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АРАДИЯ - ЕВАНГЕЛИЕ ВЕДЬМ
на английском языке
другие книги Леланда
If the reader has ever met with the works of the learned folk-lorist G. Pitré, or the articles contributed by "Lady Vere De Vere" to the Italian Rivista, or that of J. H. Andrews to Folk-Lore, 1 he will be aware that there are in Italy great numbers of strege, fortune-tellers or witches, who divine by cards, perform strange ceremonies in which spirits are supposed to be invoked, make and sell amulets, and, in fact, comport themselves generally as their reputed kind are wont to do, be they Black Voodoos in America or sorceresses anywhere.
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 practised for many generations. I have no doubt that there are in stances in which the ancestry remounts to mediæval, Roman, or it may be Etruscan times. The result has naturally been the accumulation in such families of much tradition. But in Northern Italy, as its literature indicates, though there
has been some slight gathering of fairy tales and popular superstitions by scholars, there has never existed the least interest as regarded the strange lore of the witches, nor any suspicion that it embraced an incredible quantity of old Roman minor myths and legends, such as Ovid has recorded, but of which much escaped him and all other Latin writers. 1
This ignorance was greatly aided by the wizards themselves, in making a profound secret of all their traditions, urged thereto by fear of the priests. In fact, the latter all unconsciously actually contributed immensely to the preservation of such lore, since the charm of the forbidden is very great, and witchcraft, like the truffle, grows best and has its raciest flavour when most deeply hidden. However this may be, both priest and wizard are vanishing now with incredible rapidity--it has even struck a French writer that a Franciscan in a railway carriage is a strange anomaly--and a few more years of newspapers and bicycles (Heaven knows what it
will be when flying-machines appear!) will probably cause an evanishment of all.
However, they die slowly, and even yet there are old people in the Romagna of the North who know the Etruscan names of the Twelve Gods, and invocations to Bacchus, Jupiter, and Venus, Mercury, and the Lares or ancestral spirits, and in the cities are women who prepare strange amulets, over which they mutter spells, all known in the old Roman time, and who can astonish even the learned by their legends of Latin gods, mingled with lore which may be found in Cato or Theocritus. With one of these I became intimately acquainted in 1886, and have ever since employed her specially to collect among her sisters of the hidden spell in many places all the traditions of the olden time known to them. It is true that I have drawn from other sources, but this woman by long practice has perfectly learned what few understand, or just what I want, and how to extract it from those of her kind.
Among other strange relics, she succeeded, after many years, in obtaining the following "Gospel," which I have in her handwriting. A full account of its nature with many details will be found in an Appendix. I do not know definitely whether my informant derived a part of these traditions from written sources or oral narration,
but believe it was chiefly the latter. However, there are a few wizards who copy or preserve documents relative to their art. I have not seen my collector since the "Gospel" was sent to me. I hope at some future time to be better informed.
For brief explanation I may say that witch craft is known to its votaries as la vecchia religione, or the old religion, of which Diana is the Goddess, her daughter Aradia (or Herodias) the female Messiah, and that this little work sets forth how the latter was born, came down to earth, established witches and witchcraft, and then returned to heaven. With it are given the ceremonies and invocations or incantations to be addressed to Diana and Aradia, the exorcism of Cain, and the spells of the holy-stone, rue, and verbena, constituting, as the text declares, the regular church-service, so to speak, which is to be chanted or pronounced at the witch-meetings. There are also included the very curious incantations or benedictions of the honey, meal, and salt, or cakes of the witch-supper, which is curiously classical, and evidently a relic of the Roman Mysteries.
The work could have been extended ad infinitum by adding to it the ceremonies and incantations which actually form a part of the Scripture of Witchcraft, but as these are nearly all--or at
least in great number--to be found in my works entitled Etruscan-Roman Remains and Legends of Florence, I have hesitated to compile such a volume before ascertaining whether there is a sufficiently large number of the public who would buy such a work.
Since writing the foregoing I have met with and read a very clever and entertaining work entitled Il Romanzo dei Settimani, G. Cavagnari, 1889, in which the author, in the form of a novel, vividly depicts the manners, habits of thought, and especially the nature of witchcraft, and the many superstitions current among the peasants in Lombardy. Unfortunately, notwithstanding his extensive knowledge of the subject, it never seems to have once occurred to the narrator that these traditions were anything but noxious nonsense or abominably un-Christian folly. That there exists in them marvellous relics of ancient mythology and valuable folklore, which is the very cor cordium of history, is as uncared for by him as it would be by a common Zoccolone or tramping Franciscan. One would think it might have been suspected by a man who knew that a witch really endeavoured to kill seven people as a ceremony or rite, in order to get the secret of endless wealth, that such a sorceress must have had a store of wondrous legends; but of all this there is no trace, and it
is very evident that nothing could be further from his mind than that there was anything interesting from a higher or more genial point of view in it all.
His book, in fine, belongs to the very great number of those written on ghosts and superstition since the latter has fallen into discredit, in which the authors indulge in much satirical and very safe but cheap ridicule of what to them is merely vulgar and false. Like Sir Charles Coldstream, they have peeped into the crater of Vesuvius after it had ceased to "erupt," and found "nothing in it." But there was something in it once; and the man of science, which Sir Charles was not, still finds a great deal in the remains, and the antiquarian a Pompeii or a Herculaneum--'tis said there are still seven buried cities to unearth. I have done what little (it is really very little) I could, to disinter something from the dead volcano of Italian sorcery.
If this be the manner in which Italian witchcraft is treated by the most intelligent writer who has depicted it, it will not be deemed remarkable that there are few indeed who will care whether there is a veritable Gospel of Witches, apparently of extreme antiquity, embodying the belief in a strange counter-religion which has held its own from pre-historic time to the present day. "Witchcraft is all rubbish, or
something worse," said old writers, "and therefore all books about it are nothing better." I sincerely trust, however, that these pages may fall into the hands of at least a few who will think better of them.
I should, however, in justice to those who do care to explore dark and bewildering paths, explain clearly that witch-lore is hidden with most scrupulous care from all save a very few in Italy, just as it is among the Chippeway Medas or the Black Voodoo. In the novel to the life of I Settimani an aspirant is represented as living with a witch and acquiring or picking up with pain, scrap by scrap, her spells and incantations, giving years to it. So my friend the late M. Dragomanoff told me how a certain man in Hungary, having learned that he had collected many spells (which were indeed subsequently published in folklore journals), stole into the scholar's room and surreptitiously copied them, so that the next year when Dragomanoff returned, he found the thief in full practice as a blooming magician. Truly he had not got many incantations, only a dozen or so, but a very little will go a great way in the business, and I venture to say there is perhaps hardly a single witch in Italy who knows as many as I have published, mine having been assiduously collected from many, far and wide. Everything of the kind
which is written is, moreover, often destroyed with scrupulous care by priests or penitents, or the vast number who have a superstitious fear of even being in the same house with such documents, so that I regard the rescue of the Vangelo as something which is to say the least remarkable.
v:1 March, 1897: "Neapolitan Witchcraft."
vi:1 Thus we may imagine what the case would have been as regards German fairy-tales if nothing had survived to a future day except the collections of Grimm and Musæus. The world would fall into the belief that these constituted all the works of the kind which had ever existed, when, in fact they form only a small part of the whole. And folklore was unknown to classic authors: there is really no evidence in any ancient Latin writer that he gathered traditions and the like among the vulgar, as men collect at present. They all made books entirely out of books--there being still "a few left of the same sort" of literati.
How Diana Gave Birth to Aradia (Herodias)
"It is Diana! Lo!
This is the Gospel (Vangelo) of the Witches:
Diana greatly loved her brother Lucifer, the god of the Sun and of the Moon, the god of Light (Splendor), who was so proud of his beauty, and who for his pride was driven from Paradise.
Diana had by, her brother a daughter, to whom they gave the name of Aradia [i.e. Herodias].
In those days there were on earth many rich and many poor.
The rich made slaves of all the poor.
In those days were many slaves who were cruelly treated; in every palace tortures, in every castle prisoners.
Many slaves escaped. They fled to the country; thus they became thieves and evil folk. Instead of sleeping by night, they plotted escape and robbed their masters, and then slew them. So they dwelt in the mountains and forests as robbers and assassins, all to avoid slavery.
Diana said one day to her daughter Aradia:
E vero che tu sei uno spirito,
Non devi essere come la figlia di Caino,
Tu sarai (sempre) la prima strega,
Quando un prete ti fara del male,
Quando i nobili e prete vi diranno
Il vero dio Padre non e il vostro--
"Voi altri poveri soffrite anche la fame,
'Tis true indeed that thou a spirit art,
Yet like Cain's daughter thou shalt never be,
And thou shalt be the first of witches known;
And when a priest shall do you injury
And when the priests or the nobility
"For the true God the Father is not yours;
"Ye who are poor suffer with hunger keen,
Now when Aradia had been taught, taught to work all witchcraft, how to destroy the evil race (of oppressors) she (imparted it to her pupils) and said unto them:
Quando io saro partita da questo mondo,
When I shall have departed from this world,
4:1 Legare, the binding and paralysing human faculties by means of witchcraft.
The Sabbat: Treguenda or Witch-Meeting--How to Consecrate the Supper
Here follows the supper, of what it must consist, and what shall be said and done to consecrate it to Diana.
You shall take meal and salt, honey and water, and make this incantation:
Scongiurazione della Farina.
Scongiuro te, o farina!
Ma quando grano sarai in spighe,
Scongiurazione del Sale.
Scongiuro il sale suona mezza giòrno,
The Conjuration of Meal.
I conjure thee, O Meal!
And yet erewhile, when thou wert in the ear,
. . . . .
Queen of the Fireflies! hurry apace, 2
And because thou for ever art brilliant and fair,
Here follows the Conjuration of the Salt.
Conjuration of the Salt.
I do conjure thee, salt, lo! here at noon,
Here follows the Conjuration of Cain.
Scongiurazione di Caïno.
Tuo Caïno, tu non possa aver
The Conjuration of Cain.
I conjure thee, O Cain, as thou canst ne'er
Then shall follow the Conjuration of Diana.
You shall make cakes of meal, wine, salt, and honey in the shape of a (crescent or horned) moon, and then put them to bake, and say:
Non cuoco ne il pane ne il sale,
Conjuration of Diana.
I do not bake the bread, nor with it salt,
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.
And it came to pass that Diana, after her daughter had accomplished her mission or spent her time on earth among the living (mortals), recalled her, and gave her the power that when she had been invoked... having done some good deed... she gave her the power to gratify those who had conjured her by granting her or him success in love:
To bless or curse with power friends or enemies [to do good or evil].
Whatever thing should be asked from the spirit of Aradia, that should be granted unto those who merited her favour.
And thus must they invoke her:
Thus do I seek Aradia! Aradia! Aradia! 1 At midnight, at midnight I go into a field, and with me I bear water, wine, and salt, I bear water, wine, and salt, and my talisman--my talisman, my talisman, and a red small bag which I ever hold in my hand con dentro, con dentro, sale, with salt in it, in it. With the water and wine I bless myself, I bless myself with devotion to implore a favour from Aradia, Aradia.
Sconjurazione di Aradia.
Aradia, Aradia mia!
continues] E con una sorella, te ha creata,
Aradia! Aradia! Tanto ti prego
The Invocation to Aradia.
Aradia! my Aradia!
Aradia, Aradia! I implore
10:1 There is an evident association here of the body of the firefly (which much resembles a grain of wheat) with the latter.
10:2 The six lines following are often heard as a nursery rhyme.
11:1 Probably a mistake for Luna.
11:2 This implies keeping himself warm, and is proof positive that moon should here be read for sun. According to another legend Cain suffers from cold in the moon.
15:1 This is a formula which is to be slowly recited, emphasising the repetitions.
How Diana Made the Stars and the Rain
Diana was the first created before all creation; in her were all things; out of herself, the first darkness, she divided herself; into darkness and light she was divided. Lucifer, her brother and son, herself and her other half, was the light.
And when Diana saw that the light was so beautiful, the light which was her other half, her brother Lucifer, she yearned for it with exceeding great desire. Wishing to receive the light again into her darkness, to swallow it up in rapture, in delight, she trembled with desire. This desire was the Dawn.
But Lucifer, the light, fled from her, and would not yield to her wishes; he was the light which files into the most distant parts of heaven, the mouse which flies before the cat.
Then Diana went to the fathers of the Beginning, to the mothers, the spirits who were before the first spirit, and lamented unto them that she could not prevail with Lucifer. And they praised her for her courage, they told her that to rise she must fall; to become the chief of goddesses she must become a mortal.
And in the ages, in the course of time, when the world was made, Diana went on earth, as did Lucifer,
who had fallen, and Diana taught magic and sorcery, whence came witches and fairies and goblins--all that is like man, yet not mortal.
And it came thus that Diana took the form of a cat. Her brother had a cat whom he loved beyond all creatures, and it slept every night on his bed, a cat beautiful beyond all other creatures, a fairy: he did not know it.
Diana prevailed with the cat to change forms with her, so she lay with her brother, and in the darkness assumed her own form, and so by Lucifer became the mother of Aradia. But when in the morning he found that he lay by his sister, and that light had been conquered by darkness, Lucifer was extremely angry; but Diana sang to him a spell, a song of power, and he was silent, the song of the night which soothes to sleep; he could say nothing. So Diana with her wiles of witchcraft so charmed him that he yielded to her love. This was the first fascination, she hummed the song, it was as the buzzing of bees (or a top spinning round), a spinning-wheel spinning life. She spun the lives of all men; all things were spun from the wheel of Diana. Lucifer turned the wheel.
Diana was not known to the witches and spirits, the fairies and elves who dwell in desert place, the goblins, as their mother; she hid herself in humility and was a mortal, but by her will she rose again above all. She had such passion for witchcraft, and became so powerful therein, that her greatness could not be hidden.
And thus it came to pass one night, at the meeting
of all the sorceresses and fairies, she declared that she would darken the heavens and turn all the stars into mice.
All those who were present said--
"If thou canst do such a strange thing, having risen to such power, thou shalt be our queen."
Diana went into the street; she took the bladder of an ox and a piece of witch-money, which has an edge like a knife--with such money witches cut the earth from men's foot-tracks--and she cut the earth, and with it and many mice she filled the bladder, and blew into the bladder till it burst.
And there came a great marvel, for the earth which was in the bladder became the round heaven above, and for three days there was a great rain; the mice became stars or rain. And having made the heaven and the stars and the rain, Diana became Queen of the Witches; she was the cat who ruled the star-mice, the heaven and the rain.
The Charm of the Stones Consecrated to Diana
To find a stone with a hole in it is a special sign of the favour of Diana. He who does so shall take it in his hand and repeat the following, having observed the ceremony as enjoined:--
Scongiurazione della pietra bucata.
Una pietra bucata
Mi alzo la mattina al alba,
Me lo tengo in senno chiuso
Diana fu quella
Diana, tu che siei la regina
Una altra volta ti scongiuro
Invocation to the Holy-Stone. 1
I have found
I rise in the morning by the earliest dawn,
It was Diana who did come to me,
Great Diana! thou
Or I may truly at another time
[Here we have again the threatening the deity, just as in Eskimo or other Shamanism, which represents the rudest primitive form of conjuring, the spirits are menaced. A trace of this is to be found among rude Roman Catholics. Thus when St. Bruno, some years ago, at a town in the Romagna, did not listen to the prayers of his devotees for rain, they stuck his image in the mud of the river, head downwards. A rain speedily followed, and the saint was restored in honour to his place in the church.]
The Spell or Conjuration of the Round Stone. 1
The finding a round stone, be it great or small, is a good sign (e buono augurio), but it should never be given away, because the receiver will then get the good luck, and some disaster befall the giver.
On finding a round stone, raise the eyes to heaven, and throw the stone up three times (catching it every time), and say:--
Spirito del buono augurio!
Se danari da qualchuno avanzerò
Se dorme to desterai,
E tu col tuo Brié-brié, le dirai,
Cosi il debitare il giorno appresso,
Se colla mia amante saro' adirato,
E di ubbidire a tutti miei commandi!
Spirit of good omen,
Should I lend money unto any man
So teach him with thy ceaseless "Brié--brié!"
23:1 Properly, the stone with a hole in it. But such a stone is called holy on shipboard, and here it has really a claim to the name.
24:1 This is an obscure passage, but I believe that I have given it as the poet meant or felt it.
25:1 Il sasso a palla.
The Conjuration of the Lemon and Pins
Scongiurazione al Limone appuntato un Spille.
Sacred to Diana.
A lemon stuck full of pins of different colours always brings good fortune.
If you receive as a gift a lemon full of pins of divers colours, without any black ones among them, it signifies that your life will be perfectly happy and prosperous and joyful.
But if some black pins are among them, you may enjoy good fortune and health, yet mingled with troubles which may be of small account. [However, to lessen their influence, you must perform the following ceremony, and pronounce this incantation, wherein all is also described. 1]
The Incantation to Diana.
Al punto di mezza notte
continues] Un arancio e un mandarino,
At the instant when the midnight came,
[Something is here omitted in the MS. I conjecture that the two are tossed without seeing them into the air, and if the lemon remains, the ceremony proceeds as follows. This is evident, since in it the incantation is confused with a prose direction how to act.]
Saying this, one looks up at the sky, and I found the lemon in one hand, and a voice said to me--
"Take many pins, and carefully stick them in the lemon, pins of many colours; and as thou wilt have good luck, and if thou desirest to give the lemon to any one or to a friend, thou shouldst stick in it many pins of varied colours.
"But if thou wilt that evil befall any one, put in it black pins.
"But for this thou must pronounce a different incantation (thus)":--
Dia Diana, a te scongiuro!
Se questa grazia mi farete,
The Invocation to Diana.
Goddess Diana, I do conjure thee
And thou shalt call for me the fiends from hell;
If this grace I gain from thee
Ere the third day
As the orange was the fruit of the Sun, so is the lemon suggestive of the Moon or Diana, its colour being of the lighter yellow. However, the lemon specially chosen for the charm is always a green one, because it "sets hard" and turns black. It is not generally known that orange and lemon peel, subjected to pressure and combined with an adhesive may be made into a hard substance which can be moulded or used for many purposes. I have devoted a chapter to this in an as yet unpublished work entitled One Hundred Minor Arts. This was suggested to me by the hardened lemon given to me for a charm by a witch.
29:1 This passage is not given in the original MS., but it is necessary to clearly explain what follows abruptly.
33:1 This appears from very early ages, as in Roman times, to have been regarded as gifted with magic properties, and was used in occult ceremonies.
33:2 That is, Diana is invoked to send demons with the very life of the fire of hell to still more increase that of the sun to intensify the wine.
A Spell To Win Love
When a wizard, a worshipper of Diana, one who worships the Moon, desires the love of a woman, he can change her into the form of a dog, when she, forgetting who she is, and all things besides, will at once come to his house, and there, when by him, take on again her natural form and remain with him. And when it is time for her to depart, she will again become a dog and go home, where she will turn into a girl. And she will remember nothing of what has taken place, or at least but little or mere fragments, which will seem as a confused dream. And she will take the form of a dog because Diana has ever a dog by her side.
And this is the spell to be repeated by him who would bring a love to his home. 1
To day is Friday, and I wish to rise very early, not having been able to sleep all night, having seen a very beautiful girl, the daughter of a rich lord, whom I dare not hope to win. Were she poor, I could gain her with money; but as she is rich, I have no hope to do so. (Therefore will I conjure Diana to aid me.)
Scongiurazione a Diana.
Diana, bella Diana!
Invocation to Diana.
Diana, beautiful Diana!
Thus it will come to pass that the girl as a dog will return to her home unseen and unsuspected, for thus will it be effected by Aradia; and the girl will think it is all a dream, because she will have been enchanted by Aradia.
35:1 The beginning of this spell seems to be merely a prose introduction explaining the nature of the ceremony.
To Find or Buy Anything, or to Have Good Fortune Thereby
An Invocation or Incantation to Diana.
The man or woman who, when about to go forth into the town, would fain be free from danger or risk of an accident: or to have good fortune in buying, as, for instance, if a scholar hopes that he may find some rare old book or manuscript for sale very cheaply, or if any one wishes to buy anything very desirable or to find bargains or rarities. This scongiurazione one serves for good health, cheerfulness of heart, and absence of evil or the overcoming enmity. These are words of gold unto the believer.
Siamo di Martedi e a buon ora
Quando il malocchio
Tu stessa dal proprietario
continues] Capitare in mano al padrone,
'Tis Tuesday now, and at an early hour
First with three drops of oil I do remove
When the evil fortune
Then well contented
And thou shalt find the man,
The foregoing was obtained, after some delay, in reply to a query as to what conjuration would be required before going forth, to make sure that one should find for sale some rare book, or other object desired, at a very moderate price. Therefore the invocation has been so worded as to make it applicable to literary finds; but those who wish to buy anything whatever on equally favourable terms, have but to vary the request, retaining the introduction, in which the magic virtue consists. I cannot, however, resist the conviction that it is most applicable to, and will succeed best with, researches for objects of antiquity, scholarship, and art, and it should accordingly be deeply impressed on the memory of every bric-à-brac hunter and bibliographer. It should be observed, and that earnestly, that the prayer, far from being answered, will turn to the contrary or misfortune, unless the one who repeats it does so in fullest faith, and this cannot be acquired by merely saying to oneself, "I believe." For to acquire real faith in anything requires long and serious mental discipline, there being, in fact, no subject which is so generally spoken of and so little understood. Here, indeed, I am speaking seriously, for the man who can train his faith to actually believe in and cultivate or develop his will can really work what the
world by common consent regards as miracles. A time will come when this principle will form not only the basis of all education, but also that of all moral and social culture. I have, I trust, fully set it forth in a work entitled "Have you a Strong Will? or how to Develop it or any other Faculty or Attribute of the Mind, and render it Habitual," &c. London: George Redway.
The reader, however, who has devout faith, can, as the witches declare, apply this spell daily before going forth to procuring or obtaining any kind of bargains at shops, to picking up or discovering lost objects, or, in fact, to finds of any kind. If he incline to beauty in female form, he will meet with bonnes fortunes; if a man of business, bargains will be his. The botanist who repeats it before going into the fields will probably discover some new plant, and the astronomer by night be almost certain to run against a brand new planet, or at least an asteroid. It should be repeated before going to the races, to visit friends, places of amusement, to buy or sell, to make speeches, and specially before hunting or any nocturnal goings--forth, since Diana is the goddess of the chase and of night. But woe to him who does it for a jest!
39:1 This refers to a small ceremony which I have seen performed scores of times, and have indeed had it performed over me almost as often, as an act of courtesy common among wizards and witches. It consists of making certain signs and crosses over a few drops of oil and the head of the one blessed, accompanied by a short incantation. I have had the ceremony seriously commended or prescribed to me as a means of keeping in good health and prosperity.
To Have a Good Vintage and Very Good Wine by the Aid of Diana
"Sweet is the vintage when the showering grapes
"Vinum bonum et suave,
He who would have a good vintage and fine wine, should take a horn full of wine and with this go into the vineyards or farms wherever vines grow, and then drinking from the horn, say:--
Bevo ma non bevo il vino,
Quando il mio vino pendera
I drink, and yet it is not wine I drink,
This is a very interesting invocation and tradition, and probably of great antiquity from very striking intrinsic evidence. For it is firstly devoted to a subject which has received little attention--the connection of Diana as the moon with Bacchus, although in the great Dizionario Storico Mitologico, by Pozzoli and others, it is expressly asserted that in Greece her worship was associated with that of Bacchus, Esculapius, and Apollo. The connecting link is the horn. In a medal of Alexander Severus, Diana of Ephesus bears the horn of plenty. This is the horn or horns of the new moon, sacred to Diana. According to Callimachus, Apollo himself built an altar consisting entirely of horns to Diana.
The connection of the horn with wine is
obvious. It was usual among the old Slavonians for the priest of Svantevit, the Sun-god, to see if the horn which the idol held in his hand was full of wine, in order to prophesy a good harvest for the coming year. If it was filled, all was right; if not, he filled the horn, drank from it, and replaced the horn in the hand, and predicted that all would eventually go well. 1 It cannot fail to strike the reader that this ceremony is strangely like that of the Italian invocation, the only difference being that in one the Sun, and in the other the Moon is invoked to secure a good harvest.
In the Legends of Florence there is one of the Via del Corno, in which the hero, falling into a vast tun or tina of wine, is saved from drowning by sounding a horn with tremendous power. At the sound, which penetrates to an incredible distance, even to unknown lands, all come rushing as if enchanted to save him. In this conjuration, Diana, in the depths of heaven, is represented as rushing at the sound of the horn, and leaping through doors or windows to save the vintage of the one who blows. There is a certain singular affinity in these stories.
In the story of the Via del Corno, the hero is
saved by the Red Goblin or Robin Goodfellow, who gives him a horn, and it is the same sprite who appears in the conjuration of the Round Stone, which is sacred to Diana. This is because the spirit is nocturnal, and attendant on Diana Titania.
Kissing the hand to the new moon is a ceremony of unknown antiquity, and Job, even in his time, regarded it as heathenish and forbidden which always means antiquated and out of fashion--as when he declared (xxxi. 26, 27), "If I beheld the moon walking in brightness... and my heart hath been secretly enticed or my mouth hath kissed my hand... this also were an iniquity to be punished by the Judge, for I should have denied the God that is above." From which it may or ought to be inferred that Job did not understand that God made the moon and appeared in all His works, or else he really believed the moon was an independent deity. In any case, it is curious to see the old forbidden rite still living, and as heretical as ever.
The tradition, as given to me, very evidently omits a part of the ceremony, which may be supplied from classic authority. When the peasant performs the rite, he must not act as once a certain African, who was a servant of a friend of mine, did. The coloured man's duty was to pour
out every morning a libation of rum to a fetish and he poured it down his own throat. The peasant should also sprinkle the vines, just as the Devonshire farmers, who observed all Christmas ceremonies, sprinkled, also from a horn, their apple-trees.
48:1 Kreussler, Sorbenwendische Alterthümer, Pt. I. p. 272.
Tana and Endamone, or Diana and Endymion
"Hic ultra Endymionem indormit negligentiæ."
"Now it is fabled that Endymion, admitted to Olympus, whence he was expelled for want of respect to Juno, was banished for thirty years to earth. And having been allowed to sleep this time in a cave of Mount Latmos, Diana, smitten with his beauty, visited him every night till she had by him fifty daughters and one son. And after this Endymion was recalled to Olympus."
--Diz. Stor. Mitol.
The following legend and the spells were given under the name or title of Tana. This was the old Etruscan name for Diana, which is still preserved in the Romagna Toscana. In more than one Italian and French work I have found some account or tale how a witch charmed a girl to sleep for a lover, but this is the only explanation of the whole ceremony known to me.
Tana is a beautiful goddess, and she loved a marvelously handsome youth named Endamone; but her love was crossed by a witch who was her rival, although Endamone did not care for the latter.
But the witch resolved to win him, whether he
would or not, and with this intent she induced the servant of Endamone to let her pass the night in the latter's room. And when there, she assumed the appearance of Tana, whom he loved, so that he was delighted to behold her, as he thought, and welcomed her with passionate embraces. Yet this gave him into her power, for it enabled her to perform a certain magic spell by clipping a lock of his hair. 1
Then she went home, and taking a piece of sheep's intestine, formed of it a purse, and in this she put that which she had taken, with a red and a black ribbon bound together, with a feather, and pepper and salt, and then sang a song. These were the words, a song of witchcraft of the very old time.
Ho formato questo sachetto a Endamone,
continues] E non la potrai fare. Sempre addormentato
This bag for Endamon' I wove,
But Tana, who was far more powerful than the witch, though not able to break the spell by which he was compelled to sleep, took from him all pain (he knew her in dreams), and embracing him, she sang this counter-charm.
The Song of Diana.
Endamone, Endamone, Endamone!
Endamone, Endamone, Endamone!
Endamone, Endamone, Endamone!
So it came to pass that the fair goddess made love with Endamone as if they had been awake (yet communing in dreams). And so it is to this day, that who ever would make love with him or her who sleeps, should have recourse to the beautiful Tana, and so doing there will be success.
This legend, while agreeing in many details with the classical myth, is strangely intermingled with practices of witchcraft, but even these, if investigated, would all prove to be as ancient as the rest of the text. Thus the sheep's intestine used instead of the red woollen bag which is employed in beneficent magic-the red and black
ribbon, which mingles threads of joy and woe--the (peacock's) feather or la penna maligna--pepper and salt, occur in many other incantations, but always to bring evil and cause suffering. 1
I have never seen it observed, but it is true, that Keats in his exquisite poem of Endymion completely departs from or ignores the whole spirit and meaning of the ancient myth, while in this rude witch-song it is minutely developed. The conception is that of a beautiful youth furtively kissed in his slumber by Dian of reputed chastity. The ancient myth is, to begin with, one of darkness and light, or day and night, from which are born the fifty-one (now fifty-two) weeks of the year. This is Diana, the night, and Apollo, the sun, or light in another form. It is expressed as love-making during sleep, which, when it occurs in real life, generally has for active agent some one who, without being absolutely modest, wishes to preserve appearances. The established character of Diana among the Initiated (for which she was bitterly reviled by the Fathers of the Church) was that of a beautiful hypocrite who pursued amours in silent secrecy.
"Thus as the moon Endymion lay with her,
(On which the reader may consult Tertullian, De Falsa Religione, lib. ii. cap. 17, and Pico de Mirandula, La Strega.)
But there is an exquisitely subtle, delicately strange idea or ideal in the conception of the apparently chaste "clear cold moon" casting her living light by stealth into the hidden recesses of darkness and acting in the occult mysteries of love or dreams. So it struck Byron 1 as an original thought that the sun does not shine on half the forbidden deeds which the moon witnesses, and this is emphasised in the Italian witch-poem. In it the moon is distinctly invoked as the protectress of a strange and secret amour, and as the deity to be especially invoked for such love-making. The one invoking says that the window is opened, that the moon may shine splendidly on the bed, even as our love is bright and beautiful... and I pray her to give great rapture--sfogo--to us.
The quivering, mysteriously beautiful light of the moon, which seems to cast a spirit of intelligence or emotion over silent Nature, and dimly
half awaken it--raising shadows into thoughts and causing every tree and rock to assume the semblance of a living form, but one which, while shimmering and breathing, still sleeps in a dream--could not escape the Greeks, and they expressed it as Diana embracing Endymion. But as night is the time sacred to secrecy, and as the true Diana of the Mysteries was the Queen of Night, who wore the crescent moon, and mistress of all hidden things, including "sweet secret sins and loved iniquities," there was attached to this myth far more than meets the eye. And Just in the degree to which Diana was believed to be Queen of the emancipated witches and of Night, or the nocturnal Venus-Astarte herself, so far would the love for the sleeping Endymion be understood as sensual, yet sacred and allegorical. and it is entirely in this sense that the witches in Italy, who, may claim with some right to be its true inheritors, have preserved and understood the myth.
It is a realisation of forbidden or secret love, with attraction to the dimly seen beautiful--by moonlight, with the fairy or witch-like charm of the supernatural--a romance all combined in a single strange form--the spell of Night!
"There is a dangerous silence in that hour,
This is what is meant by the myth of Diana and Endymion. It is the making divine or æsthetic (which to the Greeks was one and the same) that which is impassioned, secret, and forbidden. It was the charm of the stolen waters which are sweet, intensified to poetry. And it is remarkable that it has been so strangely preserved in Italian witch traditions.
52:1 According to all evil witchcraft in the world--especially among the black Voodoos--any individual can be injured or killed if the magician can obtain any portion of the person, however small, especially a lock of hair. This is specially described in Thiodolf the Islander, a romance by La Motte Fouqué. The exchange of locks by lovers is possibly connected with magic.
56:1 Marroni d' India. A strong charm against evil, hence frequently carried against rheumatism, &c. The three should come from one shell.
57:1 The reader will find them described in my Etrusco-Roman Remains.
"The sun set and uprose the yellow moon:
--Don Juan, cxiii.
"The Madonna is essentially the goddess of the moon."
--"Naples in the Nineties," by E. N. Rolfe.
Once there was, in the very old time in Cettardo Alto, a girl of astonishing beauty, and she was betrothed to a young man who was as remarkable for good looks as herself; but though well born and bred, the fortune or misfortunes of war or fate had made them both extremely poor. And if the young lady had one fault, it was her great pride, nor would she willingly be married unless in good style, with luxury and festivity, in a fine garment, with many bridesmaids of rank.
And this became to the beautiful Rorasa--for such was her name--such an object of desire, that her head was half turned with it, and the other girls of her acquaintance, to say nothing of the many men whom she had refused, mocked her so bitterly, asking her when the fine wedding was to be, with many other jeers and sneers, that at last in a moment of madness she went to the top of a high tower, whence she cast herself; and to make it worse, there was below a terrible ravine (balza), into which she fell.
Yet she took no harm, for as she fell there appeared to her a very beautiful woman, truly not of earth, who
took her by the hand and bore her through the air to a safe place.
Then all the people round about who saw or heard of this thing cried out, "Lo, a miracle!" and they came and made a great festival, and would fain persuade Rorasa that she had been saved by the Madonna.
But the lady who had saved her, coming to her secretly, said: "If thou hast any desire, follow the Gospel of Diana, or what is called the Gospel of the Witches (Il Vangelo delle Strege), who worship the moon."
"Se la Luna adorerai
"If thou adorest Luna, then
Then the beautiful girl went forth alone by night to the fields, and kneeling on a stone in an old ruin, she worshipped the moon and invoked Diana thus:--
Diana, bella Diana!
Diana, beautiful Diana!
When Rorasa awoke in the morning, she found her self in another house, where all was far more magnificent, and having risen, a beautiful maid led her into another room, where she was dressed in a superb wedding-garment of white silk with diamonds, for it was her wedding-dress indeed. Then there appeared ten young ladies, all splendidly attired, and with them and many distinguished persons she went to the church in a carriage. And all the streets were filled with music and people bearing flowers.
So she found the bridegroom, and was wedded to her heart's desire, ten times more grandly than she had ever dreamed of. Then, after the ceremony, there was spread a feast at which all the nobility of Cettardo were present, and, moreover, the whole town, rich and poor, were feasted.
When the wedding was finished, the bridesmaids made every one a magnificent present to the bride--one gave diamonds, another a parchment (written) in gold, after which they asked permission to go all together into the sacristy. And there they remained for some hours undisturbed, till the priest sent his
chierico to inquire whether they wanted anything. But what was the youth's amazement at beholding, not the ten bridesmaids, but their ten images or likenesses in wood and in terra-cotta, with that of Diana standing on a moon, and they were all so magnificently made and adorned as to be of immense value.
Therefore the priest put these images into the church, which is the most ancient in Cettardo, and now in many churches you may see the Madonna and the Moon, but it is Diana--la Dea della Luna. The name Rorasa seems to indicate the Latin ros the dew, rorare, to bedew, rorulenta, bedewed--in fact, the goddess of the dew. Her great fall and being lifted by Diana suggest the fall of dew by night, and its rising in vapour under the influence of the moon. It is possible that this is a very old Latin mythic tale. The white silk and diamonds indicate the dew.
The House of the Wind
"List to the whoop and whistle of the winds,
The following story does not belong to the Gospel of the Witches, but I add it as it confirms the fact that the worship of Diana existed for a long time contemporary with Christianity. Its full title in the original MS., which was written out by Maddalena, after hearing it from a man who was native of Volterra, is La Pellegrina delta Casa al Vento--"The Female Pilgrim of the House of the Wind." It may be added that, as the tale declares, the house in question is still standing.
There is a peasant's house at the beginning of the hill or ascent leading to Volterra, and it is called the House of the Wind. Near it there once stood a small
place, wherein dwelt a married couple, who had but one child, a daughter, whom they adored. Truly if the child had but a headache, they each had a worse attack from fear.
Little by little the girl grew older, and all the thought of the mother, who was very devout, was that she should become a nun. But the girl did not like this, and declared that she hoped to be married like others. And when looking from her window one day, she saw and heard the birds singing in the vines and among the trees all so merrily, she said to her mother that she hoped some day to have a family of little birds of her own, singing round her in a cheerful nest. At which the mother was so angry that she gave her daughter a cuff. And the young lady wept, but replied with spirit, that if beaten or treated in any such manner, that she would certainly soon find some way to escape and get married, for she had no idea of being made a nun of against her will.
At hearing this the mother was seriously frightened, for she knew the spirit of her child, and was afraid lest the girl already had a lover, and would make a great scandal over the blow; and turning it all over, she thought of an elderly lady of good family, but much reduced, who was famous for her intelligence, learning, and power of persuasion, and she thought, "This will be just the person to induce my daughter to become pious, and fill her head with devotion and make a nun of her." So she sent for this clever person, who was at once appointed the governess and constant attendant of the young lady, who, instead of quarrelling with her guardian, became devoted to her.
[paragraph continues] However, everything this world does not go exactly as we would have it, and no one knows what fish or crab may hide under a rock in a river. For it so happened that the governess was not a Catholic at all, as will presently appear, and did not vex her pupil with any threats of a nun's life, nor even with an approval of it.
It came to pass that the young lady, who was in the habit of lying awake on moonlight nights to hear the nightingales sing, thought she heard her governess in the next room, of which the door was open, rise and go forth on the great balcony. The next night the same thing took place, and rising very softly and unseen, she beheld the lady praying, or at least kneeling in the moonlight, which seemed to her to be very singular conduct, the more so because the lady kneeling uttered words which the younger could not understand, and which certainly formed no part of the Church service.
And being much exercised over the strange occurrence, she at last, with timid excuses, told her governess what she had seen. Then the latter, after a little reflection, first binding her to a secrecy of life and death, for, as she declared, it was a matter of great peril, spoke a follows:--
"I, like thee, was instructed when young by priests to worship an invisible god. But an old woman in whom I had great confidence once said to me, 'Why worship a deity whom you cannot see, when there is the Moon in all her splendour visible? Worship her. Invoke Diana, the goddess of the Moon, and she will grant your prayers.' This shalt thou do, obeying the Vangelo, the Gospel of (the
[paragraph continues] Witches and of) Diana, who is Queen of the Fairies and of the Moon."
Now the young lady being persuaded, was converted to the worship of Diana and the Moon, and having prayed with all her heart for a lover (having learned the conjuration to the goddess), 1 was soon rewarded by the attention and devotion of a brave and wealthy cavalier, who was indeed as admirable a suitor as any one could desire. But the mother, who was far more bent on gratifying vindictiveness and cruel vanity than on her daughter's happiness, was infuriated at this, and when the gentleman came to her, she bade him begone, for her daughter was vowed to become a nun, and a nun she should be or die.
Then the young lady was shut up in a cell in a tower, without even the company of her governess, and put to strong and hard pain, being made to sleep on the stone floor, and would have died of hunger had her mother had her way.
Then in this dire need she prayed to Diana to set her free; when lo! she found the prison door unfastened, and easily escaped. Then having obtained a pilgrim's dress, she travelled 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 worshipped her, calling her La Bella Pellegrina. At last her mother, hearing of
her, was in a greater rage than ever, and, in fine, after much trouble, succeeded in having her again arrested and cast into prison. And then in evil temper indeed she asked her whether she would become a nun; to which she replied that it was not possible, because she had left the Catholic Church and become a worshipper of Diana and of the Moon.
And the end of it was that the mother, regarding her daughter as lost, gave her up to the priests to be put to torture and death, as they did all who would not agree with them or who left their religion.
But the people were not well pleased with this, be cause. they adored her beauty and goodness, and there were few who had not enjoyed her charity.
But by the aid of her lover she obtained, as a last grace, that on the night before she was to be tortured and executed she might, with a guard, go forth into the garden of the palace and pray.
This she did, and standing by the door of the house, which is still there, prayed in the light of the full moon to Diana, that she might be delivered from the dire persecution to which she had been subjected, since even her own parents had willingly given her over to an awful death.
Now her parents and the priests, and all who sought her death, were in the palace watching lest she should escape.
When lo! in answer to her prayer there came a terrible tempest and overwhelming wind, a storm such as man had never seen before, which overthrew and swept away the palace with all who were in it; there was not one stone left upon another, nor one soul alive
of all who were there. The gods had replied to the prayer.
The young lady escaped happily with her lover, wedded him, and the house of the peasant where the lady stood is still called La Casa al Vento, or the House of the Wind.
This is very accurately the story as I received it, but I freely admit that I have very much condensed the language of the original text, which consists of twenty pages, and which, as regards needless padding, indicates a capacity on the part of the narrator to write an average modern fashionable novel, even a second-rate French one, which is saying a great deal. It is true that there are in it no detailed descriptions of scenery, skies, trees, or clouds--and a great deal might be made of Volterra in that way--but it is prolonged in a manner which shows a gift for it. However, the narrative itself is strangely original and vigorous, for it is such a relic of pure classic heathenism, and such a survival of faith in the old mythology, as all the reflected second-hand Hellenism of the Æsthetes cannot equal. That a real worship of or belief in classic divinities should have survived to the present day in the very land of Papacy itself, is a much more curious fact than if a living mammoth had been discovered in some out of the way corner of the
earth, because the former is a human phenomenon. I foresee that the day will come, and that perhaps not so very far distant, when the world of scholars will be amazed to consider to what a late period an immense body of antique tradition survived in Northern Italy, and how indifferent the learned were regarding it; there having been in very truth only one man, and he a foreigner, who earnestly occupied himself with collecting and preserving it.
It is very probably that there were as many touching episodes among the heathen martyrs who were forced to give up their beloved deities, such as Diana, Venus, the Graces, and others, who were worshipped for beauty, as there were even among the Christians who were thrown to the lions. For the heathen loved their gods with a human personal sympathy, without mysticism or fear, as if they had been blood-relations; and there were many among them who really believed that such was the case when some damsel who had made a faux pas got out of it by attributing it all to some god, faun, or satyr; which is very touching. There is a great deal to be said for as well as against the idolaters or worshippers of dolls, as I heard a small girl define them.
68:1 This incantation is given in the chapter entitled "A Spell to Win Love."
Tana, The Moon-Goddess
The following story, which appeared originally in the Legends of Florence, collected from the people by me, does not properly belong to the Witch's Gospel, as it is not strictly in accordance with it; and yet it could not well be omitted, since it is on the same subject. In it Diana appears simply as the lunar goddess of chastity, therefore not as a witch. It was given to me as Fana, but my informant said that it might be Tana; she was not sure. As Tana occurs in another tale, and as the subject is certainly Diana, there can hardly be a question of this.
Tana, la Dea della Luna.
Tana was a very beautiful girl, but extremely poor, and as modest and pure as she was beautiful and humble. She went from one contadino to another, or from farm to farm to work, and thus led an honest life. There was a young boor, a very ugly, bestial, and brutish fellow, who was after his fashion raging with love for her, but she could not so much as bear to look at him, and repelled all his advances.
But late one night, when she was returning alone from the farmhouse where she had worked to her home, this man, who had hidden himself in a thicket, leaped out on her and cried, "Non mi' sfuggerai; sara mia!"--"Thou canst not flee; mine thou shalt be!" And seeing no help near, and only the full moon looking down on her from heaven, Tana in despair cast herself on her knees and cried to it:--
I have no one on earth to defend me,
When she had said this, there appeared before her a bright but shadowy form--uno ombra bianca--which said:--
"Rise, and go to thy home!
Thus it came to pass that Tana became the dea or spirit of the Moon.
Though the air be set to a different key, this is a poem of pure melody, and the same as Wordsworth's "Goody Blake and Harry Gill." Both Tana and the old dame are surprised and terrified; both pray to a power above:--
"The cold, cold moon above her head,
The dramatic centre is just the same in both. The English ballad soberly turns into an incurable fit of ague inflicted on a greedy young boor; the Italian witch-poetess, with finer sense, or with more sympathy for the heroine, casts the brute aside without further mention, and apotheosises the maiden, identifying her with the Moon. The former is more practical and probable, the latter more poetical.
And here it is worth while, despite digression, to remark what an immense majority there are of people who can perceive, feel, and value poetry in mere words or form--that is to say, objectively--and hardly know or note it when it is presented subjectively or as thought, but not put into some kind of verse or measure, or regulated form. This is a curious experiment and worth studying. Take a passage from some famous poet;
write it out in pure simple prose, doing full justice to its real meaning, and if it still actually thrills or moves as poetry, then it is of the first class. But if it has lost its glamour absolutely, it is second-rate or inferior; for the best cannot be made out of mere words varnished with associations, be they of thought or feeling.
This is not such a far cry from the subject as might be deemed. Reading and feeling them subjectively, I am often struck by the fact that in these witch traditions which I have gathered there is a wondrous poetry of thought, which far excels the efforts of many modern bards, and which only requires the aid of some clever workman in words to assume the highest rank. A proof of what I have asserted may be found in the fact that, in such famous poems as the Finding of the Lyre, by James Russell Lowell, and that on the invention of the pipe by Pan, by Mrs. Browning, that which formed the most exquisite and refined portion of the original myths is omitted by both authors, simply because they missed or did not perceive it. For in the former we are not told that it was the breathing of the god Air (who was the inspiring soul of ancient music, and the Bellaria of modern witch-mythology) on the dried filament of the tortoise, which suggested to Hermes the making an instrument wherewith he made
the music of the spheres and guided the course of the planets. As for Mrs. Browning, she leaves out Syrinx altogether, that is to say, the voice of the nymph still lingering in the pipe which had been her body. Now to my mind the old prose narrative of these myths is much more deeply poetical and moving, and far more inspired with beauty and romance, than are the well-rhymed and measured, but very imperfect versions given by our poets. And in fact, such want of intelligence or perception may be found in all the "classic" poems, not only of Keats, but of almost every poet of the age who has dealt in Greek subjects.
Great license is allowed to painters and poets, but when they take a subject, especially a deep tradition, and fail to perceive its real meaning or catch its point, and simply give us something very pretty, but not so inspired with meaning as the original, it can hardly be claimed that they have done their work as it might, or, in fact, should have been done. I find that this fault does not occur in the Italian or Tuscan witch-versions of the ancient fables; on the contrary, they keenly appreciate, and even expand, the antique spirit. Hence I have often had occasion to remark that it was not impossible that in some cases popular tradition, even as it now exists, has been preserved more fully and accurately than we find it in any Latin writer.
Now apropos of missing the point, I would remind certain very literal readers that if they find many faults of grammar, mis-spelling, and worse in the Italian texts in this book, they will not, as a distinguished reviewer has done, attribute them all to the ignorance of the author, but to the imperfect education of the person who collected and recorded them. I am reminded of this by having seen in a circulating library a copy of my Legends of Florence, in which some good careful soul had taken pains with a pencil to correct all the archaisms. Wherein he or she was like a certain Boston proof-reader, who in a book of mine changed the spelling of many citations from Chaucer, Spenser, and others into the purest, or impurest, Webster; he being under the impression that I was extremely ignorant of orthography. As for the writing in or injuring books, which always belong partly to posterity, it is a sin of vulgarity as well as morality, and indicates what people are more than they dream.
"Only a cad as low as a thief
Diana and the Children
"And there withall Diana gan appere
There was in Florence in the oldest time a noble family, but grown so poor that their giorni di festa or feast-days were few and far between. However, they dwelt in their old palace (which was in the street now called La Via Cittadella), which was a fine old building, and so they kept up a brave show before the world, when many a day they hardly had anything to eat.
Round this palace was a large garden, in which stood an ancient marble statue of Diana, like a beautiful woman who seemed to be running with a dog by her side. She held in her hand a bow, and on her forehead was a small moon. And it was said that by night, when all was still, the statue became like life, and fled, and did not return till the moon set or the sun rose.
The father of the family had two children, who were good and intelligent. One day they came home with many flowers which had been given to them, and the little girl said to her brother:--
"The beautiful lady with the bow ought to have some of these!"
Saying this, they laid flowers before the stature and made a wreath which the boy placed on her head. Just then the great poet and magician Virgil, who knew everything about the gods and fairies, entered the garden and said, smiling:--
"You have made, the offering of flowers to the goddess quite correctly, as they did of old; all that remains is to pronounce the prayer properly, 1 and it is this:"
So he repeated the
Invocation to Diana.
Bella dea dell'arco!
Lovely Goddess of the bow!
Then Virgil taught them also the Scongiurazione or spell to be uttered when good fortune or aught is specially required.
The Conjuration of Diana.
"Bella dea del arco del cielo!
Fair goddess of the rainbow,
Then he added. the conclusion:--
"Se la nostra scongiurazione
If thou heed'st our evocation
And having taught them this, Virgil departed.
Then the children ran to tell their parents all that had happened, and the latter impressed it on them to keep it a secret, nor breathe a word or hint thereof to any one. But what was their amazement when they found early the next morning before the statue a deer freshly killed, which gave them good dinners for many a day; nor did they want thereafter at any time game of all kinds, when the prayer had been devoutly pronounced.
There was a neighbour of this family, a priest, who held in hate all the ways and worship of the gods of the old time, and whatever did not belong to his religion, and he, passing the garden one day, beheld the statue of Diana crowned with roses and other flowers. And being in a rage, and seeing in the street a decayed cabbage, he rolled it in the mud, and threw it all dripping at the face Of the goddess, saying:--
"Ecco mala bestia d'idoli!
Behold, thou vile beast of idolatry,
Then the priest heard a voice in the gloom where the leaves were dense, and it said:--
"Bene, bene! Tu mi hai fatto
It is well! I give thee warning,
All that night the priest suffered from horrible dreams and dread, and when at last, just before three o'clock, he fell asleep, he suddenly awoke from a nightmare in which it seemed as if something heavy rested on his chest. And something indeed fell from him and rolled on the floor. And when he rose and picked it up, and looked at it by the light of the moon, he saw that it was a human head, half decayed. 1
Another priest, who had heard his cry of terror, entered his room, and having looked at the head, said:--
"I know that face! It is of a man whom I confessed, and who was beheaded three months ago at Siena."
And three days after the priest who had insulted the goddess died.
The foregoing tale was not given to me as belonging to the Gospel of
the Witches, but as one
how these "hymns" have been handed down or preserved by old women, and doubtless much garbled, changed, and deformed by transmission, it cannot but seem wonderful that so much classic beauty still remains in them, as, for instance, in
"Lovely goddess of the bow!
Robert Browning was a great poet, but if we compare all the Italian witch-poems of and to Diana with the former's much-admired speech of Diana-Artemis, it will certainly be admitted by impartial critics that the spells are fully equal to the following by the bard--
"I am a goddess of the ambrosial courts,
This is pretty, but it is only imitation, and neither in form or spirit really equal to the incantations, which are sincere in faith. And it may here be observed in sorrow, yet in very truth, that in a very great number of modern poetical handlings
of classic mythic subjects, the writers have, despite all their genius as artists, produced rococo work which will appear to be such to an other generation, simply from their having missed the point, or omitted from ignorance something vital which the folk-lorist would probably not have lost. Achilles may be admirably drawn, as I have seen him, in a Louis XIV. wig with a Turkish scimitar, but still one could wish that the designer had been a little more familiar with Greek garments and weapons.
79:1 The most important part of witchcraft is to intone or accent the incantations accurately, in a manner like that of church chanting or Arab recitations. Hence the apparently prose form of most spells.
80:1 It is to be observed that the invocation is strictly a psalm of praise or a hymn; the scongiurazione is a request or prayer, though it often takes the form of a threat or menace. This only exists in classic witchcraft.
81:1 Something is here omitted, which can, however, be supplied from many other similar incantations. It was probably as follows:--
If thou art favourable
Three or four of these sounds were generally selected. They vary more or less, but seldom materially, from these. Sometimes visible manifestations, as, for instance, lightning, are requested. To see a white horse is a sign that the prayer will be granted after some delay. It also signifies victory.
83:1 "La testa d'un uomo piena di verme e puzzolente." A parody in kind for the decayed cabbage, much completer than the end of the German tale resembling it.
The Goblin Messengers of Diana and Mercury
The following tale was not given to me as connected with the Gospel of the Witches, but as Diana appears in it, and as the whole conception is that of Diana and Apollo in another form, I include it in the series.
Many centuries ago there was a folletto, goblin, or spirit, or devil-angel--chi sa?--who knows what? and Mercurio, who was the god of speed and of quickness, being much pleased with this imp, bestowed on him the gift of running like the wind, with the privilege that whatever he pursued, be it spirit, a human being, or animal, he should certainly overtake or catch it. This folletto had a beautiful sister, who, like him, ran errands, not for the. gods, but for the goddess (there was a female god for every male, even down to the small spirits); and Diana on the same day gave to this fairy the power that, whoever might chase her, she should, if pursued, never be overtaken.
One day the brother saw his sister speeding like a flash of lightning across the heaven, and he felt a sudden strange desire in rivalry to overtake her. So he
dashed after as she flitted on; but though it was his destiny to catch, she had been fated never to be caught, and so the will of one supreme god was balanced by that of another.
So the two kept flying round and round the edge of heaven, and at first all the gods roared with laughter, but when they understood the case, they grew serious, and asked one another how it was to end.
Then the great father-god said:--
"Behold the earth, which is in darkness and gloom! I will change the sister into a moon, and her brother into a sun. And so shall she ever escape him, yet will he ever catch her with his light, which shall fall on her from afar; for the rays of the sun are his hands, which reach forth with burning grasp, yet which are ever eluded."
And thus it is said that this race begins anew with the first of every month, when the moon being cold, is covered with as many coats as an onion. But while the race is being run, as the moon becomes warm she casts off one garment after another, till she is naked and then stops, and then when dressed the race begins again.
As the vast storm-cloud falls in glittering drops, even so the great
myths of the olden time
"En rivière ou sur l'estang,"
as Villon hath it, even so minor myths are again formed from the fallen waters. In this story we clearly have the dog made by Vulcan and the wolf-Jupiter settled the question by petrifying them-as you may read in Julius Pollux his fifth book, or any other on mythology. Is canis fuit postea à Jove in lapidem conversus.
'Which hunting hound, as well is known,
It is remarkable that in this story the moon is compared to an onion. "The onion," says Friedrich (Symbolik der Natur, p. 348), "was, on account of its many skins, among the Egyptians the emblem and hieroglyph of the many-formed moon, whose different phases are so clearly seen in the root when it is cut through, also because its growth or decrease corresponds with that of the planet. Therefore it was dedicated to Isis, the Moon-Goddess." And for this reason the onion was so holy as to be regarded as having in itself something of deity; for which reason Juvenal remarks that the Egyptians were happy people to have gods growing in their gardens.
The following very curious tale, with the incantation, was not in the text of the Vangelo, but it very evidently belongs to the cycle or series of legends connected with it. Diana is declared to be the protectress of all outcasts, those to whom the night is their day, consequently of thieves; and Laverna, as we may learn from Horace (Epistles, 16, 1) and Plautus, was preeminently the patroness of pilfering and all rascality. In this story she also appears as a witch and humourist.
It was given to me as a tradition of Virgil, who often appears as one familiar with the marvellous and hidden lore of the olden time.
It happened on a time that Virgil, who knew all things hidden or magical, he who was a magician and poet, having heard a speech (or oration) by a famous talker who had not much in him, was asked what he thought of it? And he replied:--
"It seems to me to be impossible to tell whether it was all introduction or all conclusion; certainly there
was no body in it. It was like certain fish of whom one is in doubt whether they are all head or all tall, or only head and tall; or the goddess Laverna, of whom no one ever knew whether she was all head or all body, or neither or both."
Then the emperor inquired who this deity might be, for he had never heard of her.
And Virgil replied:--
"Among the gods or spirits who were of ancient times--may they be ever favourable to us! Among them (was) one female who was the craftiest and most knavish of them all. She was called Laverna. She was a thief, and very little known to the other deities, who were honest and dignified, for she was rarely in heaven or in the country of the fairies.
"She was almost always on earth, among thieves, pickpockets, and panders--she lived in darkness. Once it happened that she went (to a mortal), a great priest in the form and guise of a very beautiful stately priestess (of some goddess), and said to him:--
"'You have an estate which I wish to buy. I intend to build on it a temple to (our) God. I swear to you on my body that I will pay thee within a year.'
"Therefore the priest transferred to her the estate.
"And very soon Laverna had sold off all the crops, grain, cattle, wood, and poultry. There was not left the value of four farthings.
"But on the day fixed for payment there was no Laverna to be seen. The goddess was far away, and
had left her creditor in asso--in the lurch!
"At the same time Laverna went to a great lord and bought of him a castle, well-furnished within and broad rich lands without.
"But this time she swore on her head to pay in full in six months.
"And as she had done by the priest, so she acted to the lord of the castle, and stole and sold every stick, furniture, cattle, men, and mice--there was not left wherewith to feed a fly.
"Then the priest and the lord, finding out who this was, appealed to the gods, complaining that they had been robbed by a goddess.
"And it was soon made known to them all that this was Laverna.
"Therefore she was called to judgment before all the gods.
"And when she was asked what she had done with the property of the priest, unto whom she had sworn by her body to make payment at the time appointed (and why had she broken her oath)?
"She replied by a strange deed which amazed them all, for she made her body disappear, so that only her head remained visible, and it cried:--
"'Behold me! I swore by my body, but body have I none!'
"Then all the gods laughed.
"After the priest came the lord who had also been tricked, and to whom she had sworn by her head. And in reply to him Laverna showed to all present her whole body without mincing matters, and it was one
of extreme beauty, but without a head; and from the neck thereof came a voice which said:--
'Behold me, for I am Laverna, who
"Then there was indeed a storm of laughter among the gods, who made the matter right by ordering the head to join the body, and bidding Laverna pay up her debts, which she did.
"Then Jove spoke and said:--
"'Here is a roguish goddess without a duty (or a worshipper), while there are in Rome innumerable thieves, sharpers, cheats, and rascals--ladri, bindolini, truffatori e scrocconi--who live by deceit.
"'These good folk have neither a church nor a god, and it is a great pity, for even the very devils have their master, Satan, as the head of the family. Therefore, I command that in future Laverna shall be the goddess of all the knaves or dishonest tradesmen, with the whole rubbish and refuse of the human race, who have been hitherto without a god or a devil, inasmuch as they have been too despicable for the one or the other.'
"And so Laverna became the goddess of all dishonest and shabby people.
"Whenever any one planned or intended any knavery or aught wicked, he entered her temple, and invoked Laverna, who appeared to him as a woman's head. But if he did his work of knavery badly or maladroitly, when he again invoked her he saw only the body; but if he was clever, then he beheld the whole goddess, head and body.
"Laverna was no more chaste than she was honest, and had many lovers and many children. It was said that not being bad at heart or cruel, she often repented her life and sins; but do what she might, she could not reform, because her passions were so inveterate.
"And if a man had got any woman with child or any maid found herself enceinte, and would hide it from the world and escape scandal, they would go 1 every day to invoke Laverna.
"Then when the time came for the suppliant to be delivered, Laverna would bear her in sleep during the night to her temple, and after the birth cast her into slumber again, and bear her back to her bed at home, and when she awoke in the morning, she was ever in vigorous health and felt no weariness, and all seemed to her as a dream. 2
"But to those who desired in time to reclaim their
children, Laverna was indulgent if they led such lives as pleased her and faithfully worshiped her.
"And this is the ceremony to be performed and the incantation to be offered every night to Laverna.
"There must be a set place devoted to the goddess, be it a room, a cellar, or a grove, but ever a solitary place.
"Then take a small table of the size of forty playing-cards set close together, and this must be hid in the same place, and going there at night...
"Take forty cards and spread them on the table, making of them a close carpet or cover on it.
"Take of the herbs Paura and concordia, and boil the two together, repeating meanwhile the following:--
Fa bollire la mano della concordia,
Bollo questa erba, man non bollo l'erba.
I boil the cluster of concordia
Having said thus, put the boiled herbs in a bottle and spread the cards on the table one by one, saying:--
Battezzo queste quaranta carte!
continues] E lasciare pace e bene alla dea
I spread before me now the forty cards,
"Laverna was the Roman goddess of thieves, pickpockets, shopkeepers or dealers, plagiarists, rascals, and hypocrites. There was near Rome a temple in a grove where robbers went to divide their plunder. There was a statue of the goddess. Her image, according to some, was a head without a body; according to others, a body without a head; but the epithet of 'beautiful' applied to her by Horace indicates that she who gave disguises to her worshippers had kept one to her self." She was worshipped in perfect silence. This
is confirmed by a passage in Horace (Epist. 16, lib. I), where an impostor, hardly daring to move his lips, repeats the following prayer or incantation:--
"O Goddess Laverna!
It is interesting to compare this unquestionably ancient classic invocation to Laverna with the one which is before given. The goddess was extensively known to the lower orders, and in Plautus a cook who has been robbed of his implements calls on her to revenge him.
I call special attention to the fact that in this, as in a great number of Italian witch-incantations, the deity or spirit who is worshipped, be it Diana herself or Laverna, is threatened with torment by a higher power until he or she grants the favour demanded. This is quite classic, i.e., Græco-Roman or Oriental, in all of which sources the magician relies not on favour, aid, or power granted by either God or Satan, but simply on what he has been able to wrench and wring, as it were, out of infinite nature or the primal source by penance and study. I mention
this because a reviewer has reproached me with exaggerating the degree to which diabolism--introduced by the Church since 1500--is deficient in Italy. But in fact, among the higher class of witches, or in their traditions, it is hardly to be found at all. In Christian diabolism the witch never dares to threaten Satan or God, or any of the Trinity or angels, for the whole system is based on the conception of a Church and of obedience.
The herb concordia probably takes its name from that of the goddess Concordia, who was represented as holding a branch. It plays a great part in witchcraft, after verbena and rue.
93:1 This was a very peculiar characteristic of Diana, who was involved in a similar manner. I have here omitted much needless verbiage or repetition in the original MS. and also abbreviated what follows.
93:2 All of this indicates unmistakably, in several respects, a genuine tradition. In the hands of crafty priests this would prove a great aid to popularity.
94:1 I conjecture that this is wild poppy. The poppy was specially sacred to Ceres, but also to the Night and its rites, and Laverna was a nocturnal deity--a play on the word paura, or fear.
95:1 This passage recalls strangely enough the worship of the Græco-Roman goddess Pavor or Fear, the attendant on Mars. She was much invoked, as in the present instance, to terrify intruders or an enemy. Æschylus makes the seven chiefs before Thebes swear by Fear, Mars, and Bellona. Mem. Acad. of Inscriptions, v. 9.
Comments on the Foregoing Texts
So long ago as the year 1886 I learned that there was in existence a manuscript setting forth the doctrines of Italian witchcraft, and I was promised that, if possible, it should be obtained for me. In this I was for a time disappointed. But having urged it on Maddalena, my collector of folk-lore, while she was leading a wandering life in Tuscany, to make an effort to obtain or recover something of the kind, I at last received from her, on January 1, 1897, entitled Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches.
Now be it observed, that every leading point which forms the plot or centre of the Vangel, such as that Diana is Queen of the Witches; an associate of Herodias (Aradia) in her relations to sorcery; that she bore a child to her brother the Sun (here Lucifer); that as a moon-goddess she is in
some relation to Cain, who dwells as prisoner in the moon, and that the witches of old were people oppressed by feudal lands, the former revenging themselves in every way, and holding orgies to Diana which the Church represented as being the worship of Satan--all of this, I repeat, had been told or written out for me in fragments by Maddalena (not to speak of other authorities), even as it had been chronicled by Horst or Michelet; therefore all this is in the present document of minor importance. All of this I expected, but what I did not expect, and what was new to me, was that portion which is given as prose-poetry and which I have rendered in metre or verse. This being traditional, and taken down from wizards, is extremely curious and interesting, since in it are preserved many relics of lore which, as may be verified from records, have come down from days of yore.
Aradia is evidently enough Herodias, who was regarded in the beginning as associated with Diana as chief of the witches. This was not, as I opine, derived from the Herodias of the New Testament, but from an earlier replica of Lilith, bearing the same name. It is, in fact, an identification or twin-ing of the Aryan and Shemitic Queens of Heaven, or of Night and of Sorcery, and it may be that this was known to the earliest myth-makers. So far back as the sixth century the worship of Herodias and Diana by witches was condemned
by a Church Council at Ancyra. Pipernus and other writers have noted the evident identity of Herodias with Lilith. Isis preceded both.
Diana is very vigorously, even dramatically, set forth in this poem as the goddess of the god-forsaken and ungodly, of thieves, harlots, and, truth fully enough, of the "minions of the moon," as Falstaff would have fain had them called. It was recognised in ancient Rome, as it is in modern India, that no human being can be so bad or vile as to have forfeited all right to divine protection of some kind or other, and Diana was this protectress. It may be as well to observe here, that among all free-thinking philosophers, educated parias, and literary or book-Bohemians, there has ever been a most unorthodox tendency to believe that the faults and errors of humanity are more due (if not altogether due) to unavoidable causes which we cannot help, as, for instance, heredity, the being born savages, or poor, or in vice, or unto "bigotry and virtue" in excess, or unto inquisitioning--that is to say, when we are so overburdened with innately born sin that all our free will cannot set us free from it. 1
It was during the so-called Dark Ages, or from the downfall of the Roman Empire until the thirteenth century, that the belief that all which was
worst in man owed its origin solely to the monstrous abuses and tyranny of Church and State. For then, at every turn in life, the vast majority encountered downright shameless, palpable iniquity and injustice, with no law for the weak who were without patrons.
The perception of this drove vast numbers of the discontented into rebellion, and as they could not prevail by open warfare, they took their hatred out in a form of secret anarchy, which was, however, intimately blended with superstition and fragments of old tradition. Prominent in this, and naturally enough, was the worship of Diana the protectress--for the alleged adoration of Satan was a far later invention of the Church, and it has never really found a leading place in Italian witchcraft to this day. That is to say, purely diabolical witchcraft did not find general acceptance till the end of the fifteenth century, when it was, one may almost say, invented in Rome to supply means wherewith to destroy the threatening heresy of Germany.
The growth of Sentiment is the increase of suffering; man is never entirely miserable until he finds out how wronged he is and fancies that he sees far ahead a possible freedom. In ancient times men as slaves suffered less under even more abuse, because they believed they were born to low conditions of life. Even the best reform brings
pain with it, and the great awakening of man was accompanied with griefs, many of which even yet endure. Pessimism is the result of too much culture and introversion.
It appears to be strangely out of sight and out of mind with all historians, that the sufferings of the vast majority of mankind, or the enslaved and poor, were far greater under early Christianity, or till the end of the Middle Ages and the Emancipation of Serfs, than they were before. The reason for this was that in the old "heathen" time the humble did not know, or even dream, that all are equal before God, or that they had many rights, even here on earth, as slaves; for, in fact, the whole moral tendency of the New Testament is utterly opposed to slavery, or even severe servitude. Every word uttered teaching Christ's mercy and love, humility and charity, was, in fact, a bitter reproof, not only to every lord in the land, but to the Church itself, and its arrogant prelates. The fact that many abuses had been mitigated and that there were benevolent saints, does not affect the fact that, on the whole, mankind was for a long time worse off than before, and the greatest cause of this suffering was what may be called a sentimental one, or a newly-born consciousness of rights withheld, which is always of itself a torture. And this was greatly aggravated by the endless preaching to the people that it was a duty to suffer and endure oppression and tyranny, and that
the rights of Authority of all kinds were so great that they on the whole even excused their worst abuses. For by upholding Authority in the nobility the Church maintained its own.
The result of it all was a vast development of rebels, outcasts, and all the discontented, who adopted witchcraft or sorcery for a religion, and wizards as their priests. They had secret meetings in desert places, among old ruins accursed by priests as the haunt of evil spirits or ancient heathen gods, or in the mountains. To this day the dweller in Italy may often find secluded spots environed by ancient chestnut forests, rocks, and walls, which suggest fit places for the Sabbat, and are sometimes still believed by tradition to be such. And I also believe that in this Gospel of the Witches we have a trustworthy outline at least of the doctrine and rites observed at these meetings. They adored forbidden deities and practised forbidden deeds, inspired as much by rebellion against Society as by their own passions.
There is, however, in the Evangel of the Witches an effort made to distinguish between the naturally wicked or corrupt and those who are outcasts or oppressed, as appears from the passage:--
"Yet like Cain's daughter (offspring) thou shalt never be,
The supper of the Witches, the cakes of meal, salt, and honey, in the form of crescent moons, are known to every classical scholar. The moon or horn-shaped cakes are still common. I have eaten of them this very day, and though they are known all over the world, I believe they owe their fashion to tradition.
In the conjuration of the meal there is a very curious tradition introduced to the effect that the spige or glittering grains of wheat from which spikes shoot like sun-rays, owe their brilliant like ness to a resemblance to the fire-fly, "who comes to give them light." We have, I doubt not, in this a classic tradition, but I cannot verify it. Here upon the Vangelo cites a common nursery-rhyme, which may also be found in a nursery-tale, yet which, like others, is derived from witch-lore, by which the lucciola is put under a glass and conjured to give by its light certain answers.
The conjuration of the meal or bread, as being literally our body as contributing to form it, and deeply sacred because it had lain in the earth, where dark and wondrous secrets bide, seems to cast a new light on the Christian sacrament. It is a type of resurrection from the earth, and was therefore used at the Mysteries and Holy Supper, and the grain had pertained to chthonic secrets, or to what had been under the earth in darkness. Thus even earth-worms are invoked in modern
witchcraft as familiar with dark mysteries, and the shepherd's pipe to win the Orphic power must be buried three days in the earth. And so all was, and is, in sorcery a kind of wild poetry based on symbols, all blending into one another, light and darkness, fire-flies and grain, life and death.
Very strange indeed, but very strictly according to ancient magic as described by classic authorities, is the threatening Diana, in case she will not grant a prayer. This recurs continually in the witch-exorcisms or spells. The magus, or witch, worships the spirit, but claims to have the right, drawn from a higher power, to compel even the Queen of Earth, Heaven, and Hell to grant the request. "Give me what I ask, and thou shalt have honour and offerings; refuse, and I will vex thee by insult." So Canidia and her kind boasted that they could compel the gods to appear. This is all classic. No one ever heard of a Satanic witch invoking or threatening the Trinity, or Christ or even the angels or saints. In fact, they cannot even compel the devil or his imps to obey--they work entirely by his good-will as slaves. But in the old Italian lore the sorcerer or witch is all or nothing, and aims at limitless will or power.
Of the ancient belief in the virtues of a perforated stone I need not speak. But it is to be remarked that in the invocation the witch goes forth in the earliest morning to seek for verbena or
vervain. The ancient Persian magi, or rather their daughters, worshipped the sun as it rose by waving freshly plucked verbena, 1 which was one of the seven most powerful plants in magic. These Persian priestesses were naked while they thus worshipped, nudity being a symbol of truth and sincerity.
The extinguishing the lights, nakedness, and the orgie, were regarded as symbolical of the body being laid in the ground, the grain being planted, or of entering into darkness and death, to be revived in new forms, or regeneration and light. It was the laying aside of daily life.
The Gospel of the Witches, as I have given it, is in reality only the initial chapter of the collection of ceremonies, "cantrips," incantations, and traditions current in the fraternity or sisterhood, the whole of which are in the main to be found in my Etruscan Roman Remains and Florentine Legends. I have, it is true, a great number as yet unpublished, and there are more ungathered, but the whole scripture of this sorcery, all its principal tenets, formulas, medicaments, and mysteries may be found in what I have collected and printed. Yet I would urge that it would be worth while to arrange and edit it all into one work, because it would be to every student of archæology, folk-lore, or history of great value. It has been the faith of millions in the past; it has made itself felt in innumerable traditions, which deserve to be better
understood than they are, and I would gladly undertake the work if I believed that the public would make it worth the publisher's outlay and pains.
It may be observed with truth that I have not treated this Gospel, nor even the subject of witchcraft, entirely as folk-lore, as the word is strictly defined and carried out; that is, as a mere traditional fact or thing to be chiefly regarded as a variant like or unlike sundry other traditions, or to be tabulated and put away in pigeon-holes for reference. That it is useful and sensible to do all this is perfectly true, and it has led to an immense amount of valuable search, collection, and preservation. But there is this to be said--and I have observed that here and there a few genial minds are beginning to awake to it--that the mere study of the letter in this way has developed a great indifference to the spirit, going in many cases so far as to produce, like Realism in Art (to which it is allied), even a contempt for the matter or meaning of it, as originally believed in.
I was lately much struck by the fact that in a very learned work on Music, the author, in discussing that of ancient times and of the East, while extremely accurate and minute in determining pentatonic and all other scales, and what may be called the mere machinery and history of composition, showed that he was utterly ignorant of the fundamental fact that notes and chords, bars
and melodies, were in themselves ideas or thoughts. Thus Confucius is said to have composed a melody which was a personal description of himself. Now if this be not understood, we can not understand the soul of early music, and the folk-lorist who cannot get beyond the letter and fancies himself "scientific" is exactly like the musician who has no idea of how or why melodies were anciently composed.
The strange and mystical chapter "How Diana made the Stars and the Rain" is the same given in my Legends of Florence, vol. ii. p. 229, but much enlarged, or developed to a cosmogonic-mythologic sketch. And here a reflection occurs which is perhaps the most remarkable which all this Witch Evangel suggests. In all other Scriptures of all races, it is the male, Jehovah, Buddha, or Brahma, who creates the universe; in Witch Sorcery it is the female who is the primitive principle. Whenever in history there is a period of radical intellectual rebellion against long-established conservatism, hierarchy, and the like, there is always an effort to regard Woman as the fully equal, which means the superior sex. Thus in the extraordinary war of conflicting elements, strange schools of sorcery, Neo-Platonism, Cabala, Heretic Christianity, Gnosticism, Persian Magism and Dualism, with the remains of old Greek and Egyptian theologies in the third and fourth centuries at Alexandria, and in the House of Light of Cairo in
the ninth, the equality of Woman was a prominent doctrine. It was Sophia or Helena, the enfranchised, who was then the true Christ who was to save mankind.
When Illumination or Illuminé-ism, in company with magic and mysticism, and a resolve to regenerate society according to extreme free thought, inspired the Templars to the hope that they would master the Church and the world, the equality of Woman, derived from the Cairene traditions, again received attention. And it may be observed that during the Middle Ages, and even so late as the intense excitements which inspired the French Huguenots, the Jansenists and the Anabaptists, Woman always came forth more prominently or played a far greater part than she had done in social or political life. This was also the case in the Spiritualism founded by the Fox sisters of Rochester, New York, and it is manifesting itself in many ways in the Fin de Siècle, which is also a nervous chaos according to Nordau,--Woman being evidently a fish who shows herself most when the waters are troubled:--
"Oh, Woman, in our hours of ease!"
The reader will remember the rest. but we should also remember that in the earlier ages the vast majority of mankind itself, suppressed by the too great or greatly abused power of Church and State, only manifested itself at such periods of
rebellion against forms or ideas grown old. And with every new rebellion, every fresh outburst or debâcle or wild inundation and bursting over the barriers, humanity and woman gain something, that is to say, their just dues or rights. For as every freshet spreads more widely its waters over the fields, which are in due time the more fertilised thereby, so the world at large gains by every Revolution, however terrible or repugnant it may be for a time.
The Emancipated or Woman's Rights woman, when too enthusiastic, generally considers man as limited, while Woman is destined to gain on him. In earlier ages a contrary opinion prevailed, and both are, or were, apparently in the wrong, so far as the future is concerned. For in truth both sexes are progressive, and progress in this respect means not a conflict of the male and female principle, such as formed the basis of the Mahabarata, but a gradual ascertaining of true ability and adjustment of relations or co-ordination of powers--in doing which on a scientific basis all conflict ceases.
These remarks are appropriate to my text and subject, because it is in studying the epochs when woman has made herself prominent and influential that we learn what the capacities of the female sex truly are. Among these, that of Witchcraft as it truly was--not as it is generally quite misunderstood--is as deeply interesting as any other.
[paragraph continues] For the Witch--laying aside all question as to magic or its non-existence--was once a real factor or great power in rebellious social life, and to this very day--as most novels bear witness--it is recognised that there is something uncanny, mysterious, and incomprehensible in woman, which neither she herself nor man can explain.
"For every woman is at heart a witch."
We have banished the broom and the cat and the working miracles, the Sabbat and pacts with Satan, but the mystery or puzzle is as great as ever; no one living knows to what it is destined to lead. Are not the charms of love of every kind, and the enjoyment of beauty in all its forms in nature, mysteries, miracles, or magical?
To all who are interested in this subject of woman's influence and capacity, this Evangel of the Witches will be of value as showing that there have been strange thinkers who regarded creation as a feminine development or parthenogenesis from which the masculine principle was born. Lucifer, or Light, lay hidden in the darkness of Diana, as heat is hidden in lee. But the regenerator or Messiah of this strange doctrine is a woman Aradia, though the two, mother and daughter, are confused or reflected in the different tales, even as Jahveh is confused with the Elohim.
"Remains to be said"--that the Adam-nable and Eve-il, or Adamite assemblages enjoined in
the Gospel of Sorcery, are not much, if at all, kept up by the now few and far between old or young witches and venerable wizards of the present day. That is to say, not to my knowledge in Central or Northern Italy. But among the roués, viveurs, and fast women of Florence and Milan--where they are not quite as rare as eclipses--such assemblies are called balli angelici or angels' balls. They are indeed far from being unknown in any of the great cities of the world. A few years ago a Sunday newspaper in an American city published a detailed account of them in the "dance-houses" of the town, declaring that they were of very frequent occurrence, which was further verified to me by men familiar with them.
A very important point to all who regard the finds or discoveries of ancient tradition as of importance, is that a deep and extensive study of the Italian witch-traditions which I have collected, a comparison of them one with the other, and of the whole with what resembles it in the writings of Ovid and other mythologists, force the conviction (which I have often expressed, but not too frequently) that there are in these later records many very valuable and curious remains of ancient Latin or Etruscan lore, in all probability entire poems, tales, and invocations which have passed over from the ancient tongue. If this be true, and when it shall come to pass that scholars will read with interest what is here given, then most
assuredly there will be critical examination and verification of what is ancient in it, and it will be discovered what marvels of tradition still endure.
That the witches even yet form a fragmentary secret society or sect, that they call it that of the Old Religion, and that there are in the Romagna entire villages in which the people are completely heathen, and almost entirely governed by Settimani or "seven months' children," may be read in the novel of the name, as well as several papers published in divers magazines, or accepted from my own personal knowledge. The existence of a religion supposes a Scripture, and in this case it may be admitted, almost without severe verification, that the Evangel of the Witches is really a very old work. Thus it is often evident that where a tradition has been taken down from verbal delivery, the old woman repeats words or sentences by whole chapters which she does not fully understand, but has heard and learned. These are to be verified by correlation or comparison with other tales and texts. Now considering all this most carefully and critically, or severely yet impartially, no one can resist the conviction that in the Gospel of the Witches we have a book which is in all probability the translation of some early or later Latin work, since it seems most probable that every fixed faith finds its record. There are literary men among the Pariahs of India; there were probably many among the minions of the moon,
or nocturnal worshippers of Diana. In fact, I am not without hope that research may yet reveal in the writings of some long-forgotten heretic or mystic of the dark ages the parallel of many passages in this text, if not the whole of it.
Yet a few years, reader, and all this will have vanished from among the Italians before the newspaper and railroad, even as a light cloud is driven before a gale, or pass away like snowflakes in a pond. Old traditions are, in fact, disappearing with such incredible rapidity that I am assured on best authority--and can indeed see for myself that what I collected or had recorded for me ten years ago in the Romagna Toscana, with exceptionably skilful aid, could not now be gathered at all by anybody, since it no longer exists, save in the memories of a few old sorcerers who are daily disappearing, leaving no trace behind. It is going--going--it is all but gone; in fact, I often think that, old as I am (and I am twelve years beyond the limit of extreme old age as defined by the Duke of Marlborough in his defence), I shall yet live to hear the rap of the auctioneer Time as he bids off the last real Latin sorcerer to Death! It may be that he is passing in his checks even as I write. The women or witches, having more vitality, will last a little longer--I mean the traditional kind; for as regards innate natural development of witchcraft and pure custom, we shall always have
with us sorceresses, even as we shall have the poor--until we all go up together.
What is very remarkable, even to the being difficult to understand, is the fact that so much antique tradition survived with so little change among the peasantry. But legends and spells in families of hereditary witches are far more likely to live than fashions in art, yet even the latter have been kept since 2000 years. Thus, as E. Neville Rolfe writes: "The late Signor Castellani, who was the first to reproduce with fidelity the jewellery found in the tombs of Etruria and Greece, made up his mind that some survival of this ancient and exquisite trade must still exist somewhere in Italy. He accordingly made diligent search... and in an out of the way village discovered goldsmiths who made ornaments for the peasants, which in their character indicated a strong survival of early Etruscan art." 1
And here I would remark, that where I have written perhaps a little too bitterly of the indifference of scholars to the curious traditions preserved by wizards and witches, I refer to Rome, and especially to Northern Italy. G. Pitré did all that was possible for one man as regards the South. Since the foregoing chapters were written, I received Naples in the Nineties, by E. Neville Rolfe, B.A., in which a deep and intelligent interest in the subject is well supported by extensive knowledge. What will be to the reader of my book particularly interesting is the amount of information which Mr. Rolfe gives regarding the connection of Diana with witchcraft, and how many of her attributes became those of the Madonna. "The worship of Diana," as he says, "prevailed very extensively... so much so, that when Christianity superseded Paganism, much of the heathen symbolism was adapted to the new rites, and the transition from the worship of Diana to that of the Madonna was made comparatively simple." Mr. Rolfe speaks of the key, rue, and verbena as symbols of Diana; of all of these I have incantations, apparently very ancient, and identified with Diana. I have often found rue in houses in Florence, and had it given to me as a special favour. It is always concealed in some dark corner, because to take any away is to take luck. The bronze frog was an emblem of Diana; hence the Latin proverb, "'He who loves a frog regards it as Diana." It was made till recent
times as an amulet. I have one as a paper-weight now before me. There is also an incantation to the frog.
That wherein Mr. Rolfe tacitly and unconsciously confirms what I have written, and what is most remarkable in this my own work, is that the wizards in Italy form a distinct class, still exercising great power in Naples and Sicily, and even possessing very curious magical documents and cabalistic charts, one of which (familiar to those who have seen it among the Takruri and Arab sorcerers in Cairo, in their books) he gives. These probably are derived from Malta. Therefore it will not seem astonishing to the reader that this Gospel of the Witches should have been preserved, even as I have given it. That I have not had or seen it in an old MS. is certainly true, but that it has been written of yore, and is still repeated here and there orally, in separate parts, I am sure. 1
It would be a great gratification to me if any among those into whose hands this book may fall, who may possess information confirming what is here set forth, would kindly either communicate it or publish it in some form, so that it may not be lost.
103:1 Hence the saying that to know all would be to forgive all; which may be nine-tenths true, but there is a tenth of responsible guilt.
109:1 Friedrich, Symbolik, p. 283.
118:1 I am here reminded, by a strange coincidence, that I having rediscovered the very ancient and lost art of the Chinese how to make bottles or vases on which inscriptions, &c., appeared when wine was poured into them, communicated the discovery on the spot where I made it to the brother of Signor Castellani; Sir Austin Layard, who had sent for him to hear and judge of it, being present. Signore Castellani the younger was overseer of the glass-works a Murano, in which I made the discovery. Signore Castellani said that he had heard of these Chinese vases, and always regarded the story as a fable or impossible, but that they could be made perfectly by my process, adding. however, that they would cost too much to make it profitable. I admit that I have little faith in lost arts beyond recovering. Described in my book (unpublished) on the Hundred Minor Arts.
120:1 In a very recent work by Messrs. Niceforo and Sighele, entitled La Mala Vita a Roma ("Evil Life in Rome"), there is a chapter devoted to the Witches of the Eternal City, of whom the writer says they form a class so hidden that "the most Roman of Romans is perhaps ignorant of their existence." This is true of the real Strege, though not of mere fortune-tellers, who are common enough.
The Children of Diana, or How the Fairies Were Born
All things were made by Diana, the great spirits of the stars, men in their time and place, the giants which were of old, and the dwarfs who dwell in the rocks, and once a month worship her with cakes.
There was once a young man who was poor, with out parents, yet was he good.
One night he sat in a lonely place, yet it was very beautiful, and there he saw a thousand little fairies, shining white, dancing in the light of the full moon. "Gladly would I be like you, O fairies!" said the youth, "free from care, needing no food. But what are ye?"
"We are moon-rays, the children of Diana," replied one:--
"We are children of the Moon;
"And thou art one of us because thou wert born when the Moon, our mother Diana, was full; yes, our brother, kin to us, belonging to our band.
"And if thou art hungry and poor... and wilt have
money in thy pocket, then think upon the Moon, on Diana, unto who thou wert born; then repeat these words:--
"'Luna mia, bella Luna!
"'Moon, Moon, beautiful Moon!
"And then, if thou has money in thy pocket, thou wilt have it doubled.
"For the children who are born in a full moon are sons or daughters of the Moon, especially when they are born of a Sunday when there is a high tide.
"'Alta marea, luna piena, sai,
"'Full moon, high sea,
Then the young man, who had only a paolo 1 in his purse, touched it, saying:--
"Luna mia, bella Luna,
"Moon, Moon, beautiful Moon,
And so the young man, wishing to make money, bought and sold and made money, which he doubled every month.
But it came to pass that after a time, during one month he could sell nothing, so made nothing. So by night he said to the Moon--
"Luna mia, Luna bella!
"Moon, O Moon, whom I by far
Then there appeared to him a little shining elf, who said:--
"Tu non devi aspettare
"Money will not come to thee,
Io non daro mai denaro
"Money I ne'er give, 'tis clear,
Then the youth understood that the Moon, like God and Fortune, does the most for those who do the most for themselves.
"Come l'appetito viene mangiando,
"As appetite comes by eating and craving,
To be born in a full moon means to have an enlightened mind, and a high tide signifies an exalted intellect and full of thought. It is not enough to have a fine boat of Fortune.
"Bisogna anche lavorare
"You must also bravely row,
"Ben faremmo e ben diremmo,
"Do your best, or talk, but more
And, as it is said--
"La fortuna a chi dà
"Fortune gives and Fortune takes,
Diana, Queen of the Serpents, Giver of the Gift of Languages
In a long and strange legend of Melambo, a magian and great physician of divine birth, there is an invocation to Diana which has a proper place in this work. The incident in which it occurs is as follows:--
One day Melambo asked his mother how it was that while it had been promised that he should know the language of all living things, it had not yet come to pass. And his mother replied:--
"Patience, my son, for it is by waiting and watching ourselves that we learn how to be taught. And thou hast within thee the teachers who can impart the most, if thou wilt seek to hear them, yes, the professors who can teach thee more in a few minutes than others learn in a life."
It befell that one evening Melambo, thinking on this while playing with a nest of young serpents which his servant had found in a hollow oak, said:--
"I would that I could talk with you
Then he fell asleep, and the young serpents twined in his hair and began to lick his lips and eyes, while their mother sang:--
"Diana! Diana! Diana!
The Invocation of the Serpents' Mother to Diana.
"Diana! Diana! Diana!
This legend contains much that is very curious; among other things an invocation to the firefly, one to Mefitia, the goddess of malaria, and a long poetic prophecy relative to the hero. It is evidently full of old Latin mythologic lore of a very marked character. The whole of it may be found in a forthcoming work by the writer of the book, entitled, "The Unpublished Legends of Virgil." London, Elliot Stock.
Diana as Giving Beauty and Restoring Strength
Diana hath power to do all things, to give glory to the lowly, wealth to the poor, joy to the afflicted, beauty to the ugly. Be not in grief, if you are her follower; though you be in prison and in darkness, she will bring light: many there are whom she sinks that they may rise the higher.
There was of old in Monteroni a young man so ugly that when a stranger was passing through the town he was shown this Gianni, for such was his name, as one of the sights of the place. Yet, hideous as he was, because he was rich, though of no family, he had confidence, and hoped boldly to win and wed some beautiful young lady of rank.
Now there came to dwell in Monteroni a wonder fully beautiful biondina, or blonde young lady of culture and condition, to whom Gianni, with his usual impudence, boldly made love, getting, as was also usual, a round No for his reply.
But this time, being more than usually fascinated in good truth, for there were influences at work he knew not of, he became as one possessed or mad with passion, so that he hung about the lady's house by night
and day, seeking indeed an opportunity to rush in and seize her, or by some desperate trick to master and bear her away.
But here his plans were defeated, because the lady had ever by her a great cat which seemed to be of more than human intelligence, and, whenever Gianni approached her or her home, it always espied him and gave the alarm with a terrible noise. And there was indeed something so unearthly in its appearance, and something so awful in its great green eyes which shone like torches, that the boldest man might have been appalled by them.
But one evening Gianni reflected that it was foolish to be afraid of a mere cat, which need only scare a boy, and so he boldly ventured on an attack. So going forth, he took a ladder, which he carried and placed against the lady's window. But while he stood at the foot, he found by him an old woman, who earnestly began to beg him not to persevere in his intention. "For thou knowest well, Gianni," she said, "that the lady will have none of thee; thou art a terror to her. Do but go home and look in the glass, and it will seem to thee that thou art looking on mortal sin in human form."
Then Gianni in a roaring rage cried, I will have my way and my will, thou old wife of the devil, if I must kill thee and the girl too!" Saying which, he rushed up the ladder; but before he had opened or could enter the window, and was at the top, he found himself as it were turned to wood or stone, unable to move.
Then he was overwhelmed with shame, and said,
"Ere long the whole town will be here to witness my defeat. However, I will make one last appeal." So he cried:--
"Oh, vecchia! thou who didst mean me more kindly than I knew, pardon me, I beg thee, and rescue me from this trouble! And if, as I well ween, thou art a witch, and if I, by becoming a wizard, may be freed from my trials and troubles, then I pray thee teach me how it may be done, so that I may win the young lady, since I now see that she is of thy kind, and that I must be of it to be worthy of her."
Then Gianni saw the old woman sweep like a flash of light from a lantern up from the ground, and, touching him, bore him away from the ladder, when lo! the light was a cat, who had been anon the witch, and she said:--
"Thou wilt soon set forth on a long journey, and in thy way thou wilt find a wretched worn-out horse, when thou must say:--
"'Fata Diana! Fata Diana! Fata Diana!
"'Fairy Diana! Fairy Diana! Fairy Diana!
"Then will we enter in a great hall where thou wilt see many beautiful ladies who will try to fascinate thee; but let thy answer ever be, 'She whom I love is her of Monteroni.'
"And now, Gianni, to horse; mount and away!" So he mounted the cat, which flew as quick as thought, and found the mare, and having pronounced over it the incantation, it became a woman and said:--
"In nome della Fata Diana!
"In the name of the Fairy Diana!
After this he found the goat and conjured it in like manner, and it replied:--
"In the name of the Fairy Diana!
So he passed to the hall, where he was wooed by beautiful ladies, but his answer to them all was that his love was at Monterone.
Then he saw or knew no more, but on awaking found himself in Monterone, and so changed to a handsome youth that no one knew him. So he married his beautiful lady, and all lived the hidden life of witches and wizards from that day, and are now in Fairy Land.
As a curious illustration of the fact that the faith in Diana and the other deities of the Roman mythology, as connected with divination, still survives among the Italians of "the people," I may mention that after this work went to press, I purchased for two soldi or one penny, a small chapbook in which it is shown how, by a process of conjuration or evocation and numbers, not only Diana, but thirty-nine other deities may be made to give answers to certain questions. The work is probably taken from some old manuscript, as it is declared to have been discovered and translated by P. P. Francesco di Villanova Monteleone. It is divided into two parts, one entitled Circe and the other Medea.
As such works must have pictures, Circe is set forth by a page cut of a very ugly old woman in the most modern costume of shawl and mob-cap with ribbons. She is holding an ordinary candlestick. It is quite the ideal of a common fortune-teller, and it is probable that the words Maga Circe suggested nothing more or less than such a person to him who "made up" the book. That of Medea is, however, quite correct, even artistic, representing the sorceress as conjuring the magic bath, and was probably taken from some work on mythology. It is ever so in Italy, where the most grotesque and modern conceptions of classic subjects are mingled with much that is accurate and beautiful--of which indeed this work supplies many examples.
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