Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Befana & Leland

This is a COPY of an original Post from another blog. It is copied here because too often I link to other places on the web only to have the wonderful data disapper. My apologies to the original author because when I went to check the link before posting it, I managed to lose the link in my edits.  Even the link at the bottom is now broken. BUT that does not diminish the validity of the writing below (which again is NOT mine!!!).

“When I shall have departed from this world,
Whenever ye have need of anything,
Once in the month, and when the moon is full,
Ye shall assemble in some desert place,
Or in a forest all together join
To adore the potent spirit of your queen,
My mother, great Diana. She who fain
Would learn all sorcery yet has not won
Its deepest secrets, them my mother will
Teach her, in truth all things as yet unknown.”
[The Aradia, Gospel of the Witches, C.G. Leland]

If I had to choose a “father” to the modern Witchcraft / Wicca movement, it would not be any of the names usually branded about, for me without a doubt, it would be Charles G Leland. His work has been hugely influential on the modern Witchcraft revival in the West, and in fact some of it has become quoted so often that it is familiar to most of us who have read a few books or websites on neopaganism and Wicca. In fact one of the best known pieces of prose, that of the first part of the “Charge of the Goddess” which we attribute to various priestesses who have made it famous, is in fact a nearly direct quote from the English translation of the Italian text published by Leland in 1899 (See above, and compare from “once in a month…” with the text of the Charge). Leland claimed that the material was given to him by an Italian Witch, something which has been disputed by some modern scholars, though the evidence continues to show that it is more than likely that Leland was not only telling the truth, but that the woman who provided him with the text, was indeed a practitioner of a longstanding Italian witchcraft tradition.

I have recently written an article on the connections which can be found in Italy between the Key of the Solomon (a grimoire which has been hugely influential on the practices found in Wicca, and subsequently in most modern Pagan traditions) and Witchcraft in the 1600′s. It will be published on Witchvox this week , and was actually born out of my original attempt at writing a blog on the subject - it just got longer and longer! (and could have been much longer still) [UPDATE 2011 / copy of this article can be found at ]

Italy also provides us with the most likely source for the image of the Witch which is so popular today, both by fictional writers and the media – as well as those pagan witches who like to dress up and have a bit of a fun. In the image of La Befana we have an old lady, on a broomstick, complete with the correct dresscode – well known to Italian children as the bringer of gifts on the 6th of January (in the same way as Santa Claus, through the chimney and only if you had been good of course!). The difference is that La Befana is quite likely to be the folk memory of a Roman Goddess, and she is as much part of a Catholic’s household as any (if not more so!).

Children recite poems about the Befana, two in particular are often used, both expressing themes which would be very familiar to pagans today:

La Befana vien di notte
Con le scarpe tutte rotte
Col cappello alla romana
Viva, Viva La Befana!

(The Befana comes by night
With her shoes all tattered and torn
She comes dressed in the Roman way
Long life to the Befana!)


Viene, viene la Befana
Vien dai monti a notte fonda
Come è stanca! la circonda
Neve e gelo e tramontana!
Viene, viene la Befana

(Here comes, here come the Befana
She comes from the mountains in the deep of the night
Snow and frost (ice) surrounds her
Snow and frost and the north wind
Here comes, here comes the Befana!)

For a copy of the article Italy, Clavicles & Witchcraft, please see

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