Friday, December 19, 2008

Interview with Raven Grimassi

Please see this interview with my initiators' teacher: Raven Grimassi.

I am honored to be able to say that I know and have spent quality time with Raven. I will always appreciate that he has shared with me the teachings he and his family have preserved from the past.

Thanks very much to Christoper Blackwell for the interview and for publishing it online for all to see.

Interview with Raven Grimassi Religious Writer, Lecturer and Witch
By Christopher Blackwell

Raven Grimassi brings to mind of a variety of things. Founder of the Aridian Tradition of Stregheria, a researcher of Italian Witchcraft, he has studied and practiced several Wiccan traditions. He has been a constant student and teacher. He refuses to call himself a scholar, despite lifelong study and prefers calling himself a religious writer. He freely shares what he has learned by both giving lectures and workshops on what he has learned.

Yet any attempt to pin him with a label usually sets you up to discover that he does not neatly fit into the box you tried to put him in. To some, he is controversial, at least when his opinion differs from theirs, nor does he back off from what his own studies seem to reveal.

Christopher: You got an early start on your study of Italian folk magic and Witchcraft?

Raven: Yes, I grew up under the influence of what I now call peasant witchcraft. My mother was a war bride who came to the U.S. from Italy at the close of World War II. She brought with her the basics of the tradition I that I learned. Other relatives in Italy were instrumental in revealing deeper levels, and from this I created the Aridian Tradition of Italian witch. This is the published material, which is different in many ways from what I teach my initiates, and I personally practice.

Christopher: You then explored several varieties of Wicca as it developed?

Raven: Yes, I first became aware of Wicca in the summer of 1969. I encountered a young woman who worked at an herb shop in San Diego. Through her I was introduced to a series of people, and later initiated into a coven. This group claimed descent from Gerald Gardner, but this eventually proved to be false.

I also studied Wicca under Lady Sara Cunningham in the 1970s. In time I was connected with a group calling itself Brittic Wicca, and I was initiated into this tradition. Years later I was asked to become guardian of a Book of Shadows from the Pictish-Gaelic belonging to a friend who facing an early death. This position required initiation and so it was done.

Christopher: Yet in the end you came back to Strega and developed your Arician Tradition

:Raven: Yes, and I guess the old saying is true that “there’s no place like home.” The Arician Tradition, unlike the Aridian Tradition, is an initiate system. My published material is Aridian, not Arician.

Christopher: You’ve been regarded as a controversial figure, particularly in connection with Italian Witchcraft. Why do you believe this is?

Raven: It’s true that some people are skeptical and critical of my writings on the Italian Craft. They’re a relatively small band of people compared against the number of loyal readers who continually support my work. But like most critics the skeptics are quite vocal. The members of one group took it upon themselves to generate a campaign against my writings in many forums on the Internet. Sadly, this is a campaign of misinformation and misrepresentation. And unfortunately there are some people who believe whatever they read on the Internet.

But I suppose this is the fate of anyone who is a public figure. For some reason certain people enjoy fabricating negative tales, and other people appear eager to believe the worst about another person.

So, I just keep on living my passion and writing about what I believe in. That seems to be a reasonable way to spend my days in this lifetime.

Christopher: Wicca and Witchcraft, the endless controversy over what each is and how they relate to each over and what they are becoming - this seems to be an endless argument in Wiccan circles. Perhaps you could give our readers a brief idea of your views?

Raven: Well, back in the 1960s, Wicca and Witchcraft were one and the same. The words were interchangeable. This seems to have divided sometime in the 1980s. Wicca began to be viewed as the religion and Witchcraft was depicted as a magical craft. The next phase ushered in the notion that Wicca was something new, and many people considered it to be the invention of Gerald Gardner and his cohorts. That’s not a view I share, but it does seem clear that he added elements that didn’t come with the original system.

I see Wicca as a British version of Witchcraft, and one that has evolved over the years. I see Witchcraft as the magical and spiritual tradition of a pre-Christian European sect. Every region in Europe had its “witch people” and I believe these individuals served as a sort of tribal priestess and priest, and as a form of shaman.

Christopher: I noted one of your books is about helping the eclectic Wiccan or Witch on how to get their new tradition organized and functional. Is this similar to the method you used in putting together your own Aridian Tradition of Strega?

Raven: In a sense I suppose it is. I am interested in foundational material, and I used this to construct the Aridian and Arician systems. This was also my approach to writing my new book, “Crafting Wiccan Traditions.” I gathered the foundational material and the commonality of Craft traditions, and organized it into the book. This way people can look at elements of the entire Craft and see how everything fits together and functions.

Christopher: You wrote a book that tried to explain some of the energies used in working magic. I don't think I have heard much on the whys and wherefores of energy work before.

Raven: Right, and it’s also that many people don’t seem to care why something works. They just want it to work. But you see, in knowing why something works you can construct your own rituals and spells. If you don’t know why, and you don’t understand the inner mechanism, then you’ll always be reliant upon the people who do.

Christopher: How can people learn more about you your books, your traditions and upcoming events and that you will lecture or give workshops at?

Raven: There are several Internet sources for this information

Christopher: Anything new on the horizon that you would to let our readers know about?

Raven: I do have two projects underway. One is a new book tentatively titled, “The Cauldron of Knowledge.” It’s about how to retrieve ancestral knowledge & wisdom through the memory passed to you in your DNA. The book will most likely be available in the Fall of 2009.

The other project is a book tentatively titled, “The Witches’ Lore: A Compendium of the Works of Charles Leland on Italian Witchcraft.” I’ve been writing this book for many years. In addition to presenting what Leland wrote about Italian Witchcraft in several of his books, I also present commentaries on the topics. This helps flesh them out more, and I also include ethnographic support for the things he wrote about.

Christopher: What would you like to see modern Pagans accomplish that we have not yet done?

Raven: Move from tribal to a “united nation” of tribes. You see, history tells us that tribes are easy to conquer because they fight among each other. This weakens them and diverts their resources. The ancient Romans knew this when they fought the Celts, and the U.S. cavalry knew this when they battled the American Indians. Well, today there are people who oppose Paganism and everything under that umbrella, and they also know the principle of divide and conquer.

I think it was Benjamin Franklin who once said, during a meeting to plan the Revolutionary War against Britain, “If we do not hang together then we shall certainly hang separately.”

That’s something to think about.

Christopher: Thank you for taking the time for this interview.

Raven: I appreciate the opportunity. So, thank you very much for making this happen.

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