Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hiding in plain sight.

I typically enjoy reading Jason Miller's blog posts, but one from the other day has irritated me. This has been my first opportunity to sit down and address it. I would easily shrug off the comment, but besides having heard him say it before in workshop presentations, it reflects part of the inspiration for starting this blog: To counter the disparaging and dismissal of Italic Pagan traditions as nothing more than reinvention as opposed to a continuation, or, as he implied with his comment, a whole other tradition, namely catholicism.

Mr. Miller made the claim, in support of his leanings towards Christianity and magical justification thereof, that "actual Italian Strega [are] (almost all Catholic)." It is more accurate to say, as one of my cohorts put it: Catholics are practicing a modified form of Stregheria. It's even more accurate to say that Catholics took the old religion, edited it, slapped some paint on it, changed the names and called it not just the new way, but the only way.

They commandeered our sacred sites, our statues, our symbols, our tools, our costumes and assimilated our Gods and our festivals, yet the only "actual" practitioners of Italian Witchcraft are Catholic? For years I turned my back on my family tradition because I was angry that they hid behind this more accepted* veneer. I was too young to understand that they were keeping themselves safe. They also had a way to teach the basic tenets and traditions to family members. Those who could handle it were brought into the family proper

*I said "more" accepted because, well, remember the reformation? Catholics were accused of exactly what I've just said- being Roman Pagan Cult: The Next Generation. Even today, some of the best web sites and books out there regarding how very Pagan catholicism is have been written by christians who oppose the Roman catholic church and its Pagan practices.

I decorate an evergreen and exchange gifts beneath it in the name of Nimrud and Saturn and hang stockings on the hearth in honor of La Befana and Vesta and Hestia and Odin. I sing carols and hymns regaling the birth of the savior, the sun, the Lord. So do many Pagans. Are we celebrating christmas? NO! The christians are celebrating the ancient festivals.

Our ways survive today thanks to the fact that our ancestors hid in plain sight throughout the ages and that the festivals and traditions couldn't be suppressed so they were renamed and accepted. They might have succeeded in changing the names, but they did not change the spirit.

Tomorrow is the Feast of Santa Lucia, allegedly an early church martyr, but previously celebrated as the Goddess who midwifes the about-to-be-reborn sun into the world. The feast is a reminder that it is She who guides us through the darkness with her flaming crown of stars. To say that because I celebrate and venerate this feast day with my family under the same of Santa Lucia, or that because I celebrate and venerate the Archangel Michael means I am practicing Catholicism is silly. Each of these beings predates christianity by thousands of years. On the other hand, to say that because we do not go to Church or take communion or call ourselves "catholic" means we're not "actual" Strega is equally silly to the point of being insulting.

Are some Strega Catholic? I'm sure there are some who consider themselves Catholic. We learn what we learn how we learn it. For some people it's easier to speak the language they grew up hearing. However, that it not true for everyone. Here is an excerpt from Leo Martello's Weird Ways of Witchcraft. The quote is from part of a discussion with "Maria," an "actual Strega" whose family posed as catholic. Later in the book she discusses how she still goes to church to keep up appearances:
One of my cousins is an ordained priest. He entered the priesthood to better serve our cause, following the ancient adage: 'If you can't beat an enemy, join him. There are many of us in the underground who are known as practicing Catholics. It's for this reason that my cousin was able to become a priest. He was brought up in parochial schools.
They taught him one thing. We taught him the truth.
Truth is, stories like these abound in Italian Witch families. Truth is, I think we're tired of being disparaged.

Tomorrow: The Feast of Lucia!!!!!!!!!!

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