Background of the Old Religion

Tuscan witchcraft is unique among all other types of witchcraft in Italy since the Ancient Religion of Tuscany has its roots in antiquity Etruscan and contains fewer Roman influences.

Old religion

The Old Religion

During the Neolithic period of Italy, there was a culture known today as the Cult of the Mother Goddess. Archaeological finds relate a particularly abundant period from which an abundant series of statuettes of the goddess and her husband are dated.

Some archaeologists, like Marija Gimbutas, believe that the Etruscans were the heirs of the beliefs and practices of this very ancient cult, but also of another, known as the “cult of the dead”, both of which were formerly practiced on the Italian peninsula. This region is part of what we today call Old Europe, which includes not only Italy but also Greece, the Czech Republic, southern Poland and western Ukraine. The archaic concepts of Old Europe flourished even after the beginning of the Christian era.

This was especially true across the Italian peninsula. Hellenistic and Roman writers were often astonished to discover traces of primitive practices and beliefs from the old Etruscan regions, practices and conceptions which moreover closely resembled those recognized in Greece and Rome at that time. There was among others the notion of animism, the omnipresence of signs, divinatory arts, curses and oracles, etc.

Etruscan women had an equal if not greater importance than men in society in general but especially from a religious and spiritual point of view, a legacy of the matriarchal religion which flourished in olden times in Old Europe. Another important belief to mention is that the Etruscans believed in the "material" survival of the dead at their burial place.

They placed in their graves the objects and personal effects that belonged to the dead, games, tools, etc. In the archaic Roman religion, we find similar practices on burial sites. This suggests that the cult of the dead were very important.

The Etruscans believed in "supernatural" can. All the acts of Nature were seen as commanded by a spirit or a god. Several omens preceded the appearance or action of a "supernatural" being. In order to establish a good relationship with the spirits and deities, offerings were made available to them.

In connection with the Etruscan beliefs about omens, is the ancient myth guide animals (totems) and ancestors. The first nomadic tribes in Italy believed in the spirit of an animal that protected and guided them. The Piceni tribe, for example, believed that their guide was a woodpecker, for the Sabelians it was a bull, for the Lucani, a wolf and for the Ursenti, a bear. These and other surrounding tribes had a custom known as Ver Sacrum, the sacred spring.

This required that a few members of a tribe leave it for a while to settle further into the region each spring. At that time, the totem pole could be encountered in a vision, in a dream.

As humans evolved through agrarian societies, the spirits of the meadows and forests were "transformed" into the spirits of the plowed and sown fields. They are the Lasa, beings who share very close ancestral ties with them. Under the Roman Empire, these spirits were called Lare and were once again transformed into house and family spirits, making Lare protectors of the family, preserving their memory and offspring.

The Etruscans then developed and refined several early pagan beliefs, creating a mystical and magical tradition. Centuries before Rome came to power, the Etruscans worshiped the Great United Mother Goddess and her consort Tinia. These deities ruled a horde of demigods and spirits and dispensed their powers to the forces of Nature, deciding the destiny of humans.

The pantheon of the Etruscans was no different from the Olympian gods of Greece, although they worshiped other gods above them. These deities were known as the Involuti or the Gods of the Mists.

The Witches / Wizards of Tuscany are the direct descendants of the Etruscan people. For several centuries, they have kept their existence a secret, whispering softly to the ancient gods revered by their ancestors on nights when the moon is visible in the sky. Generations made the Old Religion known to their descendants, preserving the ritual and magical knowledge of ancient Italian witchcraft.

In the early 17th century, an Ambrosian monk named Francesco Guazzo wrote a book dealing with the legacy of Italian Witches and Wizards entitled Compendium Maleficarum. In the sixth chapter, Guazzo speaks of the “inherited traces” of Witchcraft in children born to be witches. Several chapters deal with ceremonies in which children are "baptized", dedicated to the "sect" of Witches, in addition to discussing marriage ceremonies between wizards. Guazzo stated that all this was only in order to "propagate" the witch race.

Plants and especially herbs have always been associated with witches. In Homer's writings, witches were found in forest glades. Ovid said they met on grassy hills. With the Hellenistic period, we have references relating that witches practiced and lived in cities, obtaining their herbs in public markets or in cemeteries, and therefore did not necessarily live back from any civilization, as a hermit. It is also said that witches of that time could practice under a roof, indoors.

It is interesting to note that the word "witch" in ancient Greek is "pharmakis", literally "herbalist" and that it is from this word that the word pharmacy was created. For the Romans, the word "witch" was said to be "venenum", referring instead to poisoned herbs. From venenum, they created the word veneficium, the Latin word for "witchcraft". The Latin name for witch is therefore today "venifica", but formerly referred to the meaning of "wise woman".

It is thus very clear that the witches of this time and of this region knew how to use herbs. In the folklore of this region, each plant is said to be inhabited by a spirit or a consciousness, the Numen, and it was this that gave the plant all its magical and / or healing properties. The concept of Numen evolved to later become that of the fairies or spirits of Nature.

In Tuscan witchcraft, it is believed that there is a very intimate relationship between fairies and witches / wizards, both of whom possess a deep knowledge of magic and are very connected with nature. In Tuscany, the Queen of the Fairies is known as Alba or Turanna. Aldegano is a fairy spirit of the ivy and Tarabug is the spirit of the street (plant) and the keeper of the reeds. The rue and the ivy are among the most used magical plants for Tuscan witchcraft. The rue, ivy, salt and wine are used to invoke the Goddess and to summon spirits and fairies.

Related to the belief in fairies are the three deities or spirits of Destiny, known as Maratega, Rododesa and Befana. They rotate the lives of all humans, weaving the history and destiny of each individual, and cut the thread of life when conception is complete. We can compare them to the Norns of the Scandinavians (Urd, Verdandi and Skuld), to the Fates of the Romans (Nona, Decima and Morta) or to the Fates of the Greeks (Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos).

Divination is an important aspect of Tuscan witchcraft and is used for the purpose of gaining insight into the fate woven by the three Fata (fairies) of Destiny. Befana is also an ancestral spirit whose symbol is a woven stocking. Stockings or socks were hung above the hearths on the night of January 6 in the hope of Befana's visit. The home is a symbol of family life and unity and it was a place of warmth and company. During the night of January 6, Befana filled the stockings with gifts for the children, thus creating contact with each new generation.

Attilio is a spirit of the hearths and associated with the Lare, the ancestral spirits inhabiting the hearths. Setlano is a fiery spirit summoned for divination. Traditionally, when a fire burns inside a fireplace, one can see portents of the future in the interpretation of flames and sparks. The elemental beings of fire are the Salamanders and can appear in flames as oracles.

Mena, another fire spirit summoned for love and marriage, usually appears in the form of a serpent. Young women and men then pose their questions to the fire, watching the changing flames for their answers. Those who hope to find a soul mate appeal to the Marta spirit. It is also known to rekindle the fire of passion in a couple, hence its association with the divinatory fire.

Primitive practices are the keystone of Tuscan witchcraft and a sign of the antiquity of this tradition. Several aspects of this ancient form of witchcraft have been preserved in the records of the Italian Inquisition. A special case that needs to be considered involved a woman called Elena Draga. In 1571, she was brought before the Inquisition for having used witchcraft to heal people. One of his spells was to rub a piece of raw meat on a wart.

Then she would bury the meat, so that as it decomposed, the wart would disappear. Another of his cures was to wash a sick person with water, then in the third or fourth phase of the moon, one had to wait for low tide and throw the dirty water into the ocean, so the disease would go away. . We also note that most of the curative practices of the coastal regions of Italy were based on the lunar phases and used the tides of the oceans.

Witches / Wizards are very attached to their ancestral tradition and always protect it, rarely discussing this subject to the uninitiated.