Strega – A Personal Perspective

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    © 2009, Rev. Vincent Russo, Jr. []
    Strega – A Personal Perspective

    The 2 biggest things that you need to nail down when talking about “things streghe” are:

    1 – old world (Italy/Sicily) vs. new world (U.S.A./modern traditions)
    2 – stregheria (spiritual/religious Path) vs. stregoneria (magickal practice)

    I studied with Lori Bruno and with Leo Martello and much (most) of the information was entirely oral. I’ll try to put it in a nutshell for you but it’s like trying to get 10 pagans to agree on definitions. :-) First, remember that I-m practicing from the point of being a Pagan Stregone; Second, I-m a 2nd/3rd generation immigrant; and 3rd, I’m not fluent in Italian but I get by. Oh, and 4th, my lore comes mostly from Sicilian-American and Italian-American (Piedmonte)

    Most basically, a Strega (or Stregone for a man) is used to describe a practitioner of Italian Witchcraft. The confusing part is that the same word applies to 2 very different types of Italian Witchcraft. In recent times (1900-s to now), the word Strega (or Stregone for a man) is has become the “catch-all” phrase used especially by the Italian/Sicilian immigrants. This is probably because many immigrants wanted to become “good Americans” and purposely left behind (IMHO too much) of their regional culture and lore. Streghe is used to refer to a group of Strega/Stregone. Remember, there are 20 major regions of Italy (that doesn’t even count Sicily) and every region had its own customs and dialects (almost separate languages). Every region had its own name for its magickal practitioners. So, use of the term in this way is a convenience and is far more descriptive than defining.

    Stregheria (or simply La Vecchia Religione) is most definitely a spiritual path and can be thought of as the umbrella term for many different traditions or families that share certain ideas and ideals. In Stregheria, magic and the gods are inseparable from daily life. Every Strega/Stregone has a personal relationship with the Gods and magic is 2nd nature. The magic can formal, folksy, or just very focused Will but it all hinges around the practitioner’s intimacy with our magic and our gods. This isn’t entirely accurate, but Stregheria can be thought of as the related Pagan magical (and Mystery) traditions originating in the Mediterranean lands (specifically Italy and Sicily). In the Craft that I was passed (Sicilian based), we also use the terms Maga and Mago (from the Persian Magos for Priest/Miracle Worker).

    Raven Grimassi founded 2 modern Tradition of Stregheria (Aradia and Arician). One of the traditions is based around traditional Italian Craft but distinctly more “wicca flavored” that what I received from Lori Bruno and Leo Martello while the other one is his private family teachings that is very much “Old World Witchcraft”.

    Stregoneria is more simply the practice of magic within the Italic culture. A Stregoneria Strega can be pagan (small p), Christian/Catholic, atheist (ha!), agnostic, etc. It is a craft in the sense that it makes use of “magical techniques” to effect change.

    In La Vecchia Religione, there are certainly things that are in common with BTW or modern Craft practices. Most Streghe (Stregoneria) consider themselves Craft and Witches (to use the English term) but NOT Wiccan. Mind you, nothing is universal. :-)

    Here are some descriptive characteristics of La Vecchia Religion as I was taught:

    • It’s based in Love.
    • Magic is life and life is magic. The two are not separate.
    • Your magic should infuse your life and your live should infuse your magic.
    • The Gods do nudge us to “personal gnosis” when other means aren’t working :-) and it is just as valid and authentic.
    • Service to the Gods AND service to our Family is of prime importance.
    • 3-fold code of honor, respect, and personal responsibility.
      True power and magic comes from the heart.
    • There is no Rede but many Streghe believe in Fate (fah-teh) – which is a concept that can be defined as the momentum of choice. For every choice and action (or inaction) that we make/take, there is a consequence for good or ill. Although those consequences MAY carry over to later incarnations, MOST of them are dealt with in the here and now.
    • Many revere Diana as the Queen and Apollo as the Lord of Streghe and are seen as our Mother Goddess and Father God. (Although some use Diana as Queen and Apollo as Lord of Witches but use different names for the Mother and Father. This varies by tradition.)
    • Many Streghe work with the Italian/Roman Gods, some work with the Greek Gods, and some with variants of them. (For me in particular, I recognize that Sicily is a blend of many cultures and people and my Gods and practices reflect that, within reason). This often may include (but not necessarily) reverence for the Christian saints and angelic beings alongside our own divinities but done with the utmost respect and honesty. I personally believe that this works extremely well because the Christian faith (faith, not Church) infuses so much of the Italic culture.
    • We honor our ancestors and actively work with the Spirits (elementals, faeries, dis-incarnate, etc.) which take on a flavor of shamanic workings and techniques.
    • Some practice magic as a folk tradition, some practice magic as a ceremonial discipline, some practice shamanic techniques to develop psychic disciplines. The degree of each will depend on the individual tradition.

    OK, so that’s it in a nutshell. :-) Stay tuned for the next installment.

    All rights reserved, © Rev. Vincent Russo, Jr.
    Do not reproduce without written permission by the author.

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