Category Archives: Witchcraft

Aradia: Gospel of the Witches – Appendix

Appendix

Charles G. Leland


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, from Colle, Val d’Elsa, near Siena, the MS entitled Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches.

Now be it observed, that every leading point which forms the plot or center of this Vangel, such as that Diana is Queen of the Witches; an associate of Herodius (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 meter 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 Herodius, who was regarded in the beginning as associated with Diana as chief of the witches. This was not, as I opined, 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, truthfully enough, of the ‘minions of the moon,’ as Falstaff would have fain had them called. It was recognized 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 my 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 over burdened with innately born sin that all our free will cannot set us free from it.

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 sever 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 practiced forbidden deeds, inspired as much by rebellion against Society as 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,
Nor like the race who have become at last
Wicked and infamous from suffering,
As are the Jews and wandering Zingari,
Who are all thieves: like then ye shall not 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 glittering grains of wheat from which spikes shoot like sun rays, owe their brilliant likeness to a resemblance to the firefly, ‘who comes to give the light.’ We have, I doubt not, in this a classic tradition, but I cannot verify it. Hereupon the Vangelo cites a common nursery rhyme, which may also be found 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 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 earthworms 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, fireflies 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 what I ask, and thou shalt have honor 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 verbain. The ancient Persian magi, or rather their daughters, worshipped the sun as it rose by waving freshly plucked verbena, 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 orgy, 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, 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 archeology, 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 may 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 cannot 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, 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, Hermetic 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, 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 Siecle, which is also a nervous chaos according to Nordau – Woman being evidently a fish who shows herself most when the waters are troubled.

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 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 fertilized 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 coordination of powers.

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 a deeply interesting as any other. 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 it is recognized that there is something uncanny, mysterious, and incomprehensible in woman, which neither she herself nor man can explain.

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, without parents, yet he was 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.
We are born of shining light;
When the Moon shoots forth a ray,
Then it takes a fairy’s form.

“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 whom thou wert born; then repeat these words –

“‘Moon, Moon, beautiful Moon!
Fairer far than any star;
Moon, O Moon, if it may be,
Bring good fortune unto me!’

“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.

“Full moon, high sea,
Great man shalt thou be!”

Then the young man, who had only a paolo in his purse, touched it, saying –

“Moon, Moon, beautiful Moon,
Ever be my lovely 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 –

“Moon, O Moon, whom I by far
Love beyond another star,
Tell me why it was ordained
That I this month have nothing gained?”

Then there appeared to him a little shining elf, who said –

“Money will not come to thee,
Nor any help or aid can’st see,
Unless you work industriously.”

Then he added –

“Money I ne’er give, ’tis clear,
Only help to thee, my dear!”

Then the youth understood that the Moon, like God and Fortune, does the most for those who do the most for themselves.

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. And it is said –

“Fortune gives and Fortune takes,
And to man a fortune makes,
Sometimes to those who labor shirk,
But oftener to those who work.”

Diana, Queen Of The Serpents, Giver Of The Gift Of Languages

In a long a 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 thins, 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. Well I know that ye have a language, as graceful as your movement, as brilliant as your color.”

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!
Queen of all enchantresses
And of the dark night
And of all nature,
Of the stars and of the moon,
And of all fate or fortune!
Thou who rulest the tide,
Who shinest by night on the sea,
Casting light upon the waters;
Thou who art mistress of the ocean
In thy boat made like a crescent,
Crescent moon bark brightly gleaming,
Ever smiling high in heaven,
Sailing too on earth, reflected
In the ocean, on its water;
We implore thee give this sleeper,
Give unto this good Melambo
The great gift of understanding
What all creatures say while talking!

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 this book, entitled “The Unpublished Legends of Virgil.”

Diana As Giving Beauty And Restoring Strength

Diana hath the 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, 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 wonderfully beautiful 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 a 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 wilt find a wretched worn out horse, when thou must say –

‘Fairy Diana! Fairy Diana! Fairy Diana!
I conjure thee to do some little good
To this poor beast.’
Then thou wilt find
A great goat
A true he-goat
And thou shalt say,
‘Good evening, fair goat!
And he will reply,
‘Good evening, fair sir!
I am so weary
That I can go no farther’
And thou shalt reply as usual,
‘Fairy Diana, I conjure thee
To give to this goat relief and peace!’

“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 the name of the Fairy Diana!
Mayest thou hereby become
A beautiful young man,
Red and white in hue,
Like to milk and blood!

After this he found the goat and conjured it in like manner, and it replied –

In the name of the Fairy Diana!
Be thou attired more richly than a prince!

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 awakening 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.

 

Aradia: Gospel of the Witches (Chapter 15: Laverna)

Chapter XV

Laverna

Charles G. Leland


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 and Plautus, was pre-eminently the patroness of pilfering and all rascality. In this story she also appears as a witch and humorist.

It was given to me as a tradition of Virgil, who often appears as one familiar with the marvelous 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 tail, or only head and tail; or the goddess Laverna, of whom no one ever know 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 favorable 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 fair goddess was far away, and had left her creditor 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 she had 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 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
Have come to answer to that lord’s complaint,
Who swears that I contracted debt to him,
And have not paid although the time is o’er
And that I am a thief because I swore
Upon my head – but, as you all can see,
I have no head at all, and therefore I
Assuredly ne’er swore by such an oath.’

 

“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 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 tradesman, 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 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 woke in the morning, she was ever in vigorous health and felt no weariness, and all seemed to her as a dream.

“But to those who desired in time to reclaim their children, Laverna was indulgent if they led such lives as pleased her and faithfully worshipped 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: –

I boil the cluster of concordia
To keep in concord and at peace with me
Laverna, that she may restore to me
My child, and that she by her favoring care
May guard me well from danger all my life!
I boil this herb, yet ’tis not it which boils,
I boil the fear, that it may keep afar
Any intruder, and if such should come
(to spy upon my rite), may he be struck
With fear and in his terror haste away!

 

Having said thus, put the boiled herbs in a bottle and spread the cards on the table one by one, saying: –

I spread before me now the forty cards
Yet ’tis not forty cards which here I spread,
But forty of the gods superior
To the deity Laverna, that their forms
May each and all become volcanoes hot,
Until Laverna comes and brings my child;
And ’till ’tis done may they all cast at her
Hot flames of fire, and with them glowing coals
From noses, mouths, and ears (until she yields);
Then may they leave Laverna at her peace,
Free to embrace her children at her will!

 

“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 herself.” She was worshipped in perfect silence. This is confirmed by a passage to Horace, where an impostor, hardly daring to move his lips, repeats the following prayer or incantation: –

“O goddess Laverna!
Give me the art of cheating and deceiving,
Of making men believe that I am just,
Holy, and innocent! extend all darkness
And deep obscurity o’er my misdeeds!”

 

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 (Grecco-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 classes 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.

Aradia: Gospel of the Witches (Chapter 14: Goblin Messengers of Diana)

Chapter XIV

The Goblin Messengers Of Diana And Mercury

Charles G. Leland


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 goblin, or spirit or devil-angel, and Mercury, 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 goblin had a beautiful sister, who like him, ran errands, not for the gods, but for the goddesses (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.

On 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, hey 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 are broken up into small fairy tales, and as these drops in turn reunite.

“On silent lake or streamlet lone” 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.

“Which hunting hound, as well is known,
Was changed by Jupiter to stone.”

 

It is remarkable that in this story the moon is compared to an onion. “The onion,” says Friedrich, “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 I 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.

Aradia: Gospel of the Witches (Chapter 13: Diana and the Children)

Chapter XIII

Diana And The Children

Charles G. Leland


There was in Florence in the oldest time a noble family, but grown so poor that their 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. On day they came home with many flowers that had been given to them, and the little girl said to the brother, “The beautiful lady with the bow ought to have some of these!”

Saying this, they laid flowers before the statue and made a wreath, which the boy placed on her head.

Just then the great poet and magician Virgil, who knew everything about the god 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, and it is this:”

So he repeated the invocation of Diana:

Lovely Goddess of the bow!
Lovely Goddess of the arrows!
Of all hounds and of all hunting
Thou who wakest in starry heaven
When the sun is sunk in slumber
Thou with moon upon thy forehead,
Who the chase by night preferrest
Unto hunting in the daylight,
With thy nymphs unto the music
Of the horn – thyself the huntress,
And most powerful: I pray thee
Think, although but for an instant,
Upon us who pray unto thee!

 

Then Virgil taught them also the spell to be uttered when good fortune or aught is specially required –

Fair goddess of the rainbow,
Of the stars and of the moon!
The queen most powerful
Of hunters and the night!
We beg of thee thy aid,
That thou may’st give to us
The best of fortune ever!
If thou heed’st our evocation
And wilt give good fortune to us,
Then in proof give us a token!

 

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 neighbor 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, “Behold, thou vile beast of idolatry, this is the worship which thou has from me, and the devil do the rest for thee!”

Then the priest heard a voice in the gloom where the leaves were dense, and it said, “It is well! I give thee warning, since thou hast made thy offering, some of the game to thee I’ll bring; thou’lt have thy share in the morning.”

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.

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 Witches, but as one of a very large series of traditions relating to Virgil as a magician. But it has its proper place in this book, because it contains the invocation to and incantation of Diana, these being remarkably beautiful and original. When we remember 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!
Lovely Goddess of the arrows!
Thou who walk’st I starry heaven!

 

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,
And save by Here, Queen of Pride, surpassed
By none whose temples whiten this the world;
Through heaven I roll my lucid moon along,
I shed in Hell o’er my pale people peace,
On Earth, I, caring for the creatures, guard
Each pregnant yellow wolf and fox bitch sleek,
And every feathered mother’s callow brood,
And all that love green haunts and loneliness.

 

This is pretty, but it is only imitation, and neither in form or spirit really equal to the incantations, which are sincere on 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 another 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.

Aradia: Gospel of the Witches (Chapter 12: Tana The Moon Goddess)

Chapter XII

Tana The Moon Goddess

Charles G. Leland


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, therefor 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 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, “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,
Thou alone dost see me in this strait;
Therefore I pray to thee, O Moon!
As thou art beautiful so thou art bright
Flashing thy splendor over all mankind;
Even so I pray thee light up the mind
Of this poor ruffian, who would wrong me here,
Even to the worst. Cast light into his soul,
That he may let me be in peace, and then
Return in all thy light unto my home!”

When she had said this, there appeared before her a bright but shadowy form, which said:

“Rise, and go to thy home!
Thou has well deserved this grace;
No one shall trouble thee more,
Purest of all on earth!
Thou shalt a goddess be,
The Goddess of the Moon,
Of all enchantment Queen!”

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,
Thus on her knees did Goody pray;
Young Harry heard what she had said,
And icy cold he turned away.”

The dramatic center is just the same in both. The English ballad soberly turns into an incurable fir 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 apotheosizes 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 subjective, 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, misspelling, 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 copy of my Legend 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
Would write in a book or turn down a leaf,
Since ’tis thievery, as well is know,
To make free with that which is not our own.”

Aradia: Gospel of the Witches (Chapter 11: The House of Wind)

Chapter XI

The House Of The Wind

Charles G. Leland


The following story does not belong to the Gospel of 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 a native of Volterra, is 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 peasants 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 palace, 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 as 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 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 quarreling with her guardian, became devoted to her.

However, everything in 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 as 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 splendor visible? Worship her. Invoke Diana, the goddess of the Moon, and she will grant your prayers.’ This shalt thou do, obeying the Gospel of (the 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), 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 pilgrims dress, she traveled far and wide, teaching and preaching the religion of old times, the religion of Diana, the Queen of the Fairies and of the Moon, the goddess of the poor and oppressed.

And the fame of her wisdom and beauty went forth over all the land, and the 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 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, because 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 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 Aesthetes 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 forsee 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.

Aradia: Gospel of the Witches (Chapter 10: Madonna Diana)

Chapter X

Madonna Diana

Charles G. Leland


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 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 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, who worship the moon.”

“If thou adorest Luna, then
What thou desir’st thou shalt obtain!”

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, beautiful Diana!
Thou who didst save from a dreadful death
When I did fall into the dark ravine!
I pray thee grant me still another grace.
Give me one glorious wedding, and with it
Full many bridesmaids, beautiful and grand;
And if this favour thou wilt grant me,
True to the Witches’ Gospel I will be!

When Rorasa awoke in the morning, she found herself 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 bridegrooms, 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, until 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 in the church, which is the most ancient in Cettardo, and now in many churches you may see the Madonna and Moon, but it is Diana. 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 vapor 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.

Aradia: Gospel of the Witches (Chapter 9: Tana And Endamone, Or Diana And Endymion)

Chapter IX

Tana And Endamone, Or Diana And Endymion

Charles G. Leland


“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 names 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.

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 are the words, a song of witchcraft of the very old time.

This bag for Endamon’ I wove,
It is my vengeance for the love,
For the deep love I had for thee,
Which thou would’st not return to me,
But bore it all to Tana’s shrine,
And Tana never shall be thine!
Now every night in agony
By me thou shalt oppressed be!
From day to day, from hour to hour,
I’ll make thee feel the witch’s power;
With passion thou shalt be tormented,
And yet with pleasure ne’er be contented;
Enwrapped in slumber thou shalt lie,
To know that thy beloved is by,
And, ever dying, never die,
Without the power to speak a word,
Nor shall her voice by thee be heard;
Tormented by Love’s agony,
There shall be no relief for thee!
For my strong spell thou canst not break,
And from that sleep thou ne’er shalt wake;
Little by little thou shalt waste,
Like taper by the embers placed.
Little by little thou shalt die,
Yet, ever living, tortured lie,
Strong in desire, yet ever weak,
Without the power to move or speak,
With all the love I had for thee,
Shalt thou thyself tormented be,
Since all the love I felt of late
I’ll make thee feel in burning hate,
For ever on thy torture bent,
I am revenged, and now content.

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.

Endamone, Endamone, Endamone!
By the love I feel, which I
Shall ever feel until I die,
Three crosses on thy bed I make,
And then three wild horse chestnuts take,
In that bed the nuts I hide,
And then the window open wide,
That the full moon may cast her light
Upon the love as fair and bright,
And so I pray to her above
To give wild rapture to our love,
And cast her fire in either heart,
Which wildly loves to never part;
And one thing more I beg of thee!
If any one enamoured be,
And in my aid his love hath placed,
Unto his call I’ll come in haste.

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 whoever 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 woolen bag which is employed in beneficent magic – the red and black ribbon, which mingles threads of joy and woe, the (peacock) feather, pepper and salt, occur in many other incantations, but always to bring evil and cause suffering.

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 Diana 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,
So did Hippolytus and Verbio.”

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 as an original thought that the sun does not shine on half the forbidden deeds which the moon witnesses, and this is emphasized 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 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 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 realization 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 combined in a single strange form – the spell of Night!

“There is a dangerous silence in that hour
A stillness which leaves room for the full soul
To open all itself, without the power
Of calling wholly back its self-control;
The silver light which, hallowing tree and flower,
Sheds beauty and deep softness o’er the whole,
Breathes also to the heart, and o’er it throws
A loving languor which is not repose.”

This is what is meant by the myth of Diana and Endymion. It is the making divine or aesthetic (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 with traditions.