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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 Books
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.