Hereditary Italian Witchcraft

Raven Grimassi on Hereditary Italian Witchcraft

Conversations arising from Raven's posts are included with the material to which they refer, but are indented to make them less intrusive.

The Old Ways: The Spirit Flame

I would like to share some of the Old Hereditary Ways here, and invite others to post their techniques for Ritual or Magick, etc. I know many of you choose to believe that we Hereditary Witches do not exist, but that's O.K., you may still find this info of use (or at least of some interest). This first post is about what we call The Spirit Flame. In the Aridian Tradition, it is the focal point of the altar. A bowl is placed upon the center of the altar, and is filled with a special liquid, which will burn a blue flame. The appearance of the blue flame represents the presence of Divinity, within the ritual setting. The use of fire as a sacred symbol is one of the most ancient of practices.

If you wish to experience the Spirit Flame, you can perform the following, using any high quality perfume, or cologne. Strega Liquore is excellent, and contains all but one of the original ingredients (it is quite expensive, however). Place the bowl in the center of your altar (the bowl must be able to hold fire). Fill the bowl about half full. Set two altar candles, forward of the bowl, off to each side (you are forming a triangle; the bowl is the bottom point of an inverted triangle). Light the candles, and extinguish any other source of light. With a ritual tool such as a wand or blade, trace a crescent over the liquid, and say:
"In the name(s) of (deities) and by this sacred sign be this the Essence of the Divine"

Then take a lit match and touch it, gently, to the surface of the liquid (do not use any liquid other than perfume or Liquor/ liquore).

As you light the bowl say:
"I call upon Thee (deity) be Thou present at this sacred place"

A beautiful blue flame will appear, and gently dance upon the surface of the liquid. We consider the flame to be sacred, and we use it to bless objects, empower tools, and create our ritual circles/sacred space. Feel free to experiment with it, but please treat it with respect. Allow the flame to go out by itself.

I have altered the wording, and omitted some of the gestures and invocations. You may insert the names of your own deities in the blank space. Even though altered, the technique here is sound, and should enrich whatever you may choose to do with the Spirit Flame.

This ritual has been preserved among the Hereditary Clans, and is still an aspect of all ritual gatherings. It is the oldest of our "laws" that nothing may be removed from the Teachings, so we still keep the Old Ways alive (we can add to our material, but we cannot remove anything). In Italy, Strega Liquore has been used as the Spirit Flame liquid, since it was first distilled in 1873. Originally the recipe was sold to the Alberti family, by some Strega (Italian for witch), with the exception of one certain ingredient. Before this, a liquid made from a mixture of distilled grape wine, and distilled grain, was the basis for the Spirit Flame liquid. It was quite similar to Brandy, which was first distilled around 100 C.E.

Scenes showing fermentation appear on pottery made in Mesopotamia as early as 4200 B.C.E. The earliest forms of Spirit Flame Liquid would have been a fermented substance, followed later by ones which were distilled. I am not at liberty to go into the individual ingredients, unfortunately. However, Strega Liquore is about as close as one can get without being initiated. If the Spirit Flame was used outside of Italy, I am unaware of it. But I would be happy to know that others had this Tradition as well.

Don't laugh too hard at the following Raven,
I experimented with lighting the Strega in my bowl, in my case a cast-iron chili pot cum cauldron. It does whoosh, doesn't it?! (No, I didn't set myself on fire). And the blue is lovely, but everything got so hot that the Strega went into a rolling boil and essentially doused itself. Is this supposed to happen? I think I hear you laughing.

Dear SeraLuna,
You can always pick out an Aridian, as they have no eyebrows, eyelashes, or hair! Seriously though, no it isn't supposed to do that. I suspect that you used too much Strega Liquore, and that the pot was too big. A Chili pot full of Strega would — well, it would do exactly what you described! I am glad that you're OK. Next time use only a small bowl, no larger than a cereal bowl, and only use about 2 or 3 oz. of liquid.
Many Blessings, Raven

The Walnut Witches

In Italy, there is a legend of Witch gatherings in the town of Benevento, at the site of an old walnut tree. Manuscripts from old witch trials in Italy, speak of this tree which (it was said) had always been there, and was in leaf all year long. The nuts of this tree, were said to have been of pyramid-like form. Many of these walnuts were sold as talismans and amulets. The tree was so huge, and its branches so thick with leaves, that its shade was said to be like night itself. It was considered sacred to Proserpine, Nox, Diana, and all Cthonic deities. The walnut witches were said to have been a very powerful society of witches. It was through their dedication that the Old Religion survived intact, during the Inquisition (and afterwords).

In 662 C.E. Romuald, Duke of Benevento, lived in Benevento and was said to have joined in these celebrations at the walnut tree. In Benevento there also lived a man named Barbato. He was a Christian, and later became a Bishop (eventually he was even sainted). Hard times befell Benevento, and the army of the Byzantine Emperor Constans II, was threatening to invade. Barbato went about the town blaming all the troubles of Benevento, on the witches and their religion. After corresponding with Constans, Barbato approached Romuald, and said that he (Barbato) would perform a miracle and save Benevento, if given authority to "cleanse" the town of its "heathen sins". In desperation, Romuald agreed, and sure enough Benevento was not conquered (but it was attacked).

Barbato had the Walnut tree cut down, and converted Romuald to Christianity. One story is told that Barbato had a church built upon the site of the old tree, and another that the tree was seeded in a different place, and still another that the tree grew again in the same spot.

Whatever the case, my mother says that a walnut tree still stands in Benevento, in the Stretto di Barba, near the river. Witches still gather there today in secret. Benevento has long been associated with Witchcraft, and was once the sanctuary of the followers of Aradia, in the 14th Century. In Charles Leland's book Etruscan Magick & Occult Remedies there are several exaggerated (but fun) stories of the good witches of Benevento. Leland also states that the witches of Benevento were very well known for their healing, and for dispensing coins to the poor.

A last note of interest, Strega Liquor is made in Benevento (and has been for quite awhile). If you can find a bottle, check out the label. You'll find a picture of witches and satyrs dancing beneath a tree (walnut I assume).

The Watchers

In the early stellar cults, there were four "royal" stars (known as lords) which were called the Watchers. Each one of these stars "ruled" over one of the four cardinal points. The star Aldebaran, when it marked the Vernal Equinox, held the position of Watcher of the East. Regulus, marking the Summer Solstice, was Watcher of the south. Antares, marking the Autumn Equinox, was the Watcher of the west. Fomalhaut, marking the Winter Solstice, was Watcher of the north. Towers were constructed, bearing the symbols of these Watchers, for the purpose of evocation. During the "rites of calling" symbolic gestures were given and the names of the Watchers were called out. In the stellar mythos, the Watchers themselves were deities who guard the Heavens and the Earth. Their nature (and "rank") was altered by the successive Lunar and Solar cults, which replaced the Stellar Cults. Eventually the Greeks reduced them to Gods of the four winds, and the Christians made them principalities of the air. Their connection with the stars was vaguely preserved among the populace, in the concept of Angels.

In the Italian system, these ancient Beings are called the Grigori. They are the Guardians of the "doorways" between the physical plane and that which is beyond. In Italian witchlore, the stars were thought to be the campfires of the legions of the Watchers (there were other stellar associations as well). In the 16th Century, the French theologian Sinistrari spoke of Beings existing between "men and angels". He called them demons, and associated them with the Elemental natures of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. This, however, was not a new concept, but was taught by certain Gnostic sects in the early days of Christianity. In the Old Testament (Daniel 4: 13-17) there is reference to the Irin, or Watcher, which appear to be an order of angels. In his book Dictionary of Angels, Gustav Davidson lists the Watchers as a high order of angels, known also as the Grigori. In Rabbinic lore, the "good" Watchers dwell in the 5th Heaven, and the "evil" Watchers dwell in the 3rd.

In Aridian lore, the Watchers guard our circle and watch over us. They assist us in our spiritual growth, and "escort" us to the next realm, when we cross from physical life. We acknowledge them as Guardians of the entrances and exists, to and from the worlds which connect with the physical plane. We also know them as the Keepers of the Ancient Wisdom, and guardians of the Art. They are Clan Guardian spirits, known as The Old Ones. They are also pre-Christian and pre-Gardnerian.

The Lare

In the Old Religion of Italy there are certain spirits called the Lare (pronounced Lar-ray), who are both protectors and preservers. In Roman mythology, they were house spirits/family spirits. Upon the home's hearth, a small Lare "house" (or chapel) was placed. Each one had a receptacle for offerings, which consisted of wine, honey, milk and flowers (or grain). The focal point of a Family is their home, and in olden times the focal point of the home was the hearth (the Latin word "focus", means hearth). The hearth held the fire which provided heat, and served to cook the meals. A prayer was said to the Lare every morning, and special offerings were made at family celebrations.

These spirits were originally gods of the cultivated fields and were worshiped at the crossroads. In early Etruscan times, they were called Lasa. In Tuscany today, the word lasa refers to spirits. The Lare cult maintains a strong family connection, and is largely responsible for the existence of hereditary Italian witch families. Generation after generation has remembered and honored the previous ones, passing on the ancient traditions of the Old Religion. This is why we can trace our heritage back, and recall the family lines. Today, Aridians still place a Lare house in their home, and give offerings. At birthdays, candles are lit on the shrine for the family member, and also when they die. At certain seasonal rites, the family names are recalled, back down the family lines. Stories are retold and so on. It is really quite beautiful, and very primitive. It is our culture and our heritage which binds us together. Sadly, this is something which modern culture does not really understand, or appreciate.

From: Tony Marcano
It should also be noted that the prayers said at the lararium differed on the kalends, nones, and ides. Also, the lares were worshiped along with the penates, Vesta, and the genius (pronounced ghen-yoos). Roman traditions accepted/tolerated many gods, which allowed for the inclusion of a "wiccan" pantheon but very often these were very different traditions shared within the same household. The MTR (traditional Romans) in Italy as a tradition/organization does not embrace stregeria (although some of them may also be practicing witches) but rather view themselves as Roman Pagans, members of the collegium and curia, and in some cases flamines.

From: Raven Grimassi
Please understand that I am not talking about Roman Religion here. I am talking about my Tradition, which has its roots in ancient Italy. Our people lived under Roman rule perhaps, but did not follow the classic Roman Religion. We are Strega and are different from classic Roman Tradition. I am not leaving things out here, I'm speaking of the Ways of my Clan. Certainly there were other things going on in Italy concurrently with us (but different from us). Thanks for adding your knowledge to this post, but I simply wish to keep things clear (and not to contradict you).

Diana & Rex Nemorensis

There is a very interesting myth about the worship of Diana, which I would like to share here. Long ago, in the Alban hills, there came a runaway slave who was favored by the Goddess Diana. Because She had freed him, he desired to worship Her, and She gave him sanctuary. One day Diana appeared to him beneath a large tree which stood in the center of a clearing, within a large grove. Then just after sunset She proclaimed Her love for him, but at the same time demanded that he prove himself worthy of Her favors. So Diana brought before him a mighty warrior, who was Guardian of the Grove. Then She told the runaway slave to challenge the Guardian. But the Guardian would not accept the challenge, unless the former slave could prove his strength and courage. So the runaway climbed the great tree, and broke off a large branch with his hands. The branch was so strong that no ordinary man could break it. So the Guardian accepted the challenge, and the two battled for the favor of Diana. The Guardian was defeated and met his end at the hands of the runaway slave. Then Diana touched his shoulders, placed a wreath upon his head, and said "Thou art Rex Nemorensis (King of the Woods)". This is one of the mystery texts, and deals with parts of our inner self. Look at the characters in the Myth as yourself, and at Diana as Enlightenment.

Now, back to the note. In central Italy lies the lake once known as Lacus Nemorensis. This lake was also known as the Speculum Dianae (Mirror of Diana). Here on the northeast shore of this ancient lake, once stood the temple of Diana. Here too was the sacred grove of Diana. In ancient times the followers of Diana gathered at the Temple to give worship, and to be healed by the water, which was said to flow into a pool within the Temple. At Nemi, in the Alban Hills, Diana was worshiped in many forms. At the new moon She was the chaste Huntress and the crescent moon was her bow. In this aspect She was seen as the eternal virgin, free from the need for men. At the time of the full moon, Diana was the Enchantress, the Queen of Magick. At the dark of the moon Diana was vengeful, secretive, and somewhat dangerous. As the chaste, Her name was pronounced Dye-anna. As the Queen it was pronounced Dea-nah, and at dark of moon it was pronounced Dee-anna. These are essentially the same aspects commonly referred to as Maiden, Mother, Crone.

Another term for Rex Nemorensis, was the Hooded One. It is interesting, because a cult formed in the Groves of Nemi around this theme, and was comprised of outlaws and runaway slaves from Rome.

There is a similarity between this mythos, and the Robin Hood legend. Especially when you consider that runaway slaves and outlaws from Rome gathered in the forests of Nemi. The Hooded One was a title for the representative of the God (usually referred to as Kern). This person was the cult leader, and held the title of either the Hooded One, or Rex Nemorensis. The major difference probably lies in the fact that the Hooded One could be either a male or a female. But Rex Nemorensis was always a male. Legend says that the Hood helped to conceal the gender. The outlaws of the Forest in Nemi were more of a religious cult, and lived more off than the land, than off the rich (although an occasional ambush here or there was not out of the question).

Diana and Dianus

The most common names found associated with The Old Religion, in Italy, are Diana & Dianus. Dianus is the nature god, associated with the woods, herds, fertility, and so on. He was present in the rites of Diana at the sacred grove of Nemi. He is also known as verbius, and is linked to the title Rex Nemorensis. Oaks were sacred to Dianus, which were present in the groves at Nemi. It seems likely that, in time, he was also associated with the god Janus. Janus was a god of doorways/portals (and of beginnings in general). In this aspect, Janus was a guardian who kept non-initiates away from the Mystery Traditions. He carried a whip and a rod, which could usher in, or drive away. Dianus, as the guardian Rex Nemorensis, is easily linked to Janus, in this aspect. In the Aridian Tradition, Diana and Dianus would be two parts of the Divine One Great Spirit. Usually, Dianus is visualized as a stag god, or a man with antlers. He can also be associated with the forest god, known as Kern (no, Kern, not Herne — different land, similar story).

Dianus is the consort of Diana, even in Her chaste aspect. Here they are more like brother and sister. In other aspects they are lovers, and so on. Historical references to the cult of Diana and Dianus (other than Classical Age) appear as early as the 4th Century C.E.

Jana is one of the names we Aridians use for the Goddess (the others are Tana & Fana). The Goddess Jana is the Moon Goddess of the Janarric Clan. In Naples, the term Janarra was once used as the word for witch (instead of Strega). The Janarra are the keepers of the Lunar mysteries, in the Triad Traditions. Sometimes they are called the Sea Witches, because they once practiced along the coastal regions, and near the Bay of Naples.

In Italy there are three Clans, known as the Triad. The first is called the Fanarra, second is the Janarra, and third is the Tanarra. The Fanarra are the "keepers of the earth mysteries", the Janarra are "keepers of the Lunar mysteries", and the Tanarra are the "keepers of the stellar mysteries". Originally they were one Clan, comprised of the covens which Aradia had established in the 14th Century. When the Inquisition began murdering witches, the Clan split up into their respective mystery traditions, in order to preserve at least one of the old Mystery Teachings. As the Fates would have it, however, all three survived. The Aridian Tradition is a rejoining of the three, back into the original state (as practiced in the time of Aradia). Each leader of a Clan, has a working knowledge of the two other Clans. Each Clan has a different aspect of Deity, for their Focus.

Fanus is the basic earth connection of the God. He is lord of the mysteries of the earth. He is primal, and one of the first awakenings of Divine Consciousness (in the Physical Plane). Janus is the awakening of the Divine Consciousness to the Solar System (if you will). He is the connection to the Sun and other planetary influences. Tanus is the awakening of Divine Consciousness to the Universe. He is the connection to higher Divinity, to the Source of All Things. So, actually they are the same Deity, but seen in various aspects (more properly, they are symbols of the stages through which Human Understanding has marked its contact with Divinity). Dianus is Fanus in a higher aspect. Fanus is more like Pan, while Dianus is more like Kern (stag horned god of the forests of Nemi). The double faces of Janus symbolize (among other things) the stage of a God who is between its base earth aspect, and its higher Divine aspect. These gods may also be thought of as the stages of Child, Adolescent, and Adult (although I would never say that to their face — nor neither face of Janus). Another illustration might help: Fanus is seen with animal horns, while Janus is seen wearing a crown, and Tanus is visualized with a blue flame forming a sort of "halo" around his head. Thus, you have the Nature made (horns), Human made (crown), and Divine made (light) concepts of Deity.

Just a bit of an extension from my first reply (and a bit less emotional I hope). Frazer was not presenting a "Tradition" or a "System". He was simply speaking of the ancient practices and concepts of The Old Religion (and other things as well). You asked about our differences and likenesses. We share the common knowledge of Diana at Nemi, and some aspects of Her cult there. Rex Nemorensis is simply another aspect of what was once practiced at Nemi. In my Tradition there is no office of this title, and his legend is only one of the Mystery Teaching concepts, which we have retained over time. Legend says that Aradia (the Holy Strega) established a camp in the ruins of Diana's Temple, there at Nemi. I suppose that might be considered a connection somehow. Actually, Aradia was a Tuscan Witch and taught the Old Religion as a whole (not simply as practiced at Nemi). Frazer doesn't go into much depth concerning the Witch Cult in Italy, so I don't know what else to compare it to. I am not giving a history of my Tradition here, but my Tradition is a part of what I am posting. In Leland's book, Aradia is the Daughter of Diana & Lucifer. In the mythos of the Aridian Tradition, Aradia is quite human (and is not the actual "daughter" of Diana). Now, Diana does have three aspects, just as Dianus has. She is Fana, Jana, and Tana just as he is Fanus, Janus, and Tanus. How this all came about, goes back to the Coven which Aradia had founded in the 14th Century . In time as this coven divided and established other covens, the Inquisition arose (by the way, in Italian the word for coven is boschetto — pronounced boss-kett-oh — and means a grove). Hoping to keep the mysteries alive, they established three Clans. Each Clan was a "Keeper" of one of the mystery traditions. These were the Earth, Lunar, and Stellar Mysteries. Each Clan then named the Deities in accordance with their mystery system. That is how Diana and Dianus came to be known by these many names. It is customary in some Traditions/Systems to have an "inner court" name for the God & Goddess. A name not known to any non-initiates. So, some groups will chose (or create) a secret name, which only they will use when addressing Deity.

For those who both believe, and do not believe, in the antiquity/survival of The Old Religion, I offer the following: In 30 B.C.E., the Roman Poet Horace wrote his work called the Epodes of Horace. In part, they deal with a dialogue between he and an Italian witch named Canidia. In Epode 5, he associates Diana & Proserpina with witches in a mystery Cult. In Epode 17, he names these goddesses as patron goddesses of Witchcraft, and states that witches use a book called Libros Carminum, by which they "call down the moon" and make philtres and evoke spirits. Other Roman writers of the period, support this basic theme in their writings (such as Lucan and Ovid). From this we can conclude, that the association of witches with Diana, was generally accepted in Italy (circa 30 B.C.E.). Bear in mind that this is being written about in pre-Christian times, and not in the 1950's of Gerald Gardner. In note titled "The Society of Diana", I will show that this cult continued on (in Historical documentation) through the 19th Century.

Epode 5: " — Night and Diana, who command silence when secret mysteries are performed, now aid me: now turn your vengeance and influence against my enemies' house —"

Epode 17: (to Canidia) "Now already I yield to your mighty art, and suppliant beseech you by the realms of Proserpine, and by the powers of Diana, not to be provoked, and by your books of enchantments that are able to call down the fixed stars from heaven, Canidia, at length spare your Magick words, and turn backward your swift wheel —"

(Canidia replies)
"— must I, who can move waxen images and call down the moon from the sky by my spells, who can raise the vaporous dead, and mix a draught of love lament the effect of my art, availing nothing upon you?"

The Society of Diana

The historical documentation which I present here, is drawn from the research notes and books of, Professor Carlo Ginzburg (Professor of Italian Renaissance Studies at Univ. of California in Los Angeles), Professor Ernesto de Martino (Prof. of the History of Religions at Cagliari Univ., Italy), Professor Cardini (Prof. of History at the Univ. of Florence), and Julio Baroja (Anthropologist)

In his book, The World of Witches, Julio Baroja writes of southern Europe: "There seems to have been a flourishing cult of Diana among European country people in the 5th & 6th centuries, and she was generally looked upon as a Goddess of the woods and fields, except by those trying to root out the cult, who thought she was a devil." In the authors notes, for chapter 4, he adds that the cult also worshipped a male deity called Dianum. In 906 C.E., Regino of Prum wrote in his instructions to the Bishops of the Kingdoms of Italy, concerning this cult. Here he states:
"— they ride at night on certain beasts with Diana, goddess of the pagans, and a great multitude of women, that they cover great distances in the silence of the deepest night, that they obey the orders of the goddess — by speaking of their visions (they) gain new followers for the Society of Diana —"

The following Chronology will demonstrate the continuation of this "Society of Diana" up through the centuries to modern times.

1006 C.E.: 19th book of the Decretum (entitled Corrector) associates the worship of Diana with the common pagan folk.

1280 C.E.: Diocesan Council of Conserans associates the Witch Cult with the worship of a Pagan Goddess

1310 C.E.: Council of Trier associates witches with the goddess Diana (and Herodias)

1313 C.E.: Giovanni de Matociis writes in his Historiae Imperiales, that many lay people believe in a nocturnal society headed by a queen they call Diana

1390 C.E.: A woman was tried by the Milanese Inquisition for belonging to the "Society of Diana", she confessed to worshiping the "goddess of Night" and stated that "Diana" bestowed blessings on her

1457 C.E.: 3 women tried in Bressanone, confess that they belonged to the "Society of Diana" (as recorded by Nicholas of Cusa).

1526 C.E.: Judge Paulus Grillandus writes of witches in the town of Benevento who worship a goddess at the site of an old walnut tree.

1576 C.E.: Bartolo Spina writes in his Quaestico de Strigibus listing info gathered from confessions, that witches gather at night to worship "Diana", and have dealings with night spirits.

1647 C.E.: Peter Pipernus writes in his De Nuce Maga Beneventana & De Effectibus Magickis, of a women named Violanta who confessed to worshiping Diana at the site of an old walnut tree in the town of Benevento.

1749 C.E.: Girolamo Tartarotti associates the Witch Cult with the ancient cult of Diana, in his book Del Congresso Nottorno Delle Lammie.

1890 C.E.: Author Charles Leland associates the Witch Cult with the goddess Diana, as a survival of the ancient ways, in his book Etruscan Magick & Occult Remedies.

1894 C.E.: Lady Vere de Vere, after investigating witchcraft as it then existed in the Italian Tyrol region, wrote an article in La Rivista of Rome (June 1894) stating that "the Community of Italian Witches is regulated by laws, traditions, and customs of the most secret kind, possessing special recipes for sorcery."

1895 C.E.: Professor Milani (Etruscan Scholar & Director of Archaeological Museum in Florence) states that various elements of ancient Etruscan occultism have been "marvelously preserved" in the "Italian Witch Tradition." Professor Milani was familiar with the works of both Lady Vere de Vere and Charles Leland.

This theme continues through various authors (T.C. Lethbridge, Carlo Ginzburg, Doreen Valiente) into the 1900's and current era. Books written since 1950's are common enough and probably do not need listing here.

Source material for Chronology:
Ecstacies-Deciphering the Witches Sabbath, Night Battles-Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults (by Ginzburg)
Etruscan Magick & Occult Remedies, Legends of Florence, Aradia; Gospel of the Witches (by Charles Leland).
The World of Witches, by Julio Baroja.

A Prayer to Diana

"Great Diana, Goddess, hear my words of adoration. Hear my voice when I speak your praises. Hear my chanting as it rises upon the smoke of the incense I offer you. See me when I reach up to you; when the Full Moon shines upon me give me your blessings. Oh Diana, teach me your ancient mysteries, ancient rites of invocation which the Holy Strega spoke of, for I believe the Strega's story: when she spoke of your shining glory, when she told us to entreat you, told us when we seek for Knowledge to seek and find you above all others. Give me wisdom, Diana, and bind my oppressors. Grant me the Ancient Knowledge, and speak to my inner spirit, teaching me all the Holy Mysteries. I believe your ancient promise, the promise to all the ancient Clan, that we who seek your Holy Presence will receive of your Wisdom. Diana, think yet even for a moment, upon one who calls upon your name."

I have always loved this old prayer. Once saw a very similar version of it in a book called The Grimoire of Lady Sheba. Always wondered where she came by it. Her version is more poetic, and has all the nice "Thee" and "Thou" stuff. I like both versions, because of the mention of The Holy Strega (but I am partial to my Family one).

From: Helen Tyler
My compliments & thanks to you for your posts on the Old Ways, Raven. I am a Solitary practitioner of the Hereditary/Traditional Way & started on the Path in the 30's at my Grandmother's knee (turned 66 last week & am still on the Path — learning more & more every day!). Since you mentioned Lady Sheba's Prayer in your post, thought everyone might like to see it. She does not mention her source, then again, she does not give the source on many of her writings.

Prayer to Diana
O My Goddess, Diana, hear my song of adoration. Hear my voice when I sing Thy praises. Hear my songs as they rise heavenward, when the Full Moon, brightly shining, fills the heavens with Thy beauty. O my beautiful Moon Goddess, hear me as I stand before Thee. See me when I reach toward heaven, when my arms reach upward toward Thee. When the Full Moon shines upon me, give me Thy blessings, O Diana. Teach me of Thine ancient mysteries, ancient rites of invocation that the Holy Strega spoke of, for I believe the Strega's story: when she spoke of Thy shining glory, when she told us to entreat Thee, told us when we seek for knowledge to seek and find Thee above all others. Give us wisdom, O Diana: how to bind our oppressors, how to cure the sick among us. Teach me, O Diana. Give me Thy blessings, O Great Moon Goddess. Shield me from my oppressors. Receive me as your daughter, Diana. Receive me, though I am earth-bound. Grant me ancient Wiccan knowledge. When my body lies resting nightly, speak unto my inner spirit; teach me all Thy holy mysteries. I believe Thine ancient promise, Thy promise unto the ancient Wicca that we who seek Thy holy presence will receive Thy Wisdom. Now the Full Moon shines upon me. Hear me! I stand before Thee! Grant me wisdom! O Diana! Shield me from my oppressors! Teach me Thine holy mysteries! I sing Thy praises unto the heavens. Let Thy glory shine about me. Bless us, O gracious Queen of Heaven. Descend Thou among us; Descend and conquer, Gracious Goddess.

Taken from The Witches Workbook: The Magick Grimoire of Lady Sheba, by Jessie Wicker Bell, pub. Kensington Pub. Co., 1975

The Legend of Aradia

In 1508 C.E. the Italian Inquisitor Bernardo Rategno (having studied witch trial records preserved in the archives of the Inquisition at Como) wrote a text called the Tractatus de Strigibus. In this text he states that the " witches sect" had begun to expand 150 years earlier. This would place the "expansion" about 1350 (14th Century Italy). What caused this to happen? Well, the answer may be found in the old legend called The Legend of the Beautiful Pilgrim. This legend can be found in author Charles Leland's notes for his book: Aradia: Gospel of the Witches.

According to this story, there once was a young woman from the town of Volterra who "traveled far and wide, teaching and preaching the religion of old times, the religion of Diana, the Queen of the Fairies and of the Moon, the Goddess of the poor and the oppressed". Leland goes on to say "And the fame of her wisdom and beauty went forth over all the land, and people worshiped her, calling her La Bella Pellegrina (the Beautiful Pilgrim). In the Aridian Tradition we refer to Aradia as The Holy Strega (pronounced Stray-gah, meaning witch) and we honor her memory. We do not worship her.

According to our teachings, Aradia formed covens (called groves) in central Italy during the 14th century. She taught the Old Religion of Nature, and of Magick, but above all she taught a Spirituality. Beyond this she gave hope to peasants whose lives were made miserable, in service to the wealthy class. She taught them personal power, and personal value, in an Age when the Church taught shame and sin, and servitude. Aradia returned their beautiful pagan heritage to them, a heritage which was preserved in secret by courageous Priests and Priestesses of The Old Religion. Aradia taught harmony with Nature, and directed her followers to merge with Nature through seasonal rites, and ritual observation of the Full Moon (times of planetary power).

Charles Leland's version of Aradia, is not the original version. It has little to do with the Aradia I have addressed here. His work is a Christianized view of Aradia, and does not reflect the beliefs, or practices, of Hereditary Italian Witches. So, if you chose to read his book, bear in mind that he and I are not speaking of the same Aradia. His account of the Legend given here, is the only thing I can agree with in his book. The rest of his book does not show Aradia in a positive light.

The Gifts of Aradia

In the 14th century, Aradia taught that certain powers could be obtained through following The Old Religion. Aradia called them "gifts" because she stressed that these powers were side benefits of adhering to the Old Ways, and not the reason for becoming a witch. These gifts are commonly referred to, today, as the traditional powers of Witchcraft.

  1. To bring success in matters of love
  2. To bless and consecrate
  3. To speak with spirits
  4. To know of Hidden Things
  5. To call forth spirits
  6. To know Secret Signs
  7. To possess the Knowledge of changing forms
  8. To possess the Knowledge of Divination
  9. To know secret signs
  10. To cure disease
  11. To bring forth beauty
  12. To have influence over wild beasts
  13. To know the secrets of the hands

Aradia taught that a witch must observe the Seasonal Rites and the time of the Full Moon, in order to keep these powers.

The Beautiful Pilgrim

In 1508 C.E., the Italian Inquisitor Bernardo Rategno (having studied witch trial records preserved in the archives of the Inquisition at Como) wrote a text called the Tractatus de Strigibus. In this text he states that the "witches sect" had begun to expand rapidly 150 years earlier. This would place the "expansion" in the mid 1300's. What caused this to happen? The answer may lay hidden in the Legend of La Bella Pellegrina (the beautiful Pilgrim). This legend appears in Charles Leland's research material (1887), and was even then considered a very old legend. According to this story, there was a young woman from the town of Volterra, who "traveled far and wide, teaching and preaching the religion of old times, the religion of Diana, the Queen of the Fairies and of the Moon, Goddess of the poor and the oppressed". Leland goes on to say "and the fame of her wisdom and beauty went forth over all the land, and people worshiped her, calling her The Beautiful Pilgrim". This legend appears in his book Aradia, Gospel of the Witches. The book itself is not really very good, but does contain some interesting bits of Lore. In my Tradition we do have the legend of Aradia, but she differs from the Aradia presented in Leland's book (not from this legend, but from his portrayal of her character). In my Tradition, Aradia was a great teacher who brought about a "revival" of The Old Religion, in 14th Century Italy. We honor her memory, but we do not worship her. We call her The Holy Strega. Strega (pronounced stray-gah) is the Italian word for Witch. Aradia taught that certain "powers" would be gained through the practice of The Old Religion, if one was truly dedicated. These are the "traditional" powers of which she spoke:
To bring success in love
to bless and consecrate
to speak with spirits
to know of hidden things
to call forth spirits
to know the voice of the wind
to possess the knowledge of changing forms
to possess the knowledge of divination
to know secret signs
to cure disease
to bring forth beauty
to have influence over wild beasts
to know the secrets of the hand

In my tradition it is that taught we are descended from those covens which Aradia established in the 14th Century.

Celebrations of the Year

In Italy, witches do not use the word Sabbat for their seasonal rites. The Italian word is Treguenda (pronounced tray-gwen-dah) and is similar in meaning to Sabbat. Webster's dictionary lists Sabbat as old French for Sabbath (old English as well). The word Sabbatical is shown to mean "of or suited to the Sabbath" and "a period of rest that occurs in regular cycles". The word Treguenda has as its root the word Tregua, which means "a respite, or a truce". It is interesting to note that "Tregua" (tray-gwah) is also slang for the Full Moon Ceremony. The actual word for the Full Moon Ceremony is Veglione (pronounced Vay-yoe-nay), and literally means to dance all night. Veglione is also the name of a popular folk dance in Italy.

In early times the followers of The Old Religion were farmers and craftsmen. Their lives were largely spent in toil. Their Religion provided times in which they could set aside their work, and enjoy a social and spiritual celebration. These Festivals were indeed "respites" or "periods of rest occurring in regular cycles".

In The Aridian Tradition there are 8 Treguendas, four major and four minor. The major rites occur in October, February, May and August. These are the Spiritual Festivals which are considered of greater importance. The minor festivals occur on the Spring & Autumn Equinox, and on the Summer & Winter Solstice. These are the Earth Festivals, and are seasonal/agricultural in nature. The Mythos of the Old Religion runs through each of these Celebrations. They are named as follows:

  • Shadowfest (La Festa dell' Ombra)
  • Winter Solstice (La Festa dell' Inverno)
  • Lupercus (Festa di Lupercus)
  • Spring Equinox (Equinozio della Primavera)
  • Tana's Day (La giornata di Tana)
  • Summer Solstice (La Festa dell' Estate)
  • Cornucopia (La Festa di Cornucopia)
  • Autumn Equinox (Equinozio di Autunno)

A common term for the 8 rites is the "Wheel". It is thought of as a Spinning-wheel, turning and weaving the patterns of Life. On the physical level it is symbolic of the changing seasons. On the spiritual level it is symbolic of the "seasons of the soul". The Mythos which is an integral part of each rite, symbolizes the Journey of the Soul through a variety of Existences. In the Mystery Teachings of the Wheel, we discover that we are the characters in the Myth. Everything is symbolic within each myth, and represents various aspects of the encounters facing a soul as it passes from life to life. Through a study of the Mythos, and routine participation in each Treguenda, one can gain spiritual enlightenment.

The mythos within the Full Moon Ceremony, weaves its way through each Treguenda, and completes the spiritual vision. It is interesting to note that the ancient teachings connect the light of the Moon, to passages and reincarnations of the Soul.

From: Minnie Baxter
Merry Meet Raven, To make sure we are talking or thinking about the same thing let me give you some information:
Aradia (Strega Witch) was born in Volterra, Italy, on August 13, 1313. In her early teens (10-12 yrs.) she moved with her parents to the Alban hills near the lake now known as Nemi. This region not far from Rome. She experienced something in the unexplained area, a mystery to herself. This was the beginning of her promoting the old religion that was taught to her by her aunt. On the subject of her "mystery". A voice using telepathy spoke to her telling her to look upwards. She gazed upwards and saw the skies began to darken (for there was a Moon Shadow) and she understood. This changed how she perceived life. Is this the clan of people you are saying is your relatives? If so lets talk about "The Moon Shadow" she saw in the sky. Are you Raven under the direction of the council of the Third Clan?

From: Raven Grimassi
The titles of the books which I have written are:
(listed only because someone asked)
The Book of Ways (Volumes 1 & 2) 1981 & 1982
The Book of the Holy Strega 1981
The Teachings of the Holy Strega (1991 reprint, new Intro)
Whispers, teachings of the Old Religion of Italy 1991

I have also just completed a booklet titled: The Aridian System, an introduction to Italian Witchcraft.

These are the only books available at this time, on the Aridian Tradition. I am currently writing a book of rituals and Magick, which I will be submitting to a couple of Publishers soon. We use some Latin, as preserved from the earlier material. Most of the invocations are done in Italian, but we speak English for the majority of the ritual gathering. We also have another language from the oldest material, it does not have a name, but we refer to it as "the tongue of the Moon". Most likely related to ancient Etruscan, and may have a connection to Enochian as well. It only appears in a few of the old rituals. Mine is the only book in the Family which contains English

(My mothers was mostly Italian, Latin and Tongue of the Moon).

You asked about having to be of Italian blood, to best work this System. I do not require it, but the old family members do have a hangup about "being of the blood". I have initiated many non-Italians, and they do quite well in the System. I think that Magickally speaking, practicing a System to which you have genetic roots, does bring about a stronger current response. But that is simply my experience, and may not be true for everyone. So my answer is no, you do not need to be Italian in the Aridian System.

Also forgot to reply to your question about being related to those early clans. The answer is yes (at least that's what the family lore has to say). I come from a very old line of witches in the Naples area of Italy. We trace our Tradition back to the 14th Century where it connects with the Alban Hills region of Nemi (being descended from those covens which The Holy Strega founded at that time). She, herself, was a Tuscan witch and taught her Tradition which went back to pre-Christian times. So, in that respect, I say that my ancestors invented the worship of Diana at Nemi. Yes, my friend, I am the Raven to whom you refer. You have obviously read (or heard of) one of my books. Perhaps you have read "The Book of the Holy Strega", or "The teachings of the Holy Strega". You asked about the "Moon Shadow" mentioned in my book. Well, there are two opinions of what may have happened there. One is that a Solar eclipse had taken place, another that something of an inner experience had manifested. No one in any of the Triad Clans can say for sure. Whatever happened, Aradia took it as a divine sign for the mission she then undertook. Hereditary witches (at least of my family line in Italy) have kept a written book. Many Hereditary Clans were connected to Nobility during the Middle Ages. This gave them not only sanctuary, but education in reading and writing. Many Italian Courts of Royalty kept astrologers and local wisemen/wisewomen. The persecution of witches in Italy began about 100 years later than anywhere else in Europe, and was almost entirely focused on organized group practices. The local village witch was usually tolerated because of his/her healing abilities, and so forth. My family line goes back five generations to the Tavani Family, who were Nobility of the Kingdom of Naples. According to our Elders, early witches kept a runic script on animal hide. In time this evolved to parchment, and so on. The runic script still survives, but has been replaced by the common arabic alphabet (at least in the case of non-Magickal info).

Sea Spells

Witches have long used the powers and forces within the sea, for the purpose of Magick. The Sea is so deeply connected to the cycles of the Moon, that the aspect of Sea Magick cannot be overlooked. Janarric witches, in the central coastal region of Italy, long ago devised a system of symbols which they used in the casting of spells. These symbols were placed upon sea shells, in a circular manner around the edge of the shell. The shell was then set near the water, at the appropriate Tide (lunar phase), so that the Sea Powers would receive the spell, and grant it success.

Many times, offerings were left upon the shore, for the deities, to invoke Their favor. These offerings included white flowers, pearls, white pebbles, etc. I cannot reproduce the old symbols here, but any symbolic symbol which reflects your wish should work:

The Spell of the Shell

To perform this spell, you must find a suitable shell in shallow water. Take the shell and dry it thoroughly. Next, place a symbol of your desire upon the surface of the shell. The symbol must be made with a substance which will easily wash off in water. Then, place the shell upon the shore, so that the Tide will bring waves across the shell. Take care to note the phase of the Moon (waxing moon for the gain of something, waning for the dissolving of something). When the shell is in place, draw a triangle in the sand, enclosing the shell completely. The symbol upon the shell must be facing upwards (toward the Moon). Meaningful words, or phrases, may be placed upon the shell also, or simply written in the sand (inside the triangle).

Finally, give the words of enchantment: (toward the moon)
"Goddess of Moon, Earth, and the Sea,
each wish in Thy name must come to be.
Powers and Forces which Tides do make,
now summon Thy waves, my spell to take"

Leave the area now, and the spell is set. Once the waves come, then your wish will be taken out to the Old Ones. It will usually take about 7 days for a Lunar spell to begin to manifest, but can take as long as 28 days.

This type of Magick is what we call "little works", and belongs to the folk-magick level of Witchcraft. There are, of course, much more involved spells, and such. But, I do love the simplistic beauty of a spell like this.

The Spell of the Arrow

This is a very old spell, which incorporates symbols which are placed along the shaft of an arrow. Traditionally this was performed on the shore of a lake, or other calm body of water (such as a Bay). It was necessary to be able to see the "path of the Moon" in the water. This "path" is the reflection of the moon, stretched along the surface of the water.

To perform this spell, you must take a new arrow and place the symbols of your wish/desire along its shaft. Meaningful words or phrases may also be added. When the Moon is full, go to the shore, and face the water. Fix the arrow into your bow and gaze out upon the path of light (which leads to the Moon).

Next, speak the words of enchantment, then release the arrow:
"Where path of Light, to Moon I see,
the powers of the Queen shall be!
Shaft of wood, as shaft of light,
earth to moon, does now give flight!"

The arrow can either be shot out into the path on the water, or upward towards the Moon. The arrow was sacred to Diana, and was considered to carry special powers and blessings, in this type of spell. This is a folk-magick level spell, and speaks of the early Pagan simplicity concerning Magick (more of the Shaman roots). My mother used to say that a ceremonial magician must prepare for Magick, and wait upon the proper time and setting. But a witch can pick up a twig, anywhere, anytime, and work a spell of Magick.

I thought that I would add a couple more basic sea spells, since I still have some room on this post.

  1. To gain favor with the Goddess, form your name with white petals upon the shore, so that the tide will carry them out. This is a very old part of the Janarric Initiation ceremony, which ends with the new Initiate performing this, so that he/she is "introduced" to the God & Goddess, through the naming spell.
  2. To break an "evil" spell (or cure an affliction) form 3 connecting towers out of wet sand, near the shore of the sea. Take 3 dark shells (or spotted shells) and place a symbol of the thing you wish removed, on each. Use a substance which will wash away in the water. Place one of the shells upon the top of each tower. Then simply sit, and focus on the towers as the waves come and break them down. In your mind, see the power of the sea destroying the thing which you desire to remove.

Well, that should give you a basic idea of the Old Ways of Sea Magick, among the Italian Witches of the Coastal Regions.

Of the Full Moon Ritual

The old teachings tell us that the light of the full moon carries an astral substance, which effects our Inner Being (including emotions, rhythms, and subconscious activity). The Full Moon represents the presence of The Goddess, and in ancient times was considered the Goddess Herself. The Holy Strega taught (during the 14th Century) that participation in the Full Moon ritual, brought the people into a concentrated flow of this energy. This saturation of Lunar Emanation could then be directed, allowing it to provide raw energy for Magickal purposes, along with a personal empowerment which could increase physic (and Magickal) abilities.

In the Aridian Tradition, our ritual is designed to collect and concentrate these energies, in the ways which The Holy Strega taught. It is also a time for the worship of Deity. This is usually a combination of chants, songs, and offerings. The ritual also includes a time in which the initiates are directed on an astral journey, through which the old teachings are experienced. Up to 3 works of Magick can be performed during the rite, and this can be for the Community at large, or simply for individuals. The ritual concludes with a remembrance of Aradia (a "toast" in her honor) and the celebration of "cakes and wine".

Much of the old ways of our Tradition have been handed down from the time of The Holy Strega. She left a teaching which came to be called "The Charge". Even in the Public Domain, such writers as Charles Leland (1890's) and Doreen Valiente (1950's & 60's) recorded elements of this very old teaching.

The Charge

"Whenever you have need of anything, once in the month, when the moon is full, gather then in secret and give worship to She who is the Queen of all witches. Gather into the sacred circle, and secrets that are as yet unknown shall be revealed to you. And you shall be free in mind, body, and spirit. And as a sign that you are truly free, you shall be naked in your rites. Then shall you sing, dance, feast, and make music and love. For such pleasures are the rituals of the Goddess. Be true to your beliefs, and keep to the Old Ways beyond all obstacles. For our Ways are the keys to the Mysteries, and the Essence of the Cycles of Return. In life does the Queen of all witches reveal the knowledge of the Spirit. And from Death does She deliver you unto Peace, and renew you once again. In memory of me, shall you eat cakes of grain, wine, salt, and honey. These shall you shape like the Moon. Then shall you bless them in my name, and partake of them within your sacred gatherings. For I am the Spirit of all Witches. Unto all who observe the appointed times, will the Queen of Heaven give power. And you shall know success in love, and have power to bless and to consecrate. And you shall know the tongue of the spirits, obtain knowledge of things which are hidden, and call forth spirits from the Mist. You shall know the Voice of the Wind, and the knowledge of changing forms. To you shall secret signs be revealed, and you shall possess power to heal. Wild beasts shall know you, and cause you no harm. As it was in the Time of our beginning, so is it now, so shall it be.”

This is taken from the Book of the Holy Strega. Portions of it were written into Charles Leland's works (1894) and a version of it was written by Doreen Valiente (1950's-60's), based on the works of Leland's study of Italian Witchcraft.

Aradia (not to be confused with Charles Leland's distorted version) was born in Italy during the 14th Century and came to be a great Teacher (of The Old Religion). She was responsible for the 14th Century "revival" of Witchcraft, as noted by the Italian Inquisitor Bernardo Rategno in his text Tractatus de Strigibus (written in 1508 C.E.). Here he records that the "witches sect" had begun to expand rapidly, some 150 years prior. Research material published in 1887 records an interesting Legend, which we believe has preserved the story of Aradia:
There was once a young woman from the town of Volterrra who "traveled far and wide, teaching and preaching the religion of old times, the religion of Diana, the Queen of the Fairies and of the Moon, the Goddess of the poor and the Oppressed — and the fame of her wisdom and beauty went forth over all the land, and people worshiped her, calling her La Bella Pellegrina (the beautiful Pilgrim)."

Aradia taught the old pre-Christian Religion of Nature worship, and Magick. But above all she taught a Spirituality. Beyond this, she gave hope to peasants whose lives were made miserable in service to the Wealthy. She taught them personal power, and personal value, in an Age when the Church taught them shame and sin, and servitude. Aradia returned their pagan heritage to them, a heritage preserved in secret by courageous Priests and Priestesses of The Old Religion.

Today, we call her The Holy Strega.

Concerning Nature

"Nature is the Great Teacher. In Her are all things revealed. Nature reflects the Higher Ways of Spirit. The Creators established the Laws of Nature so that through them we might come to know the Laws of the Great Ones. Therefore, observe the ways of Nature around you, both great and small. Everything has purpose and reason. Be not confused by its seeming cruelty, for there is a duality in all things.

Respect Nature in all ways. Take only that which you must, from her, and remember nothing may be taken except that something be given (in return). This is the Law for all Witches.

Know that the wind speaks of the knowledge of the Earth, and the spirit of the kindredness of all living things emanates from everywhere. Nature teaches all living things, all that must be known. She teaches birds to make their nests, and animals to hunt, and to survive. She teaches children to crawl, and to walk. She teaches Life.

Once She taught all people of Her ways, but they chose to go their own way. They chose to oppose Her, and to control Her. But for witches there can be no other way than Nature. A witch must live in Harmony with the Forces of Nature".

(reprinted from The Book of the Holy Strega)

Concerning the Goddess

The Goddess is the Life Force, in as much as She is the Fertility in all things. It is through Her activity that we are born, and that seeds push up through the earth, and grow into plants. She moves the God to create through His desire for Her. The Goddess is the Joy of Life, She is the passion to live. Compassion, love, gentleness, and kindness are the Essence of Her Spirit. All women carry the Goddess within, in various aspects and degrees.

Yet, there is a duality in all things, and the Goddess can manifest as sterility, vengeance, and destruction. She is the Soul of Nature.

The Goddess rules the Night, and the Moon is Her sacred symbol. All women are linked to Her through the Moon, which influences the flow of blood. The night is the essence of the mystery which all women possess. This is the elusive quality which all women bear, but can never be known, or touched upon. The desire of men for women, is the desire of God for Goddess. It is the attraction of the Life Force.

The Goddess is known as the Queen of Heaven. She is clothed in the stars, and wears the Moon as a Crown. She is the Earth Mother, clothed in green, and endowed with large breasts which rise as rounded hills rise, beyond the lush green meadows. She is pregnant with the Child of Life, which She bears each year. She is the Virgin Maiden, naked and beautiful. She is youth and the lust for life. She is the Enchantress, and Temptress. She is all women. The Goddess does not accept live sacrifice, as was known in ancient times. She is the Goddess of Life, and all living things. She demands respect for Life. If you give offerings in Her honor, then better it be of fruits or grains, or things of beauty (for these things pass life on).

The Goddess is the Queen of all witches, who She calls Her Hidden Children. We are Her servants, She is not ours. She gives us Life and receives us in the Afterworld. She teaches us the ways of Nature, and Spirit. She gives us power and Magick. She reveals all mysteries, and gives light to the darkness. And to the Wise, She imparts Her sacred name.

Concerning the God

The God is known as the stern and demanding aspect of Divinity. Yet this is only an aspect of His Nature. He is perceived as the Death Force, which Transforms. He is Lord of the Afterworld, who restores and renews the soul, which is prepared for a new life. This is performed through the union of the God and Goddess.

Yet, there is a duality in all things, and the God is also Vitality and Strength. He is the Sun, the Lord of Light. He can give Life or Death, through His activity. The God is the desire to create, dwelling in that state prior to creation. Through the attraction of the Goddess, He is moved to create.

He is Lord of the Heavens, clothed in the Sun, and bearing a golden rod. He is Lord of the earth, horned like a stag, and powerful. He is the Lord of the Afterworld, dark and lonely, stern, and Just. For His are the two faces of Janus. Through Him is order established and discipline mastered. He is the inner strength of the individual. He is the essence of strength and defense.

Yet, He is also the warrior, and the destroyer. He is Power and Will. All men bear His essence, in various aspects and degrees. He is all men.

There is a side of the God, which can be seen by those who desire to love Him. It is a gentleness, a compassion, and an understanding. This comes from His awareness of His Strength and Power. His compassion is born of His understanding of Justice. His nobility can be seen in the soaring of a hawk, or in the beauty of a great Stag keeping watch over his herd.

The God is sexual desire and virility within the male. He is attraction, sensuality, and sexuality. He is physical nature, just as the Goddess is spiritual nature.

In death, He is the comforter, and the renewer. He is the Great Initiator, and Teacher. He rules the Afterworld, and dispels the darkness with His presence. He is the illuminator, and reveals all that is hidden. He scatters all falsehoods, and establishes Truth.

The Lasa and the Lare

In the Aridian Tradition, the Lasa are an Elven or Fay Race. They are the spirits of The Old Religion. The Lare (lar-ray) are the spirits of the Witch Clan (a type of ancestral spirit). I would not say that the Lare represent the next level for the Human Soul, but it is possible that one may serve as a Lare (for a time) following the Death experience. According to the Teachings, when our physical bodies die, our soul dwells in the Realm of Luna, while preparing for the next life. During this time, it is possible that the soul may serve the needs of those souls still dwelling upon the Earth, as one of the Lare.

The Teachings tell us that our soul will either be prepared for another physical body, or for a body of Light, depending upon our evolution as a spiritual Being. There are four possible bodies, in which the Soul may exist. The Physical, Lunar, Solar, and Stellar. Each represents a stage of advancement, and corresponds to one of the Four Worlds, which comprise Existence (as we understand it).

It is a bit complicated to go into here, but the Lasa are connected to the Witch Clan, and many witches were once of the Lasa Race, prior to being born Human. This is where the "Fairy Godmother" concept originated. It is a remnant of the old teaching, in which the Witch Clans are related to the old Fay Race, and have contact with them through a Fay Guardian (or Fairy Godmother). This is why many witches are born into Witch Clans, with their psychic abilities already functioning (makes training a great deal easier).

Preservation of the Old Ways

It is one of our Laws, within the Aridian Tradition, that nothing may ever be deleted from any ritual or oral teaching. Material may be added to a ritual, or an oral teaching may be expanded, but nothing of the original may ever be removed. Because situations change with time, the Laws do allow us to add and adapt, as needs be. When looking over the material, it is easy to see the different Time Periods, and needs of the people, reflected in the rituals and Teachings.

Therefore, when you look at the Aridian Material, you will see things which reflect the days of hunting, and the days of planting & harvesting. Everything from Hunting Magick, to blessing seeds and fields, still exist in our ritual material. This current Era we live in, will leave information regarding Aids and other concerns of our People, imprinted upon our rituals, down to the Generations which will follow us. Each addition is marked with a symbol, so that it is clear what was added, so that a History of the adaptations may be discerned.

Because we believe in a living connection with our ancestors, we still perform those aspects of the rituals, which may seem out of place to us. Many of us no longer Hunt or plow fields for planting, or copulate in the fresh furrows to encourage an abundant crop. But these rites are still preserved, and we adapt them to our modern needs. For despite our so-called progress as a Race, our basic needs are still the same: Food, Shelter, Safety, Sex, Family, Love, and Purpose.

So, the ritual for an abundant crop is performed for the abundance which our own labors may bring. Fertility rites are performed for our own Family needs, and to return the Essence of Fertility back into a dying World. Because our World is so overcrowded, many Systems feel that Fertility Rites are obsolete. What they do not understand is that it was part of the ancient rites to help "empower" the soil and the plant & animal Life with the condensed energy of Fertility raised within a Circle of Magick. The personal fertility of the Clan, was secondary. Unfortunately, many modern groups have removed all of the sexual energy producing aspects from the rituals, and replaced them with symbolic gestures. While this may appeal to the intellect, and ease personal sexual inhibitions, it does not serve Nature. Because of Judaic-Christian condemnations, many modern groups have abandoned the old Ways of the Nature Religion, and profess a non-sexuality regarding this ancient Fertility Cult. In the Aridian Tradition we do not apologize for preserving our Heritage, and we are proud of the differences between us and Judaic-Christian groups. We have adapted the sexual aspects, to our modern society (and modern concerns regarding sexual issues) but they are still quite plainly visible within the ritual material.

It is a challenge to preserve the old Traditions, and yet to adapt to modern circumstances, without compromising the integrity of either.

"Common Cause" with Nature

My Mother is very Old World, having been raised in a small village near Naples. When I was a child she used to tell me that our People have always performed the Rites which cause the Sun and the Moon to return as they do, and the Seasons to return each year. She used to say that if we were to stop, then the World would die. But, she would add, there will always be at least one person, who will maintain the Ways which give Life to our World. I do not know if she believed this literally, but as an adult now, I truly understand what she was saying, on a metaphysical level.

It is the purpose of our yearly rites, to give energy back into the World. Just as soil is depleted by crop growing, and the fields must be rotated, so too is the etheric substance depleted, which empowers the mechanism of "Life-giving" on this Planet of ours. For example, at the Summer Solstice, it is part of our ritual to raise an energy field, and to "impregnate" it with a "formed thought". Once this "cone of power" is formed, then it is released and directed into the "Bound Ether" of our Community. The cone can be charged to disperse pollution in the air, or to rid the "Community Atmosphere" of negativity (crimes, gangs, rapes, etc.) or to replace lost fertility within the soil, and so on. In this way, we join in the dance of Nature, and make Common Cause with Her efforts to maintain life-giving energies. Each of the eight rites of the year, serve a similar purpose, and contribute to that which is appropriate at any giving Season of the year. The Full Moon rituals, are likewise times of renewal. There is an occult property to Moonlight itself, and if properly drawn, condensed, impregnated, and directed, it too can be used to give Life back into the World. Another purpose for the Rite of the Full Moon is to empower us, as witches. Moonlight can be used to increase psychic ability, and to recharge the power centers of an individual. It is from Moonlight, that we as witches, draw our power. Science is beginning to catch up a bit now, with the ancient knowledge of Witches, and is taking a look at the effects of the Moon upon us, and upon our World. Soon, I think, Science will begin to see that the Occult Teachings of the Craft, are a Metaphysical Science as valid as Physical Science.

The "bound ether" of our Planet is what Eastern Mystics call "Akasha" (wherein you have the Akashic Records). There is also the microcosm of the bound ether of a Community, such as a City or Village. It is the energy "atmosphere" which is formed by the Collective Consciousness, of the people who live there. All places possess this bound Ether, even Bars and Nightclubs, etc. You can "feel" it when you enter in. It effects the people who come into contact with it, and over long periods of time, can change the way they look at things. It is the bound ether of a place which holds the images, which psychics can perceive about that place.

It is part of the work we do, as Witches, to cleanse this Ether of negative thought-forms. Witches have always been the local healers, not only of the people there, but also of the places themselves. Ritual Magick can change the "vibration" of the bound ether, and thus change it's "feel", and thus it's effect.

Tools & Paraphernalia of La Vecchia

The oldest tool of Italian Witchcraft is the Moon Bowl. This is a large shell, used in conjunction with nine small shells, as a tool of Invocation. I have spoken of this on other notes. The next tool to be used was the Wand, which we associate with the element of air. This is because the branches of a tree stretch up into the sky, and birds nest in them. The next tool after this was the pentacle. It was originally an oval rock, thin and smooth, usually obtained from the coastline where it had been reformed by the Ocean waves. Later this was made of clay, and marked with a five pointed, upright, star. This tool represents earth, since it was taken from the soil. Following this was the ritual dagger, which we call the Spirit Blade. This dagger is associated with the element of fire, from which it's metal was forged. Last in the line of the older tools, was the Chalice, which was originally a gourd. This tool represents the element of water. From the time of the Middle Ages came the more modern of the tools, which are the Spirit Bowl, and the Sword. The spirit bowl actually evolved out of the Moon Bowl, and is used more frequently than it's predecessor. It contains a liquid which burns a blue flame, and is used to represent the presence of Deity within the Ritual Circle. The Sword is a tool of the Guardian, but is sometimes used by the High Priest.

The proper ritual circle of the Aridian Tradition measures nine paces in all directions, from the center of circle. Directly on the center point, the altar is placed, and arranged in orientation to the North. We use a black altar cloth, and we wear black hooded robes. Black is used for two reasons. On a Metaphysical level, black absorbs light and therefore we draw light into ourselves, and retain it. The second reason is that it is easier to hide at night when you are all in black. During the time of the Inquisition, at the first sign of danger, witches would extinguish all lights, pull up their hoods, draw their hands into the large sleeves of their robes, and seemingly "vanish" right before the eyes of the Christian spies.

The Broomstick is rarely used in the Aridian Tradition, but does appear at the "Handfasting" Ceremony, and certain rites of purification. It can also serve as a symbol of the goddess, when turned upside down. This is done when there are too few women to take up all of the ritual actors needed for the Ceremony. The Skull & Cross bones are another ancient tool, rarely used now, but once symbolized the God, in the same manner as the Broom was employed for the Goddess. These things remain written in the ritual material in order to preserve our Heritage (nothing is forgotten, nothing is ever forgotten). When you go back far enough into our History, as a Race, you will find Human Sacrifice. This was replaced by Animal Sacrifice, which itself was later replaced by Plant Sacrifice. However you wish to view that, it is simply the story of the Human Race. Remnants of the Plant Sacrifice can still be found in such things as the eating of Cakes, and drinking of Wine, at the close of Ritual. The Slain God is still consumed as this sacred meal to this very day. This is not unlike the Christian tradition of the Communion Wafer.

The written material of La Vecchia is recorded in a Book, which we call, The Book of Ways. It is divided into three sections: Ways, Calls, and Magick. "Ways" contains all of the ritual instructions, laws, and Community Rites such as the Blessings of a Child, Marriage Rite, Ceremony for the Dead, Rites of Initiation, and so on. "Ways" also contains a record of our People, and the teachings concerning our practices, as well as material concerning the Goddess and the God. "Calls" contains all of the chants, invocations, hand gestures, ritual postures, face painting designs of the Clan, and other "secret signs". "Magick" contains all of the spells, works for Magick, herbal lore, Magickal correspondences, healing knowledge, potions, recipes for oil and incense, and so forth.

Each initiate is required to copy from the Book of Ways, those portions which pertain to her or his degree of Initiation. This is overseen by the Initiator, because the Book of Ways is divided up into separate Degree Knowledge. In the First Degree, a member will begin to acquire their ritual set of tools. The only things which they receive at their initiation are a colored length of cord, symbolizing their degree, a symbol representing their degree, and the mark of the Clan which is painted upon their body.

Each degree has a different colored cord, which is linked to the Mythos of the Clan. The cord itself, in part, is a remnant of the bonds which once held the Sacrificial King, of the Slain God Mythos. Each degree also has a hand gesture of identification. There is also a hand gesture which identifies you as a witch. These come from the time of the Inquisition.

Ramblings on the Aridian Tradition

In the Aridian Tradition, we begin the new year with the ritual of Shadowfest (Oct. 31). The calendar which we use today, is off by a few days from the old calendar, so I am using the dates most commonly associated with the rites of Treguenda. This is the time of Shadows, of beginnings lurking in the mists of pro-creation. The wheel of the year starts here, and moves on through the remaining seven Treguenda. We divide the year up into a period of "rule" by both the High Priestess and the High Priest, who represent their respective Deity counterparts. The High Priest "rules" from Oct. 31st until May 1st. Then he passes the "power" on to the High Priestess who rules from May 1st until Oct. 31st. These periods we call the "God Months" and the "Goddess Months". During the God Months we wear hooded robes within the Circle. During the Goddess Months we are "naked in our rites". Each of the Treguenda are marked by a Myth, which is acted out in ritual drama, during the rite. At Shadowfest, the Legend of the Descent is performed. This is balanced at the Spring Equinox, when the Legend of the Ascent is performed.

Our Full Moon Ceremonies are the same throughout the year, regardless of whether it is a Goddess Month, or a God Month. The only difference would be the wearing of a robe, or being nude (or Skyclad as Wiccans say), which is determined by the Season.

In the Aridian Tradition we perceive the Goddess and the God, to be equal (yet different) aspects of the One Great Spirit. We believe in Harmony, and do not exalt one above the other.

We have three stages, or degrees of learning. Each requires the mastery of certain aspects of The Old Religion, and the copying of material from the Book of Ways. We do not have the Wiccan "year and a day" aspect, but watch our initiates, and judge when they are ready to advance. An initiate may come forward on their own, and request to be considered for advancement, and then will be tested to see if he or she has met the conditions of advance-men. We have found that some people are ready in a year, and others are not. But, each person is given an outline of what they must do to complete their Degree. When this is accomplished, then we sit down with them, and make a decision.

The Benandanti

There is an interesting book, written by an Italian Professor (Medieval Italian History) named Carlo Ginzburg, the title of which is Night Battles (available in English). Based on official Inquisition archives from the 16th & 17th centuries, this is a unique study of an isolated Italian peasant culture deeply rooted in early European Fertility Cults. It deals with a group of witches who called themselves the Benandanti (good walkers). On four ritual occasions of the year, they battled with the Malandanti (evil walkers) in a conflict over the Crops. This Cult was first discovered by the Church in 1575. At first the Benandanti insisted that they went out in the service of Christ, but later admitted to being a Witch Cult. One of the Inquisitors recorded the following "confession": " I am a benandante because I go with the others to fight four times a year, that is during the Ember Days, at night; I go invisibly in spirit and the body remains behind; we go forth in the service of Christ, and the witches of the devil; we fight each other, we with bundles of fennel and they with sorghum stalks — in the fighting that we do, one time we fight over the wheat and all the other grains, another time over livestock, and at other times over the vineyards. And so, on four occasions we fight over all the fruits of the earth and for those things won by the Benandanti that year there is abundance".

It is interesting to note the reference to astral travel and the protection (behind the scenes) of the Crops and Livestock.

In Italy there was a split in the Witch Cult, shortly after the Inquisition began. Most witches went "underground" but some decided to fight the Christians on their own terms. They invoked the "Devil" of the Christians as a power which the Christians seemed to fear. This was the origin of the Satanic Cult in Italy. This is why many of the symbols, and tools, of Witchcraft and Satanism resemble each other. Because the Church was becoming wealthy over owner of land, and many peasants were serving as farming labor, the Malandanti chose this as their battleground. The Benandanti fought to protect the Crops, which was the only way peasants had of sustaining themselves.

If you're interested in this curious sub-cult of Italian Witchcraft, you might want to check out Ginzburg's Night Battles. He also has a book out now called Ecstasies, deciphering the witches sabbat. This is an in-depth look at the shamanistic roots of Italian Witchcraft. Remember though, that the record of these things comes from the Inquisition, and you have to be able to look at what they are saying, from a pagan's viewpoint (in other words, turn everything around, and delete the references to the Devil).

The God & Goddess

In the Aridian Tradition we have many goddesses and gods, but there is a major God and Goddess, who are the central focus of the System. La Vecchia is a lunar Cult, and as such it is only natural that the Goddess is divided up into four aspects, one for each phase of the Moon. Thus we have the Chaste Maiden (new moon), the Temptress/Enchantress (first quarter moon), the Mother (Full Moon) and the Crone (last quarter moon). The Dianic Tradition did away with the Temptress aspect because of it's association with men, and from this arose the Triad aspects of the Goddess, common today among Wiccan Systems. The Temptress is simply that stage between Maiden and Mother, in which a women becomes aware of her influence over men, and her "power" to draw them into acts of pro-creation. Without the Temptress, there would be no Mother. The God is also divided into aspects, of which there are three. He is the Horned One, the Hooded One, and the Old One. These aspects actually preserve the story of the evolution of The Old Religion, from the Hunter Gatherer Era into the Agricultural Community Era. The Horned One is the Stag God of the Forest. He comes from the time of the Hunter. The Hooded One is the Green Man (he who is hooded-in-the-green). He comes from the time in which Humankind was learning to grow crops, and came to rely less and less upon wild beasts for food. The Hooded One eventually replaced the Horned One, as the symbol of the Slain God. Because he came after the Stag God, we say that the Hooded One is the son of the Stag God. As Humans matured in their spirituality, they eventually came to view the God in a more Human Image, and thus emerged the Old One concept (Deity in Human Form).

The Stag God is the consort of the Temptress, for he is the base sexual nature (among other things). In his domesticated form he is the goat (and from this mythos, arose the Christian idea that witches copulated with goats) The Hooded One is the Consort of the Mother, as he represents the seed, which is planted in the Goddess, and he is the ripe pod, bearer of the seeds. The Old One is the consort of the Crone (symbols of wisdom and maturity). The Chaste Maiden has no Consort (and therefore is Chaste).

This is an aspect of the Aridian Tradition which I did not intend to go into, when I first decided to post notes. I usually speak of the Clan Aspects of the Goddess: Fana, Jana, and Tana. And of the God as: Faunus, Janus, and Tanus. These were the names which the Triad Clans had chosen as their respective God and Goddess Images, within their Mystery Tradition (Earth, Lunar and Stellar). The names which Aradia used in the 14th Century were Diana and Dianus. When the Clans were forced to scatter during the time of the Inquisition, they chose these other names of the Deities who were generally connected with the Mystery Tradition which the respective Clan was seeking to preserve.

To further confuse you, it might be of interest to note that, in the Aridian Tradition, the waxing Year is represented by the Stag God, and the Waning Year is represented by the Wolf God. The Stag god is called Cern/Kern (no, not Herne, different Land and different Mythos) and the Wolf God is called Lupercus.

When viewed as a whole, the Tradition appears to be more closely linked with Etruscan influences, than with anything else. The Roman influence is clearly visible as well. As to Greek influence, there is the classical myth of Orestes and Iphigenia. According to this, Orestes fled Greece with his sister, after having been accused of the murder of a provincial King. Iphigenia had been a Priestess of Artemis/Diana, and together with Orestes established a Grove at Nemi Italy, in honor of the Goddess. Since we know that myths generally contain a seed of truth, we must consider a Greek contact, at the very least.

Aradia herself was a Tuscan witch, and brought the Tradition south with her, to the Alban Hills region of Nemi. Whether she brought it "home" to Nemi, or encountered a kindred Cult worship there, I suppose could make an interesting debate. There is nothing in our Family Lore to suggest that it came from outside of Italy, however. It seems to have always been the belief, in our Tradition, that our roots are deeply Tuscan. Legend says that our Clans were once in central and southern Italy as well, but had originally come from Northern Italy.

Essentially, from what my own research has brought to light, I feel that the strongest current flows back to Etruscan times. For example, the oldest name of the Goddess in our Tradition is Uni, and the oldest God name is Tagni. These are clearly Etruscan names. Also, the Stag God and the Wolf God are central figures in the Aridian Tradition and Etruscan vase paintings portray a Goddess holding up a Stag and a Wolf, one in each hand. We believe this portrays part of our Mythos.

Tana & Tanus

(reprinted from The Book of the Holy Strega)

Tana (Tah-nah) is the sacred name of the Great Goddess, She who is all Goddesses. Upon the earth She is known as Fana, in the heavens She is Jana (the Moon), and in the Universe She is Tana (containing all things). Lakes, hills, streams and beaches are sacred places to Tana. Her sacred animals are dogs, owls, and cats. Tana is all that is Feminine. She is total Beauty and Love. She is the Divine Lover, Enchantress, Temptress, Mother, and Crone.

Tanus (Tah-nuss) is the Great God, who is all Gods. On the earth, he is Fanus, in the heavens he is Janus (the sun) and in the Universe he is Tanus. All mountains are sacred to Him. His sacred animals are horses, wolves, woodpeckers, and ravens. Tanus is all that is masculine. He is Strength and Will. He is the power of Fertility (shared with Tana) and the desire behind all of Creation.

Tana is the balance to Tanus, and He is the balance to her. Without Tana, the God would be a judge without compassion. He would be stern without understanding. He would control without loving.

Without Tanus, the Goddess would have compassion without direction, understanding without foundation, and love without form.

The God & Goddess complete each other, and together they are the Source of All Things.

These teachings, which appeared in The Book of the Holy Strega, are meant to reflect the concept of Deity, as One Source (The Great Spirit) separated into masculine and feminine polarities. Each aspect is then further broken down into base qualities or aspects (appearing as lesser gods and goddesses). To the ancients it made more sense to personify the concept of Deity into Beings, similar to Humans, but greater in power, and immortal.

Herbs of Italian Witchcraft

Though there are many different herbs employed in the religious, and Magickal, aspects of La Vecchia, there are a few which hold special importance. These are the herbs called: Rue, Fennel, Pennyroyal, and Rosemary. There is an old Italian Witch Charm, called the Cimaruta (meaning a sprig of rue) which was once worn as a sign of membership in the Witch Cult. There is a picture of one in Doreen Valiente's book (An ABC of Witchcraft & Present). Rue is so deeply connected to Witchlore, that it appears in many different aspects of the Tradition. It is a healing plant, and a Magickal plant. Rue bears yellow flowers in the shape of a pentagram, against a lush green foliage. It is a symbol of the God in the mythos/mysteries and appears in several of the Treguenda. Fennel is a plant associated with protection. It's long stalks (up to six or seven feet) were used as ritual staffs, at such rites as mid-summer, to "fight off" evil and protect the Crops from spirits of destruction. In ritual drama, witches would battle evil spirits in a war to ensure a bountiful crop. Pennyroyal has been used as an herb of initiation, even in the early public Roman Tradition. It is one of the ingredients in the oil of Initiation, used in the Aridian Tradition. Rosemary was used in the early Marriage Rites, and also in the Rites for the Dead. It was associated with Love and with Death. It is also used in an oil employed in Past life Recall, as rosemary is also called the Herb of Memory. Please note that I am using the word "was" to denote it's connection with the Past, and not to imply that those associations are no longer practiced, because they are indeed.

Pennyroyal and sage are among your best choices for "purification of the spirit", although in some Systems one might suggest Hyssop or Angelica. There are several ways to employ pennyroyal and sage, for purification. Usually the setting is smoked with a small bundle of sage, or you may simply drop some dried sage upon a hot charcoal block. The pennyroyal can be used either as a tea, or some leaves can be placed in a bowl of hot water, or added to a bath. It is also useful when drank with wine. Herbs of the mint family are great herbs of purification, for the spirit.

Physical purification of the body, is best done with Comfrey and Sassafras (avoid long term use of these herbs as a tea, as they can be hard on the liver and other organs, if used often). There are many other good herbs which serve as tonics and cleansers, and you may want to consult a good herbal book. I like A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve and Mastering Herbalism by Paul Huson.

If you want to try the pennyroyal and sage, then use them together, that is, at the same setting. Use the sage as a smoke of purification (just a few dry leaves at a time). The pennyroyal can be added to your bath, as you sit in the hot water, and relax. In this case, you would use fresh leaves, cut up into halves (six leaves for solar associations, nine leaves for lunar). Or you may simply wish to add an extract of pennyroyal to some wine, in a ceremonial setting (in which case you would add three drops). The System which you follow would, of course, provide the manner in which you would proceed with the cleansing, in a "religious" sense.

Herbs in Magick and Ritual

Today there are many books which will tell you that if you put a sprig of this in your shoe, or a bag of that under your pillow, then such & such will happen. This is what many popular authors will tell you is an herbal spell, but it is actually folk Magick/superstition (and much of it is nonsense). Herbs work in Magick and ritual for a variety of reasons, based upon Occult concepts or physical properties.

Ancient witches started with the seed and worked with the plant as it grew. The plant was established and raised as a type of "familiar spirit". In the Italian Tradition, there is a teaching that all things have within them a "numen". A numen is a consciousness, or power, dwelling within an object. You might say that it is the divine spark of the Creators within their Creations. Some Systems refer to this as "Mana". Numen can be amplified within an object through Magick, and the numen spirit can be "contacted", and enlisted in the art of spell casting, etc. This is why ancient Grimoires were very specific concerning the planting and harvesting of herbs, and other plants.

Once dealt with properly, the power of the numen can be carried along in the various parts of the plant. This empowers the herb. The ancients also taught that plants were under the power of certain planets, and set up a table of correspondences. In the art of Magick, it is clear that there are energy imprints left within the electromagnetic make-up of all living organisms, caused by emanations from the Moon, and the planets of our solar system. Some plants such as the Sunflower and the Moonflower, were given their associations to their respect planetary bodies due to the fact that they physically change position, as they "follow" the Sunlight/Moonlight with a turning of their flowers.

Other plants were associated with Venus due to their heart shaped leaves; Mars due to their chemical natures (peppers, tobacco, etc), and so on.

Herbs are also employed for their natural drug properties, in Magick and ritual. Some cause Magickal states of consciousness either through ingestion or inhalation, and this can aid in the casting or spells, or in other works of Magick.

Various herbs were associated with a certain Goddess, God, or Spirit. These herbs were then offered up as incense to "attract" them to the work at hand. The ancients taught that prayers or requests were carried upon the smoke of the incense. So what better way to be "heard" by the gods, than to send your words upward upon the scent of their favorite plant!

Plants also became associated with the gods, or with mythic heroes/heroines, through their appearance in the Myths. In most cases the plant somehow resembled the nature of the Character in the Myth, and later came to represent that character in ritual settings. This is typical of various grains, evergreens, and so forth. All having something of the nature of the Goddess, God, or Spirit concerned.

There is a book out called Celebrating Italy by Carol Field which is actually a cookbook, but contains a lot of info on Seasonal Festival meals, and religious associations of various foods. It's a great book.

Certain grains appear in various meals, and do have connections with old Witch Lore. One of the blessings of the meal at a Treguenda, addresses this:
"Blessings upon this meal, which is as our own body. For without this, we ourselves would perish from this world. Blessings upon the grain, who as seed went into the earth where deep secrets hide. And there did dance with the elements, and spring forth as flowered plant, concealing secrets strange. When you were in the ear of grain, spirits of the field came to cast their light upon you, and aid you in your growth — thus through you I shall be touched by that same Race, and the mysteries hidden within you, I shall obtain, even unto the last of these grains."

The Old Religion

The Old Religion is a pre-Christian European Religion, which is founded upon reverence for Nature, and the worship of Deity through ritual observation of the Seasons, and the phases of the Moon. It is not a worship of these things, but a worship of Deity through these things. It is believed that through a continuous participation in the rituals of the year, that a person becomes "attuned" to the energies of Nature, and begins to merge with Her (so that Her Ways, become our Ways). It is through this attunement, that one gains certain abilities, such as Divinatory skills, psychic awareness, and so on. People who practice this religion refer to themselves as Witches, Wiccans, or Pagans.

It is through this growing awareness, as one practices the Old Ways, that a special rapport begins to develop between the practitioner, and his or her own understanding of Deity. For Witches, this Deity is conceived of as a Goddess and a God (the Feminine & Masculine aspects of the Source of All Things).

The ritual celebrations consist of 8 yearly Festivals, as well as monthly gatherings at the time of the Full Moon. These 8 rituals are often referred to as the Wheel of the Year.

The purpose of the Religion is to teach the soul how to evolve to a higher realm, by revealing the Ways of Nature. Since Nature is a reflection of the Spiritual Laws which established it, a study of its secrets can enlighten the soul, and thus prepare it for a higher existence (freeing it from the cycle of reincarnation). The purpose of the Old Religion is also to give due worship to the Great Spirit, to ensure the Fertility of the Earth, and to create & maintain Balance and Harmony, within the bound Ether of this physical dimension.

The Old Religion teaches personal power and personal empowerment. It also teaches personal responsibility, and reveals that everything is connected together. It is like a web, the threads of which are joined together. Any vibration causes a reaction, felt by every other thread.

It is from this Law of Cause and Effect, Action and Reaction, that the code of Ethics for witches arise.

Code of Ethics

A Witch lives by a code of ethics which is built upon the Laws of Nature. Our behavior is not regulated by a fear of what awaits us in the Afterlife, but a respect for what awaits us in this Life. Everything, and everyone, is connected. What we do to one another, and to our World, we do to ourselves.

The Holy Strega spoke of this when she said:
"Every act which you perform will draw to itself three times the nature of the act. Such is the Law. This affects not only the acts of each day, but reaches into the Future as well. Here the Law establishes those debts which must be paid. Therefore, consider well your actions. Nothing escapes the Law, nor is hidden from it. The Law does not punish or reward. It only returns the intent of each action to its origin. If you step off from a high place, you will fall, and this is consistent. There is no intent, there is nothing good or evil. It may be good to leap upon your enemy from a high place, and surprise him, or it may be bad to fall and be injured. But the nature of the descent itself is only a Law. So too is the nature of the Law of Return."

This teaching is similar to the Wiccan Rede of "and as it harm none, do as thou wilt". The Rede is often misunderstood to mean do whatever you want, as long as you don't harm anyone in the meantime. This is not what it is addressing. It is addressing the issue that each person must seek out their True Will (the Nature of their Higher Self). By doing so, one is attuned to the "Spiritual Plan" which has been established for them (or by them, depending upon your view). Once so attuned, no one can be harmed by your actions, because you are following a Spiritual Plan, of which they themselves are also a part. This is the understanding of the connectiveness of all things, and of the Law of Return (and Intent). We were not meant to simply wander about doing whatever seems right, without regard to a goal, and the impact of that goal. We have a responsibility to ourselves, and to each other.

Dear Raven,
I agree entirely with your interpretation of the Witches' Rede. It's a point I have been trying to make in many notes to this board. "An it harm none" is simply a warning preface, not a "Thou shalt not," as many seem to interpret it. Whereas "Do what you will" is a positive injunction: Thou shalt do what thou wilt. Some people on the board say we are right to over-emphasize "harming none" because of the many novices who want to cast love or revenge spells and do not understand the concept of True Will. I say that's all the more reason to start them early working on understanding and discovering their True Wills. I've been a Pagan for 20 years, and still can't say I fully understand the concept of True Will. By the way, does your use of the term "True Will" come ultimately from Crowley? Obviously the concept itself pre-dates him by centuries, but what about the actual term?

Dear Jana,
I've been thinking about what "do what thou will" really means for some time now. When I first heard the rede I assumed it meant, like a lot of people, that it means do whatever you want as long as it harms none. But after reading your interpretation as "do what thou Will" meaning to follow one's True Will and after other readings that were not necessarily Pagan, I see True Will as meaning to live in tune with one's inner self regardless of what society, parents and religion expects of one. Sort of like "follow your bliss", though that phrase is over worked these days. Discovering one's True Will is difficult because you have to peel through all the layers of socialization. I don't mean that one has to live outside the bounds of society, but one has to go one's own way and still be a socially responsible person. Another catch phrase is "march to the beat of a different drum". I'm still working this meaning out so these thoughts may not be fully formed yet.

Dear Jana,
Whenever I come across this phrase "True Will", I do think of Crowley. Definitely did when I saw Gardner's use of it (he had a fairly liberal sprinkling of Crowley in his Wicca stew). The term as I use it, does originate with Crowley. It's easier, and everyone is using it, so it's a common point of reference. But the concept is much older than Crowley, of course, and it's not exactly the same concept as his. I tend to avoid phrases and terms from my Tradition (for the most part), on this board, because it would take up too much time and space, just getting it all clear. Would much rather spend the time getting the info out, and trying to preserve some of the Old Teachings. I feel a bit like Johnny Appleseed.
Blessings to you — Raven

Nature as the Teacher

Nature is considered to be the Great Teacher. The Ancients taught that the "Creators" placed into the fabric of Creation, a reflection of that which created it. Therefore, the laws of Nature are reflections of Divine Laws or Principles, which operate in a dimension behind and above those of physical Nature. Thus, the Ancients coined the phrase "as above, so below". This means that that which is below, is (in essence) like that which is above.

Studying the Ways of Nature gives us a glimpse (crude though it may be) of the Divine Ways, and from these we see the returning of the Seasons (reincarnation) and the laws of Cause & Effect (Karma) concerning the use (and misuse) of the Earth's land, air, resources, and living creatures. The ways of the "Gods" are imprinted upon the Ways of Nature. Understanding Nature, allows one to begin to understand the Creators.

One of the reasons for the Seasonal Rituals is to saturate us, and harmonize us, with the focused Essence of Nature at these appointed times. Properly cast ritual circles serve to attract and condense these energies, so that we are "bathed" in them. The more that we gather at these times of Nature's energy flow, the more we become like Nature, and when we become more like "Her", it is easier to understand "Her", and "Her " Ways.

This is why the Ways of the Old Religion are fashioned according to the Ways of Nature. Everything from the ritual circle construction, to the way we move within it, to the way in which we create Magick (cast spells, etc) are all modeled after the principles of Nature. This is where the term Occult Sciences comes from. It is not hocus-pocus, it is Metaphysical Science.

This is why it is also quite difficult to simply make something up, and call it a Tradition (although this is exactly what many people do).

The Art of Magick

One of the major attractions to Witchcraft, for the beginner, is often the practice of Magick. Just as there are many misconceptions about Witchcraft, there are also many concerning the art of Magick (or Magick itself). True Magick is the ability to bring about the manifestation of personal (or Group) desire. This is accomplished by ones ability to collect, focus, and direct enough "raw" energy with which to create the desired manifestation. There are many different ways of working Magick, and many different aspects of Magick. Basically speaking, however, most types of Magick will fall into one of two methods, and these are called "raised" or "drawn". Raised energy, is that which emanates from the body and/or mental sphere, of the person. Drawn energy is that which is attracted in from other Realms by ritual means. This includes workings which involve gods and/or spirits. Magick may also fall into the realms of "black Magick" which is negative, and "white Magick" which is positive. There is also a type referred to as "Gray Magick" which is a blend of the two. Witches understand the laws of Nature and of Karma, and therefore do not practice black Magick. It is an old Teaching that the type of energy which we send out, will come back upon us "times three". So there is a need for clear thinking when it comes to employing a work of Magick. Many people think that Magick has no basis in scientific fact. This is not correct, for there are physical reasons why Magick does indeed "work". These reasons are based upon energy fields and various currents existing around the Earth. Energy currents are caused by the rotation of the Earth, and the gravitational forces of the Sun and the Moon, and other celestial bodies. The actual spinning of the Earth creates electrical magnetic currents within our bound Atmosphere. As the Earth moves around the Sun, stress is created on the earth by the sun's gravity. This stress causes vibrational currents in our atmosphere as well. Positive currents flow from east to west across our planet. There are also seasonal tides which are based on fluctuations of the electrical magnetic current around the earth, in accordance with the position of the Sun and the Earth. Positive (electrical) Tides flow from late March to late September. Negative (magnetic) Tides flow from late September to late March. The Religious Festivals of The Old Religion mark the peak times of each of these Currents.

Generally we can say that Magick is really a matter of Vibrational cause and effect. Essentially, we "disturb" the bound Ether of our Planet, and certain things result. It is the art of Magick to "impregnate" the Ether with our formed desires, and then to direct them to manifest. The major difference is whether the ripple is sent out or brought down. Magick which deals with the invocations of spirits and/or deities incorporates the vibrations theory, as a catalyst. The forces behind Magick are real, being both natural and supernatural. It is the art of getting these forces to work for you, and not against you, that is the Art of Magick.

Ritual Magick works on the basis of attracting sympathetic energies by means of words (which are vibrations, as addressed in note #1), gestures, and dramatic portrayals; the theory being that the combination of these factors directed by the personal or group "Will", and boosted by the need/desire, will attract sympathetic energies which will cause a "ripple" in the necessary Plane, resulting in Manifestation. Everything which is now a physically created object, was once only a concept. For example, the computer that you are using to access this note, was once merely a visualized image in someone's mind. They had to mentally "form the thought" which was to become your computer. Once visualized, they could then proceed to take the steps necessary to cause their "Thought-form" to become a physical object. This is essentially the formula for Magick. The tools and clothing (or lack thereof) used in a ritual setting, serve to trigger or stimulate the participants so that the necessary energies can be raised. The tools which are used in a ritual also act as extensions of the ritualist's "Will Power" and Mental/Psychic abilities. Everything placed into a Magickal operation, serves to gradually induce a change in Consciousness, within the person, or persons, involved in its performance. Candles, robes, chanting, and the actual setting up of the altar & casting of the circle, all contribute to this evolution of Consciousness, from mundane to Magickal. This is also one of the reasons for choosing a "Craft" name. This allows a person to become something a bit beyond who they usually are. Plain ol' Suzie Q. may not be able to perform Magick, but once within the ritual circle, Ladyhawke certainly can.

The Etheric Worlds

Aradia originally taught the concept of four "worlds" or Realms of Existence. These were the Physical, Lunar, Solar and Stellar. According to her Teachings, the Physical World was the dwelling place of those spirits/souls who were not prepared to dwell within the Higher Realms. The Lunar World was connected to the Physical, and was a temporary dwelling place which served to revitalize the soul between incarnations. It is interesting to note, that the old legends say that the light of the moon grows as it receives those souls who are departing the physical life (until it is full) and then the light wanes as those souls reincarnate.

The Solar World served to also revitalize the soul, but in addition it "forged" a new body for the soul to inhabit. Then the soul could enter into the Higher Realms and abide there. The Stellar World was considered the Final Realm where the soul would come to dwell. This was the "original" Realm from whence we had first come (according to her Teachings).

Through the functions of these Four Worlds, the souls "work their way" up through various levels, as they evolve. In each World a type of body is required, through which the soul can be animated and perform the tasks which are necessary to that realm of existence (thus a physical body for the Physical Plane, an astral body for the Lunar Plane, and so on).

Death and the Soul

According to the old Teachings, the physical body is merely a vehicle, or vessel, which the soul employs to experience the Physical Existence. In some respects, the body may be thought of as a "garment" which the soul wears during its "lifetime" upon the Physical Dimension. In time it wears out, or is damaged beyond repair, and can no longer serve its function. The soul will then pass through the "death" experience, and be freed from the physical vessel, which once "housed" it.

The Teachings tell us that the soul remains near the body for three days, as the astral cord gradually dissolves. This "cord" is an energy link, between the soul and the body (more about this in the next note). In the case of cremation, the soul is freed almost immediately.

According to the old Teachings, the soul will then be drawn to that Realm of Existence which is most Harmonious to its general vibration (which is the tonal, or vibration, resonating from the sum of all the experiences through which it has passed).

It is from here, that the Mythos of the Summerland (or Luna, as it is called in the Aridian Tradition) begins.

The Astral Body

Aradia taught that the soul, which dwells within our physical body, has a body of "light" called a spirit body (commonly called an astral body today). The soul can leave the physical body by employing this body of light, and does so every evening, while a person's physical body is asleep. Sometimes a soul will only journey out into the Dream Worlds, and sometimes it will travel out into the Astral Worlds. The soul requires nourishment for its body of light, just as the physical body does, and it is through contact with these other Realms, that the astral body is maintained.

The Teachings tell us that the astral body is connected to the physical body by a "silver cord" of etheric material. This cord will always draw the soul back to the physical body, as long as it remains intact. Once the silver cord is broken, the soul is freed from the physical body, and cannot dwell within it any longer.

The astral body is a duplicate of the physical body, which the soul is using in the Physical Dimension. It is this spirit body which we see in dreams, and in hauntings, and so on. Some Occultists believe that this astral body is what Jesus was using when he walked upon the water, was resurrected, and so forth.

The consciousness of the personality (you or me) dwelling within the physical body, can be transferred into the astral body, and experience these other Realms, just as we do this Physical Dimension. It is similar to dreaming, except that we are in control of our own actions, and can direct our activities.

During the time of the Inquisition, it was extremely dangerous for witches to gather for their Festivals. So the Priestesses and Priests, of the Old Religion, developed an ointment commonly referred to as "Flying Ointment". It contained many Alkaloid ingredients such as belladonna, and could "force" an inexperienced witch out of his or her physical body, thus causing astral projection of the spirit body, to take place. The Elders of the Coven would then "escort" the neophytes to the "Sabbat". Because of the nature of both the ointment, and the astral dimension, many wild and preposterous stories were recalled by the new witches, of what had taken place at the Sabbat (if you've ever been so "out of it" that your friends had to tell you what you did at a party, the next day, you can probably relate to what I'm getting at here). This came up from time to time, during the witch trials. The fact that the Inquisitors were not above fabricating a "confession" does not help us sort out the truth of these times, anyway. Therefore, it is hard to say how much was because of the belladonna, and how much was because of the Inquisitors.

From: Ann Magill
I had read about the Body of Light before, but this is the clearest explanation yet. Is so called 'lucid dreaming' a type of astral projection, or is it somewhere in between?

From: Raven Grimassi
Yes, the Dream World is part of the astral projection experience. Conscious dreaming (dream control) is part of our training in the Aridian Tradition. Many people experience dreams of flying, or dreams which seem quite real, and these are astral-like experiences. I teach that the Dream World is like a doorway, or portal, to the Astral Realm. I first teach students to become conscious that they are dreaming, and then to take control of the dream. Next they move up to programming the dream (which is great fun). Once they can become Conscious in a dream, and alter the dream as they desire, then they are ready to move out into the Astral Dimensions. In this way, they have some experience with how the astral plane "works", and how to cope/behave while exploring this other Realm.

This was used a great deal during the time of the Inquisition, as I mentioned in an earlier note. It is still a very important technique. I do not encourage people to simply buy a book on Astral Projection and go "popping out" into the unknown. If I'm taking a trip to another Country, I want to know the customs and laws of that Country (how things work there) before I simply hop on a Plane and go rushing off into the unknown (not very adventurous for an Aries, am I?).

From: Ann Magill
I seem to remember reading in The Great Cosmic Goddess that one of the 'crimes' witches were accused of during the Inquisition was dreaming. Maybe that is one of the reasons that dreams are devalued in modern western culture. I think it is a great injustice when parents tell their children: "Don't worry. It wasn't real — it was only a dream." It was a real dream, and taught about real problems. To deny it is to deny the child the reality of his or her existence.

Luna, the Summerland

It was an ancient belief that the Moon was the dwelling place of those souls who had passed from the physical life. Old myths speak of the God, as the Sun, crossing the sky each day and gathering the souls of all who had died during the night. He would then carry them off to the West, and down into the Underworld. Here they were presented to the Goddess (remember, the moon sets in the west too) who then carried them off to the Afterlife World. Aradia called this Realm, Luna. Today, many Wiccans refer to this concept as the Summerland.

Luna is a "place" in which the soul is renewed and revitalized. It can then become prepared for its next incarnation, or in some cases, for its next "move" up into the Higher Dimensions (when it no longer requires the need for the physical dimension experiences). The Moon is connected to the cycles of Fertility, the Tides, and to menstruation. It is not difficult to see why the ancients then linked the Moon to the cycles of Death and rebirth.

Old legends spoke of the Moon receiving souls from the physical life, and that the light of the moon swelled with the collective light of their spirit bodies. As the souls returned back into the World, the light of the Moon began to wane.

The old teachings say that in Luna, there is communion with those who have gone before us, and that "plans" are made to be reborn among those who we knew before. In a way this also addresses the issue of "Karmic" links and connections.

The "portal" to the Realm beyond Life, stands at the Western Quarter. This association was established due to the fact that the Sun and the Moon "disappear" in the West, just as we too, in our time, disappear. The association of a body of Light and the Soul, also seem to have originated with this concept, and the non-physical (yet physical) properties of the Sun and the Moon, as "understood" by the Ancient Peoples.

The beliefs of a People, have a powerful impact upon the Astral material, of the Astral Dimension. Within the Astral Plane, thoughts are things. So, it is here that the Summerland, or Luna, exists.

The Wheel of the Year

The first thing to note here is that the calendar which you and I use today, is off by several days from the old calendar. Therefore the dates which I am using here are those dates which are commonly associated with the Rites of the year, among Witches, Neo-Wiccans, and Pagans in this current Age.

The Aridian Year begins on October 31st and is marked by the Treguenda (Sabbat) known as Shadowfest. In our Mythos this is the time of Shadows, the time of pro-Creation. Hidden within the mists of the Realm of Shadows are the God & Goddess, joining together in a Divine act of pro-Creation, through which All Things shall come to be. From this Season forward until Spring, the God rules the Year. As his representative, the High Priest is given charge and bears the responsibility for organizing the rituals and overseeing the training of new Initiates. During this Season all Initiates are robed within the ritual circle, as a symbol of the time of Shadows. On May 1st (Tana's Day) the rule of the Year is passed to the Goddess, through her representative the High Priestess. She will then be given charge over the Year, until Shadowfest, when the reign is passed once again. During Her Season all Initiates are nude within the ritual circle. This is a symbol of their Freedom from Slavery, and of the openness of this time of the year. All things are springing forth in Nature, and revealing their natural beauty. Slavery can come in many forms. Some people are slaves to Judaic-Christian morality, and though professing to be Pagan, still hold to the morality of Christianity, and to their inhibitions which rob them of personal empowerment.

Following Shadowfest, the year turns to the rite of the Winter Solstice. Here the Goddess gives birth to that which issues forth from the Union of the God & Goddess in the time of Shadows. A new light is born on the Winter Solstice, which will save the World from what seems to be an ever encroaching Darkness (Winter).

The next rite is called Lupercus, and in our Mythos this is the time of puberty for the newborn God. It is a time of purification, and is associated with bonfires and torches. Remnants of the ancient Roman Lupercalia can still be seen in this Rite today.

Following Lupercus is the Spring Equinox. This is the time when the Goddess journeys from the Realm of Shadows into the World of Light. The Legend of the Ascent is read and a Mystery Play is performed during the reading. The seeds which will be planted are blessed, as is the earth itself.

Next in order is Tana's Day, which is observed on May 1st. This ritual marks the Courtship of the Goddess and the God. Here the God passes his Reign to the Goddess, in a Drama enacted by the High Priestess & High Priest. It is a ritual of the Celebration of Life and Fertility. Tana's Day is followed by the Summer Solstice, which is a time of Magick and renewal. Energy is raised to cleanse and renew the Earth, and to banish evil and negativity from the Community (and the World). After the Summer Solstice comes Cornucopia, which is a Celebration of the coming Harvest, and a time of Plenty.

Following the Rite of Cornucopia, comes the Autumn Equinox. This is the time in which the God is slain, and enters into the Afterworld. The Goddess journeys there also to find her lost love, and this is enacted in a Drama Play held during the ritual, in which the Legend of the Descent is read (just as was done with the Legend of the Ascent in the Spring Equinox). The wheel of the year has then turned completely, as the Season then leads back into Shadowfest, on October 31st. Here the God and Goddess unite once again, and the Cycle begins anew.

The year is also divided up into the times of Waxing and Waning. The Waxing Year is associated with the Stag God, and the Waning Year is associated with the Wolf God. The common image of the Goat God, is merely a domesticated version of the Stag God of the Forest. As Humankind began farming, the domesticated animals became more important than the once hunted animals, and the symbolism began to change. Pan (or Faunus) is simply the Stag God as seen by an Agricultural Community which valued domesticated animals more than wild animals of the Forest.

The Winter months brought on the wolves who preyed upon both domesticated and wild animals. They were seen as symbols of the power of Winter. Their connection with the Stag God of the Forest (the Hunted & the Hunter) lay deep in the memories of early Humankind. Thus the Wolf God came to symbolize the Waning Year and the Stag God came to symbolize the Waxing Year. This is symbolized by the phenomenon of the cycle of regeneration and growth of the stag's antlers.

The Stag and the Wolf (as deities) go back to the days of Antiquity, in Witchcraft. An early Etruscan painting, found upon a vase, depicts a Goddess holding up a Stag and a Wolf, one in each hand. This is no surprise, for Italian Witchcraft originates from Tuscany which is where the Etruscan Civilization once stood.

Under ideal circumstances we Celebrate the Equinoxes and Solstices on the exact days on which they occur. Then we calculate the mid-point dates between the Equinoxes and Solstices, and establish the dates for the other 4 Celebrations accordingly. When these times do not work out then we may elect to Celebrate on the popular Wiccan dates, if those times fall better in the week. Again, this becomes a practical adaptation for our modern Lifestyle. Our goal, of course, is to adhere to the Old Ways whenever possible.

Setting the Altar

In the Aridian Tradition every aspect of our ritual work is based upon our Mythos. This includes the way in which we set up our ritual circles, and prepare our altar. I thought that I might share this with you, and hope that you may find it of some interest.

The original altars were round, being usually a tree stump or a large rock. Today many of us use a small table. I have a large wooden spool, used by Utility companies for wrapping cables and lines. The set up begins by placing a black altar cloth over the altar. This represents the "first movement" within Procreation, towards that which came to be. Next we place the Spirit Bowl on the center of the altar. This represents the Divine Nature, which was present at the Center of Creation. Then we place two altar candles upon the altar, one to the left symbolizing the Goddess and one to the right symbolizing the God. These represent Their presence, as They oversee Creation. Next we place the Elemental Bowls, in a pattern which encircles the Spirit Bowl. The Earth Bowl is to the North, Air Bowl to the East, Fire Bowl to the South, and Water Bowl to the West. The altar itself is set in an orientation to true North. The ritual circle is always entered, and left by, the North-East "doorway". The setting of these bowls symbolize the coming together of the Elements themselves, in their part in the Creation. We begin with the Air Bowl, and move clockwise. The Earth Bowl is placed last. After the bowls have been placed, we lay out the rituals tools and mundane tools. Each tool is set near the Elemental bowl to which its nature is associated.

At this point, the Spirit bowl is filled with the sacred liquid (which burns a blue flame), and the ritual circle would then be cast.

The spool is a private altar and it is outside underneath my Mulberry Tree. It is too heavy to transport for any of our gatherings, so we employ an altar that one of our initiates made, when we meet for Treguenda, etc. The elemental bowls are traditionally ceramic. Some of our initiates have gone down to a Restaurant Supply Shop, and bought Japanese tea cups for their elemental bowls. For the Spirit bowl they bought metal ice cream dishes there, and they work quite nicely. Our Spirit bowls are about the size of a hand, and approximately 3 or 4 inches deep. Regarding a permanent altar, most of us keep a shelf with a God and Goddess Statue on it, along with a small bud vase, incense holder, and a votive candle. Our old temple setting for one of our Groves had a permanent circle (a rope circle fastened to the floor) and a standing altar. But even with this, the altar must be set up as I stated in the first note, because the placement of those items is part of each ritual. So, the altar itself is simply a support for those items, which through their role in the Mythic Drama (the placement) make it a Sacred Space. The permanent altar which I described as the "shelf style", is more of a devotional altar as opposed to a ritual altar.

Dear Raven,
The shelf altar you describe would be considered more of a shrine than an altar, right? Most people, including me, combine the two functions in a personal altar. I have a devotional display which I keep on my altar all the time; I simply change the arrangement somewhat when I want to do a ritual. It has the advantage of focusing all my spiritual energy on one altar, while the Aridian system has the advantage of making the setting of the altar an integral part of the creation of Magickal space within the circle. Just this week I got a new goddess-figure for my altar/shrine: a museum replica of the famous Minoan Snake Goddess. I got out all my sea shells to go on the altar with her.
Jana of the Sea

The Aridian Ritual Circle

In the days of old, our ritual circles were outdoor circles large enough to comfortably contain a small group of worshipers. The old manner of setting the circle was set forth in our Book of Ways. Here it says that the ritual circle must be set near running water, and placed before a tree (or group of trees). The tree must be a "Mother Tree", and cannot be twisted or deformed in any way. A Mother Tree is any tree which is full and round (a Father Tree is tall and narrow by comparison, like a Pine for example). Most fruit bearing trees are called Mother Trees, along with others such as an Oak Tree.

A wooden stake was then placed into the ground (marking the center of the circle) to which a length of cord was attached. An initiate would take hold of the cord and pace off nine steps. Another initiate would hold the stake as the other then attached the free end to a staff. Pulling against the staked cord, this person would then trace a circle into the soil, moving clockwise around the initiate in the center (who was turning the stake so as not to allow the cord to wrap around it). Thus the circle, once traced out, was nine paces in any direction from the center.

Torches were set just within the circle, at each of the directional quarters. An altar was then placed exactly where the stake had been placed. Stones were set around the traced out line, to clearly mark the circle. Entrance to the ritual circle was only allowed at the North-East quarter (the same being true of any exit from the circle).

Once properly established, the circle was then "cast" through the traditional ritual method of the circle trod, complete with invocational calls, gestures, and so forth. Prior to casting the circle, the area was blessed and ritually cleansed, as were all of the initiates.

Today we still comply with these requirements. It is easy even indoors, for most homes have a tree or two in the yard and the house is equipped with plumbing (running water). There are Magickal reasons why a tree had to be present, and why the circle had to be near running water. The Book of Ways goes into detail about how they are employed, once Magick has been performed within the circle.

Other aspects have been added to our Ritual Circle over time, and we do a bit more today, than did our Ancestors (but we do not do any less). We must honor the Old Ways, and adhere to them, not leaving anything out. We may add to them, but we cannot subtract. There are times in which we have to be creative though (as when nine paces will take you through the Living room wall).

It is the intent (or reason) which must be honored, and we do not allow ourselves to become slaves to the "Letter of the Law". So we adapt as necessary for practicing in the setting available. The ritual text, however, cannot be deleted.

From: B Maccarillo Jr
What, pray tell, was the Book of Ways? This is different since most traditions were passed down orally.

Dear Westwind,
The Book of Ways is similar to what Wiccans call a Book of Shadows. In my Tradition there is a runic script which has been passed down through the Generations. Oral teachings are also a part of the Tradition, but the majority of our material is written. This is one reason why the Teachings remained intact through the Dark Ages, when only Nobility or those of the Church were taught to read and to write. This runic script was passed on through the bloodlines, and it is because of this that we have The Book of Ways today. Oral Teachings are very frail, and it is all too easy to find them changed a bit through the Ages. The script that we use resembles Etruscan, but is still slightly different. Some people see a resemblance to Enochian Script, but I find very little there myself. Blessings,

The Book of Ways is not a published book, but rather a text which is copied by Initiates of our Tradition. It is hand written, and hand copied. The material in the Book of Ways has been handed down over Generations. Once a person is initiated into our Ways, their Initiator will sit down with them, and oversee the copying of the Book. The Book of Ways is divided into 3 sections: Ways, Calls, and Influences. "Ways" contains all of the rituals, Initiation rites, Community Rites, Myths, and Lore. "Calls" contains all of the chants, ritual gestures, ritual postures, invocations, and symbols. "Influences" contains all of the Magickal knowledge, herbal knowledge, Magickal correspondences, spells, formulas for oils & potions, and so on.

I'm glad you spoke about runes because I'd wondered how the heck Viking writing got into the Aridian system, but figured that those old warriors did get around! Seriously, are these runes part of the secret part of the tradition, or are they open? If so, have they been published in Raven's Call? I'm curious to see them, as you probably have guessed. At any rate, it seems foolish to be inscribing Northern European runes on personal objects when that isn't the tradition which I'm moving towards. Any ideas?

Dear SeraLuna,
We do not use Germanic runes in our Tradition, and I assume that the confusion here comes from the runes on our Raven's Call Logo? In our Tradition we have a runic alphabet which is very much like Etruscan (but not quite). We also have another set of runes which are for divination. Neither of these have been revealed to the Public at this time. The divination runes we do intend to make available to the Public. I still have not decided about the alphabet runes. We used the Germanic runes on our Logo because they have a general appeal in the Craft Community.
Blessings, Raven

Dear Raven,
I have read something of the history of Germanic runes. Etruscan writing is believed by some scholars to be one of the sources of Germanic runes. It was not that far for wandering Germanic tribes to travel to northern Italy. Certainly some Germanic runes derive from the Latin alphabet.

Dear Jana,
Thanks, I had not heard of that theory. I knew that the Celts had invaded Italy (circa 390 B.C.E.), and had a brief stay before the Roman Legions drove them out. The Germanic tribes had come much later, I had thought, sometime around 161 C.E.? The Etruscans were defeated by the Romans in the later part of the 300's B.C.E., and by 200 B.C.E. they were fully absorbed by the Roman Empire.
Blessings, Raven

Dear Raven,
The book in which I read it was from the University of Washington graduate library, so I can't check the details now. It was a substantial scholarly study of runes, not some New Age quickie book. Of course there are many theories on the roots of Germanic runes; the Etruscan/Latin origin in only one, but a strong one.

The Nanta Bag

In our Tradition we have a "spirit pouch", which I would like to share with you. In it's present form it is said to come from 14th Century Italy, during the time of Aradia. The wearing of such a pouch, however, certainly goes much back in Human history. The purpose of the pouch is to keep one in harmony with Nature and the Spirit World. It also serves as a "portable altar" for practicing the Craft. It is said that these type of pouches were carried by the followers of Aradia, during the time of "Wandering".

The pouch is usually about the size of the average paperback book. In it are placed the following objects:

  • A large sewing needle
  • A thimble
  • A coin (with a pentagram etched on it)
  • A small twig

This first group of items serves as miniature ritual tools. The needle is the Athame, the thimble is the Chalice, the coin is the Pentacle, and the twig is the Wand. To these items are also added:

  • A shell (to represent the Goddess)
  • A piece of antler horn (to represent the God)
  • Two small candles (for altar candles)
  • Ground herbs (for incense)
  • A portion of salt (for purification)
  • A small vessel of anointing oil
  • A measure of cord (9 feet)
  • A small finger bowl (for the spirit flame)

Finally the pouch is completed with the addition of these items:

  • A small stone, smooth and rounded (to represent Earth)
  • A small feather (to represent the element of Air)
  • A small portion of ash (to represent the Fire Element)
  • A small vessel of pure water (representing same)

The principle of Contagion Magick was the foundation for empowering the pouch. Basically this means that objects absorb power and have an energy field around them (their "numen' or "mana"). When one object is placed with another, then these objects are joined and influence one another. The Nanta Bag in turn, has a contagion influence upon the person who carries it (in direction proportion to those items inside the pouch). This bag is usually carried by a Priestess or a Priest of The Old Religion. With it they can bless, consecrate, heal, and work Magick and rituals. In the Aridian Tradition we also place any power objects which we collect from time to time. Gifts of a crystal or other small objects, from people whose power we respect are also placed in the bag. Thus the bag begins to take on a great deal of Numen or Mana.

Originally, of course, these pouches were made from animal skins Some were Deerskin and some were Wolfskin. The Book of Ways does not specify any type of material. Most of our Initiates use a cotton or silk material. The colors do vary, and again the Book of Ways does not specify. I have some Initiates who use a leather fannypack. These are practical and can be easily worn in public, without anyone giving you the evil-eye. Synthetic materials would, of course, be inappropriate.

Using the Nanta Bag

Once completed, as outlined in the previous note, the Nanta is ready to be consecrated. Begin by presenting the pouch (filled with the objects) to the four quarters, saying "Blessed be by the spirits of the East", and continuing with the spirits of the South, West, and North. Next bless the pouch by touching it to each of the elements (using the elemental bowls as mentioned in my first note). Always begin with the East/Air element. A gesture of power is then made over the pouch, or you can trace a crescent or pentagram on it. Once completed, say these words over the bag:
"O' Great Nanta,
bless and empower this pouch
and all within it,
making it a bridge to Power.
I am linked to Thee
and thou art linked to Nature.
We are One from three.
We are the Triangle manifest.
In the names of Diana and Dianus,
so be it done"

When using the pouch, the bag itself serves as the altar, upon which the objects inside may be placed. Feel free to add other objects to the bag, which you may find useful. Some of our initiates do have rather large Nanta bags! The Nanta Bag is a very useful tool which allows you to have access to complete set of rituals tools at any time. Our Priests and Priestesses carry them either on their person, or in their cars, etc. Once we were driving along and saw a dog get hit by a car. We all jumped out and grabbed a Nanta Bag. As the dog was dying we blessed it with an oil, and performed a simple ritual for it's spirit to pass in peace. The look on the faces of the bystanders was truly priceless!

Dear Raven,
What does Nanta mean? From the verse you quoted it appears to be the name of a spirit or deity.

**From: Raven Grimassi*
"Nanta" is a powerful spirit, associated with the Earth and with Nature (as a Whole). It is considered a "name of Power". It is not an Italian word, and it's origin most likely is even pre-Etruscan.

Dear SeraLuna,
Many antique stores seem to have a set of antlers laying around, you may want to try that. There are other representations of the "God Energy" which you could use, if you desire. These are: acorns, pine cones, oak, evergreen needles, etc. BTW if you are trying to put a bag together you might be interested in contacting a coin dealer. The Moroccan coins have a pentacle on their face. Some of the coins have a wreath design around the pentacle. Many of us use these coins for our Nanta bags. Also, the Moroccan flag has a pentacle on it (solid red field with a green interlaced pentacle) and some initiates use the small flags as altar cloths for their Nanta bags. What is this younger Generation coming to!?
Blessings, Raven

Response to a later inquiry about the Nanta Bag:
Well, I was unable to find my original note so I'll just wing it. The Nanta Bag originates from 14th Century Italy and was used by the wandering priestesses & priests of The Old Religion. With the contents of this bag they were able to have access to a complete set of ritual tools and an altar upon which to perform their works. The items within the bag were miniature tools: a sewing needle for an athame, a thimble for the chalice, a small twig for a wand, and a coin with a star etched upon it for a pentacle. The bag itself became the altar upon which the tools were placed. In the bag there were also small candles, a length of cord for marking the circle, small symbolic items to represent the Goddess and the God (such as a shell for the Lady and a piece of horn for the Lord), and items to represent the four elements (such as a pebble for earth, a feather for air, ashes for fire, and a water representation). Objects of personal power were also placed within the bag. If someone whose power you respected gave you a small object then this would be kept in the bag as well. Once completed the Nanta Bag served to connect one with the forces of Nature, and kept the person within the flow of power. This is why in the Aridian Tradition we call non-initiates "outdwellers" because they live outside of the ways of Nature (they live in the "Outworld").

When all of the items have been collected the bag is blessed in the names of the God & Goddess. Then words such as the following are said over the bag:
"O' Great Nanta,
be thou a natural focus
and a bridge to power.
I am linked to Thee
and thou art linked to Nature
We are One from Three
We are the Triangle Manifest.
In the names of Tana and Tanus
so be it done.”

Within the bag can also be placed small containers for herbs and incense, etc. Some initiates today use a fanny pack to serve as their Nanta Bag, others employ a cotton or leather pouch. We all take them with us when we go camping and it is a beautiful experience to lay the tools out beneath a Full Moon when you are up in the mountains, or out in the desert.

Inner Teachings

In Wicca, Witchcraft, and Paganism, the use of cakes and wine in a ceremony, goes back to ancient times and is connected to an Occult Mystery Tradition. This is the Tradition of the Divine Sacrificial King/Slain God Mythos. Because the survival of early Humankind depended upon the fertility of animals, crops, and themselves, fertility itself became the basis for the early cult focus. Fertility leads to Birth, and this is the portal into the Physical World from an invisible world connected to this one. The Nature of the one who is coming through this portal (why they came and what their purpose is) depends upon Breeding.

Breeding (selective reproductive strains) was learned by the early Humans from observing and experimenting with animals and plants. They easily observed that the "best" produced like, and that many of the desired traits could be passed on if the breeding was controlled.

Death was seen as an exit from this World (just as birth had been an entrance). It seemed logical to assume that the one who died was returning to where they had been before they were born. Death was seen as migration.

In the "other world" the sacrificial messenger was delivered to the Gods to speak on behalf of the Clans needs. It was also believed that this person would return to the Clan as a "Savior" and help deliver them from the problems of this World, and to secure a place for them in the next World. This is why in the Descent of the Goddess (Myth) we read "— you must return again at the same time and at the same place as the loved ones. And you must meet, and know, and remember, and love them again —" This is the major rendering of this passage, but there is another.

In the Descent Myth we find a passage referring to "three great mysteries in the Life of Man." These mysteries are also connected to the Divine Sacrificial King Mythos. The three great mysteries are Birth, Death, and Rebirth. The Descent Myth tells us that "love controls them all". The Myth goes on to say "— but to be reborn, you must die, and be made ready for a new body. And to die you must be born, and without love, you may not be born.” This was, in part, instructional for the person who was being sacrificed, but it also pertained to the Populace as a Whole. Without the bonds of love between this world and the next, there can be no interaction (either between individuals or gods). Yet, this Mythos is also connected with that of the Hanged Man (who was the Hooded Man).

The Hooded Man was the Guardian of the Sacred Grove at Nemi (where he was called Rex Nemorensis, the King of the Woods). This enigmatic character embodies the idea of new life springing out of death, and he also brings the creative power of the Tree Spirit of the Sacred Grove, to the People. The Mythos of the Hooded Man can be seen in many Cultures. In various parts of Europe he is known by many names: The Green Man, Jack-in-the- green, Jack-in-the-bush, Robin Goodfellow, Robyne of the Woods, and Robin o'the Hood. The position known as the Hanged Man, stems from that of the Hooded Man. He is the symbol of Self Sacrifice for the good of the Whole. The Key to understanding the Hanged Man lies in the fact that he is "enlightened" as hangs upon the Tree.

The title of the "Hanged Man" means, in an occult sense, "suspended mind" because "man" and "mind" are from the sanskrit root (used by early occultists). The title refers also to the utter dependence of Human personality upon the Cosmic life. He hangs now as a co-worker with the Divine, having placed his own Ego out of the way of the Divine inflow. Only in this way can he attain the Higher Consciousness, and become useful to his People. The sacred tree of the grove represents the bridge to the other worlds, and it is the Consciousness which "hangs" upon the tree, which serves to unify Humankind with the Divine.

The mental attitude suggested by the Hanged Man, then, is "Not my Will, but Thine". This is ever the position of the Adept, as, indeed, it is the position of every person who works in any field of applied science. It is an illusive, personal thing which is but the reflection, or mask, of "Thy Will", which is the purpose or motive of the Cosmic Life — a Will absolutely free, and certain to be realized.

The foundation which I am trying to lay here (having used many of Paul Foster Case's own words) is that of the willing sacrifice. If we go back far enough in Human History, we will find Human sacrifice. It is nothing to be proud of certainly, but it is nothing to hide from either. In the first note I explained why this practice was performed. What I did not address was how the sacrificed body was used. Because it was considered to be descended from other Divine Kings (the Breeding I spoke of), it was believed that the flesh and blood of the Slain God contained mystical properties. Therefore small bits of his flesh were distributed to the Clan, and diluted portions of his blood were consumed. In this way, the Clan was connected to his divine nature. In time, animal sacrifice replaced Human sacrifice, and later still plants served as the Slain God. But the practice of consuming the Slain God never changed. Today it is still performed in the ritual of cakes and wine, which represent the body and the blood of the Slain God (now Lord of the Harvest). In some Traditions the cakes symbolize the God and the wine symbolizes the Goddess (that is, their "essence"). This is all part of the Mystery Tradition, and goes deeply to our very core as members of a Clan, a Race, a People, or a Nation.

An excellent book on the subject of the Divine King/Slain God is Western Inner Workings by William Gray.

Dear Seraluna,
Yes, I have seen the Robin of Sherwood series from England. I nearly fell out of my chair when Robin met Herne. You have no idea how close that series got to certain aspects of the Aridian Tradition (did you notice that Herne was played by an Italian actor?). At the sanctuary of Nemi in Medieval Italy, there were outlaw camps in the forests of the Alban Hill Region. Aradia lived with the outlaws at Nemi for a period of time, before she disappeared. The legend of the King of the Woods at Nemi, goes back to Antiquity. He was an outlaw and a guardian of the Grove. Because he was outlawed he often wore a hood, and was called the Hooded Man/the Hooded One. He became the symbol for the god of the forest, lord of the Trees, etc. He had to accept a challenge to his "kingship", which was always a fight to the death. In this aspect he represented the Slain God.

As I stated in an earlier post, the Hooded One came after the Horned One of the Forest, and so was called his son. The Horned One was a Stag God. When Humans began to grow crops, the Animal God figure began to lose its high stature, and the Slain God was transferred into the crops, which were slain at the harvest.

Inner Teachings — The Hanged Man

The title of the "Hanged Man" means, in an occult sense, "suspended mind" because "man" and "mind" are from the sanskrit root (used by early occultists). The title refers also to the utter dependence of Human personality upon the Cosmic life. He hangs now as a co-worker with the Divine, having placed his own Ego out of the way of the Divine inflow. Only in this way can he attain the Higher Consciousness, and become useful to his People. The sacred tree of the grove represents the bridge to the other worlds, and it is the Consciousness which "hangs" upon the tree, which serves to unify Humankind with the Divine.

The mental attitude suggested by the Hanged Man, then, is "Not my Will, but Thine". This is ever the position of the Adept, as, indeed, it is the position of every person who works in any field of applied science. It is an illusive, personal thing which is but the reflection, or mask, of "Thy Will", which is the purpose or motive of the Cosmic Life — a Will absolutely free, and certain to be realized.

The foundation which I am trying to lay here (having used many of Paul Foster Case's own words) is that of the willing sacrifice. If we go back far enough in Human History, we will find Human sacrifice. It is nothing to be proud of certainly, but it is nothing to hide from either. In the first note I explained why this practice was performed. What I did not address was how the sacrificed body was used. Because it was considered to be descended from other Divine Kings (the Breeding I spoke of), it was believed that the flesh and blood of the Slain God contained mystical properties. Therefore small bits of his flesh were distributed to the Clan, and diluted portions of his blood were consumed. In this way, the Clan was connected to his divine nature. In time, animal sacrifice replaced Human sacrifice, and later still plants served as the Slain God. But the practice of consuming the Slain God never changed. Today it is still performed in the ritual of cakes and wine, which represent the body and the blood of the Slain God (now Lord of the Harvest). In some Traditions the cakes symbolize the God and the wine symbolizes the Goddess (that is, their "essence"). This is all part of the Mystery Tradition, and goes deeply to our very core as members of a Clan, a Race, a People, or a Nation. An excellent book on the subject of the Divine King/Slain God is Western Inner Workings by William Gray.

Dear Raven,
What do you think of the view that, besides consuming a part of the Slain King's body, the people also spread the diluted blood and perhaps the body itself around the fields to sanctify them? It would also fertilize them, since a dead body contains a lot of nitrogen.

Dear Jana,
Yes, that is exactly what was done with the majority of the body. I come very close to a violation of secrecy oaths with this, but — here goes. In the Autumn Equinox Rite there is performed a Mystery Play in which the Divine Victim is symbolically slain. A skull is present at this rite, and symbolizes the former divine victim. A token fluid of the life essence of the new "King" is obtained, and mixed with a token portion of fluid from the High Priestess. This is placed in a bag and is buried in a sacred garden, where ritual plants are grown. Originally it would have hung in the Forest on a tree, to provide for a plentiful hunt, or buried in a cultivated field for abundant crops. Today we offer it up for the needs of our Clan, whatever they may happen to be at the time. In ancient times the Divine Victim was cut up into pieces and given to the soil. Small portions of his flesh and his blood were incorporated into a "communion" meal, and given to the Priest(ess)hood to distribute. Today we still perform this ancient rite, hidden within the ceremony of cakes and wine. Today the sacrifice comes from the Plant Kingdom, but the Human connection is still there, and the ancient current still flows through the Ceremony. As Humans evolved spiritually, so too did their practices. But nothing is forgotten, nothing is ever forgotten.

Inner Teachings — The Tides of Power

There are certain Tides of Power within the Bound Ether of the Earth which aid us in all of our works of Magick. The Stars, Sun, Planets and the Moon radiate their influence upon us through the Magnetic Sphere of the Earth. In Eastern Occultism these Tides are called the Tattvic Tides, and the medium through which they flow is called Prana. This is the substance just above Terrestrial Matter, known as Etheric Matter, of which there are two kinds: Free Ether & Bound Ether.

Free Ether is that which surrounds the Sun, and through which pass the Earth and other Planets within its sphere of influence. Bound Ether is that which surrounds the Earth itself (or any planet) and may be called the Magnetic Sphere.

As the Earth orbits the Sun, revolving on its axis as it does so, centers of stress occur in the Magnetic Sphere of the Earth. As a result there is a positive current of energy flowing from the East to the West, and a magnetic current passing from North to South during six months of the year (which reverses for the remaining six months). The "positive" currents emanate from the northern center, and the "negative" from the southern center. The Winter Solstice marks the beginning of the positive current which reverses after the Summer Solstice to negative. These currents of energy are marked by the Lesser Seasonal Rites of the Old Religion, occurring at the Solstices and Equinoxes The terms "positive" & "negative" refer to electrical and magnetic energies of an etheric nature, as well as to those energies which we might call "waxing" and "waning".

Being "Of the Blood"

It was once believed that certain individuals, namely royalty or other spiritual leaders, were actually descended from the "gods" (or in some cases from non-Human Races such as the Elven or Fay). It is obvious from this that their blood was held to be very precious, since they were considered to be "Dedi-gods". Since they represented the spiritual base power of the Clan, it was important to preserve the purity of their Bloodline, and to ensure that it was passed along through the Generations. In those early times it was taught that the gifts of psychic abilities were maintained and transmitted by a direct blood link with the Priestesshood/Priesthood (who were themselves either direct descendants by bloodline, or were indirect by virtue of having "received" the Royal Blood). This is one reason why the Church ordered the slaying of whole families of Witches during the Inquisition, in hopes of destroying the ancient Bloodlines. It is interesting to note that witches were very often associated with Fairies and other non-Human Races, and were considered to be different from Humans, in many European tales of Folklore.

Symbolically, anyone who drank of the Blood of one of these Descendants was said to be "of the Blood" and could in turn, pass on the blood through ritual communion of the Wine and Cakes (which were anointed with the Royal Blood, of either a direct descendant, or indirect blood receiver).

As the Old Religion grew, anyone who was born into the family of those who had been of the blood, were considered to be also, and this was the basic significance of being "hereditary" (along with being reborn among those who one had known and loved before).

It is also interesting to note that the "cords" used in the Initiation Ceremony, are remnants of those cords which once bound the Sacrificial King.

Concerning the Tools & Trappings

If one looks closely at the tools of the Craft, it is easy to see that they resemble the weapons of a Knight. The tools to which I am referring are the Athame, Chalice, Wand and pentacle (in the Aridian Tradition the athame is called the Spirit Blade, and bears different symbols as well as a slightly different aspect).

The athame is symbolic of a Knights sword. The wand is a lance, the chalice is a helmet (turned upside down) and the pentacle is a shield. These Craft tools are the "weapons" of a spiritual warrior, or a Priest(ess) as in the tradition of a Shaolin.

The cords of Initiation, as mentioned earlier, are remnants of the bindings which once held the Sacrificial King/Slain God, and mark an individual as a member of this ancient mystery tradition. The altar is symbolic of the portal, which is the tomb. It is the Gateway through to the other Realms. The ritual circle represents the unbroken Cycle of the year, which is at the heart of The Old Religion.

The Watchtowers at the elemental quarters represent the portals to the higher Realms, which lay beyond this World. The Watchers themselves represent the "awareness" of our Path, as it is imprinted upon the Planes ("watched", so to speak). There are many other such associations, but I thought that I would mention just a few. These are not commonly known, or discussed, and the knowledge of them will soon disappear if someone doesn't pass them on. You may consider it Witchlore, but it is quite a bit more.

Raising a Plant Familiar

The purpose of this technique is to raise, or grow, a plant as a "familiar" (serving spirit) or as a Magickal plant. In ancient times, a small circle of stones was set around the chosen plant, to "bind" the numen there. Then a hole was dug down toward the roots (carefully) and a chosen power stone was set in place, to "charge" the plant.

Today the technique has been expanded, but is still true to the original intent. You can begin with a seed, or young sprout. Simply prepare the soil for planting, in a secluded area, which is suited to the physical needs of the plant. Place a stone or crystal of your choice about three inches deep into the soil. Quartz crystals are a good choice, but you may wish to consult a table of correspondences for various stones, etc. Next fill in the soil over the stone, and plant the seed (or sprout) as is appropriate. Then lay a circle of 8 stones around the plant site. At each of the four elemental quarters place a crystal of the same type as the one you buried (these four are part of the 8 forming the circle). The other stones may be of any kind you wish, as long as they compliment each other, in relationship to their occult nature. Space the stones to allow for the growth of the plant.

I will give two techniques for the raising of a plant familiar. These will show you how to establish contact with the plant numen, and how to communicate your purposes to the plant familiar. In this way the plant will become charged, and conscious of your needs. Then you will have a physical and spiritual helper, for your works of Magick and healing.

This technique is important to Magickal work involving herbs. Dry herbs in an herb store are not charged (in most cases) and can only serve through their remaining physical properties. There is, however, the placebo effect to consider, as well as coincidence, and self-delusion. These have been used successfully for quite some time. I will not deal with these here, as most popular Authors are doing an excellent job of passing this off on us as authentic spells.

I intend to give you the actual techniques which empower herbs, and whose effects were the basis for the powers attributed to herbs from ancient times. No Con, just the facts.

Method 1: If planting by seed, wait 7 days after the sprout appears to proceed with the following (if a young plant, wait 7 days after planting it). Remove the stones between the quarter stones, and plant a seed at each point. Next bury the quarter stones where they lay, at least an inch deep. The seeds may be of the same type as the plant within the circle, or an assortment. Each day, place both palms upon the ground within the circle, forming a triangle with fingertips (index fingers touching & thumbs touching). The stem of the plant will be in the open area of the triangle, centered between your hands.

Using your imagination & visualization abilities, sense your power flowing out through your arms, from your personal power center (just below the navel for women, and at the solar plexus for men). You must also talk to the plant and send it visuals, communicating your needs and desires through mental images. You must take good care of the plant from this point on, and keep it from harm. To create a strong bond with your plant familiar, you can add 3 drops of your own blood to a quart of water, and use this to water the plant as needed.

Magickally, you have first increased the level of the numen through the crystals. Secondly, you have extended its power and influence to the other plants. This is because these plants became alive under the influence of the center crystal and plant. They were also bathed in a cross quarter current of energy, controlled from the center entity, through the quarter crystals. If you need the physical parts an herb for your spells, potions or whatever, then use only the plants enclosed within the original circle of stones, and never the center plant. The center plant IS the familiar, and the others are merely extensions of it.

The final step in creating this plant familiar, is to establish your "link" and your "rapport". To do this, you must sit comfortably before the plant, and stare at it. Allow your eyes to lose focus and your vision to blur. In this state, observe the shape of the plant, trying to leave your mind blank. The plant will "send" you an image as you stare. You will receive this as a distortion of the plant's shape, so that it will begin to resemble some other creature such as an animal or an insect. This new shape is the spirit of the plant, and you will employ this image as you work with the familiar.

The familiar can give you extra power in any Magickal work, whenever you summon it. "House plants" can become protective entities for your home through plant Magick. Plants can be given as gifts, charged for a special purpose.

To summon the familiar, you simply imagine your plant in it's setting, and visualize it becoming the spirit creature. Mentally call it to yourself, and allow it to enter into your personal power center.

To empower through the familiar, mentally send in into any herbs which you are charging (instructing it as to the desired effect) and imagine that it passes power to them, imagine them glowing after contact with the familiar. When you are finished, always return the familiar to the plant.

Moon Lore

It was once believed that:

  1. The shadowed areas of the Moon were forests where the Goddess Diana hunted, and the bright areas were plains.
  2. That the Moon was a spinning wheel, upon which the Goddess spun the lives of Men and Women.
  3. That the Moon was a gem worn by the Goddess, and that the stars were decorations upon Her gown.

The names by which the Moon was called, as she appeared in each month of the year, varied with the significance of the seasonal month. In October and November we see the need for preparations for Winter. In February, the wolves were drawing closer to the villages looking for food. In March the sounds of ravens signaled the coming of Spring. April through June we see the signs of growing things. In July, the Moon marks the signs of horns and antlers upon young animals. In September, of course, we find that the time is marked to reap the Harvest.

Names of the Moon
October Hunter's Moon
November Larder Moon
December Long Night Moon
January Winter Moon
February Wolf Moon
March Raven Moon
April Meadow Moon
May Flower Moon
June Rose Moon
July Antler Moon
August Piscary Moon
September Harvest Moon

Moon Magick

The accumulation and direction of the subtle forces of the moon, is one of the arts of Witchcraft. Moon Magick is a personal art, even though there are basic guidelines. In ancient times, witches held the position of the Moon priestesses/priests. In coastal regions, and upon islands, witches were also Sea Priestesses/Priests. The use of water from the sea was an important aspect in Moon Magick (salt being a crystal form). The "charging" of water, and the release of the "charge" through evaporation, was an important aspect. So too was the soaking of woods and herbs in sea water, which were later dried, and burned as incenses and offerings. Two excellent books on this subject are Moon Magick and The Sea Priestess by Dion Fortune.

The use of Portals to gain access to the Lunar Realms, and the building of Magickal images there, is a very important aspect of Moon Magick. The actual "essence" of the power used in Moon Magick, originates out among the stars. The Sun draws in the stellar influences and transmits them into our Solar System. The Planets within our System absorb this energy which then merges with their own vibrations or energies. The Planets, in turn, then emanate a composite energy within our Solar System. Each Planet's energy or vibratory pattern is unique, and influences other planetary bodies and forces, within each planet's sphere of influence. This is the basis of Astrology and Planetary correspondences in Magick (this is how and why it works). The Moon is the focal point of power upon the Earth. The Moon absorbs, condenses, and channels all of these forces, which are then carried to our Planet, upon the Lunar Light Spectrum.

Agrippa, a 15th Century magician, understood these principles when he wrote "— but the Moon, the nearest to the heavenly influences, by the swiftness of her course, is joined to the sun, and the other planets and stars, as a conception, bringing them forth to the inferior world, as being next to itself, for all the stars have influence on it, being the last receiver, which afterwords communicates the influence of all superiors to these inferiors, and pours them forth upon the Earth —"

Aradia, the Holy Strega, told her followers to seek the Moon above all others, for the purposes of Magick. In the closing prayer of the Full Moon Ritual, we find these words which Aradia's followers were later to have written:
"O' Goddess of the Moon — teach us your ancient mysteries — that the Holy Strega spoke of, for I believe the Strega's story, when she told us to entreat Thee, told us when we seek for Knowledge, to seek and find Thee above all others."

Agrippa understood this also, when he wrote, "Therefore. her (the moon) motion is to be observed before the others, as the parent of all Conception — hence it is, that without the Moon intermediating, we cannot at any time attract the power of the superiors —" What Agrippa spoke of, is what witches have known for Ages: The Moon is the focal point of power upon the Earth. Without the Moon we cannot make use of the Universal Forces beyond her.

In Moon Magick, the ritual altar is the focal point for the Lunar forces which are drawn upon. Women are the vessels for Lunar Energy, receiving and directing the Magickal force. Men can also become lunar vessels, but women are much better suited (as their biology is more attuned to the Moon's Cycles, than are men's biology). The method used by both women and men will be given in another note (part 4 or 5, depending upon available space).

The Moon altar is placed facing the West Quarter. The altar itself should be round, but a square or a rectangle is OK. In the center of the altar, place a bowl of saltwater. A white sea shell is then set into the center of the bowl. As this is done, whisper the name of the Goddess who rules the current phase of the Moon, under which you are working. The new moon belongs to Diana (De-ah-nah), the Full Moon to Jana (Jah-nah) and the waning Moon to Umbrea. Around the bottom of the bowl. set nine white shells, forming a crescent (horns upward, as in a smile). If the Magick is for the gain of something, place the shells from right to left. If the Magick is for the removal, or loss of something, then place the shells from left to right.

As each shell is placed, chant the name of the Goddess who presides over the goal of the Magickal influence you desire. Matters concerning "beginnings" are under Diana. Matters involving "forces", energies, or powers are under the influence of Jana. Matters of Death, decline, and stagnation are ruled by Umbrea.

Censers of Moon Incense are placed around the bowl, upon the altar, forming a triangle (so you have 3 incense containers forming a triangle, with the Moon Bowl in its center). A reversed triangle (V) is formed for manifestations desired upon the physical plane. Upright triangles (A) are formed for manifestation upon the astral plane.

During the Magickal work, the energy is focused into the altar bowl (or moon bowl, as it is often called). This can be done in several different ways. In group rituals, members may point their ritual blades at the Priestess, who stands before the altar. The members visualize their energy flowing from their themselves, through their blades, and into the aura of the Priestess. The Priestess then visualizes this collective energy flowing from herself, through her own blade, into the moon bowl. Or she may simply place her palms over the bowl and focus the energy out through her hands. During this technique, she may recite an incantation, stating the purpose of the "charge", or the group may chant the spell's intent. One of the ways in which energy can be raised for this technique, is through deep breathing. Each person draws in air slowly and deeply, and exhales as they visualize the energy flowing outward through their ritual blades, or their hands. Eastern Mystics teach that the Ether of our planet can be drawn in through the breath, and condensed as pure energy. This they call "Prana".

Another method is to "enchant" the water. Begin by passing your right hand, palm down, over the bowl in a clockwise manner. Perform nine passes, then do the same with your left hand. You will need to create a Chant which will serve to describe your intent. It can be a simple rhyme, or whatever you want. As you chant, blow gently upon the water slightly disturbing the surface. Formulate the incantation to be as descriptive as you can, about what you desire.

Once you have spoken the incantation into the bowl, it is time to release the "charge". One technique for this is to boil the water, and observe the steam as it evaporates. Boil it until all of the water is gone. As the steam rises up, repeat your incantation, and watch the steam as it moves upward. It is carrying off your Magick, so that it may take effect. Think this as you watch it (thoughts are things).

Another very old method is to pour out the contents of the bowl into a stream, or river. As you do this, you recite a simple rhyme spell, such as:
"Water to water
a witch's spell
I give this stream
to speed it well"

Receiving the Moon's Light: (for women)
The Priestess receiving the Full Moon, will need an assistant. The assistant will require a silver disk, smooth and highly polished. If absolutely necessary, a small hand mirror may be used in its place. The Priestess will stand or kneel before the altar, with her head bowed down. The assistant will part her hair at the base of the skull, using water or oil to help separate the hair, if it is short.

While the priestess visualizes the form of the Goddess merging from behind, into her own form, the assistant will reflect the Moon's light upon the base of the skull, using the silver disk. You will find that this is quite difficult in city light pollution, and works best in a country setting, or a desert. Once the Priestess receives the Moon she can channel it into the Moon bowl, or she can "store" it within her Being for seven days. This light is pure Lunar energy, and can be "impregnated" with whatever "thoughtform" the priestess desires.

Receiving the Moon's light: (for men)
The Priest receiving the Full Moon, does not need an assistant, but may choose one if he desires. Men cannot receive the Moon in the same manner as women, nor should they visualize the Goddess merging with them. The Priest will stand, or kneel, before the altar with his head slightly bowed. Using a polished brass disk, the Moon's light is reflected upon his forehead. At this point the Priest will visualize himself as the Full Moon itself.

Once the light is received, the Priest can channel it into the bowl. Men do not "hold" Moon Light very well, and it is best to channel it off before the seven day period, which the Priestess enjoys.

There are several ways for a woman to receive the Moon's Light, without any assistant. The technique I gave in this subject note, is just one of the Magickal techniques. The Moon may also be received in a religious setting (no Magick intended, just a blessing or a union with Deity). In these modern times, you can set up a mirror behind you, and angle it so that it reflects down upon you, if you desire to try the Magickal technique. One of the old ways of non-Magickal union, was for the woman to lay nude beneath the Full Moon in the Full Moon Goddess Posture. This posture is also referred to as the Star Goddess Posture, and is an X formation, arms and legs spread out wide. The woman anoints herself with an oil of the Moon, just below her navel (forming a crescent with the oil). As she lays upon the earth, she will look up into the Moon, and slowly draw in the muscles of her abdomen, as she mentally pictures that she is drawing down the light of the Moon, into herself. Just as men draw power into themselves through the solar plexus, a woman draws power into herself through the navel region ("pit of the stomach" kind of thing. This is the center of a woman). This is just one method, but it can be a powerful experience.


This is the Legend of Aradia, who was called the Holy Strega (pronounced Stray-gah). Strega is the Italian word for witch. She lived in Italy during the 14th Century, and brought about the revival of the Old Religion, among the peasants who were enslaved by Feudal Lords and the Church. Charles Leland wrote a book in 1894 called Aradia, gospel of the witches. Unfortunately, his material is a Christianized distortion of the original text.

In 1508 C.E. the Italian Inquisitor Bernardo Rategno (having studied witch trial records preserved in the archives of the Inquisition at Comom) wrote a text called the Tractatus de Strigibus. In this text he states that the "witches sect" had begun to "expand" about 150 years earlier. This would place the "expansion" around 1350 (14th Century). In the Aridian Tradition we believe that this confirms the legend of Aradia. In Leland's Aradia, he also tells the tale of a woman who traveled about Italy teaching The Old Religion. According to this story, there once was a young woman from the town of Volterra who "traveled far and wide, teaching and preaching the religion of old times, the religion of Diana, the Queen of the fairies and of the Moon, the goddess of the poor and oppressed". Leland goes on to say "and the fame of her wisdom and beauty went forth over all the land, and people worshiped her, calling her La Bella Pellegrina (the beautiful Pilgrim)". In the Aridian Tradition, we believe that this legend is based upon the true life story of Aradia. We consider her to have been a great Teacher, and a type of Avatar, but we do not worship her. We do, however, honor her each Full Moon by the telling of her Legend, and by drinking to her memory.

According to our teachings, Aradia formed covens (called groves) in central Italy. She taught the Old Religion of Nature, and of Magick, but above all she taught a Spirituality. Beyond this she gave hope to peasants whose lives were made miserable, in service to the wealthy class. She taught them personal power, and personal value, in an Age when the Church taught them shame and sin, and servitude. Aradia returned their beautiful pagan heritage back to them once again. A heritage which was preserved in secret by courageous Priests and Priestesses of the Old Religion. Aradia taught Harmony with Nature, and directed her followers to merge with Nature through Seasonal Rites, and ritual observation of the Full Moon.

The "Charge" of the Goddess, known to many Wiccans, originally came from the Italian. The beginning paragraph can be found in Leland's text. Doreen Valiente now claims to have written it sometime during the 1950's or early 1960's. Leland recounted a portion of it in 1894, with an English translation from the Italian. I copied from a copy of it which came to the U.S. in 1946. So, this is all very curious to me!! In the next note I will post the Italian Charge, as written by the followers of Aradia, during the late 14th Century (well, a public version of it, anyway).

From: Domi O’Brien
Part of the problem, Raven, was that Leland was a Marxist, and Aradia was written less to record the legend than to place his political theory in a folklore frame.

From: Raven Grimassi
I've heard that theory about Leland, and its influence on his book. I do not personally believe that it is correct. When you read all of Leland's books, it is quite clear that he was extremely fascinated by the Witchlore of Italy. This was a man who spent many years of his life in Italy, and elsewhere, tracking and recording myth after myth. He spent a lot of time with Lady Vere de Vere (Italian Folklorist) and Professor Milani (Director of the Archaeological Museum in Florence) recording Italian Witchlore. His intense love of this subject is evident in his Book Legends of Florence, as well as several of his other books, including Etruscan Magick & Occult Remedies. Whatever his political leanings may have been, Aradia is more the result of a con job by the so-called "witch" Maddalena (and his obsession with preserving the old Witchlore), than it is anything else. It is curious that actual elements of true Italian Witchcraft were obtained by Maddalena. She was well known by the Craft, in those days, as a Gypsy Con-Artist, but clearly she did come upon some valid aspects of The Old Religion. Most of the text is utter nonsense, but there is enough there to make you go Hm.

The Charge of Aradia to Her Followers

"Whenever you have need of anything, once in the month when the Moon is full, then shall you gather in some deserted place, or within the woods, and give worship to She who is Queen of all Witches. Gather then all together, within a circle, and secrets that are as yet unknown shall be revealed. And you must be free within your mind and your spirit, and as a sign that you are truly free, you shall be naked in your rites. For therein is the essence of spirit, and a knowledge of joy. Be true unto your own beliefs, and keep to the Ways, beyond all obstacles. For ours is the Key to the Mysteries, and the Cycle of Rebirth, which opens the way unto the Womb of Enlightenment. I am the Spirit of Witches All, and this is Joy and Peace and Harmony. In life does the Queen of all Witches reveal the Knowledge of Spirit. And from Death does the Queen deliver you unto peace, and renew your Life again.

When I shall have departed from this World, in memory of me, make cakes of grain, wine, and honey. These shall you fashion in the shape of the Moon, and partake of these cakes, and of wine, all in my memory.

Offerings then shall you give unto She is who our Mother. For She is the beauty of the earth, and the white Moon among the heavens, and the Mystery which gives Life, and ever calls us to gather in Her name. Let Her worship be the ways within your heart, for all acts of love and pleasure, are as rituals unto the Goddess. But to all who seek Her, know that your seeking and yearning shall avail you not, until you know the Mystery. For if that which you seek, is not found within you, you shall never find it without. For She has been with you since you entered into the Ways, and She is that which awaits attainment, and your journeys end."

This is an altered version of the full length "Charge" as it appears in the Aridian Tradition. On the next note I will post Leland's version, which was written in 1894. Following this I will post one of the popular Wiccan versions, which will probably be better recognized. I am sorry that I cannot post the actual Charge, but this one comes very close (without dishonoring my oath of Initiation).

(Leland's version — written in 1890):
"When I shall have departed from this world, whenever ye have need of anything, once in the month, and when the Moon is full, ye shall assemble in some secret place, or in a forest all together join to adore the potent spirit of your Queen, my Mother, great Diana. She who fain would learn all sorcery yet has not won its deepest secrets, them my mother will teach her, in truth all things as yet unknown. And ye shall be freed from slavery, and so shall ye be free in everything; and as a sign that ye are truly free, ye shall be naked in your rites, both men and women also: this shall last until the last of your oppressors shall be dead; and ye shall make the game of Benevento, extinguishing the lights, and after that shall hold your supper thus:"

(Leland goes on with the conjuration, and blessing, of the meal for the Sabbat, and then concludes the Charge)
"And thus shall it be done: all shall sit down to the supper all naked, men and women, and, the feast over, they shall dance, sing, make music, and then love in the darkness, with all the lights extinguished; for it is the Spirit of Diana who extinguishes them, and so they will dance and make music in her praise."

I just thought that you might find this of interest. There are many verses in Leland's writing, which Doreen Valiente now claims to have written for Gerald Gardner, circa 1958. (Text from: Aradia, Gospel of the Witches by Charles Leland)

From: Jana Hollingsworth
A version of the Charge of the Goddess appeared in Charles Godfrey Leland's Aradia around the turn of the century. According to Raven Grimassi, it was known among Italian traditional Witches long before that. The Leland publication alone would indicate that Valiente merely rewrote it.

The Charge of the Goddess — who wrote it? Was Leland the first one to note it? Did Doreen create it in Fifty-eight? Or did they from Italy quote it?

From: Janice Burgess
Doreen adapted and expanded the Charge from a bit that is in Aradia. The part in Aradia is not nearly as beautifully written and doesn't contain as much text as Doreen's adaptation. It also contains things that modern pagans probably wouldn't understand culturally or want to include as they wouldn't apply well at this point in time. I'm a fanatic about where things come from and always like to know although, like you, it doesn't affect my enjoyment of the work at all. I like getting credit for what I've written and like to extend the courtesy to others as well, so I guess that's part of it. I also just went through a lot of problems with a book I have coming out this fall. I wanted to include things like chants and songs I've been hearing for over 10 years in the appendix. I had to track down who had done what and get permissions from all concerned. Most of them I wanted to use had been done by friends. A few I had no idea who had written them. It was really a mess. It cured me from ever jotting something down and using it and taking it for granted I would remember where it had come from later on.

From: Raven Grimassi
Yes, Doreen based her version of the Charge on Aradia by Leland (among other writings as well). The beginning of the Charge ("once in the month and better it be when the Moon is Full —") comes from Aradia's instructions to her followers. In Leland's Aradia it is in Chapter 1, being the last English translation there. I will provide the first section here for you, directly from Leland's book:

"— whenever ye have need of anything, once in the month and when the moon is full, ye shall assemble in some desert place, or in a forest all together join to adore the potent spirit of your Queen, My Mother, great Diana. She who fain would learn all sorcery yet has not won its deepest secrets, them my Mother will teach her, in truth all things as yet unknown. And ye shall be free from slavery, and so shall ye be free in everything; and as the sign that ye are truly free, you shall be naked in your rites."

Remember, this was first published in 1890. Seem somehow familiar?

Italian Craft

As an introduction to this subject, I'll begin with some excerpts from a few books. In the Legends of Florence we find these words by Charles Leland (written 1895):
"The witches of Italy form a class who are the repositories of all the folklore; but, what is not at all generally known they also keep as strict secrets an immense number of legends of their own, which have nothing in common with the nursery or popular tales, such as are commonly collected and published — Lady Vere de Vere, who has investigated witchcraft as it exists in the Italian Tyrol, in an admirable article in La Rivista of Rome (June 1894) tells us that "the Community of Italian Witches is regulated by laws, traditions, and customs of the most secret kind, possessing special recipes for sorcery" which is perfectly true. Having been free of the community for years, I can speak from experience. The more occult and singular of their secrets are naturally not of a nature to be published —"

After consulting with Lady Vere de Vere (Italian Folklorist) and Professor Milani (Director of the Archaeological Museum in Florence) Leland wrote (concerning Italian Witchlore), "That this is of great antiquity is clear, for out of this enchanted forest of Italian Witchcraft and mystical sorcery, there never came anything, great or small, which was not at least of the Bronze, if not Neolithic Age". In his book, Aradia, Leland writes of the popular Christian image of the witch, but goes on to say: "But the Italian Strega or sorceress is in certain respects a different character from these. In most cases she comes of a family in which her calling or art has been practiced for many generations…"

In Leland's Etruscan Magick & Occult Remedies we find these statements: "Among the cliffs and scrubby moors of northern Italy there dwell today descendants of an ancient people whose stubborn and exotic mystery has provoked historians to conflict, linguists to despair, archaeologists to poetry, and poets to philosophy. For almost two thousand years the astounding secret of their existence was kept without living whisper save in the anachronistic echoes, recorded for the first time in this book, of Tuscan Catholic peasant voices calling through unbroken generations upon the pagan deities of their remarkable ancestors —"

Later in this book he states: "But I was much more astonished to find that in Tuscany, the most enlightened portion of Italy, under all Roman rule, an old pagan faith, or something like it, has existed to a most extraordinary degree. For it is really not a mere chance survival of superstitions here and there, as in England or France, but a complete system, as this work will abundantly prove."

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