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The Arician Tradition

Author:
Posted: September 30th. 2001
Times Viewed: 26,196

HISTORY:

The Arician Tradition was founded in 1998 by author Raven Grimassi. It is a blend of modern concepts along with many ancient beliefs and practices that once comprised the religious rites held in the sacred grove of the goddess Diana at Lake Nemi, Italy. The Tradition also incorporates modern adaptations based upon the ancient Mystery Schools of the Aegean/Mediterranean region. The Arician Tradition is an offshoot of the Aridian System, which is a modern Tradition for Americans interested in the Old Religion of Italy. The Arician Tradition is an initiate system as opposed to the Aridian System, which only requires self-dedication. Although as practiced today in its entirety the Arician Tradition is a modern system, it is based largely upon the archaic beliefs and practices of Old Europe. The Arician Tradition is structured as a European Mystery Tradition, teaching and training individuals in the essential concepts of the Old Religion.

The Arician Tradition is one of many types of witchcraft systems with roots in the Aegean/Mediterranean region. Specifically, the Arician Tradition is an Italian system and as such belongs to the classification of Stregheria, the Old Religion. Several folklorists during the latter half of the 1800's independently investigated Italian Witchcraft as it existed during this period in 3 different regions of Italy, and found many striking similarities despite the regional differences of dialect and folk custom. The most noted of these folklorists were Lady De Vere, Roma Lister, Charles Leland, and J.B. Andrews. J.B. Andrews reported that the Witches of Naples were divided into special departments of the art. He listed two as adepts in the art of earth and sea magick. Later in the article it is implied that a third specialty may have existed related to the stars. Andrews also wrote that Neapolitan Witches perform knot magick, create medicinal herbal potions, construct protective amulets, and engage in the arts of healing

Andrews concluded his article with information he collected from interviewing Italian Witches. Here he states that when asked of them what books they gathered their information from, the Witches replied that their knowledge was entirely traditional, and is "given by the mother to the daughter." The Witches also tell Andrews that blood is exchanged from a vein in the arm, and the new member is given a mark under the left thigh. Although the moon is not specifically mentioned, the Witches do report to Andrews that such ceremonies are performed at midnight. In addition to J.B Andrews, we also have Italian Folklorist Lady Vere de Vere's accounts of Italian Witchcraft as she encountered it in the Italian region of Tyrol. In an interesting article found in La Rivista of Rome (published June 1894) Lady de Vere tells us that "the community of Italian witches is regulated by laws, traditions, and customs of the most secret kind, possessing special recipes for sorcery."

The ancient Roman poet Horace gives us perhaps the earliest accounts of Italian Witches and their connection to a lunar sect. In the Epodes of Horace, written around 30 BC, he tells the tale of an Italian witch named Canidia. Horace says that Proserpine and Diana grant power to Witches who worship them, and that Witches gather in secret to perform the mysteries associated with their worship. He speaks of a Witches' book of Incantations (Libros Carminum) through which the Moon may be "called down" from the sky. Other ancient Roman writers such as Lucan and Ovid produced works that clearly support the same theme. This would seem to indicate that during this Era such beliefs about Witches and Witchcraft were somewhat common knowledge. We know from the writings of Roman times that Proserpine and Diana were worshiped at night in secret ceremonies. Their worshipers gathered at night beneath the full moon and shunned the cities where the solar gods ruled. Diana was a Roman Moon Goddess known earlier in Greece as Artemis; twin sister of Apollo God of the Sun.

In his book, The World of Witches, anthropologist Julio Baroja reveals evidence of a flourishing cult in southern Europe that worshiped Diana during the 5th and 6th Centuries AD. In the author's notes for chapter 4 he adds that the cult also worshiped a male deity called Dianum. Transcripts from Witch trials in Italy indicate a connection between Witches and the goddess Diana spanning several centuries.

In the Journal of Social History (volume 28, 1995) we find a fascinating article written by Sally Scully, Department of History at San Francisco University. The article details certain aspects of a Witchcraft trial in 17th century Venice. The trial itself focuses upon a woman named Laura Malipero. In 1654, her home is searched by the Captain of the Sant'Ufficio, an arm of the Inquisition. Discovered were several crudely written spells along with sophisticated herbals and copies of an occult book known as the Clavicle of Solomon. The Roman Inquisition in 1640 had banned this particular book. The Inquisition noted the presence of copies in various stages of completion, and concluded that a copying process was taking place in her home.

What is of interest here is the historical documentation of 17th century Italian Witches hand-copying spells and manuscripts of a magical nature. If nothing else, this serves as partial evidence that Italian Witches were passing magical traditions through personal hand written books (what Wiccans would call a Book of Shadows). This lends credence to the claims of family Witches that centuries old oral and written knowledge has been passed down through the generations. If Laura and her family were involved in such endeavors, it's extremely likely others were as well. The existence of hand copied books by Witches also later appears in Gardnerian Wicca. In Leland's Gospel of Aradia he refers several times to material recorded in writing by Italian Witches.

According to oral tradition, Witches took refuge in Masonic groups and other secret societies. In order to survive, the Cult "went underground" meeting only in secret and creating strict laws to ensure non-discovery. This secrecy continued through the early 19th century. Italian Witches joined Masonic groups both to protect themselves and to continue the ancient practices with other Witches. Masonic influences in the Witches' Craft are readily recognized by a simple examination of modern practices. One secret society in Italy known as the Carbonari included Masons among its membership, and possessed three degrees of initiation marked by colored cords or ribbons: blue, red and black. A triangle marked the first degree level. The Carbonari claimed to have been based upon the Roman Mystery Cult of Mithra, and eventually established a lodge in Scotland circa 1820. The major influence on various Masonic groups in the British Isles (such as the Good Fellows) came from an early Italian Masonic order known as the Comacini, which also had an impact upon the Rosicrucians. As a result many elements of ancient Aegean/Mediterranean concepts took root in various secret societies within the British Isles such as the Fellowship of Crotona, which influenced Gerald Gardner and the Tradition he and others later developed.

A Hermetic group in Naples also influenced modern Stregheria. This group was called Fratellanza Terapeutico Magica di Myriam (the Magical Therapeutic Brotherhood of Myriam) and was founded in Naples by a man named Guilian Kremmerz. On March 20, 1896 the Brotherhood of Myriam drew up a constitution and commenced formal instruction. The basic structure of the Order's practices was based upon natural magnetic properties found in all living things as well as in the earth itself. The Order taught that all things were balanced within a polarity structure. Healing through electromagnetic properties of the body was one of the primary practices of the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood of Myriam taught the concept of the aura, an energy field surrounding the body. It also instructed its members concerning the lunar body. The lunar body was believed to form from the emotional state of an individual, creating an energy body within the aura. The lunar body, in this context, is the occult or spiritual counterpart to the electromagnetic energy field known as the aura. The Order of Myriam also instructed its members on the astral dimensions and various practices associated astral workings. Although such concepts were previously well known to Italian Witches, the Brotherhood supplied terms and labels that were later adopted into Stregheria.

CORE BELIEFS:

One of the primary tenets of the Arician Tradition is that the earth is a conscious being, and that every living thing upon the earth is intimately connected. We believe in reincarnation, both in the material dimension and the spiritual dimensions. We view the soul as a student being trained and educated in each life time. Our basic tenets are:

  • that the Source of All Things is both masculine and feminine.
  • that our souls bear the divine spark of the Creators.
  • that the essence of the Creators is reflected in the Creation.
  • that Nature is the Great Teacher, the microcosm of the Divine Blueprint (as above, so below).
  • that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, and not humans having a spiritual one.
  • that reincarnation is a process through which the soul is prepared and then liberated.
  • that our actions, or lack thereof, affect others and that we must strive for peaceful coexistence.
  • that all life forms are equal, for life is life, no matter what container it dwells in.
  • that we are responsible for our own actions and that there are consequences for irresponsibility.
  • that what we do to the earth, and to each other, we do to ourselves.
  • that nothing may be received without something being given back in return.
  • that we are guided by the deities and spirits that accompany us on our Path.
  • that love and compassion are essential for a healthy and evolving soul.
  • that structure and individualism should remain in balance, one not overshadowing the other.


Also central to our beliefs is a reliance upon the Mystery Teachings as a path-work leading to enlightenment. The primal mysteries are concerning with the Women's and Men's Mysteries. The Middle Mysteries are focused upon Nature and the inner mechanisms, this level also contains the greater magickal training. The High Mysteries are focused upon Divinity, the goddesses and gods, and how we connect and interact.

We believe that the ancient Mystery Teachings hold the accumulative knowledge and wisdom of our ancestors. We refer to this as the "well-worn path" and we value it as the sum perspective of the multitude of people who lived and practiced the ways, long before we embraced them. As part of the Mystery Teachings we acknowledge the forces of Light and Darkness, which are the forces of gain and decline. To us, there are blessings in both types of energy.

ROLE OF CLERGY:

In the Arician Tradition we believe that the "witches of old" were actually the priests and priestesses of an old European Mystery sect that evolved over the ages, gathering the people and directing them in celebratory rites. Over time we believe that these individuals were maligned and removed from power as cities were formed and the country dwellers became a lower class. The rise of Christianity completed the process of maligning and disempowering.

In the modern Arician Tradition, the clergy are divided into two categories: Priest(ess) and High Priest(ess). The role of the Priest(ess) is to be available to council and assist the initiate members as requested/needed. The duties of a Priest(ess) also include maintaining a personal shrine, conducting rituals, teaching the ways, and initiating others into the Craft. They may also perform the community rites of birth, marriage, and death.

The role of the High Priest(ess) is to teach and train those who will comprise the Priest(ess)hood. Understanding and conveying the Mystery Tradition is the special focus of the High Priest(ess)hood. The High Priest(ess) directs the eight Sabbat gatherings during the year, as well as the full moon rites. The High Priest(ess) is typically the figure who handles matters of public education and awareness.

ORGANIZATION OF GROUPS:

The Arician Tradition is comprised of individual covens. Our word for a coven is a Boschetto (boss-ket-toe) meaning a grove of trees. A coven can be comprised of from 3-13 people, and can hive off to form new covens. A Grand Council of Elders that represent the Tradition as a whole guides the covens of the Arician Tradition. Each coven has its own Coven Council of Elders as well as a representative to the Grand Council. An individual known as a Grimas guides the Grand Council. The Grimas is the directing Elder of the Tradition itself.

The Tradition is secured for survival into future generations by a code of rules. One of the chief rules, in this regard, is that nothing may be removed from the ways of the Tradition, but that things may be added. This ensures that the system can adapt and grow in new environments, but can also carry with it the traditions, beliefs, and practices that make the Tradition cohesive and defined. Thus the wisdom of our elders does not become lost, nor do the visions of our youth become buried by the status quo.

HOLIDAYS

Like most modern Traditions of the Craft we celebrate the eight Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year. We also hold monthly full moon rituals. In addition we also celebrate the festival day of August 13th, in memory of our spiritual roots that connect with the worship at Lake Nemi. On August 13th a multitude of torches were lit surrounding the lake to honor the Goddess .

These are the modern names we use for the eight Sabbats, which we call Treguenda (tray-gwen-dah).

  • SHADOWFEST (November Eve)
  • WINTER SOLSTICE (December 21-22)
  • LUPERCUS (February 2nd)
  • SPRING EQUINOX (March 21-22)
  • GODDESS DAY (May 1st)
  • SUMMER SOLSTICE (June 21-22)
  • CORNUCOPIA (August Eve)
  • AUTUMN EQUINOX (September 21-22)


STANDARDS OF CONDUCT

The core element of our code of conduct lies in our total acceptance of self-responsibility. We do not believe in forcing our will upon others, and we seek to live in peaceful coexistence. While we do not desire to harm anyone, we do believe in protecting ourselves as necessary. Ultimately we strive to live in awareness and compassion concerning those around us, and we seek to live in common cause with Nature.

WAYS OF WORSHIP

We venerate Nature and the patterns of energy associated with Nature. Our year begins with an acknowledgment of the pro-creative powers of darkness, marked by the celebration of Shadowfest at the end of October (November Eve). The following is a general overview of the eight seasonal rites we perform, edited to protect the initiate level performance of our rituals:

The November Eve celebration has a somber tone or feel, and is associated with the forces of decline, which are celebrated as the decay that renews life, the compost for a new season of emerging life. Our rituals are, in part, ritual dramas that depict the mythological themes of the season. The ritual of November Eve marks the beginning of the year in darkness. We conceive of darkness as being the womb from which all things issue forth. In the mythos, the goddess dwells in the Underworld with the god at this time, and she becomes pregnant from his seed. At this season the reign of the year turns also, and the High Priestesses turns over responsibility for the Clan to the High Priest at a point during the ritual. This ritual is marked by an expression of an intense mystery drama, as all become aligned with the power of the Underworld.
  1. The Winter Solstice is a celebration of the birth of the Child of Promise. He is the new light and the new fire that will impart the life force back into the earth. The ritual centers around a symbolic birth using a candle, and includes a "procession of the sun" past each quarter of the ritual circle.
  2. The festival of Lupercus marks the period of adolescence for the Child of Promise. It is called the Time of the Wolf, and employs altered states of consciousness that links one to the primal nature hidden beneath the shroud of "civilized behavior."
  3. The Spring Equinox marks the symbolic return of the Goddess, her ascent from the Underworld. It is, in effect, a reception party marked with ritual drama and merriment.
  4. The first of May brings to us the courtship of the God and Goddess, who meet in the budding renewal of the season. The rite is a celebration of vitality and fertility. At this time the "rule" of the season passes to the Goddess, and thus to the High Priestess who is her representative.
  5. The Summer Solstice marks the marriage of the God and Goddess, the abundance of the earth at this season reflects the fullness of their union. One important aspect of the ritual is a blessing on plant and animal life, and an expression of gratefulness for Nature's abundance.
  6. August Eve marks the anticipation of a ripe harvest. The celebrations focus on thanksgiving for the bounty of Nature. This ritual abounds with seasonal symbolism as part of the mystery play.
  7. The Fall Equinox marks the time of the slaying of the Harvest Lord. In our mythos it is also the beginning of the descent of the Goddess into the Underworld to seek her departed Lord. This ritual contains some of the most archaic elements of the pre-Christian European mystery religion.

SUGGGESTED READING, REFERENCE WORKS, AND RELATED MATERIAL

Italian Witchcraft by Raven Grimassi
Hereditary Witchcraft by Raven Grimassi
Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: Ancient Greece and Rome by Bengt Ankarloo
Etruscan Roman Remains by Charles Leland
Witchcraft and the Inquistion in Venice 1550-1650 by Ruth Martin
The Golden Bough by James Frazer
The Evil Eye by Frederick T. Elsworthy
Folklore by the Fireplace: Text and context of the Tuscan Veglia by Alessandro Falassi
Italian-American Foklore by Frances M. Malpezzi and William M. Clements
Spiritual & Demonic Magic from Ficino to Campanella by D.P. Walker
Western Inner Workings by William Gray
The Roman Goddess Ceres by Barbette Stanley Spaeth
Hekate Soteira by Sarah Iles Johnston
Hekate in Ancient Greek Religion by Robert Von Rudloff
Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life by Carl Kerenyi
Eleusis by Carl Kerenyi
Ancient Philosophy, Mystery, and Magic by Peter Kingsley
Women's Mysteries by Esther Harding
The Gods and Goddesses of Old Europe by Marija Gimbutas
The Wiccan Mysteries by Raven Grimassi

WEB: http://www.stregheria.com/




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