Strega in Sicily… 1

As some of you know, I recently spent a month in Sicily for vacation and reconnecting with my ancestry. While there, I (eventually) met what we in the USA would call Streghe.

I was always told that it Italy/Sicily, the word Strega was always negative and never used as a self-identifier.  I was very surprised to find that to be the case “for the general, non-magical public” but not necessarily for the magical community.

For the general public, like in parts of our culture, Strega (or any type of witchcraft) most definitely has a very negative connotation. However, that’s starting to change. There are dozens of shows (mostly for teens and pre-teens) where the good guys are witches. Kinda like the Disney show “Witches of Waverly Place”.  What I did notice was that the word Strega was almost never used on its own by the *general* populace. It was always clarified with something like: strega cattiva, strega buona, strega bella, strega maga, etc. to indicate what type of strega, as if the word (on its own) was simply an indicator of a practitioner of magic (folk or cultural but not ceremonial).

Most of the Catholic magical practitioners that I met held the same opinion: strega = diabolism, just like the general population over here. The Catholic practitioners had a huge variety of names that they self-identified with, most commonly benedicaria.

The pagan magical practitioners that I met often used Strega-XXX or simply a dialectical word.  I heard: “magara”, “maiare”, “maga/mago/magoi” (which my family uses), and even “fattucchiere”, “maghiardzha”, and “pratico”. It seems there’s no end.  Those pagan religious witches that I personally met often used one word to describe the magical practice  (what we do) and another for their spiritual practice (what we experience/believe).  Apparently, context is KEY. A word may be appropriate in one setting but WRONG in another setting.

One of the most interesting things is that I was told is that “religion is what the community does and since the community is Catholic, everyone is Catholic if they are going to be part of the community”. Apparently, you can be “socially Catholic” but religiously or spiritually something else – just don’t talk about it.

I didn’t notice any “pagan community” to speak of as one might find in the USA or Europe probably because the Church is so pervasive in all parts of live and culture.  However, when it exists, it seems to be just a couple people who got together and it was considered a spiritual practice or a vocation. That lead to an interesting discussion of “covens” which I was told were NOT training groups or where someone learned but were instead “gatherings for magic and celebration” – congrega (if unrelated) and clan or tribù (if the people were related) were the words that I was told were most common.

Just goes to show you that the words religion, spirituality, vocation, and magic are incredibly varied and often depend on context.

Just some food for thought.


Enzo (short for Vincenzo)

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One thought on “Strega in Sicily…

  • Wendy Cuccia-Griffin

    It’s wonderful to learn these things from true Sicilians rather than someone else’s “interpretation”… which is usually colored by their own misinformation and prejudices.
    Thank you for sharing your experience!