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.

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The Daily OM for February 19th – An Alphabet of Enlightenment

An Alphabet of Enlightenment
Runes

by Madisyn Taylor

When casting the Runes you will find illumination in the unlimited possibilities laid out before you.

Many millennia ago in northern Europe, ancient peoples sought a means to understand their roles in the world at large. They created runes—an alphabet of symbols that served both as a functional writing system and as a unique system of divination. Though the symbols themselves were little more than varying combinations of straight lines carved on natural mediums such as wood, stone, or bone, these individuals devised a method of comprehending the past, making sense of the present, and interpreting the future using the runes as guides. The significance of each symbol was a product of its general orientation once cast and its location with respect to other runes. In the present, runes can play the same role in our lives that they played in the chronicles of distant history. Through them, we open ourselves to a form of universal guidance that helps us help ourselves.

There are many casting styles, each of which serves an individual function. Casting a single rune can help you answer specific questions or choose a daily meditation subject. Three runes, cast during confusing or distressing situations, provide you with insights into the past, present, and future—as represented by the first, second, and third runes cast, respectively. A nine-rune cast can help you understand where you are on your spiritual path. The runes that land face up relate to your current circumstances and the events leading up to them, and any runes touching are read as concurrences. Rune readings, however, are by their very nature subjective and open to interpretation. Your casting style should reflect your intuitive knowledge of your needs. Grabbing a handful of runes to cast at random can be just as effective as choosing a set number to cast.

Whether you buy your runes or carve them yourself is less important than your sincere desire to understand the messages conveyed to you via this alphabet of enlightenment. Your intentions will have a direct impact on the wisdom you receive while casting. The runes are representative of forces outside of the realm of human understanding, so your intent will act as your anchor. By simply reading the runes, you will find illumination in the unlimited possibilities laid out before you in each new cast

The Daily OM

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Embraced by the Goddess

Embraced by the Goddess

Author:   Elwin Shadowstrider   

Originally I was planning to place this in my Book of Mirrors, as you see; I changed my mind for many reasons. Some were to let others know of a beautiful life-changing event that forever changed me. I felt that to some it may help, for others maybe just to remind them of when they first set their own two feet on their Path.

Without a short background some of this will not make any sense at all, I will not go into gory detail. Some things are very tragic, some of those things I draw a great deal of strength from. However, my childhood was beyond horrible, abuse was prevalent, both physical and mental abuse. A great deal seems to come from Stephen King’s worst nightmares.

I have been asked many times by those who know me well how I did not become badly damaged goods…I attribute that to strength of will. I refuse to give up, especially when I know there are greater things out there than what I have to experience at that moment in time then. In time, I proved myself right, as you will see.

I was forced as a child to attend church; I really had no interest in going. They never could answer my questions to my satisfaction. The usual Cain slew Abel, then where did his wife come from if there were only four people on this planet at that time? Many explained that it was more than likely his sister, which I went up in flames then. Letting them know that only last week we were told that was forbidden to lie with your sister or brother. Or was it just holier then than it is now? You get the picture; I was seven when this took place.

My parents were begged not to bring me back to Sunday school. They said that I asked questions that no normal seven year old should ask, and that I should take more on “faith” and to be still and be quiet when the teacher was talking. I felt they were legitimate questions and still do, no pastor or otherwise could ever answer what I asked.

Many referred me to so and so apologetic pastor or seminary college since I was so questioning within the “faith”. Faith, no, I wanted clear concise answers as to WHY these things I was to take on “faith” had to not be asked. Too many holes within their stories and parables, I wanted straight facts that they were not equipped to give.

My teen years were pretty much the same; I was honestly kept as a house slave or servant, I was allowed no bed of my own, any furniture, and the least expensive clothes they could find and was told that it was “good” for my soul.

That got really old really quick, I grew up in Miami, Florida, and I had no air conditioning in my room either. The rest of the household had everything; this is just to give you an idea. By now, I had finally begged and cried to this “god” for deliverance, anything, just I wanted out of this household.

I begged for many years, all I got in return was silence…no answers.

I thought at first maybe I was “imperfect”, a “sinner” and god wanted nothing to do with me; just like everyone else in my life then. My despair began to grow to stellar heights, just what was I supposed to do? I left my Dad’s house when I was sixteen; I refused to put up with it any longer.

As the years passed as years will, I occasionally begged “god” for help, by now, I have been begging for years, still, no answer. I sought “help” from pastors; I got the usual praying over, and one even suggested performing an exorcism on me to cast out any “evil spirits” that might have taken up residence within.

Being that my family is from central Ireland we were brought up to trust and believe the clergy. Mostly Catholics, a few Protestants, was what ran in my family. I never could understand just how they could take so much on faith and let it go at that.

I was the one who always read everything, but my favorites still to this day is the “Sword and Sorcery” type epics that I learned so much from. I was the cast off, the one who believed that the Elves still existed and Dragons were around the next corner; during what free time I could steal away I walked the woods, searching for something, just what I never knew then.

What I didn’t know was that our beloved Green Man was whispering to me all that time. There were days I could almost hear what He was saying, almost; but not quite getting it.

Often, I just shrugged my shoulders and continued on, learning what so many just didn’t see. To learn of beauty, to know some small peace in my life. To see animals as more of my friends than Man, to know trees, to breathe in what I needed. In these times I didn’t feel lost at all, I felt at home then.

Here I will leave the past behind, these memories are very painful in ways, but I learned how to be what many never do, Human. To know the fullness of sorrow, anger, and hatred is something I do not recommend to anyone. Better to not know the fullness of what those emotions can do to a person, the hardness in can put in place of what should be someone’s heart.

This is when I looked back on my life, and wanted to know why, just why, “god” never answered me. Why my life was, so far, was so cold inside, why can’t I be happy like so many others here in this world?

Despair grew yet again, yet despair this time was very deep. It lasted for many months instead of just a few days.

I once again went to begging “god” for answers, help, anything; just one answer is all I required, just one. It never came, that answer. Finally, I broke down, after thirty-six years of fighting I broke down.

I gave up, entirely. I had nothing else to believe in.

Yes, I do have a wife and son; I do have family of my own. I love them both very dearly. I wanted faith. I wanted faith to believe in myself, to believe that when this path here on earth is over there is something other than nothing. As I said, I broke down, I wanted nothing anymore, and I gave up.

With that, I began the soul wrenching crying that signified total defeat; “god” wasn’t there. I was truly lost, and that’s what broke my heart more than anything. I was lost.

During this time of defeat, a PRESCENSE is the only way I could begin to describe it. Something unbelievably beyond me, something that radiated Love, I really gave in then. I felt as if I should know who this was, but for some reason I didn’t.

Then in a voice that was VERY female, soft, full of understanding and infinite Love spoke to me, ” Why do you weep? Why is your heart so heavy within your breast? Where is the laughter that I love to hear from you? Where are your smiles?”

I was dumbfounded, I could only answer, “I am lost, god doesn’t answer me, I am alone here, and I want faith in the universe around me.”

She laughed, not a mocking laughter, one full of understanding, and Love. “I have known your ancestors, the Celts, I know you. Why is it you don’t know me?”

I answered, ” My lady, I don’t know you I wish I did, I am tired of not knowing anything.”

She answered, ” So you shall, you are my child, none other’s, you are my son. Love shall be yours.”

At that moment, all the years of hatred, anger, sorrow, animosity, and narrow-minded beliefs fell away, replaced by Love. I fell to crying out of sheer joy and happiness.

At that, she laughed again, full of mirth, and joy that I did remember who She was at last. As I lay there my Goddess embraced me, not in the spiritual sense, it was very physical, yet I couldn’t see Her.

Her embrace was like nothing I have ever known in my life, for just one moment here on this plane of existence, I knew what it was like to Love all, to realize that Love was all my Goddess wanted from me; that and my laughter, my happiness.

Since that day, the Wiccan Rede is indelible upon me. I will harm NONE. I became a vegetarian; I refuse to harm anything, even so much as a bug outside.

My son (Goddess Bless him) came to me not two weeks ago and asked what was making me so happy, why I laughed at nearly everything now. I want to tell him, he’s only eleven, and I won’t alter his Path in life. When he gets a little older and he asks again, then I will tell him.

Just three days later, flying in the face of tradition, I gave myself to my Goddess. It’s been only five weeks from that wonderful day. I oath bound myself to Her, and laughed with Her when she accepted me as her child.

After the turn of events in the beginning of my life I had indeed proven myself right, that there are greater things out there. You just have to look in the right place sometimes.

There may be a few others out there who may have experienced something like this. I do not know, I do not claim to know. I know what gift was given to me, and that gift will be cherished until I see my Goddess yet again.

Please understand I have no hatred for the Christian religion. I have left hatred behind, and that is no longer who I am. I have many friends who are Christians; they know that I am a Witch, a Wiccan. They also know that I will never turn away from my Goddess; they know I will lovingly tell them that I have found my Path if they begin to preach at me.

I have also lost a great deal of friends who were too judgmental and walked away from me. Some of those were indeed painful, many were very good friends. Their children played with my son quite often, now I have yet to see them again.

I am at Peace with their choice; they too have a Path they must follow. As any Pagan, I just send them my Love from time to time. Many of my relatives also have nothing to do with me now, that too I have taken in Peace.

It is somewhat difficult to convey what exactly has happened to me. My life was filled with so much negative energies that I never believed that something such as this could really happen. Life has truly begun for me, to feel Love as never before, to Love all that I see. To feel the sense of the Spirit’s whisperings in all that is around me, to know and see indescribable beauty in all that my eyes behold.

The most fun part is to finally hear the Green Man’s laughter, to hear His dancing steps, to know His Love for all things that grow. I know who He is as well, no longer just whispers that I can’t quite catch, to hear His voice is truly wonderful. To also hear God’s voice in laughter with the Goddess’ laughter as I take my first tentative steps in Life, my heart is full.

There are days I wonder if I can really Love more than the day before, the answer is yes. Goddess, YES! Tears of true joy fall these days; the Goddess has embraced me. I have just scratched the surface of what I will know before I must return to Summerland.

I also no longer fear to die, I actually look forward to the day when I can return to all that knows me, to see those whom I know. To find so many there waiting for my return. I will also state I don’t think I will return to Mother Earth, I will stay in Summerland.

I know that I may return if I wish, however; I will stay. There is work to do there as well.

In closing, yes, I am indeed VERY new to Wicca; I have learned what Wiccan Pride is truly all about. I have learned what Love really is, what Peace, true Peace really is.

I have also learned what Magick is all about. Magick in one word, WOW! I had no real idea of what can be done; it’s real, and its mind blowing of what we can do with it.

I will leave you Sisters and Brothers here, know that one more Wiccan has joined your ranks. Thanks for taking the time to read of my experience with the Goddess. Know that She Loves us all; no matter what Path we take.

Merry Meet, Merry Partings until we Merry Meet again.

Abundant and Brightest Blessings to all,

Elwin Shadowstrider ) O (