italian

Book Review – Italian Folk Magic: Rue’s Kitchen Witchery by Mary- Grace Fahrun

February, 2019

Book Review
Italian Folk Magic: Rue’s Kitchen Witchery”
by Mary-Grace Fahrun
Publisher: Weiser
Published: Paperback, 2018
Pages: 122
Published: Paperback, 2018

I am of Sicilian descent, as well as German, so I was drawn to this book to learn more about the practices of the country from which my mother’s parents came.

By recording oral history, Mary-Grace Fahrun shares what she learned about customs and traditions from the matriarchs of her family. It started by collecting recipes and folk remedies. They came with stories, superstitions, incantations and prayers. She began Rue’s Kitchen to preserve these customs and practices as well as those of Italians of all faiths all over the world.

Religious rituals, magical spells, blessings, folk medicine and cooking are all “inextricably woven into the fabric of Italian culture – no matter where Italians are geographically located,” and Fahrun, who presents them woven together like a tapestry and a way of living.

“I was taught everything in Italian,” wrote Fahrun, who is fluent in Italian and about a half dozen of its dialects. The book is her guided tour through her magical life, presenting the principles so the reader can create their own magical life. Italian witchcraft “is not a religion. It is a practice anyone can incorporate into their spirituality regardless of religious belief,” she states, but adds, “There will be strong themes of devotions to saints and earth-based spirituality because they are both important to the fabric.”

The first chapter focuses on the kitchen, the most important and sacred room of the house. Here, every element is present. Herbs are magical, and magical tools are the same utensils, dishes and cookware used to prepare meals. You’ll learn how to clean, set up and treat your kitchen like the temple it is.

Other chapters deal with sacred spaces and home altars, and the magic in food. When addressing magic or medicine, there are a variety approaches for conditions that range from mental and spiritual intervention to the red ribbon and incantation used to relieve headaches and the ointment made of garlic paste and olive oil to apply to skin infections.

A page explains what she calls the most powerful incantation: “non è niente” or “it is nothing.” I remember my grandmother telling me that and thinking, “Well of course it’s something. I’m hurt.” But Fahrun, who is a nurse, found those three magic words healed even chronic wounds when said with “a detached, almost dismissive, attitude.”

There are recipes for days of the week and months of the year, explanations of proverbs and superstitions, and chapters that delve into amulets, divination, spells and charms, rituals and curses.

I came to better understand the meaning of things my grandmother and “the Italian aunts from Hartford” did. It’s inspired me to learn more about my grandparents’ hometowns – legends, patron saints, customs, history, etc. – from research and from two relatives who have visited.

The book’s cover design by Jim Warner also deserves a mention. It honors the book’s contents with the hand from the cimaruta, the cornicello (the red horn amulet or talisman worn to protect against the evil eye) and the hand gesture to ward off evil on ribbons wound through a garlic braid studded with blooming rue.

If you are Italian, or drawn to the culture, this book makes a wonderful entry point.

Italian Folk Magic: Rue’s Kitchen Witchery on Amazon

***

About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

SpellCrafting: Spells & Rituals

January, 2018

La Befana

 

(LA BEFANA. Magic stocking from BEFANA. By incantevolemerletto shop.)

 

Merry meet.

While my mother’s parents were from Sicily, it was not until recently I learned of La Befana, Italy’s oldest and most celebrated legend – about a witch.

In Italian folklore, she is an old woman with warts on her crooked nose, wearing a skirt and a black shawl, who flies around on her broom, delivering candy to well-behaved children. In Russia she is known as Baboushka.

Children await Babbo Natale on Christmas Eve, but the red-suited man is new compared to the story of the old woman who was too busy cleaning to join the Wise Men on their journey. According to the legend, they stopped by her cottage to ask directions and invited her to come along, but she refused. She also refused to join a shepherd who asked her to join him, as some tell the story.

Later that night she saw a great light in the sky. Regretting her decision, she sets out to give the Christ Child gifts that had, according to some, belonged to her child who had died. She never finds the Baby Jesus and instead, leaves her gifts for children she encountered along the way. Since the 13th century, children have left their shoes out or hung up their socks Epiphany Eve, January 5, for the Befana to fill with sweets and gifts. Bad children were given lumps of coal.

Often she is shown covered in soot because, like Santa Claus, she delivers presents by sliding down the chimney. Her name means “gift-bringer” and according to a post by DreamDiscoverItalia.com in 2015, many believe she also sweeps the floor before she leaves, sweeping away the old to make way for the new.

La Befana is a Christian legend that began in Northern Italy and became a big part of the Italian celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany, which commemorates the 12th day of Christmas when the Wise Men arrive in Bethlehem and deliver their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Other versions of the legend have La Befana carrying a sack of bread, giving a piece to every child she saw in the hopes one would be the Christ Child. She never does find him and is still wandering around Italy on her broomstick.

Her arrival is celebrated with such traditional Italian foods such as panettone, fried doughnuts with dried fruit, and fritters with raisins. When children leave a snack for the witch, it’s something soft because she has few teeth.

While La Bafana is viewed most commonly as a village crone, she has also been called a sprite or fairy. Instead of a broomstick, sometimes she is said to ride a goat or a donkey. Rarely does she wear a pointed hat; a headscarf is more traditional.

According to an article written by Martha Bakerhian for tripsavy.com, “This folktale may actually date back to the Roman pagan festival of Saturnalia, a one- or two-week festival starting just before the winter solstice. At the end of Saturnalia, Romans would go to the Temple of Juno on the Capitoline Hill to have their fortunes read by an old crone. This story evolved into the tale of La Befana.”

Heather Greene explains in an article for “The Wild Hunt” in January 2016, “As with many regional traditions, La Befana’s modern construction and appearance were developed over an expansive amount of time and stem from a diverse number of cultural elements. Her story has been adapted over and over to fit into a variety of different social or religious structures.

 

(La Befana the Witch Sculpture by Dellamorteco, Dellamorte & Co. Etsy Shop)

 

Similar to modern community traditions in the northern Italian towns, Circolo dei Trivi burns an effigy, a representation of Giobiana, within their ritual space. They collect the ashes and tell the story of nature’s death and rebirth, through the death of Giobiana and the birth of Belisama. In that process, they also thank nature, represented as La Befana, for bringing the final gifts from the previous year. Grazie, La Befana.”

Urbania, thought to be her official home, draws tens of thousands of people for a five-day festival that includes the arrival of La Befana to her cottage, which the townspeople built in her honor. There is music, dancing, parades, fireworks and letters from children asking for gifts. In Venice, men dressed as La Befana race boats on the Grand Canal, per DreamDiscoverItalia. In Rome and elsewhere, women dress like La Befana.

 

A Spell of Prosperity to Accomplish your Goals 

(Submitted by Gayle Nogas)

What you’ll need:

A red candle placed on a table or altar

Three figs or three dates 

A small cup of honey

A broom 

With this simple spell you can ask The Befana not only to bring your home prosperity, but also to send you powerful energy regarding your success and the goals you will work with next year.

In the evening, put the three figs or dates in the small cup of honey (this is a traditional offering for The Befana) and put them on the table or the altar next to the red candle. These offerings will show that you honor her powers.

Light the red candle. Pull up a chair and sit in it calmly for two minutes watching the candle and bringing your mind to the tranquility of the energy that is surrounding you. The red candle is a symbol of your own power to accomplish your goals and also calls the power of The Befana. Now repeat the following out loud or in your head three times:

“Come Befana, come to me.

Come from the mountains to make me free.

Come with your gifts of wisdom and power,

To make this a prosperous year for me.”

Once you have repeated this spell three times, take the broom and start sweeping the room in the direction of the clock’s hands, always sweeping towards the central part to concentrate there the powers and the charitable energy of The Befana in one place.

Leave the broom and dust all night long. Finally blow the candle and thank The Befana for her help by saying:

“Thank you, Befana, for giving me the gifts of your wisdom and prosperity.”

The next day, pick up the broom, clean up the dust and debris, and focus on a hugely prosperous year.

 

This year, in honor of my ancestors, I plan to recognize the Witch of Christmas for making winter a witchy season. Perhaps I’ll dress like her, or leave my shoes and a soft cookie outside my door. If you celebrate her, please leave me a comment describing how on the Pagan Pages Emag Facebook page.

 

Merry part. And merry meet again.

 

**

About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

Witchcrafting: Crafts for Witches

March, 2015

Bread for Cakes

Merry Meet

Italian Bread Cake

 

Every Easter, my Catholic Sicilian grandmother made a special bread. It was a bit sweet, braided and had colored eggs in it.

Last year, when planning cakes and ale for Ostara, it occurred to me to use this bread – after all, Easter does draw on may Spring Equinox celebrations. I was able to special order a braided ring, complete with eggs, from an Italian bakery, even though Easter was still weeks away. (See photo.)

This year, I plan to make my own. I feel it honors my ancestors and keeps a tradition alive, albeit modified. Gram’s recipe died with her, but I think the one below will come close.

My Germanic ancestors also baked a similar sweet braided wreath decorated with eggs for Easter. Look to your ancestors for a traditional Easter food. In England, that might be hot cross buns; in Poland, it’s babka.

I found a wonderful recipe by Marbalet online at allrecipes.com

Merry part. And merry meet again

Intervista con MATERDEA

May, 2010

MATERDEA

mate4r1


Intervista con MATERDEA



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PP. Chi è MaterDea, la donna?

Marco: Per MaterDea la donna è Diana ed è una dea italica, latina e romana, signora delle selve, protettrice degli animali selvatici, custode delle fonti e dei torrenti, protettrice delle donne, cui assicura parti non dolorosi, dispensatrice della sovranità e del Mistero.

Abitatrice del Nemus, è la linfa sacra e vitale del Bosco Sacro di Nemi (Roma), Diana è ben descritta nel testo recitato che si trova in coda al brano “Mater Dea” versione acustica, l’ultima traccia del nostro album.

“Io sono la bellezza della verde terra,

la luna bianca fra le stelle,

il mistero delle acque e il desiderio del cuore dell’uomo.

Io sono la Dea, la madre della natura che dona vita all’Universo.

Ogni cosa proviene da me, e a me deve fare ritorno.

Io sono la Dea dell’amore che stende un mantello di stelle sopra la notte.

Io annuncio l’alba e saluto il tramonto.

Io sono la rugiada che scende sui prati fioriti, la linfa che scorre nei boschi,

che anima i venti e le acque, che sposa e feconda la terra.

Io sono colei che sconfigge la morte e spezza le catene della paura,

Io sono l’amore, io sono la vita. Io sono la Luce infinita”.

Ma per MaterDea esiste anche la forza e la passione di Pan, custode di greggi e suonatore di flauto; ed è proprio attraverso le sue melodie boschive che ogni volta si compie l’incanto di MaterDea. Io prendo sempre ispirazione dalle note che provengono da quel flauto.. ad ogni nota corrisponde un’immagine, ad ogni immagine un suono, ad ogni suono una nuova composizione.

PP: Quali sono state le forze trainanti che hanno portato a questo meraviglioso album?

MD: la nostra passione per la musica, la passione di Marco per gli Dei Romani, la nostra interazione che è sempre stata così fluida, intensa ed armonica. Ci è sembrato che ogni canzone avesse un suo proprio intento e si concretizzasse in modo così naturale. Abbiamo cominciato a scoprirle poco per volta rimanendo sempre più entusiasti e sorpresi da ciò che stavamo tirando fuori da noi stessi..

PP. Da dove traete la vostra musica?

Simon: Le nostre ispirazioni sono nate fondendo il background rock di Marco, la sua esperienza ed il suo amore per le atmosfere della musica celtica con la mia naturale attitudine a cantare in modo soffice e sognante. Ogni canzone è stata suggerita dagli ambienti sofisticati delle armonie ed arrangiamenti che Marco ha creato e che mi hanno permesso di lasciare volare libera la fantasia per poi approdare insieme ad una nuova creazione. Spesso insieme ci siamo trovati per decidere per la linea melodica migliore, nello studio di Marco, in una casetta di campagna immersa tra bellissimi alberi, dove è stato registrato tutto l’album.

Le registrazioni sono sempre avvenute subito dopo l’ultimazione delle composizioni, una per volta, ed ognuna ha assorbito anche aspetti della vita quotidiana, delle stagioni con i loro colori e profumi e degli avvenimenti che si sono susseguiti nella nostra vita personale durante tutto questo arco di tempo. Forse per questo riescono a comunicare una particolare emozione all’ascoltatore, perché sono state vissute in maniera assolutamente coinvolgente da noi stessi.

PP. Quanto tempo ci è voluto per portare a compimento questo album?

MD: La registrazione di questo album è avvenuta tra il novembre 2008 e novembre 2009. L’ultimo periodo è stato così intenso che ci rimaneva poco tempo per dormire e stavamo realmente esaurendo le nostre energie! Ma la felicità per il risultato era così grande che siamo riusciti a mantenere quel ritmo e a mixare tutte le tracce in tempo per fare uscire l’album nel giorno del solstizio d’inverno!

PP. Quando vi siete conosciuti voi due?

MD (Marco): La prima volta che ci siamo incontrati è stato nel 1991 durante una registrazione, poi per molti anni non abbiamo più avuto opportunità di lavorare insieme ed ognuno di noi ha seguito la propria carriera musicale. Successivamente nell’estate del 2008 ci siamo riincontrati in uno studio di registrazione ed abbiamo lavorato insieme per alcuni mesi. È stato allora che ho chiesto a Simon di creare insieme a me una colonna sonora celtica per un cortometraggio. Quella composizione è stata intitolata “Mater Dea” e ne eravamo assolutamente entusiasti! Dopo questo evento abbiamo deciso di lavorare ad un intero album. “Below the mists, above the brambles” è nato da quel particolare momento.

PP. C’è un nuovo album in uscita prossimamente?

MD: Oh, certamente! I nostri progetti sono di iniziare a lavorare ad un nuovo album questa estate per farlo uscire l’anno prossimo.

PP. Quale è stata la vostra più grande ispirazione?

MD (Marco): La passione e il potere di Pan, la spiritualità di Diana e la voce di Simon.

Simon: Le bellissime e sognanti atmosfere musicali che Marco mi sottoponeva sempre per creare una nuova melodia ed una nuova storia, e naturalmente il suono possente della sua chitarra!

PP. Tantissime Benedizioni per MaterDea, grazie mille per avere donato ai lettori ed a me una tale gloriosa opportunità di potere in prima persona vedere uno squarcio della vostra vita artistica. È stata veramente una esperienza molto ispirante. Ancora grazie!

MD: Grazie mille a tutti voi! È stato un grande piacere averti conosciuto ed un grande onore per noi potere essere intervistati da Pagan Pages!

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Scarica gratuitamente una traccia dell’album – An elder flute