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 Arcadia gospel of witches part6

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PostSubject: Arcadia gospel of witches part6   Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:36 am

CHAPTER XIV
The Goblin Messengers of Diana and Mercury
The following tale was not given to me as connected with the Gospel of the Witches, but as Diana appears in it, and as the whole conception is that of Diana and Apollo in another form, I include it in the series.


Many centuries ago there was a folletto, goblin, or spirit, or devil-angel-chi sa?-who knows what? and Mercurio, who was the god of speed and of quickness, being much pleased with this imp, bestowed on him the gift of running like the wind, with the privilege that whatever he pursued, be it spirit, a human being, or animal, he should certainly overtake or catch it. This folletto had a beautiful sister, who, like him, ran errands, not for the. gods, but for the goddess (there was a female god for every male, even down to the small spirits); and Diana on the same day gave to this fairy the power that, whoever nught chase her, she should, if pursued, never be overtaken.


One day the brother saw his sister speeding like a flash of lightning across the heaven, and he felt a sudden strange desire in rivalry to overtake her. So he dashed after as she flitted on; but though it was his destiny to catch, she had been fated never to be caught, and so the will of one supreme god was balanced by that of another.


So the two kept flying round and round the edge of heaven, and at first all the gods roared with laughter, but when they understood the case, they grew serious, and asked one another how it was to end.


Then the great father-god said:-


"Behold the earth, which is in darkness and gloom! I will change the sister into a moon, and her brother into a sun. And so shall she ever escape him, yet will he ever catch her with his light, which shall fall on her from afar; for the rays of the sun are his hands, which reach forth with burning grasp, yet which are ever eluded."


And thus it is said that this race begins anew with the first of every month, when the moon being cold, is covered with as many coats as an onion. But while the race is being run, as the moon becomes warm she casts off one garment after another, till she is naked and then stops, and then when dressed the race begins again.


As the vast storm-cloud falls in glittering drops, even so the great myths of the olden time
are broken up into small fairy-tales, and as these drops in turn reunite


"En rivière ou sur 1'estang,"
("On silent lake or streamlet lone,")


as Villon hath it, even so minor myths are again formed from the fallen waters. In this story we clearly have the dog made by Vulcan and the wolf-Jupiter settled the question by petrifying them-as you may read in Julius Pollux his fifth book, or any other on mythology. Is canis fuit postea à Jove in lapidem conversus.


'Which hunting hound, as well is known,
Was changed by Jupiter to stone."


It is remarkable that in this story the moon is compared to an onion. "The onion," says Friedrich (Symbolik der Natur, p. 348), "was, on account of its many skins, among the Egyptians the emblem and hieroglyph of the many-formed moon, whose different phases are so clearly seen in the root when it is cut through, also because its growth or decrease corresponds with that of the planet. Therefore it was dedicated to Isis, the Moon-Goddess." And for this reason the onion was so holy as to be regarded as having in itself something of deity; for which reason juvenal remarks that the Egyptians were happy people to have gods growing in their gardens.


CHAPTER XV
Laverna
The following very curious tale, with the incantation, was not in the text of the Vangelo, but it very evidently belongs to the cycle or series of legends connected with it. Diana is declared to be the protectress of all outcasts, those to whom the night is their day, consequently of thieves; and Laverna, as we may learn from Horace (Epistles, 16, 1) and Plautus, was preeminently the patroness of pilfering and all rascality. In this story she also appears as a witch and humourist.


It was given to me as a tradition of Virgil, who often appears as one familiar with the marvellous and hidden lore of the olden time.


It happened on a time that Virgil, who knew all things hidden or magical, he who was a magician and poet, having heard a speech (or oration) by a famous talker who had not much in him, was asked what he thought of it? And he replied:-


"It seems to me to be impossible to tell whether it was all introduction or all conclusion; certainly there was no body in it. It was like certain fish of whom one is in doubt whether they are all head or all tall, or only head and tall; or the goddess Laverna, of whom no one ever knew whether she was all head or all body, or neither or both."


Then the emperor inquired who this deity might be, for he had never heard of her.


And Virgil replied:-


"Among the gods or spirits who were of ancient times-may they be ever favourable to us! Among them (was) one female who was the craftiest and most knavish of them all. She was called Laverna. She was a thief, and very little known to the other deities, who were honest and dignified, for she was rarely in heaven or in the country of the fairies.


"She was almost always on earth, among thieves, pickpockets, and panders-she lived in darkness. Once it happened that she went (to a mortal), a great priest in the form and guise of a very beautiful stately priestess (of some goddess), and said to him: -


"'You have an estate which I wish to buy. I intend to build on it a temple to (our) God. I swear to you on my body that I will pay thee within a year.'


"Therefore the priest transferred to her the estate.


"And very soon Laverna had sold off all the crops, grain, cattle, wood, and poultry. There was not left the value of four farthings.


"But on the day fixed for payment there was no Laverna to be seen. The goddess was far away, and had left her creditor in asso-in the lurch!


"At the same time Laverna went to a great lord and bought of him a castle, well-furnished within and broad rich lands without.


"But this time she swore on her head to pay in full in six months.


"And as she had done by the priest, so she acted to the lord of the castle, and stole and sold every stick, furniture, cattle, men, and mice-there was not left wherewith to feed a fly.


"Then the priest and the lord, finding out who this was, appealed to the gods, complaining that they had been robbed by a goddess.


"And it was soon made known to them all that this was Laverna.


"Therefore she was called to judgment before all the gods.


"And when she was asked what she had done with the property of the pr I est, unto whom she had sworn by her body to make payment at the time appointed (and why had she broken her oath)?


"She replied by a strange deed which amazed them all, for she made her body disappear, so that only her head remained visible, and it cried:-


"'Behold me! I swore by my body, but body have I none!'


"Then all the gods laughed.


"After the priest came the lord who had also been tricked, and to whom she had sworn by her head. And in reply to him Laverna showed to all present her whole body without mincing matters, and it was one of extreme beauty, but without a head; and from the neck thereof came a voice which said:-


'Behold me, for I am Laverna, who
Have come to answer to that lord's complaint,
Who swears that I contracted debt to him,
And have not paid although the time is o'er,
And that I am a thief because I swore
Upon my head- but, as you all can see,
I have no head at all, and therefore I
Assuredly ne'er swore by such an oath.'


"Then there was indeed a storm of laughter among the gods, who made the matter right by ordering the head to join the body, and bidding Laverna pay up her debts, which she did.


"Then Jove spoke and said: -


"'Here is a roguish goddess without a duty (or a worshipper), while there are in Rome innumerable thieves, sharpers, cheats, and rascals-ladri, bindolini, truffatori e scrocconi-who live by deceit.


"'These good folk have neither a church nor a god, and it is a great pity, for even the very devils have their master, Satan, as the head of the family. There fore, I command that in future Laverna shall be the goddess of all the knaves or dishonest tradesmen, with the whole rubbish and refuse of the human race, who have been hitherto without a god or a devil, inasmuch as they have been too despicable for the one or the other.'


"And so Laverna became the goddess of all dishonest and shabby people.


"Whenever any one planned or intended any knavery or aught wicked, he entered her temple, and invoked Laverna, who appeared to him as a woman's head. But if he did his work of knavery badly or maladroitly, when he again invoked her he saw only the body; but if he was clever, then he beheld the whole goddess, head and body.


"Laverna was no more chaste than she was honest, and had many lovers and many children. It was said that not being bad at heart or cruel, she often repented her life and sins; but do what she might, she could not reform, because her passions were so invetcrate.


"And if a man had got any woman with child or any maid found herself enceinte, and would hide it from the world and escape scandal, they would go[1] every day to invoke Laverna.


"Then when the time came for the suppliant to be delivered, Laverna would bear her in sleep during the night to her temple, and after the birth cast her into slumber again, and bear her back to her bed at home. and when she awoke in the morning, she was ever in vigorous health and felt no weariness, and all seemed to her as a dream. [2]


"But to those who desired in time to reclaim their


[1. This was a very peculiar characteristic of Diana, who was in volved in a similar manner. I have here omitted much needless verbiage or repetition in the original MS. and also abbreviated what follows.


2. All of this indicates unmistakably, in several respects, a genuine tradition. In the hands of crafty priests this would prove a great aid to popularity.]


children, Laverna was indulgent if they led such lives as pleased her and faithfully worshiped her.


"And this is the ceremony to be performed and the incantation to be offered every night to Laverna.


"There must be a set place devoted to the goddess, be it a room, a cellar, or a grove, but ever a solitary place.


"Then take a small table of the size of forty playing-cards set close together, and this must be hid in the same place, and going there at night...


"Take forty cards and spread them on the table, making of them a close carpet or cover on it.


"Take of the herbs Paura and concordia, and boil the two together, repeating meanwhile the following: -


Scongiurazione.


Fa bollire la mano della concordia,
Per tenere a me concordo,
La Laverna che possa portare a me
Il mio figlio, e che possa
Guardarmele da qualun pericolo.


Bollo questa erba, man non bollo 1'erba.
Bollo la paura[1] che possa tenere lontano
Qualunque persona e se le viene
L'idea a qualchuno di avvicinarsi,
Possa essere preso da paura
E fuggire lontano!


[1. I conjecture that this is wild poppy. The poppy was specially sacred to Ceres, but also to the Night and its rites, and Laverna was a nocturnal deity -a play on the word paura, or fear.]


Incantation.


I boil the cluster of concordia
To keep in concord and at peace with me
Laverna, that she may restore to me
My child, and that she by her favouring care
May guard me well from danger all my life!,
I boil this herb, yet 'tis not it which boils;
I boll the fear, that it may keep afar
Any intruder, and if such should come
(To spy upon my rite), may he be struck
With fear and in his terror haste away![1]


Having said thus, put the boiled herbs in a bottle and spread the cards on the table one by one, saying: -


Battezzo queste quaranta carte!
Ma non batezzo le quaranta carte,
Battezzo quaranta dei superi,
Alla dea Laverna che le sue
Persone divengono un Vulcano
Fino che la Laverna non sara
Venuta da me colla mia creatura,
E questi del dal naso dalla bocca,
E dal' orecchio possino buttare
Fiammi di fuoco e cenere,


[1. This passage recalls strangely enough the worship of the Græco-Roman goddess Pavor or Fear, the attendant on Mars. She was much invoked, as in the present instance, to terrify intruders or an enemy. Æschylus makes the seven chiefs before Thebes swear by Fear, Mars, and Bellona. Mem. Acad. of Inscriptions, v. 9.]


E lasciare pace e bene alla dea
Laverna, che possa anche essa
Abbraciare i suoi fighi
A sua volunta!


Incantation.


I spread before me now the forty cards,
Yet 'tis not forty cards which here I spread,
But forty of the gods superior
To the deity Laverna, that their forms
May each and all become volcanoes hot,
Until Laverna comes and brings my child;
And 'till 'tis done may they all cast at her
Hot flames of fire, and with them glowing coals
From noses, mouths, and ears (until she yields);
Then may they leave Laverna to her peace,
Free to embrace her children at her will!


"Laverna was the Roman goddess of thieves, pickpockets, shopkeepers or dealers, plagiarists, rascals, and hypocrites. There was near Rome a temple in a grove where robbers went to divide their plunder. There was a statue of the goddess. Her image, according to some, was a head without a body; according to others, a body without a head; but the epithet of 'beautiful' applied to her by Horace indicates that she who gave disguises to her worshippers had kept one to her self." She was worshipped in perfect silence. This is confirmed by a passage in Horace (Epist. 16, lib. 1), where an impostor, hardly daring to move his lips, repeats the following prayer or incantation: -


"O Goddess Laverna!
Give me the art of cheating and deceiving,
Of making men believe that I am just,
Holy, and innocent! extend all darkness
And deep obscurity o'er my misdeeds!"


It is interesting to compare this unquestionably ancient classic invocation to Laverna with the one which is before given. The goddess was extensively known to the lower orders, and in Plautus a cook who has been robbed of his implements calls on her to revenge him.


I call special attention to the fact that in this, as in a great number of Italian witch-incantations, the deity or spirit who is worshipped, be it Diana herself or Laverna, is threatened with torment by a higher power until he or she grants the favour demanded. This is quite classic, i.e., Græco-Roman or Oriental, in all of which sources the magician relies not on favour, aid, or power granted by either God or Satan, but simply on what he has been able to wrench and wring, as it were, out of infinite nature or the primal source by penance and study. I mention this because a reviewer has reproached me with exaggerating the degree to which diabolism-introduced by the Church since 1500-is deficient in Italy. But in fact, among the higher class of witches, or in their traditions, it is hardly to be found at all. In Christian diabolism the witch never dares to threaten Satan or God, or any of the Trinity or angels, for the whole system is based on the conception of a Church and of obedience.


The herb concordia probably takes its name from that of the goddess Concordia, who was represented as holding a branch. It plays a great part in witchcraft, after verbena and rue.


APPENDIX
Comments on the Foregoing Texts
So long ago as the year 1886 I learned that there was in existence a manuscript setting forth the doctrines of Italian witchcraft, and I was promised that, if possible, it should be obtained for me. In this I was for a time disappointed. But having urged it on Maddalena, my collector of folk-lore, while she was leading a wandering life in Tuscany, to make an effort to obtain or recover something of the kind, I at last received from her, on January 1, 1897, entitled Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches.


Now be it observed, that every leading point which forms the plot or centre of the Vangel, such as that Diana is Queen of the Witches. an associate of Herodias (Aradia) in her relations to sorcery; that she bore a child to her brother the Sun (here Lucifer); that as a moon-goddess she is in some relation to Cain, who dwells as prisoner in the moon, and that the witches of old were people oppressed by feudal lands, the former revenging themselves in every way, and holding orgies to Diana which the Church represented as being the worship of Satan-all of this, I repeat, had been told or written out for me in fragments by Maddalena (not to speak of other authorities), even as it had been chronicled by Horst or Michelet; therefore all this is in the present document of minor importance. All of this I expected, but what I did not expect, and what was new to me, was that portion which is given as prose-poetry and which I have rendered in metre or verse. This being traditional, and taken down from wizards, is extremely curious and interesting, since in it are preserved many relics of lore which, as may be verified from records, have come down from days of yore.


Aradia is evidently enough Herodias, who was regarded in the beginning as associated with Diana as chief of the witches. This was not, as I opine, derived from the Herodias of the New Testament, but from an earlier replica of Lilith, bear ing the same name. It is, in fact, an identification or twin-Ing of the Aryan and Shemitic Queens of Heaven, or of Night and of Sorcery, and it may be that this was known to the earliest myth-makers. So far back as the sixth century the worship of Herodias and Diana by witches was condemned by a Church Council at Ancyra. Pipernus and other writers have noted the evident identity of Herodias with Lilith. Isis preceded both.


Diana is very vigorously, even dramatically, set forth in this poem as the goddess of the god-forsaken and ungodly, of thieves, harlots, and, truth fully enough, of the "minions of the moon," as Falstaff would have fain had them called. It was recognised in ancient Rome, as it is in modern India, that no human being can be so bad or vile as to have forfeited all right to divine protection of some kind or other, and Diana was this protectress. It may be as well to observe here, that among all free-thinking philosophers, educated parias, and literary or book-Bohemians, there has ever been a most unorthodox tendency to believe that the faults and errors of humanity are more due (if not altogether due) to unavoidable causes which we cannot help, as, for instance, heredity, the being born savages, or poor, or in vice, or unto "bigotry and virtue" in excess, or unto inquisition ing-that is to say, when we are so overburdened with innately born sin that all our free will cannot set us free from it.[1]


It was during the so-called Dark Ages, or from the downfall of the Roman Empire until the thirteenth century, that the belief that all which was


[1. Hence the saying that to know all would be to forgive all; which may be nine-tenths true, but there is a tenth of responsible guilt.]


worst in man owed its origin solely to the monstrous abuses and tyranny of Church and State. For then, at every turn in life, the vast majority encountered downright shameless, palpable iniqulty and injustice, with no law for the weak who were without patrons.


The perception of this drove vast numbers of the discontented into rebellion, and as they could not prevail by open warfare, they took their hatred out in a form of secret anarchy, which was, however, intimately blended with superstition and fragments of old tradition. Prominent in this, and naturally enough, was the worship of Diana the protectress-for the alleged adoration of Satan was a far later invention of the Church, and it has never really found a leading place in Italian witch craft to this day. That is to say, purely diabolical witchcraft did not find general acceptance till the end of the fifteenth century, when it was, one may almost say, invented in Rome to supply means wherewith to destroy the threatening heresy of Germany.


The growth of Sentiment is the increase of suffering; man is never entirely miserable until he finds out how wronged he is and fancies that he sees far ahead a possible freedom. In ancient times men as slaves suffered less under even more abuse, because they believed they were born to low conditions of life. Even the best reform brings pain with it, and the great awakening of man was accompanied with griefs, many of which even yet endure. Pessimism is the result of too much culture and introversion.


It appears to be strangely out of sight and out of mind with all historians, that the sufferings of the vast majority of mankind, or the enslaved and poor, were far greater under early Christianity, or till the end of the Middle Ages and the Emancipation of Serfs, than they were before. The reason for this was that in the old "heathen" time the humble did not know, or even dream, that all are equal before God, or that they had many rights, even here on earth, as slaves; for, in fact, the whole moral tendency of the New Testament is utterly opposed to slavery, or even severe servitude. Every word uttered teaching Christ's mercy and love, humility and charity, was, in fact, a bitter reproof, not only to every lord in the land, but to the Church itself, and its arrogant prelates. The fact that many abuses had been mitigated and that there were benevolent saints, does not affect the fact that, on the whole, mankind was for a long time worse off than before, and the greatest cause of this suffering was what may be called a sentimental one, or a newly-born consciousness of rights withheld, which is always of itself a torture. And this was greatly aggravated by the endless preaching to the people that it was a duty to suffer and endure oppression and tyranny, and that the rights of Authority of all kinds were so great that they on the whole even excused their worst abuses. For by upholding Authority in the nobility the Church maintained its own.


The result of it all was a vast development of rebels, outcasts, and all the discontented, who adopted witchcraft or sorcery for a religion, and wizards as their priests. They had secret meetings in desert places, among old ruins accursed by priests as the haunt of evil spirits or ancient heathen gods, or in the mountains. To this day the dweller in Italy may often find secluded spots environed by ancient chestnut forests, rocks, and walls, which suggest fit places for the Sabbat, and are sometimes still believed by tradition to be such. And I also believe that in this Gospel of the Witches we have a trustworthy outline at least of the doctrine and rites observed at these meetings. They adored forbidden deities and practised forbidden deeds, inspired as much by rebellion against Society as by their own passions.


There is, however, in the Evangel of the Witches an effort made to distinguish between the naturally wicked or corrupt and those who are outcasts or oppressed, as appears from the passage:-


"Yet like Cain's daughter (offspring) thou shalt never be,
Nor like the race who have become at last
Wicked and infamous from suffering,
As are the Jews and wandering Zingari,
Who are all thieves: like them ye shall not be."


The supper of the Witches, the cakes of meal, salt, and honey, in the form of crescent moons, are known to every classical scholar. The moon or horn-shaped cakes are still common. I have eaten of them this very day, and though they are known all over the world, I believe they owe their fashion to tradition.


In the conjuration of the meal there is a very curious tradition introduced to the effect that the spige or glittering grains of wheat from which spikes shoot like sun-rays, owe their brilliant like ness to a resemblance to the fire-fly, "who comes to give them light." We have, I doubt not, in this a classic tradition, but I cannot verify it. Here upon the Vangelo cites a common nursery-rhyme, which may also be found in a nursery-tale, yet which, like others, is derived from witch-lore, by which the lucciola is put under a glass and conjured to give by its light certain answers.


The conjuration of the meal or bread, as being literally our body as contributing to form it, and deeply sacred because it had lain in the earth, where dark and wondrous secrets bide, seems to cast a new light on the Christian sacrament. It is a type of resurrection from the earth, and was therefore used at the Mysteries and Holy Supper, and the grain had pertained to chthonic secrets, or to what had been under the earth in darkness. Thus even earth-worms are invoked in modern witchcraft as familiar with dark mysteries, and the shepherd's pipe to win the Orphic power must be buried three days in the earth. And so all was, and is, in sorcery a kind of wild poetry based on symbols, all blending into one another, light and darkness, fire-flies and grain, life and death.


Very strange indeed, but very strictly according to ancient magic as described by classic authorities, is the threatening Diana, in case she will not grant a prayer. This recurs continually in the witch-exorcisms or spells. The magus, or witch, worships the spirit, but claims to have the right, drawn from a higher power, to compel even the Queen of Earth, Heaven, and Hell to grant the request. "Give me what I ask, and thou shalt have honour and offerings; refuse, and I will vex thee by insult." So Canidia and her kind boasted that they could compel the gods to appear. This is all classic. No one ever heard of a Satanic witch in voking or threatening the Trinity, or Christ or even the angels or saints. In fact, they cannot even compel the devil or his imps to obey-they work entirely by his good-will as slaves. But in the old Italian lore the sorcerer or witch is all or nothing, and aims at limitless will or power.


Of the ancient belief in the virtues of a perforated stone I need not speak. But it is to be remarked that in the invocation the witch goes forth in the earliest morning to seek for verbena or vervain. The ancient Persian magi, or rather their daughters, worshipped the sun as it rose by waving freshly plucked verbena,[1] which was one of the seven most powerful plants in magic. These Persian priest esses were naked while they thus worshipped, nudity being a symbol of truth and sincerity.


The extinguishing the lights, nakedness, and the orgie, were regarded as symbolical of the body being laid in the ground, the grain being planted, or of entering into darkness and death, to be revived in new forms, or regeneration and light. It was the laying aside of daily life.


The Gospel of the Witches, as I have given it, is in reality only the initial chapter of the collection of ceremonies, "cantrips," incantations, and traditions current in the fraternity or sisterhood, the whole of which are in the main to be found in my Etruscan Roman Remains and Florentine Legends. I have, it is true, a great number as yet unpublished, and there are more ungathered, but the whole scripture of this sorcery, all its principal tenets, formulas, medicaments, and mysteries may be found in what I have collected and printed. Yet I would urge that it would be worth while to arrange and edit it all into one work, because it would be to every student of archæology, folk-lore, or history of great value. It has been the faith of millions in the past; it has made itself felt in in numerable traditions, which deserve to be better


[1. Friedrich, Symbolik, p. 283.]


understood than they are, and I would gladly undertake the work if I believed that the public would make it worth the publisher's outlay and pains.


It may be observed with truth that I have not treated this Gospel, nor even the subject of witchcraft, entirely as folk-lore, as the word is strictly defined and carried out; that is, as a mere traditional fact or thing to be chiefly regarded as a variant like or unlike sundry other traditions, or to be tabulated and put away in pigeon-holes for reference. That it is useful and sensible to do all this is perfectly true, and it has led to an immense amount of valuable search, collection, and preservation. But there is this to be said-and I have observed that here and there a few genial minds are begl nnlng to awake to it-that the mere study of the letter in this way has developed a great indifference to the spirit, going in many cases so far as to produce, like Realism in Art (to which it is allied), even a contempt for the matter or meaning of it, as originally believed in.


I was lately much struck by the fact that in a very learned work on Music, the author, in discussing that of ancient times and of the East, while extremely accurate and minute in determining pentatonic and all other scales, and what may be called the mere machinery and history of composition, showed that he was utterly ignorant of the fundamental fact that notes and chords, bars and melodies, were in themselves ideas or thoughts. Thus Confucius is said to have composed a melody which was a personal description of himself. Now if this be not understood, we can not understand the soul of early music, and the folk-lorist who cannot get beyond the letter and fancies himself "scientific" is exactly like the musician who has no idea of how or why melodies were anciently composed.


The strange and mystical chapter "How Diana made the Stars and the Rain" is the same given in my Legends of Florence, vol. ii. p. 229, but much enlarged, or developed to a cosmogonic-mythologic sketch. And here a reflection occurs which is perhaps the most remarkable which all this Witch Evangel suggests. In all other Scriptures of all races, it is the male, Jehovah, Buddha, or Brahma, who creates the universe; in Witch Sorcery it is the female who is the primitive principle. Whenever in history there is a period of radical intellectual rebellion against long- established conservatism, hierarchy, and the like, there is always an effort to regard Woman as the fully equal, which means the superior sex. Thus in the extraordinary war of conflicting elements, strange schools of sorcery, Neo-Platonism, Cabala, Heretic Christianity, Gnosticism, Persian Magism and Dualism, with the remains of old Greek and Egyptian theologies in the third and fourth centuries at Alexandria, and in the House of Light of Cairo in the ninth, the equality of Woman was a prominent doctrine. It was Sophia or Helena, the enfranchised, who was then the true Christ who was to save mankind.


When Illumination or Illuminé-ism, in company with magic and mysticism, and a resolve to regenerate society according to extreme free thought, inspired the Templars to the hope that they would master the Church and the world, the equality of Woman, derived from the Cairene traditions, again received attention. And it may be observed that during the Middle Ages, and even so late as the intense excitements which inspired the French Huguenots, the Jansenists and the Anabaptists, Woman always came forth more prominently or played a far greater part than she had done in social or political life. This was also the case in the Spiritualism founded by the Fox sisters of Rochester, New York, and it is manifesting itself in many ways in the Fin de Siècle, which is also a nervous chaos according to Nordau,-Woman be ing evidently a fish who shows herself most when the waters are troubled:-


"Oh, Woman, in our hours of ease!"


The reader will remember the rest. but we should also remember that in the earlier ages the vast majority of mankind itself, suppressed by the too great or greatly abused power of Church and State, only manifested itself at such periods of rebellion against forms or ideas grown old. And with every new rebellion, every fresh outburst or debâcle or wild inundation and bursting over the barriers, humanity and woman gain something, that is to say, their just dues or rights. For as every freshet spreads more widely its waters over the fields, which are in due time the more fertilised thereby, so the world at large gains by every Revolution, however terrible or repugnant it may be for a time.


The Emancipated or Woman's Rights woman, when too enthusiastic, generally considers man as limited, while Woman is destined to gain on him. In earlier ages a contrary opinion prevailed, and both are, or were, apparently in the wrong, so far as the future is concerned. For in truth both sexes are progressive, and progress in this respect means not a conflict of the male and female principle, such as formed the basis of the Mahabarata, but a gradual ascertaining of true ability and adjust ment of relations or co-ordination of powers-in doing which on a scientific basis all conflict ceases.


These remarks are appropriate to my text and subject, because it is in studying the epochs when woman has made herself prominent and influential that we learn what the capacities of the fe male sex truly are. Among these, that of Witchcraft as it truly was-not as it is generally quite misunderstood-is as deeply interesting as any other. For the Witch-laying aside all question as to magic or its non- existence -was once a real factor or great power in rebellious social life, and to this very day-as most novels bear witness-it is recognised that there is something uncanny, mysteri ous, and incomprehensible in woman, which neither she herself nor man can explain.


"For every woman is at heart a witch."


We have banished the broom and the cat and the working miracles, the Sabbat and pacts with Satan, but the mystery or puzzle is as great as ever; no one living knows to what it is destined to lead. Are not the charms of love of every kind, and the enjoyment of beauty in all its forms in nature, mysteries, miracles, or magical?


To all who are interested in this subject of woman's influence and capacity, this Evangel of the Witches will be of value as showing that there have been strange thinkers who regarded creation as a feminine development or parthenogenesis from which the masculine principle was born. Lucifer, or Light, lay hidden in the darkness of Diana, as heat is hidden in lee. But the regenerator or Messiah of this strange doctrine is a woman Aradia, though the two, mother and daughter, are confused or reflected in the different tales, even as Jahveh is confused with the Elohim.


"Remains to be said"-that the Adam-nable and Eve-il, or Adamite assemblages enjoined in the Gospel of Sorcery, are not much, if at all, kept up by the now few and far between old or young witches and venerable wizards of the present day. That is to say, not to my knowledge in Central or Northern Italy. But among the roués, viveurs, and fast women of Florence and Milan-where they are not quite as rare as eclipses-such assemblies are called balli angelici or angels' balls. They are indeed far from being unknown in any of the great cities of the world. A few years ago a Sunday newspaper in an American city published a detailed account of them in the "dance -houses" of the town, declaring that they were of very frequent occurrence, which was further verified to me by men familiar with them.


A very important point to all who regard the finds or discoveries of ancient tradition as of importance, is that a deep and extensive study of the Italian witch-traditions which I have collected, a comparison of them one with the other, and of the whole with what resembles it in the writings of Ovid and other mythologists, force the conviction (which I have often expressed, but not too frequently) that there are in these later records many very valuable and curious remains of ancient Latin or Etruscan lore, in all probability entire poems, tales, and invocations which have passed over from the ancient tongue. If this be true, and when it shall come to pass that scholars will read with interest what is here given, then most assuredly there will be critical examination and veri fication of what is ancient in it, and it will be discovered what marvels of tradition still endure.


That the witches even yet form a fragmentary secret society or sect, that they call it that of the Old Religion, and that there are in the Romagna entire villages in which the people are completely heathen, and almost entirely governed by Setti mani or "seven months' children," may be read in the novel of the name, as well as several papers published in divers magazines, or accepted from my own personal knowledge. The existence of a religion supposes a Scripture, and in this case it may be admitted, almost without severe verification, that the Evangel of the Witches is really a very old work. Thus it is often evident that where a tradition has been taken down from verbal delivery, the old woman repeats words or sentences by whole chapters which she does not fully understand, but has heard and learned. These are to be verified by correlation or comparison with other tales and texts. Now considering all this most carefully and critically, or severely yet impartially, no one can resist the conviction that in the Gospel of the Witches we have a book which is in all probability the translation of some early or later Latin work, since it seems most probable that every fixed faith finds its record. There are literary men among the Pariahs of India; there were probably many among the minions of the moon, or nocturnal worshippers of Diana. In fact, I am not without hope that research may yet reveal in the writings of some long-forgotten heretic or mystic of the dark ages the parallel of many passages in this text, if not the whole of it.


Yet a few years, reader, and all this will have vanished from among the Italians before the newspaper and railroad, even as a light cloud is driven before a gale, or pass away like snowflakes in a pond. Old traditions are, in fact, disappearing with such incredible rapidity that I am assured on best authority-and can indeed see for myself that what I collected or had recorded for me ten years ago in the Romagna Toscana, with exceptionably skilful aid, could not now be gathered at all by anybody, since it no longer exists, save in the memories of a few old sorcerers who are daily disappearing, leaving no trace behind. It is going-going-it is all but gone; in fact, I often think that, old as I am (and I am twelve years beyond the limit of extreme old age as defined by the Duke of Marlborough in his defence), I shall yet live to hear the rap of the auctioneer Time as he bids off the last real Latin sorcerer to Death! It may be that he is passing in his checks even as I write. The women or witches, having more vital ity, will last a little longer-I mean the traditional kind; for as regards innate natural development of witchcraft and pure custom, we shall always have with us sorceresses, even as we shall have the poor-until we all go up together.


What is very remarkable, even to the being difficult to understand, is the fact that so much an tique tradition survived with so little change among the peasantry. But legends and spells in families of hereditary witches are far more likely to live than fashions in art, yet even the latter have been kept since 2000 years. Thus, as E. Neville Rolfe writes: "The late Signor Castellani, who was the first to reproduce with fidelity the jewellery found in the tombs of Etruria and Greece, made up his mind that some survival of this ancient and exquisite trade must still exist somewhere in Italy. He accordingly made diligent search... and in an out of the way village discovered goldsmiths who made ornaments for the peasants, which in their character indicated a strong survival of early Etruscan art."[1]


[1. I am here reminded, by a strange coincidence, that I having rediscovered the very ancient and lost art of the Chinese how to make bottles or vases on which inscriptions, &c., appeared when wine was poured into thern, communicated the discovery on the spot where I made it to the brother of Signor Castellani; Sir Anstin Layard, who had sent for him to hear and judge of it, being present. Signore Castellani the younger was overseer of the glass-works a Murano, in which I made the discovery. Signore Castellani said that he had heard of these Chinese vases, and always regarded the story as a fable or impossible, but that they could be made perfectly by my process, adding. however, that they would cost too much to make it profitable. I admit that I have little faith in lost arts beyond recovering. Described in my book (unpublished) on the Hundred Minor Arts.]


And here I would remark, that where I have written perhaps a little too bitterly of the indifference of scholars to the curious traditions preserved by wizards and witches, I refer to Rome, and especially to Northern Italy. G. Pitré did all that was possible for one man as regards the South. Since the foregoing chapters were written, I received Naples in the Nineties, by E. Neville Rolfe, B.A., in which a deep and intelligent interest in the subject is well supported by extensive knowledge. What will be to the reader of my book particularly interesting is the amount of information which Mr. Rolfe gives regarding the connection of Diana with witchcraft, and how many of her attributes became those of the Madonna. "The worship of Diana," as he says, "prevailed very extensively... so much so, that when Christianity superseded Paganism, much of the heathen symbolism was adapted to the new rites, and the transition from the worship of Diana to that of the Madonna was made comparatively simple." Mr. Rolfe speaks of the key, rue, and verbena as symbols of Diana; of all of these I have incantations, apparently very ancient, and identified with Diana. I have often found rue in houses in Florence, and had it given to me as a special favour. It is always concealed in some dark corner, because to take any away is to take luck. The bronze frog was an emblem of Diana; hence the Latin proverb, "'He who loves a frog regards it as Diana." It was made till recent times as an amulet. I have one as a paper-weight now before me. There is also an incantation to the frog.


That wherein Mr. Rolfe tacitly and unconsciously confirms what I have written, and what is most remarkable in this my own work, is that the wizards in Italy form a distinct class, still exercising great power in Naples and Sicily, and even possessing very curious magical documents and cabalistic charts, one of which (familiar to those who have seen it among the Takruri and Arab sorcerers in Cairo, in their books) he gives. These probably are derived from Malta. Therefore it will not seem astonishing to the reader that this Gospel of the Witches should have been preserved, even as I have given it. That I have not had or seen it in an old MS. is certainly true, but that it has been written of yore, and is still repeated here and there orally, in separate parts, I am sure.[1]


It would be a great gratification to me if any among those into whose hands this book may fall, who may possess information confirming what is here set forth, would kindly either communicate it or publish it in some form, so that it may not be lost.


[1. In a very recent work by Messrs. Niceforo and Sighele, entitled La Mala Vita a Roma ("Evil Life in Rome"), there is a chapter devoted to the Witches of the Eternal City, of whom the writer says they form a class so hidden that "the most Roman of Romans is perhaps ignorant of their existence." This is true of the real Strege, though not of mere fortune-tellers, who are common enough.]

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