Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
No.6. Vol. 1, Vernal Equinox 2004
The word “stregha” in Italian, means, simply “witch”. However, “La Stregheria”, or “witchcraft”, has come to assume a specific meaning in the English-speaking world, especially since a series of books by one Raven Grimassi have popularised the idea that here is a specific tradition, with its own particular “style” and content. However, this popularisation does not seem to have captured the “essence” of the Italian Stregha ; one reason may be the secretive nature of Le Streghe in Italy, and the paucity of good translations of the few sources readily available. Some links for a rapid overview are appended to this article.
The central figure of Stregha as generally understood is the Goddess Aradia. She is sometimes referred to as The Holy Stregha. She is also known as Aradia di Toscana and also La Bella Pellegrina or the Beautiful Pilgrim. Tuscany is the heartland of the pre-Roman civilisation of the Etrusci, and we shall return to them in a moment.
Stregha tradition says She was born in Tuscany (legend states 1313) and was taught the Old Ways, by her Aunt. As a young woman, she would walk through the Alban Hills near Lake Nemi (known to us from the work of Frazier, The Golden Bough, as a sanctuary of Diana Huntress) and contemplate the fate of the people of Italy who were downtrodden by the nobility and the Church. One day, Aradia had a moment of spiritual enlightenment in which she knew she must challenge the existing order. She heard the word ‘MoonShadow’ and began her spiritual teachings. Aradia gathered witches, outlaws, and others who dwelt in the forests around Nemi during the 14th century, and taught the Ways. Her disciples formed what are known as the Triad Clans, from which the Stregha Tradition descends.
Italian Witches in the early 19th century said that their
knowledge was entirely traditional, and was “given by the mother
to the daughter.”The Witches also tell that blood is exchanged from
a vein in the arm, and the new member is given a mark under the left thigh.
Such ceremonies are performed at midnight.
In the North, East and NorthEast dwelled the highest deities, those Gods most favorable to man. These were the most powerful and advisory gods. In the East also dwelled the Gods of Wisdom. In the South the Gods of earth and nature ruled. In the West dwelled the Gods of the Underworld and misfortune. The Lasa were the spirits of the West (ancestral ties) and the Lare were spirits of the East (the Watchers : preservation of Ways). These notions can be interpreted through the historical geography of Etruria ; to the west is the Tyrrenean Sea (another antique name for the Etrusci is Tyrreni), encircling historic Etruria to the north, north-east, and east, are the Apennine Mountains ; to the south, Campania, as its name implies, a smiling champagne land.
Streghan ritual includes evocation of these Watchers, or Grigori,. The Watchers were a specific race of divine beings known in Hebrew as 'nun resh ayin' or 'irin' meaning 'those who watch' or 'those who are awake', which is translated into Greek as Egregoroi egregoris or grigori, meaning 'watchers'. The early books of the Bible speak of heavenly beings called malochim (singular, malach). Although malach is usually translated 'angel', its literal meaning is 'messenger.' They are also spoken of in the Bible as the 'Anakim' and 'Anak' or 'Nefilim' (nephilum). 'Nefilim' (nephilum) in Hebrew means 'giants' or 'those who have fallen'. See : Numbers 13:22, 28 & 33; Deuteronomy 1:28, 9:2.
To the Egyptians, the Watchers are Ptah, Anubis, Osiris and Horus. The Egyptians wrote that they came from Ta-Ur, the 'Far/Foreign Land'. The Egyptian term 'Neteru' means 'guardians'.
In Stregha, they are thus the Watchers of the Four Quarters, or the Grigori. Before people walked upon the world, there dwelt these beings. Legends say that the Grigori once were physical beings, but that they are no longer. Now they dwell among the stars. They have set their towers at the four quarters of the world, and are the Watchers of the entrances and exits to the Worlds. The stars are the camp-fires of their armies, ever watching. They were called the powers of the air, and so came to be linked to the winds. Their names are given as : Tago, Alpena, Settrano, Meana.
As recounted in the Dead Sea Scrolls: '.....In the days of Jared, two hundred Watchers 'descended' on 'Ardis', the summit of Mount Hermon - a mythical location equated with the triple peak of Jebel esh Sheikh (9,200 feet), placed in the most northerly region of ancient Palestine. On this mountain the Watchers swear an oath and bind themselves by 'mutual imprecations', apparently knowing full well the consequences their actions will have both for themselves and for humanity as a whole. It is a pact commemorated in the name given to the place of their 'fall', for in Hebrew the word Hermon, or harem, translates as 'curse''. 'In time, each of the two hundred took an earthly spouse. These unions produced children of extraordinary size, who quickly devoured the world's food. To satisfy their enormous appetites, the angel-children roamed the earth, slaughtering every species of bird, beast, reptile and fish. Finally, the ravenous creatures turned on one another, stripping flesh from the bones of their fellows and slaking their thirst in rivers of blood.
As this wave of destruction washed over the earth, the anguished cries of humankind reached four powerful Archangels - Uriel, Raphael, Gabriel, and Michael - who upon orders from God enacted a swift retribution. First Uriel descended to earth to warn Noah of a coming deluge, advising him to prepare an ark to carry his family and a menagerie of creatures to safety. Raphael then fell upon the leader of the Watchers (called Shemyaza), bound him hand and foot, and thrust him into eternal darkness. Next, Gabriel charged with slaying the dissenters' offspring, encouraged the monstrous angel-children to fight one another. Finally, Michael bound up the remaining Watchers, forced them to witness the deaths of their progeny, and condemned them to eternal torment. Only then did the heavens open up and wash away the last traces of the destruction that the fallen angels had wrought.'
The Watchers are also portrayed as a high order of Archangels,
known as Irin. The Book of Enoch says that God had sent a legion of angels
to earth in order to watch over and subtly assist man during the beginning
of civilization. However, as Enoch tells, these angels were not well suited
for the task. They taught man forbidden sciences such as herbcraft, astrology,
divination and sorcery.
It would be most instructive to research the extensive corpus
of Etruscan remains – unfortunately we cannot yet read their writing,
it is said that the Emperor Claudius wrote a voluminous history and ethnography
of Etruria, after speaking with the last native speaker of Etruscan, around
40AD ; however this work has been lost. There is certainly much more to
discover about the early beginnings of what is known today as the authentic