Monday, July 18, 2011

Italian-American vs Italian

I have family in Italy. I have family from Italy who came to America. I call myself Italian, but I am, in reality an American, not an Italian. I do not live on that land, I am not involved in the daily life of the country, I am not aware of the political or economical issues or struggles and I don't live them, they aren't my own. I carry that land with me in my DNA. It helped to shape me, but so has this land and that's something native Italians can't say.

New York - Italian immigrants at Little Italy © De Agostini / SuperStock
I've talked before about pregnancy and motherhood being initiations and mysteries; So was immigrating from Italy to America: The journey, Ellis Island (and other ports of entry), the neighborhoods... the customs that developed from keeping the old ways and marrying them to the New World. I think Italian-Americans are more united as a culture than Italians themselves. Over there, it's family first, then town, then region then country.  In America, when the first great waves of immigrants came through, they still kept to their own, as per my cousin's story of the 3 butchers. Nowadays, most Italian-Americans no longer care about differences in region: Many of the old regional conflicts are now lost, even though my Mom swears that "all Calabrians are capadosts!" I have no idea why Calabrians are hard-headed or stubborn and pay little attention to that. Italian-Americans share common experiences that Italians just don't have. Now that we're into the 3rd and 4th generations since the great wave of Italian immigrants, we can see this more clearly.

Here's an article from an Italian-American growing up in the 1950s which illustrates this, as well as dealing with cultural stereotypes. And another link which even brings up that fact that Italians, along with Germans and Japanese were interred during WWII. We all know about the Japanese, and they received an apology at least, but what about the Italians? My Grandfather and all of his brothers fought in WWII and I'm wondering if, for some immigrants, this was done as a way to prove their loyalty and save their families from being put in prison for the crime of being at war with their native country? Something to ponder.

Family trad Witches in Italy and Family trad Witches of Italian descent in America are different too. We are more open here. We can claim the word Strega the same way we can claim the word Witch, the same way Christian Day can claim the word Warlock. If you talk to the older Italians and use the word Strega, they might poo-poo it as an insult. That doesn't mean the term is invalid. After all, that's what many Witches did here in America (over the past 20 years that I've been involved anyway), hiding behind the word "Wicca." The word "Witch" evokes all kinds of imagery and connotations, but using a softer word, a word that was less well known, like "Wicca" was ok. The same thing is happening in Italy: There is less need to hide behind the Saints and other Catholic trappings and Italian Pagans and Witches can start coming out of the closet.

This past Saturday, Janet Farrar (who was kind enough to post here on the blog, both correcting and confirming my rant at the same time!) said that, in Italy, "Strega" is thought of as a term of insult by the Italians who took their workshops. Yes, it has been for a long time, but that's the same as "Witch" being used as an insult. It still is today in America. However, there are many of us, on both sides of the Atlantic, reclaiming the terms. It will take a long time, and in both cases, other, softer words are being used to ease the muggles and bigots into the transition.

I'm on different Italian Stregoneria groups on Facebook and the internet. I don't mean "Italian Witchcraft" where everyone is American and interested in what the Italians do, I mean groups of Italians, speaking in Italian living in Italy. It's giving me a chance to practice my skills. I'll write up more conclusions, as well as the answers to the questions I posed on the groups, if anyone does indeed answer and I didn't completely mess up the Italian!


  1. Very Interesting. Thank you! I at one time did a small amount of research into *Italian Witchcraft* (I've got a Large now American-Italian family) when discovering my *True* path 15 years ago, I wanted to look into my possible heritage.(meaning I was raised Roman Catholic but it never fit) Unfortunately Strega isn't a complete fit. I still love many of the traditions and lore that come with it though.
    A fantastic blog post. :)

  2. Thanks :) What have you been practicing, if you don't mind my asking? I'm just curious. I think that part of what we have going on today, as the astrological age is changing, is more access to information both on the mundane level and the astral level- more access to past lives and primal deities of our shared human ancestors. I guess that's the long way to say that I have more of an appreciation for eclecticism than I used to!