 23) is sometime called la notte delle streghe, the night of the streghe. At
one time, youths in Rome used to gather in front of the cathedral of San Giovanni in Laterano
(the Basilica of St. John Lateran). There they lit bonfires waiting for the arrival of the witches led by Erodiade.
- la vecchia religione
- An Italian phrase meaning, "the Old Religion." Interestingly, Wiccans often
refer to their path as "the Old Religion."
- Lacrima di Giobbe
- Lacrima di Giobbe, meaning literally "tears of Job" or "Job’s tears," is the Italian name of
Coix lacryma jobi. Lacrima di Giobbe is an annual grass that produces a fruit (aka seed or grain) shaped like
a tear drop. The species orginated in Asia. The grass grows up to about one yard high, and has rather large leaves
and flowers gathered in spikelets. Thus, it is also known as "erba da corone" (crown of grass).
- Lacrima di Giobbe is named for the biblical Job as the tear drop shaped grain reminded the monks in the
Middle Ages of the many tears shed by Job. The fruits were identified not only as the tears of Job, but also as tears
of Moses (lacrima di Mosè), tears of St. Peter (lacrima di Santo Pietro), tears of Mary (lacrima di Maria) , and
tears of Jesus (lacrime di Gesù). The plant was grown in Sicily, for the stone hard fruits of its spikelets were used in
making beads for rosaries, and spread almost spontaneously around Palermo. It especially grows well in Vil-Labate,
and at St. Cosimano between Syracuse and Mililli. It is still cultivated for making beads for rosaries or necklaces.
- Job's tears necklaces and rosaries are popular in Lousiana, USA. Lagrima de San Pedro rosaries are used in
some places in South America.
- Lacrime di San Lorenzo
- Lacrime di San Lorenzo literally means "Tears of St. Lawrence," It is a
popular name of shooting stars belonging to the Perseids, which the Earth encounters
the most intense from August 9 to 11.
- Lampadine are supposedly supernatural lights seen dancing or flitting over the fields at night. The
lampadine may be related to the idea of the lampedes, who were Greek cthonic nymphs. The
lampades serve in the entourage of the Goddess Hecate. These infernal nymphs are Hecate's lamp-bearers.
- In English, these lights are known as "faery lights," "friar's lantern," "spook lights," "will o' the wisp,"
or a dozen other names indicating their otherworldly nature.
- Lar, Lar Familiaris
- In Roman religion, there was one protective ancestor spirit per each
Roman household known as the family Lar.
- The term, Lar, was adopted from the Etruscan, where it signified
"prince" or "chief." As protective spirits, they were associated with the
farm and household.
- They were originally guardians, custodes agri, protectors of
farms. As such, they were represented by a face crudely carved in a tree
stump, which was situated at the approach to a farm house.
- The Roman family Lar, however, dwelt inside the home in a Lar shrine,
and was often represented as a young, curly haired boy garbed in a short
tunic. This juvenile figure held a drinking vessel and a patella or platter for
making offerings. The family Lar was
considered an active participant and shared the family's joys and woes.
He was invoked at all major family occasions: marriages, funerals, etc.
On festive occasions, the shrine was decorated with garlands and offered
fruit, wine, and incense.
- Lares, Larvae
- The Latin public cult of the Lares was a bit different than the
veneration of the family Lar.
- The Lares Compitales were placed where two fields joined or at
the intersection of two roads. The Lares Viales protected travelers.
There were always two guardian Lares at
crossroads, instead of a single Lar, as in the household shrine.
- Eventually they were also venerated at Rome as the Lares Praestitis
and two stood in the
Regia, where the sacred fire of Vesta burned. These two Lares served as
protectors of the community and represented
all the illustrious ancestor spirits of the Roman people.
- The Manes were related to the Lares.
- Latin underworld
- The ancient Romans has several religious practices that venerated or
appeased the dead. However, the Latin concept of the underworld was rather
fuzzy, having absorbed a number of influences, including Etruscan and Greek.
- The Latin underworld was visualized as being underground. Allegedly it
could be reached by certain passages in marshes, deep lakes, and caves. The
area surrounding Lake Avernus in Campania was one such well known location.
According to Cicero, the surrounding hills were pitted with cavities and caves
from whence the souls of the dead could be called forth. It was a grim and
desolate place. Perhaps because of its reputation, the woods surrounding
Lake Avernus were dedicated to the queen of ghosts, Hecate, when this Greek
Goddess was adopted into the Roman pantheon.
- The Latin underworld was therefore sometimes referred to as Avernus, indicating it
resembled this geographic location above the earth. It was ruled over by Dis,
who was later identified with Plutus or Plutos. It wasn't particularly a place
of punishment or reward, simply a dim land of shades. This view may have been
similar to the Etruscan underworld.
- The Etruscan underworld was presided over by the God Mantus and his
consort, Mania. Mantus seemed to be an aspect of the Etruscan-Roman Februus, a God
of purification. Other figures included
Tuchulcha, a female malevolent spirit with ass ears, a beak mouth, and ferocious
eyes. Serpents entwined about Tuchulcha's head and arms. She was possibly a
punitive deity or a cthonic spirit that guarded the passageways to the underworld.
Alternatively, the Etruscan afterlife was said to be ruled over by Phersipnei,
the Etruscan counterpart of the Roman Proserpine and Greek Persephone, and her
husband, Eita. Phersipnei and Eita may have been viewed as epithets of Mania
and Mantus or aspects of them.
- The Latins also visualized the underworld as being connected with
agriculture and the growth of plants. As such, Proserpine and Plutus were said to be
its rulers. Proserpine was originally an agriculture Goddess, who nursed the
growth of the tender shoots of grain. Later she absorbed the attributes of the
Greek Persephone and was viewed as the Queen of the Underworld. Her co-ruler,
Plutus, Pluton, or Plutos, was absorbed from Greek influences, especially in
Sicily. The name, Pluton, meant "Giver of Wealth" and referred to
agricultural abundance as well as the treasures under the earth.
- Eventually Plutus was identified with Dis. Proserpine and Plutus were
perceived as a couple, ruling over both Avernus and another aspect of the
underworld, Elysium. Elysium, or the Elysian Fields, was originally a Greek
concept. The Latins viewed it as a land of soft breezes, sun, and fields of
grain. Elysium was an afterlife existence reserved for exemplary souls.
- Other cthonic figures from the Latin underworld included the Furies,
Furiae, or Dirae, who served as spirits of vengence, primarily in the land of
the living, but later also in the land of the dead. Orcus was the God of death,
who carried off the recently deceased souls, either willingly or unwillingly, to
the underworld. This function was fulfilled by the Etruscan underworld Charun,
wielding a torch or mallet. The Etruscan Goddess of the dead, Mania, also
existed in the Latin underworld. Mania absorbed the functions of the fearsome
Tuchulchia, serving as a cthonic female spirit guarding the passageway to the
Latin underworld. Hecate became figure in the Latin underworld landscape as
well. In her underworld aspect, the Romans identified Hecate with Proserpine,
although they were also viewed as separate and distinct Goddesses.
- Lecanomancy is the form of divination in which oil is poured on water and the patturns formed by the
oil on the water surface are observed and interpreted. In Italian practice, pouring oil on water is often used
by the streghe, as well as other practioners, to determine if the malocchio has been cast on someone.
- Leland provided a footnote for his translation of line 19 in Aradia
in which he defined legare as "...the binding and paralyzing human
faculties by means of witchcraft." (130)
- The full line was "Di legare il spirito del oppressore," which Leland
translated as, "And thou shalt bind the opressor's soul (with power.)" The
Pazzaglinis translated it as, "To bind the spirit of the oppressor."
- The type of magic described may be either of the two following.
- Wiccans have a type of spell known as a "binding." (Wiccans are
expected to abide by the Wiccan Rede or Creed, "An it harm none, do what
you will," and the Rule of Three, "Whatever is sent forth in magick returns
threefold to the sender.") Janet and Stewart Farrar in their The Life and
Times of a Modern Witch (p. 111) describe a Wiccan binding: "A binding
spell is one specifically aimed at preventing the person at whom it is aimed
at from doing harm. The intent must NOT include any ill-wishing towards the
person. It should also specify the particular harm which is to be
neutralized." The Farrars continued to describe one form of such a binding
spell in which an image of the oppressor or attacker would be made and
named. This image was then bound by a black cord while being commanded to
cease and desist any further oppressive actions.
- This image would not, as in lurid B-rated horror movies, be tormented
with pins, nor burned in a fire. Nevertheless, the image would remain
bound in a safe place until the magic had completed its purpose. Then the
image would be unnamed and all marks and the cord removed. The actual image
would be broken and disbursed to the elements.
- A similar Wiccan binding could be performed by simply tying knots in a
string, repeating, "My oppressor ceases to harm me. My oppressor has no
power over me."
- While it is possible the term, legare referred to magical
bindings such as above, it may have referred to the ghirland delle
streghe, meaning the "witches' garland."
- A Wiccan binding, correctly done with proper intentions, is a form of
benefica, good-intentioned magic; ghirland delle streghe is a form of
malefica, evil-intentioned magic, as its purpose is not to simply restrain
an oppressor from causing harm. The witches' garland was allegedly used to
curse one's enemy, eventually causing his death. See ghirland delle streghe
and knot magic.
- lemon verbena
- Oil scented with lemon verbena which is a South American plant known in Latin as
Aloysia citrodora has become one of the herbs associated with both Diana and Aradia.
- Lemon verbena was not brought to Europe by the Spanish until the 17th century. However, many
20th century magical practioners, such as the Feminist Dianic Wiccans were commonly using lemon verbena
oil in charms, incence mixures, etc. to make offerings to the Italian Diana and Aradia--doubtless because
lemon verbena oil has a distinct lemony smell--very pleasant and fresh. In traditional Italian folklore, Diana
was associated with lemons.
- In Roman mythology, Lemures were ghosts. They were different from
the family Lar or the Lares, as the Lemures had no one to make regular
offerings to them. They were apparently most active in May, the month of the
dead, when they returned to torment the living. Lemures were perceived as
hungry ghosts who prowled around the outside of homes, seeking food. They were
appeased at the Lemuria on May 9, 11, and 13.
- The father, or patriarch of the family, as the Paterfamilias
performed a particular ritual barefooted at the Lemuria. At midnight, he snapped
his fingers and washed his hands three times. Properly purified, he filled his
mouth with black beans. Then, the patriarch threw the beans behind himself,
saying: "I throw away these beans and with them I redeem myself and mine."
The formula was repeated verbally nine times. Having completed the offering,
the family patriarch again purified his hands. He then struck a brazen
instrument. Again, he repeated a ritual phrase nine times: "Paternal manes,
go." As the ritual was now finished, he could safely look behind himself.
- By taking food out of his own mouth and then offering this food directly
to the Lemures, the Lemures would feel they had received their just due and
leave the family in peace for another year.
- Beans are still sacred to the dead in Italy and they play an important part
at the Festa dei Morti, November 2, the Catholic holiday, All Souls Day, the
Festival of the Dead.
- When the Catholic Church moved the observance of All Saints Day and All
Souls Day from May to November, some of the old customs transfered with it.
- At the modern Festa dei Morti, beans are still sometimes left out on
graves as offerings for the dead, particularly in southern Italy. Other people
will leave food as an offering in their homes overnight. They will put out
small bread buns, peas, lentils, beans, and candies shaped like fruit on the
- Traditional food includes pan di mort, "bread for the dead," a sweet
cookie made with dried figs.
- Not only are beans and bean dishes traditional, but so are special
cookies shaped like beans.
- See fava beans.
- liba, libum
- Roman sacred cakes, either made with salted, boiled wheat, or honey. During
the festival of the Liberalia, old women sold honey cakes grilled over stoves.
Liber Pater was the God of liba, sacred cakes, and libamina,
- The Roman writer, Cato, in his On Agriculture, described libum, a
type of bread or cake made with cheese, which was offered to the Lares.
- In Rome, wine, water, etc., was ritually poured on an altar, the ground, or
sacred stone, etc. as a liquid offering or "libation" to a deity. Many other
cultures have also used this practice.
- In Neapolitan witchcraft, a pad lock was used in love spells in the 19th century. When unlocking it,
the following incantation was recited:
"N--- di lontano ti vedo, da vicino ti saluto, ti chiudo e non ti sciolgo, se non farai tutta la mia voglia.''
The lock was then closed, a knotted cord was wrapped around it. This charm was then stored in a
safe place where it would not be discovered.
Keys, in ancient Italy, were sacred to Jana, queen of secrets, as the lock was sacred to Janus, God of
doors and gates. See Key Charm.
- A Roman rite rooted in antiquity, the Lupercalia was held on either
February 14 or 15,
and dedicated to Faunus, God of herds. Two young men, clad in goatskins, known as
the Luperci, "wolf-warders", fashioned goatskin thongs freshly cut from the
hides of two sacrificial goats. The Luperci then ran around the Paletine hill.
The rite was intended to protect the domestic animals and young from wolves.
Women who wished to conceive that year extended their palms so that the
Luperci could strike them with the thongs. These thongs were sometimes called
februa. Oddly, Februus was an Etruscan God who corresponded to Dis.
The month of February was sacred to him in the Etruscan calendar. Apparently
the Etruscans viewed February as the month for the dead--unlike the Romans,
who venerated and appeased the dead in May.
- Madonna Oriente
- Madonna Oriente, also known as Madona Horiente or Signora Oriente, could be an epithet of
the figure of Erodiade (Herodiade/Herodias) as she appears in Italian legend. Loosely the name means
"Lady of the East" or "My Lady of the East," possibly because Erodiade was perceived as being eastward of
Italy. The biblical Herodias lived in Jerusalem, southeast of Italy.
- This mysterious Witch Queen was one of the figures like Erodiade, who ruled over the Night Assembly.
She imparted healing herb lore, and granted visions so that her followers could answer questions to aid
their community. There is a report which said that at this gathering the women in attendance bowed their
heads in veneration, saying: "Be well, Madona Horiete." The leader replied: "Welcome, my daughters."
- Madre Terra
- Literally, in modern Italian, Madre Terra is "Mother Earth." Like the Roman Goddess, Tellus Mater,
this Italian name represents the spirit of the personified earth. See Gaia hypothesis.
- In Italy, a maga (feminine plural, maghe) is one of the many terms for a female
practioner of traditional folk magic. It is translated as "magician."
- magicae arets
- This is an arcane term which simply means "magical arts."
- In Italy, a mago (masculine plural, maghi) is one of the many terms a male
practioner of traditional folk magic. It is translated as "magician."
- mago alchemist
- A mago alchemist is a magician who practices alchemy (alchimia), the mysterious occult art or science
that was the forerunner of modern chemistry. Alchemy focuses on the concept of the transmutation of matter.
- In the 16th and 17th century in the Friuli district of Northern Italy, the malandanti (bad walkers), who were
armed with sticks of sorghum, fought night battles against the benandanti (good walkers). If the malandanti prevailed
in these sky battles, the villagers would be plagued by blight, disease, and famine. The malandanti are often described
in modern Italian sources as stregoni (sorcerers). In the orignal records, the benandanti gave descriptions of
the malandanti as being folk from other villages. It is a feature of Italian culture to have strong loyalites to one's own
village or paese.
- Nevertheless, a modern interpretation could be that the malandanti were actually a form of malign faerie or
nature-spirits, representing the hostile forces of nature, dought, blight, disease, etc. See benandanti, Ember days,
fennel, and sorghum.
- A maledizione is a "malediction" or "ill-speaking," uttered with the intent of bringing about harm.
- This archaic word is a Latin term that literally meant "evil intentions,"
a classification of magic that is purposely
harmful and manipulative, used to create power-over. Malefica has also
been called "black magic," and the "left-hand path." It is the opposite of
benefica. See benefica.
- malocchio, malocchia
- Malocchio is the Italian name for a malady
which is supposedly caused unintentionally through a spiteful or envious look
from someone else. The term literally means "bad eye" or "evil of the eye."
The malocchio in Italian culture is not cast deliberately. Among the ancient
Romans, the root cause of the evil eye was envy. People who looked with envy
upon another person's material wealth or physical beauty could emit a harmful
energy as particles from their eyes. It was believed these emissions could
cause a person to sicken and die.
- There are numerous charms and gestures to ward the malocchio off, and avert
or remove its influence, including wearing a cimaruta, the fig sign,
the mano cornufo, a number of pointy objects like red peppers, horns and hands,
lemons stuck with pins, red coral necklaces, cloves, salt in red bags, eyes to
stare back, very colorful, intricate or beautify designs to distract the glance
of the eye, blue beads, phalic items, and laughter. Some of these are extremely
- Allegedly modern protections include carrying an amethyst crystal, or three
lumps of rock salt wrapped in aluminum foil, or wearing red underwear.
- Incidenally, a strega does not put the malocchio on someone. However, any
strega can remove its malign influence. Thre are as many methods for removing
the malocchio as there are practitioners who can remove it.
- Someone who is cursed with ability to cast the malocchio is called a
jettatura. Someone who squinted a lot or had a hard, piercing stare was
often suspected of being a jettatura. However, it is presumed that anyone
might be able to inadvertently cast a malicchio with a simple jealous glance.
Therefore, it is wise not to boast, brag, or call undue attention to oneself or
one's good fortune, or to accept lavish praise untempered by criticism.
- The malicchio can manifest in many ways, but typically is said to involve
head and neck pain.
- See the following entries: cimaruta, fig sign,
jettatura, manofico, and mano cornufo.
- Another Roman name for the spirits of the dead. It is not altogether
clear if they were considered to be wholly separate from the Lar, Lares,
Larvae, or Lemures. The ritual, the Lemuria, which was primarily to appease
the Lemures, or hungy ghosts, included the command, "Paternal manes, go."
- The name, Manes, came from manus, meaning "good." Hence, the
Manes were the "Good Ones."
- The Manes were honored on August 4, October 5, and November 8 with
offerings at the lapis manalis, a round stone that represented
a gate to the underworld. They had two festivals: the Parentalia and the
Feralia, February 13 to 26. People left offerings of food at tombs and
decorated them with violets, lillies, roses, and myrtle.
- Wooden dolls,
which were hung on doors in honor of the Lares at the Compatalia,
were called maniae.
- However, the same term, maniae, was used to describe grotesque
figurines which represented the dead.
- mano cornufo
- The "sign of the horn" is a gesture in which the index finger and little
finger are extended in an otherwise clenched fist. It is used against the
evil eye or malocchio. Ancient Roman amulets of the "sign of the horn"
have been found.
- mano fico
- See fig sign.
- A sorceress of Latin legend, also known as the "Enchantress." She turned
travelers into domestic animals. One traveler
foiled her spells by the magic herb, rue. Saint Augustine was disturbed
by rumors that certain women, innkeepers in Italy, turned lone travelers into
beasts of burden by enspelled cheese.
- Marica was identified with Angitia or Angita, an Italian Goddess of the
Oscan tribe. Angitia was associated with verbal and herbal charms, especially
against snake bite. She was a Goddess of witchcraft and healing and was
particularly honored in Italy's Marsian district, which is still famous today
for its witches.
- In the Piedmont and Liguria, the local name for witches is masche,
which apparently means "people of the mask." According to legends, the
masche gather around certain lakes to perform rituals on specific
dates. These lakes are called "lago delle masche." Lago Nero (the black
lake) in the Lanzo Valley is one such lake.
- A Roman festival held in honor of Juno on the Kalends of March, which
was either March 1 or the new moon of March. Women
made offerings to Juno and received gifts from their husbands and family.
Matrons served their slaves at mealtimes during the Matronalia just as their
husbands served the slaves during the Saturnalia.
- May festival of Dea Dia
- The Romans had an annual three-day moveable festival, which was usually
held May 17, 19, 20, or May 27, 29, 30. It primarily honored Dea Dia, as
well as Mars (Marmar, Marmor), the Lares, and Mater Larum. According to
Robert Turcan in The Gods of Ancient Rome (1998), the festival also
honored a class of beings known as the "...Semones who watched over
the life of the seeds in the ground, where Dea Dia acted in concert with the
heat and light of the sky (Dius-Dia)." (p. 71)
- The first day of the festival was held at the house of the president
(magister) of the Fratres Arvales, Dia's priests. There were offerings
of wine and incense. Wheat and flour loaves were decorated with laurels and
placed with green and dry ears of wheat. The image of Dia was annointed with
scented oil, and a meal was offered to this Goddess. The attendees then bathed
and dressed in white garments and joined in a celebratory feast. The first
offerings were set upon Dia's altar. Everyone partook in more feasting and the
attendees perfumed and crowned themselves with roses prior to dessert.
- On the second day of the festival, all went to the sanctuary in front of
Dia's sacred wood. There was a sacrifice of two sows and a cow. A white ewe
was sacrificed in the temple. Some of these sacrifices were consumed after
being cooked. The rest was burned as an offering. The Fratres Arvales wore
wheat ears tied with a white ribbon to head cloths and made offerings of
gruel in earthenware jugs, which were later thrown out on the sanctuary slope to
also honor Mater Larum.
- The attendees then ate the wheat and flour loaves. Two of the Fratres
fetched green ears of wheat, a promise of future harvest, which were passed from
hand to hand, right to left. Incense and honey-sweetened wine were also offered.
- A special dance was performed and there was an ancient Arvalian chant sung.
The chant invoked the assistance of Mars, the Lares, Mater Larum, and the
Semones. The statues of Dea Dia and Mater Larum were again perfumed. Then the
Goddesses were offered circlets and lighted candles.
- There was another feast at the president's house and then chariot races.
- The last day involved another feast, again at the president's house. Special
attention was paid to the lighting of the feast's torches. The Fratre Arvales
took home green ears of wheat in a Tuscan vessel of terracotta or bronze, as well
as some sweetmeats.
- This liturgy was preserved in the written archives of the Fratres Arvales
and provides insight into the worship of the early Italian Goddess, Dea Dia along
with Mater Larum, Mars (in his fertility aspect), the Lares, and the Semones. It
is a good example of the multi-step process of worship at an ancient Italian
festival. It also shows how the Gods were worshipped in groups at these
festivals. In the Roman agricultural calendar, May was the month of ripening
cereal crops. The ancestors (the Lares and the Mater Larum, the Mother of the
Dead) apparently also assisted in the growth of the cereal crops from the
- See Songs of the Fratres Arvales
- moccola di Benevento
- This is the "Game of Benevento" (giuoco della moccola di Benevento) in Leland's Aradia.
According to Mario Pazzaglini, PhD, and Dina Pazzaglini, "Moccola most commonly refers to the burnt stub of a
candle. The game's full name is moccola di Benevento and it probably has pagan origins. Benevento
means good wind....It may also refer to a hop into another world, perhaps after death, real or symbolic..."
(362) Benevento probably refered to the meeting place of the streghe under the infamous Walnut Tree of
- moon rise
- The point of time when the upper edge of the lunar disk is even with the
horizon of the earth, as the moon rises in the east.
- moon set
- The point of time when the upper edge of the lunar disk is even with the
horizon of the eath, as the moon sets in the west.
- The Romans had a festival of Diana held on August 15, some sources state
August 13 or the full moon of August. The feast was held in the grove of Lake
Nemi and was known as the Nemoralia or Diana's Feast of the Torches. The holiday
was considered to be the birthday of the Goddess.
- The differences in for these different dates is due to how ancient this feast was, as well as the complicated and changing Roman calendar system. The Nemoralia, aka Diana's Feast of the Torches, occurred during the Ides of August. The Ides originally marked the full moon in the Roman calendar, just as the Kalends marked the new moon—through time the Roman revised and altered their calendar, including switching from a lunar to a solar base. Thus under the lunar reckoning, the Nemoralia occurred on the first full moon in August. Under a solar reckoning, the date was fixed to August 13-15th.
- Reportedly Roman women would each bake a cake for the household in Diana's
honor, around which white candles were set. A procession of women with hounds
on leashes would journey to the town of Aricia. The women would offer thanks in
Diana's sacred grove and request the Goddess's continued aid and a harvest free
- Diana's festival in mid-August was a holiday for Roman slaves.
- In modern Italy, August 15 is a feast day of the Virgin Mary. The feast is
known as the Ferragosto. It celebrates the Virgin Mary's assumption into heaven
and her coronation as Queen of Heaven. Whole villages participate or watch the
procession in which the image of the Virgin is carried through the streets.
- Like Herodiade, Holda, Diana, and Bensozia, Nocticula was one of the names
of the medieval Queen of the Witches, who reportedly lead the night ride during
the 12th and 13th centuries. Nocticula was also known as "Diana of the Ancient
Gauls" and "the Moon" and she is presumed to be an ancient spirit of Gaulish
France. Supposedly, Nocticula required a stolen child to be fed to her servant,
the Lamia, at her night assembly; however, in a dream-like or fabulous tale-like
manner, any child devoured at her assembly was regurgitated by the Lamia and
restored to life.
- Interestingly, the name Nocticula was also associated with the ancient
Roman goddess Luna. There was a temple on the Palatine hill dedicated to
- notte delle streghe
- See la notte delle streghe.
- A novena is a Catholic devotion consisting of reciting a particular prayer or set of prayers over nine
separte days, or a service performed over over nine separate days. When used in a petition by a devotee,
a novena generally entails reciting the same prayer for nine consecutive days. In cases of extreme need,
a person may pray every hour for nine consecutive hours to complete a novena, according to Italian folk
tradition. Novenas are frequently used to make those who are ill well again, solve problems, and fulfill
special intentions. Tradition also states that the prayers used in novenas must be said with the lips in
order to gain the indulgences.
- A Latin word for the indwelling spirit force ascribed to an object or place
held in awe. Numen seems to have described a concept of animism as expressed in
Roman religion. Each place, object, and natural process had its own numinia,
which may or may not be shown any reverence. However, those objects or places
which have numen or are numenous do not necessarily have a potent divinity, such
as a camenae water nymph or other genius loci. Indeed, due to the great
number of numinia, most of those spirits were unnamed. Numen represented a
veneration of the abstract forces of nature. Numinia could be found in stones,
trees, rivers, fields, and so forth.
- In ancient Rome, nuts, generally walnuts, were given to a bride and groom on
their wedding day to ensure a fruitful marriage. Later Italian brides and grooms
were pelted with almonds. Candied almonds are still common at Italian weddings.
- Olive trees grow easily in Italy. Italy is still one of the largest producers
of olive oil in the world. The olive has been an important crop since ancient
times. Olive trees not only provided food, but the olives could be pressed to
make oil. In late summer, Italian farmers annually celebrate the coming of the
olive harvest. The fruit will not be ripe and ready for picking until early
Dance, Dance, Dance
Dance, dance, dance around the olive tree,
come dance, dance under the shining sun.
All the children clap their hands
Dance, dance, dance with us.
Danza, danza, danza itorno allulivo,
Danza, su, danza qui sotto un bel sole
Tutti i bambini si danno la mano,
Danza, su, danza, danza con noi.
- An Italian term for a prayer.
- orris butter
- "Oil of Orris" is known commercially as "orris butter." It is steam distilled from the roots of
certain species of iris flowers including Iris florentina or Iris germanica,
Iris germanica florentina. An essential oil can be obtained from these plants as well.
- orris root
- The irises from which orris root powder is produced are native to the eastern
Mediterranean region. In ancient Rome, orris root was largely used in perfumery. The cities of
Corinth, Elis, and Macedonia were famous for their "unguents of Iris."
- Florentine iris, whose Latin name is Iris florentina, is an iris flower species grown in
Italy. The plant has white blooms tinged with pale lavender or blue with a yellow beard. It is also
known as "Sweet Iris," "Flower de Luce," and "Pale Iris." The plant has thick rhizomatous roots,
called "orris roots," which when dried and ground up have the delicate scent of violets. Orris
root strengthens the scents of other fragrant bodies and is used as a fixative in perfumery The
root is now primaily used in perfumery.
- Dried ground orris root is used as a fixative in potpourries and sachet powders. The root
has also been used as an ingredient of the feminine pharmacopeia in cosmetics. Allegedly,
finely powdered orris root could remove of freckles and banish wrinkles.
- German iris, whose Latin name is Iris germanica or Iris germanica florentina,
is apparently the same plant.
- Although Orris roots were mainly prized in perfumery they were also important as western
herbal medicine for the treatment of illness. Indeed, it was still available in the 1950s from
pharmacies in North America.
- In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, orris root was used as a spice in food and
drink. Supposedly the flavor is floral, but a bitter taste.
- Orris roots must generally be hung and aged for five years before fully dry in order to
develop their sweet smelling scent blends well with most scented oils. It has been used for
hundreds of years in the making of soaps and perfumes, and in sachets to perfume clothes
and bed linen. In Italy, fields of irises are still cultivated to produce orris root, especially around
Florence. The Tuscan name for orris root is "giaggiolo" or "gladiolo."
- Orris root is deemed relatively safe for most people, however, the leaves and rhizomes
contain an irritating substance and may cause an allergic reaction or skin irritations in some
- There are about 300 species of plants in the family Iridaceae. In Greek mythology,
Aellopous Iris was the Goddess of the rainbow and a winged messenger (eiris) of the
Queen of the Gods. Her Latin name was "Arcus Iris" The iris flowers are named after the
rainbow goddess, because of the beautiful variety of colors in the blossoms of the family
- The Florentine iris, also known as the giaggiolo or gladiolo, is a symbol for
- The night-flying owl has often been associated with the moon and magic.
The Greeks considered it an animal sacred to Athena. After the Greek Athena
was assimilated with the Roman Minerva, Minerva was sometimes depicted with
an owl. The sacred animal of Minerva was originally the antelope, whose eyes
were associated with sharpness of vision. In Roman thought, the screech owl or strix
was often identified as a baleful bird. Roman sorceresses (strigae) were
thought to change their shape into owls.
- In modern times, Aradia is sometimes identified with the owl. See strix.
- owl pellet
- An owl pellet is the mass of undigested parts of the bird's food including bone, teeth, hair, feathers and
exoskeletons of various animals preyed upon. Owls cannot chew their food and small prey animals are
swallowed whole. Pellets are produced and regurgitated not only by owls, but by hawks, eagles and other
raptors that swallow their prey whole of in small pieces. An owl's digestive juices are less acidic than in
other birds of prey. The owl's gizzard forms the undigested fur, bones, feather etc. into wet slimy pellets. In
this process even the most fragile bones are usually preserved unbroken. Owls often feed early in the evening
and regurgitate a single pellet approximately 20 hours after eating. Owl pellets are brown or gray and may
vary in shape as round or oblong. Owl pellets can be illuminating examples of natural history, illustrating the
principles of ecology, the food chain, animal structure and function, skeletal anatomy, etc.
- Since owl pellets contain undigested bits of rodents (hair, bones, limbs, skin fragments, and even faeces),
they may carry viable rodent bacteria and viruses. Owl pellets must be sterilized before study. Some
educational Pellets, Inc. - Original Barn Owl Pellets
state that they sterilize, sort, wrap, and ship every owl pellet sold. Other sources state that owl pellets ought
to be sterized in a microwave. See aetites.
- Literally paese means "village" in Italian. In particular, it has been used by Italian-Americans to refer
to the concept of the "home village" to which an indivdual has ties.
- paese della fate
- A paese della fate is a realm inhabited by faeries.
- paese incantato
- A paese incantato is an enchanted place, supernatual landscape, or faeryland, which is often an enchantingly
- When the figure of the Greek Hera was assimulated to the Roman Juno, the beautiful peacock
became one of her sacred animals. In Italy, however, the tail feathers of the bird seem to be associated
with malocchio or the evil eye.
- Leland refers to the peacock's feather as la penna maligna, "the malignant quill" (182)
- There is a persistant belief among theatre actors and other emloyees that peacock feathers are
bad luck, which may be related to it connection with malocchio. To have them on stage will probably
cause a play to be a failure. If they are in the theatre at all something may go seriously wrong during the run.
- The Romans belived pears were sacred to Pomona, Venus, and Juno. Thus, pears are
sometimes used in magic involving love.
- Peperoncino" could refer to any of a number of chili peppers, used in Italian cuisine, medicine, and
folklore. There are several varieties of peperoncinos or peperoncini now grown in the
Calabria region in Southern Italy. Peperoncinos can be shaped long, round, red, orange, yellow or green.
They are used fresh, dried, or crushed. Particularly well known is the long-shaped, spicy, red Italian
Cayenne pepper, the naso di cane, or “the nose.” In Calabria, braided strings of the long red
peperoncinos can be seen on numerous porches and balconies, hung out by locals in the sun to dry. These
braided strings are known as files.
- Chili peppers, which are fruit of the plants from the genus Capsicum, members of the
nightshade family, Solanaceae, originated in the Americas, but have become indispensible in
- Like that other red new world plant, the tomato, the spicy red chili pepper was absorbed into
Italian culture and folklore after being exported to Italy.
- According to Maria Battaglia on the website, Calabria's Cool Peperoncino Culture:
"Everybody grows them, either in the garden or in a pot, and everyone has a string of chili peppers
hanging on a door or at a window. This practice is known as diavolicchio – little devil. Drying
in bundles hung from kitchen ceilings, or simmered into the daily meal was thought to ward off diseases."
- This website also stated:"The chili pepper culture and festival was started in the costal village of
Diamante, in the province of Cosenza. It is where L’Accademia Italiana del Peperoncino
(The Italian Chili Pepper Academy) – has served as an avenue for their festival for over 13 spicy years.
The organization was formed for its national gastronomical and medicinal uses of the peperoncino.
It now has local chapters in Calabrese communities around the world." (accessed 8/29/09)
- Representations of long-shaped, red peperoncinos have become a decorative Italian ornament. Red
peperoncinos can be found on key chains, bracelets, or hung on car rear view mirrors, serving as general
good luck charms. The peperoncino charm seems to be related to the phallic corno (horn) charm, which
has ancient Italian roots. As such, it could be viewed as a shield against the malocchio, or evil eye.
- Interestingly, some of this Italian folklore about the red peperoncinos mirrors Mexican folklore. In
Mexico and the southwest USA, "chile peppers" or "chili peppers" are hung up in strings called
ristras, at the entrance of the home to bring good luck. Chiles were also used as amulets against
malaria, disease, bewitchment, as well as the mal de ojo (evil eye).
- A blurb on Squidoo, Legend of The Chilies, stated:
"A cure for the evil eye from Coahuila, Mexico, calls for a child to be wiped with the inside of a chili.
The child is patted on the head, crosses are made over the eyelids and forehead, and the child is laid on a
bed with the arms outstretched in the form of a cross. The chili is wiped over the body to absorb the occult
power, and then it is burned. Curanderas, "healers", often treat the hexing of adults by rubbing the inflamed
areas (such as the feet) with whole eggs, a lime, and a chili, which are then thrown into a fire. Perhaps
because of their fiery nature, hot peppers are thought to absorb evil influences, which are then destroyed
by fire."(accessed 8/29/09)
- There are two plants referred to as common periwinkle; their Latin names
are Vinca minor or Vinca major. Vinca minor, or lesser
periwinkle, is the well known European creeper widely cultivated as a ground cover
and for its blue or white flowers.
- The periwinkle in Italy was known as the Centocchii, or Hundred Eyes--refering to
its many light purplish blue flowers. It was used in charms against the Evil Eye, malocchio,
or evil spirits. Another Italian name was Fiore di morte, as the vine was
used in making garlands for deceased infants. In France, it was the Violette
des Sorciers, and in Britain, it was known as
"Sorcerer's violet" and was used in some healing charms and love charms.
- It was customary to afix the pinecone on a pole in the vineyards to protect
the vines from blight and curses. Stone pinecones often decorated walls on the
perimeter of estates.
- Many superstitions existed in medieval Italy regarding pins. For example, pins with diverse colored heads can be stuck into a lemon to create
a blessing charm. Leland mentioned that if someone wanted the favor of the "fatas" or the"buone streghe" she or he could leave out
a gift of pins. One reason there is an English belief that stray pins should always be picked up is a witch could take them and use them
in magic. Malign witches were rumored to throw bent pins into their brews
in order to cast evil spells.
- See Lemon and Pins.
- Classical writing contains many references to large Italian forests, which have
now disappeared. Archaeology confirms the valley of Po and the north of
Italy were covered with dense forests of oaks, elms, and chestnuts.
- Trees now cover only about one fifth of Italy. Oak, beech, fir, and pine grow
in the mountains. The Po Valley has poplar and willow, while cyprus and
umbrella pines thrive in central Italy. Olive trees grow throughout the
- The red poppy was associated with Proserpine and Ceres, the corn (grain)
Goddess. Because of its narcotic properties, the flower is associated with
sleep and dreamless rest. It is sometimes known as the "corn flower," because
it often grew in the corn or grain fields. An ancient legend said Somnus, God
of sleep, gave Ceres the poppy when she was wearied by the search for her lost
daughter. The sorrow of the Goddess had made Ceres too tired to make the grain
grow. Thus, to save humanity from starvation, Somnus used poppies to make the
Goddess sleep. After she rested, she awoke refreshed and renewed. Thus, the grain
sprouted from her fields.
- posto delle streghe<
- An Italian phrase literally meaning "place of the witches."
- Praticos is one of the labels for practioners of traditional folk magic in Sardina. It means
"knowledgeable ones." This word is similar in meaning to the English term, "cunning folk," who are the
traditional practioners of folk magic in the British Isles. Sabina Magliocco explained in Spells, Saints, and
Streghe: Witchcraft, Folk Magic, and Healing in Italy: "Many remedies were mixtures of olive oil
and various herbs. De Martino reports that in Lucania, wounds and sores were treated with a mixture of
olive oil or animal fat and rue (De Martino. 1966/87:38-39), while Antonia, the Sardinian folk healer, treated
boils with an infusion of mallow leaves and olive oil (Selis, 1978:143). For maximum efficacy, herbs were
to be gathered on St. John's Eve before sunrise." Sabina Magliocco also explained, "For the most part, folk
healers of all types did not require cash payments, but accepted whatever clients or their families could give."
- professionista nelle arti magiche
- This Italian phrase literally means a "practitioner of the magical arts."
- Punchinello, also known as Pulcinella in Italy, is a clownish figure from 16th-century Neapolitan
Commedia dell'Arte, Traditional Neapolitan puppetry, and an American singing game. Traditionally,
he dressed in a baggy white suit with a black half mask with a nose resembling a bird beak.
Some authors argue that the character of Punchinello derived fron the Etruscan spirits of death or from the
comedies of ancient Roman. See Punchinello.
- Rabbi Shephatiah
- The Chronicle of Ahimaaz, composed in Southern Italy in 1054, recounts the abilities of a wonder
working rabbi. Rabbi Shephatiah was able to teleport both himself and his horse by using the divine names
of power. Shephatiah had been sent by the governor of Bari to negotiate peace with an invading Arabian
chieftain, Saudan, who wrought destruction in Calabria. The chieftain had no plans for peace with infidels
and detained Shephatiah until it was almost the Sabbath, knowing that no rabbi would travel after sunset.
Shephatiah mounted his horse, rapidly repeated the Ineffable Name and rapidly appeared outside the city
before nightfall, shouting that Saudan and his solders were coming to rob, to kill, and plunder. Furthermore,
he still made it home while the sun was still up, and thus was able to warn the people and also welcome the
Sabbath as was proper.
- The tale is interesting because the streghe were said to fly rapidly on the backs on certain animals
- red chili peppers
- See peperoncino
- red coral branches, or beads
- Used as an amulet of protection, especially against the evil eye,
malocchio. See malocchio.
- red pouch charms
- Small red pouches, or bags made of wool, were employed as beneficent
magical charms in Italian folk magic. In Italian culture, red seemed to be
particularly linked to good fortune (buona fortuna), prosperity, and joyful
love, perhaps through the color's connection to both red embers of a living
hearth and the red life blood.
- Such a red pouch for beneficent magic might contain any number of items,
such as salt, colored ribbons, herbs, stones, hair, and other natural items.
Among the Italian Abruzzesi, putting salt in a red pouch around the neck
of a child would supposedly ward off malignant witches.
In fact, the red charm bag for benefica is also found in the folklore of
Britain and Appalacia.
- Regina, Regina Bella!
- A traditional Italian folk game for children "Regina, Regina Bella!" is apparently bassed on a faery tale
and the title means "Queen, Beautiful Queen!"
- According to the rules of the game, there must be at least 4 players, the ideal number of players
being 10. Someone is selected to be the "Queen" or "Regina" with a counting rhyme. The "Regina" stands
on one side of the playground, opposite the the other players. The children chant this rhyme: " Regina,
beautiful Regina, how many steps do I have to take to get to your castle with the faith, with the ring, with
the tip of the knife?" (In Italian, "Regina, Regina bella, quanti passi devo fare per arrivare al tuo castello con
la fede, con l? anello, con la punta del coltello??") The Regina answers by calling out a number of steps and
a type of an animal. For example, "Four steps for ants," or "Two steps for elephants." All the children take
those number of steps pretending to be the type of animal the Regina named. For example, if they are
pretending to be ants, they must take very small steps. If they are pretending to be elephants they can take
huge elephant-sized steps. The round of the game ends when a child arrives first in front of the Regina, which
means someon has reached the Regina's enchanted castle. Then, that girl becomes the Regina for the next
round of the game.
- Rex Nemorensis
- A title meaning, "King of the Wood." He was Diana's priest and guardian of
her shrine in Nemi. The guardian was a runnaway slave who had challenged his
predecessor to ritual combat by breaking a branch off an oak tree. The fight was
to the death. As victor, he remained in office until he was slain by his
successor. James G. Frazer was intrigued by this "barbarous custom," which
survived into Imperial times. He wrote about it in The Golden Bough and
identified the branch broken from the sacred oak as mistletoe.
- In Italy, a female spirit who was sometimes part of the retinue of Diana, Herodias, or Bensozia in the
night flight. In other folklore, Richella would pick fruit and nuts and carry them in her apron and feed the
bears and other wild creatures from her lap. She was sometimes attended by her female bear-cub type
spirits. Likewise, Richella was associated with the "Game of the Good Society," one of the names for the
night assembly. (The "Game of the Good Society" might be headed by Richella, Madona Horiente, Abundia,
or Fortuna.) Women paid homage to their good mistress. with cups of water, wine, and food. In return,
maternal spirit imparted healing herb lore and granted visions so that her attendants could answer questions
for the betterment of their community
- The Latin name of this culinary plant is Rosemarinus officinalis.
Native to the Mediteranean, rosemary has small evergreen needles and pale blue
or lavendar blossoms. In English lore, the aroma of rosemary is supposed to
stimulate memory. It is, therefore, used in English love spells to cause fond
remembrance. The blossoms were often used in beauty spells.
- Italian lore claimed a nymph, or plant-woman, dwelt inside each rosemary
bush. As such, this magical herb was to be treated with respect. The Italian
folktale Rosmarina from Palermo described such an animistic spirit.
- A spell which supposedly originated in the Mediteranean region involved
fashioning a small humanoid figure, or doll, from branches of rosemary, ideally
on November 1,
All Saints Day, or May 1, May Day. A green, silk ribbon should be tied around
its arms, legs,
and torso. The figure should be stored in the kitchen until the evening
prior the event in which success or good fortune are sought. This rosemary
figurine would be soaked in a glass of wine. The spell-caster would drink to
the health of the benevolent
spirit within the rosemary plant. The doll supposedly functioned as an aid
to the rosemary spirit.
- Its Latin name is Ruta graveolens. Rue has olive green stems with
oblong leaflets, which have a strong aromatic smell and bitter taste. Its
yellow flowers bloom during the summer months. The plant is native to southern
- The name of the bitter herb comes from the Greek ruta, meaning
"repentence," as in turning away from some action or event, and is also connected
Greek reue, "to set free." The herb is linked poetically to sorrow and
remorse, as well as divine grace, as an individual may rue some
action taken or some gift of outrageous fortune; however, that individual may
then gain wisdom or understanding through this bitter experience.
- Rue was likewise credited with healing properties. Medicinally it was used
as an eye lotion or suspended around the neck to cure vertigo. A 16th century
herbal quoted by C. J. S. Thompson in Magic and Healing, 1989, (p. 102)
said about rue: "it quickeneth the sight, stirs up the spirits and sharpeneth
- Also according to Thompson (p. 101), "Vervain and Rue were often
associated and were probably the most frequently used ingredients in the
mystic cauldron." Aristotle mentioned rue was often used as a protective herb
against hostile magic. In Italy, it was particularly esteemed as protection
agianst malocchio or innocciatura, the evil eye and malignant
magic. Silver charms of rue are still worn in Italy to bring good fortune.
- There is also a prayer to request money or other assistance, which can be
repeated over a candle scented with rue oil.
My work is hard, but I'm strong and I do not complain
My rewards are few, but I treasure what I have
My needs are great, but my petitions are small
Asking only for what is just, I wait with quiet patience
Receiving in humble gratitude.
- In modern Wicca, both rue and vervain are associated with the Italian
Aradia, who is the daughter of Diana. Leland's Aradia contained the
following passage mentioning rue's protective qualities:
It was Diana who did come to me
All in the night in a dream, and said to me:
"If thou would'st keep all evil folk afar
Then ever keep the vervain and the rue
Safely beside thee!" (149)
- During the empire, Roman soldiers were paid with salt. Salt was one of the
few items which would preserve meat. Blessed salt was sprinkled on meat as
part of the sacrifice. Roasted wheat flour with salt added, known as
mola salsa, was likewise offered in the fire as a sacrifice. According
to Robert Turcan, in The Gods of Rome (2000), "Salt was sacred,
and sanctified the table." (p. 17)
- During this time, people would place a pinch of salt on the tongue of
a newborn child to insure long life and preserve good health. In more
modern times in Italy, a pinch of salt might be set in the infant's cradle
to preserve the little one against any evil which might take place between birth
and baptism. Among the Abruzzesi, a red pouch of salt worn around an older child's
neck served as a protective charm.
- Italian folklore stated that one should bring a box of salt, a new
broom, and a loaf of bread into one's new home. The salt should be sprinkled
into the corners of the home. The salt is then swept up into a pan and
- Obviously this ritual is a holdover from Pagan times, as the broom was
sacred to the Roman Goddess, Deverra, and was used to purify ritual spaces. Salt
was extracted from the seawater or salty springs.
The early Italian Salacia or Salachia was the Goddess of salty waters, and the
word, "salt," may have been derived from Salacia. Other scholars derive the word,
"salt," from Salus, the Roman Goddess of health.
- In Italy, the salvanelli are a type of male wood spirit or faery-spirit. They inhabit the cavities and cracks in the
bark of oak trees. They are described as small men attired in worn, red overalls. Night sweats in horses are
attributed to the salvanelli, as these spirits supposedly love riding horses, without any concern for the well being of
the animals. The salvanelli will leave the horses lathered and nervous in their stalls. The salvanelli will also steal milk,
if none is offered to them.
- Santa Morte
- Madam Death, also known as Signora Morte, Donna Morte, Sora Morte, Sora Morte Corporale,
Comare Morte, La Madrina
or La Santissima Morte, a feminine personification of
death developed during the medieval carnivals in Italy and other European Catholic countries. The Italian
word for death, Morte, is feminine. Thus in folktales collected by Rachel Harriett Busk in her
Roman Legends (1877), Death is portrayed as female and bony. In 1226 Saint Francis of
Assisi refered to as sora nostra morte corporale which literally is translated as "Our Sister Bodily Death." It
Is usually rendered in English as "Sister Death" or "Sister Bodily Death."
- Saint Francis wrote in "The Canticle of the Creatures": "We praise You, Lord, for Sister Death, from whom
no-one living can escape" explaining also that Sister Bodily Death, is not the "second death" (la morte secunda) which
is the fate of those who die in their sins. Only the "second death" is harmful to humans and their immortal souls,
because the "second death" is forever. Saint Francis also explained that Sister Death will actually bless anyone who
is following God's holy will.
- Santa Morte may have roots in the ancient Roman figure, Dea Mors, Goddess Death, who is sometimes
said to the eldest of the Fatae. She may have had some connection to the ancient
Italian goddess Libitina, who presided over funerals. Others view her as an aspect
of Proserpine, Queen of the Dead.
- The Italian Santa Morte bears some resemblance to the Mexican Santa Muerte, who is also often
depicted as feminine representation of Death. Santa Muerte has become popular saint in Mexico, though
not officially canonized. Statuary and amulets depicting her skeletal form are common. Mexicans who pray
to this figure are seeking the recovery of health and stolen items, as well as petitions for love, luck, and
- Some streghe order the statuary and amulets from Mexico in order to honor the Italian Santa Morte.
Some say the Festa della Morti is sacred to Santa Morte or Donna Morte.
- See gobbo.
- sea magic
- In Italian 19th folklore, any witch could render service to sailors and fishermen, by either giving
a good haul of fish or averting a storm. The witches made storms cease, or rendered them harmless,
by chanting before an open window: "Ferma, ferma, tuono, come Gesu` fermo I'uomo, e come quello
schifoso prete all' altare, con ostia in bocca ed il calice in mano."
- The science dealing with the study of the moon, term is derived from the Greek
- Signora Caffeina
- "Signora Caffeina" is probably a humerous personification good coffee. She is described as a lady
always full of energy and un po´ antipatica. The Venetian merchant, Pietro Della Valle brought
coffee to Italy in 1645, and it soon became a favourite drink and spread throughout Europe.
- The streghe were supposed to read coffee grounds as a form of divination.. There were rumors that
women sometimes added something in a man's coffee to excite passion--which seemed unnecessary since
coffee itself was sometimes considered an aphrodisiac.
- An Italian term literally meaning "seventh children," the word often refering to those who were born during the
seventh month of pregnancy and survived to adulthood. Such a person is considered to be a natural healer,
and is capable of performing certain spells.
- sign of the horn
- See mano cornufo and horns.
- La Signora della Luna
- An Italian title literally meaning "The Lady of the Moon" which refers to the ruling spirit of the moon,
- Signora Oriente
- Like Abundia, Richella, or Diana, she is one of leaders of the night assembly. In Italian, her name can
be translated as "Lady of the East". She is also known as La Signora del Giuoco ("the lady of the
game") and presided over gatherings where there was feasting, music, and dancing. Signora Oriente would
reveal secrets to her followers and predict the future..In a dream-like or faerytale-like manner, animals
eaten at her gatherings were believed to be resurected, so that in the morning after the event, everything
appeared exactly as before .She is apparently the same figure as Madona Horiente.
- Sor'aqua (in modern Italian sorella acqua) is the term in the 13th century "The Canticle of the
Creatures" (Il Cantico delle Creature), aka "The Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon" (Il cantico
di Frate sole e Sorella Luna). Sor'Aqua or Sorella Acqua is literally translated as "Sister Water." In English translations of
"The Canticle," it is usually rendered "Sister Water."
- sora luna
- Sora luna (in modern Italian sorella luna) is the term in the 13th century "The Canticle of the
Creatures" (Il Cantico delle Creature), aka "The Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon" (Il cantico
di Frate sole e Sorella Luna). Sora Luna or Sorella Luna is literally translated as "Sister Moon." In English translations of
"The Canticle," it is usually rendered "Sister Moon."
- sora nostra matre terra
- Sora nostra matre terra (in modern Italian sorella madre terra) is the term in the 13th century,
"The Canticle of the Creatures" (Il Cantico delle Creature), aka "The Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister
Moon" (Il cantico di Frate sole e Sorella Luna). Sora nostra matre terra is literally translated as
"Sister, Our Mother Earth." In Modern Italian Sorella Madre Terra is literally translated as "Sister Mother
Earth." In English translations of "The Canticle," it is usually rendered either as "Sister Earth" or "Mother Earth."
- Sorghum's Latin name is Sorghum bicolor or Sorghum vulgare. Sorghum includes several
varieties of grass which are widely cultivated as edible grain and livestock feed, as a source of syrup, and as material
for making traditional corn brooms. Sorghum is also commonly known as "sweet sorghum," "Chinese sugar cane,"
"Indian millet," "arise," "milo," "Guinea corn," "durra," and "broomcorn." In Italy, sorghum is known as sorgo
- The genus name, "sorghum" is New Latin dervived from the Italian name, "sorgo."
- The numerous subspecies of sorghum are divided into four groups--grain sorghums (for human and animal
consumption), grass sorghums, (for livestock fodder and hay), sweet sorghums (for sorghum syrups), and broom
sorghum or "broomcorn" (for making brooms and brushes).
- Sweet sorghum is juicier and higher in sugar content. Milo is a food grain for humans, as well as a feed grain
for livestock. Sorghum is well suited to areas where it was too hot and dry to grow corn (Zea mays). It is
able to remain dormant during drought and then resume growth. It requires less water than corn. Sorghum originated
in Africa, although exactly where is apparently debated. This crop has been grown in southern Africa for over 3000
years. It is the second most important cereal crop in Africa after corn. When consumed by humans, sorghum grain is
often ground into meal and used to make porridge, flatbreads, and cakes. World wide, sorghum grain is now the
5th important cereal after corn, rice, wheat, and barley.
- Yet in spite its value, sorghum is viewed as a noxious weed--in some areas--if growing in cultivated fields sown
with other crops.
- Broomcorn Sorghum vulgare var. technicum is a very close relative of sweet sorghum and has been
cultivated in Italy since, at least, the late 1500s. Broom sorghum is cultivated for its tall grasses grown for the
elongated stiff-branched panicle used for brooms and brushes. Production of this crop spread from Africa to the
Mediterranean, where people used long-branched sorghum panicles for making brooms sometime probably between
the 5th and 15th centuries. Unlike other sorghums which are grown for grain, for fodder, or for making sorghum
syrups, broom sorghums are cultivated only for broomcorn stalks to make brooms and brushes.
- In the 16th and 17th century in the Friuli district of Northern Italy, the malandanti (bad walkers), who were
armed with sticks of sorghum, fought night battles against the benandanti (good walkers). Which variety of sorghum
the malandanti were supposedly armed with I simply do not know. I suspect it may have been broomcorn
Sorghum vulgare var. technicum.
- Although the origin of broomcorn is obscure, broom sorghum was probably developed due to repeated
selection of seed from heads that had the longest panicle branches. Broomcorn was introduced to the USA in the
1700s, supposedly by Benjamin Franklin. Initially, broomcorn was grown only as a garden crop for use in the home.
See malandanti, benandanti, Ember days, fennel, and sorghum.
- La Signora sotto la terra
- An Italian title literally meaning "The Lady beneath the earth."
- Society of Diana
- Women who were said to ride with Diana and other spirits in the 10th century, traversing great spaces
of the earth to attend a night assembly which had much feasting, drinking, and dancing, wherein they would
obey the commands of their mistress presiding over the gathering.
- A sortilega was a type of female magician who practiced divination.
- Speculum Diana
- The name of the lake at Nemi, literally meaning "Diana's Mirror" due to the
reflection of Diana's moon in its waters. One of Diana's important temples was
located in the sacred grove of Nemi, which was guarded by the Rex Nemorensis.
See Rex Nemorensis. Also see the
The Two Beneventos for more info.
- Spettro is Italian for "specter," a visible, but incorporial spirit that is often the soul of a dead person.
- Romans often carried silver or gold talismans etched with spiders for
success and good fortune or to assist in anything involving trade.
- A spiritetello is literally a "little male spirit." He is a mischevious spirit with a faery-perverse nature.
- spiritetello malevolo
- An evil male spirit of faerie is a spiritetello malevolo, like the English "Red Cap" that dips his cap in
the blood of murdered victims to keep it red.
- spiritus loci
- A Latin term meaning "spirit of the place." In many ancient Pagan
traditions, the local spirit or being inhabiting a geographical area.
- spiritus mundi
- A Latin term literally meaning "spirit of the world." In renaissance
philosophy, spiritus mundi united the concepts of the anima mundi,
"soul of the world" or indwelling consciousness, and corpus mundi, "body
of the world." See anima mundi.
- St. Joseph lily
- One of St. Joseph's attributes is a white lily, which is a symbol of purity. The flower whose Latin name is
Lilium longiflorum is commonly known as the "St. Joseph lily," "white trumpet lily," "Bermuda lily,"
"November lily," "white heaven lily," "snow queen lily," and the "Easter lily." Lilium longiflorum is incredibly
similar to the species Lilium candidum, commonlty known as the "Madonna lily," which grows throughout
the Mediterranean regions and is dedicated to St. Joseph's wife. It has irregular blooming periods in nature, thus it is
forced in cultivation to flower at other periods of the year. St. Joseph lilies are a traditional feature of Italian
American altars for the March 19, Festa di San Giuseppe, even though it does not seasonally bloom in March.
The flowers are very fragrant. An essential oil is obtained from the flowers of Lilium longiflorum and it
is used in perfumery. The "North American Flower Essence" for Lilium longiflorum relates to inner purity
of soul. This flower essence is useful to those who wish to find balance between "sexuality and spirituality."
- St. Joseph’s Lily
- There is another flower commonly known as "St. Joseph’s Lily" in the USA, but it does not have white flowers
and is not actually a type of lily. This plant, with scarlet red, trumpet shaped blooms bearing white stripes, thrives
throughout many gardens and cemeteries in the USA South.
- This flower is a Hippeastrum hybrid. Hippeastrum x johnsonii, Amaryllis johnsonii is
commonly know as "St. Joseph’s Lily," "hardy amaryllis," "Johnson’s amaryllis," and "bouquet amaryllis."
- Depending on the climate it blooms late winter/early spring.
- The common name "St. Joseph's Lily" is its most popular name because it blooms in some areas around
St. Joseph's day (March 19) and in other areas it blooms around the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker (May 1).
For example, it is in bloom in Texas around April/May. The red flowers of "St. Joseph's Lily" are fragrant and the
plant is attractive to bees, butterflies, and birds.
- This hybrid was the result of a cross by Arthur Johnson of Hippeastrum reginae and
Hippeastrum vittata performed between 1799 and 1810. Hence the common name, "Johnson’s
amaryllis." It is possible that "Johnson’s amaryllis" was the first hybrid amaryllis.
- storia folcloristica
- The storia folcloristica is an Italian term for a tradtional story orginally spread orally in numerous
versions among a people, generally the common folk, i.e. a folktale. The term literally means in Italian
- A strega is a practioner of modern Stregheria, or Italian
witchcraft in the USA. In some modern traditions, it can denote a female or
male practitioner. Originally, this Italian was one of many words referring to
- strega ghiaccio
- A traditional Italian folk game for children "strega ghiaccio" means "ice witch."
- According to the rules of the game, there must be at least 3 players, the ideal number of players
being 7. A girl or boy is selected to be the "witch" with a counting rhyme. The other players must then
run on the playground, trying not to be "frozen" by the icy touch of the witch. If a ""frozen" player is touched
by another player, he/she will be freed of the icy spell. If someone is "frozen" or touched three times,
he/she becomes the ice witch. The witch cannot always stand close to the "frozen" player(s) because
he/she also has to keep moving. When the witch is chasing the players, he/she must not make them fall. The
witch cannot push a player. (In fact, the no pushing rule applies to all players.)
- The Italian verb, stregare, means "to bewitch," "to cast a spell on," "to put a spell on," or "to enchant."
- The plural of strega; e.g. one strega kneels in the moonlight, many streghe gather under the walnut tree.
- Italian witchcraft or, especalliy when capitilaized, the practice of Italian witchcraft in modern USA.
Also a spiritual tradtion taught by Raven Grimassi and Lori Bruno.
- A male strega or a socerer. Also one who practices Italian sorcery.
- stregone divinatorio
- A stregone divinatorio is a socerer who specializes in practicing the art of divination.
- strigen, striga, strigae
- The plural of these words are strigele or strigas.
- The strigen was a maleficant night spirit who entered homes to drink the blood of sleeping
infants and children. Their victims slowly became ill and died.
- These horrible creatures of Italian folklore appeared as ordinary old women
during the day. At night, the strigele shape-shifted into owl-like birds with
sharp beaks and tallons. They also transformed into orbs of light to travel to
a night assembly where they danced and celebrated in companies of seven or nine
- These striges were also described as owls with human heads, poisonous feminine
breasts and sharp-clawed tallons. (This description is similar to Mid-eastern
images of Lilith.)
- These legendary creatures mutated from classical legends of the
striae or striges, women who could transform themselves into screech owls and
fly out to eat the blood and intestines of sleeping victims. They were also
etymologically related to the strix or screech owls and the ancient legends
relating to these baleful birds.
- Strix is the Latin word for the nocturnal bird, or screech owl. In ancient Rome,
sorceresses or witches were believed to be able to transform into owls and thus fly
about to work baleful magic by night. It is the origin of the Italian word,
strega. In the 10th century, the women who traveled with Diana were credited with the
ability to fly through the air by riding certain animals. See Good Women.
- survivals of paganism in Rome
- On November 8, 392 c.e., the Christian Theodosius the Great condemned the
practice of worshipping the family Lar with fire, offering libations of
undiluted wine to one's Genius, and offering the aroma of roast meat
(nidore) to the Dii Penates. He also forbade the burning of grains of
incense, garlanding images or shrines with flowers, and the lighting of torches.
All these were the persistence of pre-Christian rituals in the fourth century
c.e. These practices continued in spite of the indignation of Church Fathers.
Eventually the practices were transfered to the angels, saints, and Virgin
- Tarantella, Dancers, and Tarantism
- The tarantella is an Italian folk dance that can be traced back to the Middle Ages and may have evolved from
an even older dance. There are several local variations in Italy of the dance including Neapolitan, Sicilian, Apulian, and
Calabrian. Tarantella means "little spider." According to legend, the town of Taranto in southern
Italy was afflicted with an epidemic of poisonous spiders in the 13th century. The spider of this legend
is usually identified as the local wolf spider, Lycosa taranta.
would play mandolins and tamborines while the alleged victims of spider bite danced to magically cure themselves
of the poison.
- Mary Santangello stated the tarantella is a spirit dance. Some scholars have traced it to certain
religious practices by pilgrims.
- Dance of the Tarantella
- A deck of 78 pictorial cards, known as tarocchi in Italian.
Romantic as it might be to claim the cards were brought to Europe by the
Gypsies from Egypt, and that the tarot contains the wisdom of the
Egyptian Book of the Dead or the legendary Book of Thoth,
this tale simply isn't true.
- The cards, which appeared in the 14th century, apparently originated
in Italy and were first used as a card game. However, the streghe of
Italy soon discovered the cards were ideal for divination.
- The Gypsies (Romany), who arrived in Europe in the 15th century, might be
credited with helping spread the use of tarot as a divination tool throughout
Europe and and the British Isles.
- One of the powers that Aradia gifted her followers with was "to
divine with cards," cartomancy. At least one modern Wiccan tradition
claimed that she was born into a noble family, rather than simply a
well-to-do merchant family. As the earliest tarot decks were created for the
noble houses of Italy, Aradia, as the daughter of a nobleman, many have
discovered how to divine with these playing cards and may have passed on such
knowlege to others. However, during the 14th century, most tarot cards were still expensive,
handmade works of art.
- Some magical practitioners have speculated that portions of the tarot tell part of the story of
- A divination method that involves studying the random patterns left in the
residue in a cup after the beverage has been consumed. The term derives from
the Arabic word, tassa, meaning "cup" and the Greek word, mantia,
- In the British Isles, the most common form of tasseomancy was "tea leaf
reading." In Italy, the most common form of tasseomancy was "coffee ground reading."
- The Venetian trade with North Africa and the Middle East brought coffee to
Italy in the 16th century. From Venice, the beverage was introduced to Europe.
- Even though coffee ground divination is found in some Middle East countries,
the 18th century Italians claimed that the art of tasseomancy using coffee
grounds was invented in Italy. Allegedly, tasseomancy was a form of divination
involving spirits, thus an incantation or prayer, such as one of the following,
ought to be used to get an accurate reading:
"Aqua boraxit venias carajos."
"Fixitur et particam expliribit tornare."
"Hax verticalines, pax Fantas marobum max destinatus, veida porol."
- Traditionally, Turkish coffee or another coffee that has grounds that sit in the
bottom of the cup is used for this type of divination. The person whose fortune
is being told must consume most of the coffee, leaving the sediment on the bottom.
- The cup is covered with a saucer and then turned over so that the sediment
spreads over the inside of the cup, creating patterns. The coffee grounds are
given a moment to settle in place and dry against the cup while the divinator
murmers the incantation or prayer.
- In medieval Italian lore, the tempestarii were those who specialized in magically raising storms.
Generally the Tempestarii served the mysterious inhabitants of an enchanted land called "Magonia."
The tempestarii called up the winds and thunder. The Magonians, who seemed to have been a faery
people, dumped chucks of hail-ice from their huge storm cloud ships to beat down the crops below.
Then, the Magonians would descend and pillage the crops.
- Sometimes, the Magonians would leave without giving a share of the loot to the tempestarii, who
would fly after them. Hence, the tempestarii also sound like some sort of faery spirits, rather than Italian
sea witches who, were credited with the power to still storms at sea.
- This term for a certain practice of magic is taken from French and derived
from the New Latin thaumaturgus: thaumat,
"wonder, miracle" and ergon "work." Thaumaturgy is the ceremonial magic
technique or art to effect wonders, marvels, and beneficent change. It is often
white magick. It is also a ceremonial magic system often based in Judeo-Christian
- The word derives from the Greek theourgia, literally "working things
to the gods." Theurgy is the use of magic to urge or petition one or more deities
or beneficent supernatural powers to do something or to refrain from doing
- Tides are the cyclical movement of bodies of water caused by the gravitational pull
of the earth, moon, and sun in their celestial dance.
- Old Italian folklore claimed that sorceresses, and later the streghe,
often flew to their meetings. In The Golden Ass, a woman smeared an
ointment on her body and transformed into an owl--or strix--and flew off.
In much later Italian folklore, sometimes the streghe flew by rubbing
ungents or ointments under the armpits, as well as the breasts and maybe
genitals. Other folklore claimed they flew to meetings at old Benevento
astride goats by use of incantations. Apparently some streghe also flew by riding mules.
In Neapolitan lore, witches were believed to
fly on horseback to Benevento. According to J. B. Andrews, in his
Neapolitan Witchcraft (Folk-Lore Transactions of the Folk-Lore
Society, Vol III March, 1897 No.1), the Neapolitan witches used both
an incantation and an ungent in order to fly on horseback:
In order to be able to fly, after having completely
undressed and undone their hair, they go a little before midnight to an isolated spot out of sight, away
from every sacred object. It is forbidden to see them, but not to speak to them. Then they anoint their
bodies with the following composition, the quantity varying according to their weight: ten pounds of spirits
of wine, half a pound of salt of Saturn, half a pound of Dragerio, to be left for four hours in a covered
vessel. Then, saying " Sotto I'acqua e sotto il vento, sotto il noce di Benevento, Lucibello portami dove
debbo andare," they fly away.
- The incantation translates roughly to:
Beneath the water and beneath the wind,
beneath the walnuts of Benevento,
Lucibello bring me to where I need to go.
- This is very similar to an incantation found in Calvino's Italian folktale, The Haughty Prince:
Over wind and over sea
Take me to old Benevento's walnut tree.
- The Italian term, tregenda, denotes a gathering or meeting of witches
- For unknown reasons Leland spelled "tregenda" as "treguenda" in his chapter, The Sabbat: Treguenda
or Witch-Meeting--How to Consecrate the Supper .
- The tomato is a new world plant, later exported to Italy. It formed no
part of ancient Roman worship. However, since its arrival, Italians have
evolved and intricate folklore around the fruit. Red marinara sauce
bestows wealth and health. A large red tomato on the windowsill will
ward off evil spirits. If it is placed on the mantlepiece over the
family hearth, a red tomato will bring prosperity.
- The word uguento literally means "ointment." The Italian stregehe of Italy smeared their heads with a magical ointment or
ungent (uguento) while pronouncing the following magical words (l'incantesimo).
Take me to the walnut of Benevento,
Under water and under the wind,
Under lightning and bad weather
portami al noce di Benevento,
sotto acqua e sotto vento,
sotto fulmini e maltempo
- According to legend, this spell gave the streghe the ability to fly (volare) or magically transport (teletrasportarsi) themselves to underneath the
boughs of the infamous walnut tree of Benevento.
- See Latin underworld.
- L'uomo che porta la luce
- An Italian phrase literally meaning "the Man who carries the light."
- Its Latin name is Verbena officinalis. It is a plant in the family of
Verbenaceae. This herb is native to Europe and Asia. It was also common in
southern England. It has spikes, with small, white or purplish flowers and
deeply incised green leaves. It grows one to three feet tall. It is a a slender
annual. Vervain is also known as verbena, Juno's Tears, Herb of Grace, Herb of
Enchantment, Enchanter's Plant, among other folk names.
- Vervain was sacred to Venus and was employed in religious rites. If making
offerings to Venus, devotees should "bring your garlands and with reverence
place the vervain on the altar." The plant was said to be under the rulership
of the planet Venus. It has been employed in a number of love spells as well
as spells of youth and beauty. Nevertheless, the herb was also sacred to
several deities, including Juno, Jove, and Isis. It was apparently grown at
Nemi in honor of Diana.
- Vervain was also associated with the Italian Aradia. According to Virgil,
witches were said to strew vervain in their rites. "Bring running water and
bind the altars round with fillets and with vervain strew the ground." It is
also used in protection magic, and an infussion of vervain may be sprinkled
around a ritual area to purify it. It was worn around the neck as an amulet
to keep malifica and other negative energies at bay.
- According to one tradition, vervain was gathered at mid-summer. The
Druids gathered it in July at the rising of the Dog Star, known as Sirius or Sothis.
The herb should also be gathered just before dawn. Ceremonial magical tradition
stated vervain ought to be gathered when neither the sun nor moon were
visible in the sky and whoever gathered it should leave a libation of honey.
- In Leland's Aradia was the following description about gathering
vervain at dawn.
I rise in the morning by the earliest dawn
Seeking for luck while onward still I roam,
Seeking for rue and vervain scented sweet
Because they bring good fortune unto all.
I keep them safely guarded in my bosom,
That none may know it--tis a secret thing,
And sacred too, and thus I speak the spell:
"O vervain! ever be a benefit
And may thy blessings be upon the witch
Or on the fairy who did give thee to me!" (149)
- The Italian line 200 is "Benedica quella strege," which Leland
translated as "and may thy blessing be upon the witch." The Pazzaglinis
note that "quella" is plural. (378) Perhaps the line ought to read
"Benedica quella streghe!" meaning "Bless those witches." Could line 200
be a reference to witches strewing vervain for their rites and thus
indirectly causing the annual to seed?
- The Latin word for green. In The Secret Story of Aradia,
the Goddess Diana is called Viridia Diana, which means "Green Diana."
- In ancient Rome, eating walnuts, particularly stewed, encouraged
fertility. Walnut shells, in Italian fairy tales, were often used to
contain something precious or magical. A walnut branch was said to
protect one from lightning.
- There were stories of witches and spirits gathering under walnut trees.
The most infamous walnut tree was the one near the town of Benevento.
- white wool
- In Rome, the flamen of Jove Pater provided special white wool (febra)
from sacred sheep. This wool was used as an instrument of purification, just as
the grains of salt, the grilled wheat, or the branch of a "lucky" tree were
sometimes used in certain rituals.
- Yagel, Abraham
- Abraham Yagel was an Italian 16th century Jewish philosopher, Kabbalist, and sorcerer. Yagel
reconciled Jewish esoteric traditions with scholarly magic in non-Jewish Hermetic schools. He compared
Plato to the Sages of Israel.
Fennel 2012, accessed 7/28/12.
Sorghum: Definition from Answers.com, 2012, accessed 7/30/12.
Nancy Arrowsmith, Field Guide to the Little People,
A Curious Journey Into the Hidden Realm of Elves, Faeries, Hobgoblins & Other Not-So-Mythical Creatures,
Theresa Bane, The Actual Factual Dracula, 2007.
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