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Raven Grimassi

Raven Grimassi Award-winning author Raven Grimassi is the author of seven books on Wicca and Witchcraft, including Wiccan Mysteries (awarded Best Book of the Year & Best Spirituality Book 1998 by the Coalition of Visionary Retailers), Wiccan Magick, Italian Witchcraft (previously titled Ways of the Strega), Hereditary Witchcraft, Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft (awarded Best Non-Fiction Book 2001 by the Coalition of Visionary Retailers), Beltane, and the forthcoming title The Witches' Craft (October 2002).

Raven Grimassi has been a teacher and practitioner of the Craft for nearly 30 years. He is trained in the Family tradition of Italian Witchcraft (also known as Stregheria), and is also an initiate of several Wiccan Traditions, including Brittic Wicca and the Pictish-Gaelic Tradition. He is currently the Directing Elder of the Arician Ways. Raven considers it his life's work to ensure the survival of ancient witch lore and legend along with ancestral teachings of the Old Religion.

Grimassi has worked as both a writer and editor for several magazines over the past decade, including The Shadow's Edge (a publication focusing on Italian Witchcraft) and Raven's Call (a journal of modern Wicca, Witchcraft and Magick).

2011 Raven Grimassi.
All rights reserved.
 

About My Work

My primary goal in writing about Wicca/Witchcraft is to provide information that will help people make their own decisions about the history and practice of what I call The Old Ways.  I see my work in one way as a service, because I read literary and historical writings that most people would find very dry and boring.  I read them and quote from them (and of course my perspective is one of a Witch). I'm also fortunate to have access to books that are out-of-print and unavailable.  I quote from these as well, and share my findings.

Sometimes I come across the allegation that I never provide sources in my books to support my position.  The truth is that the vast majority of my books provide sources, references, and a bibliography.  I'm fine with people disagreeing with my interpretation of the data, but I'm not fine with people deliberately misrepresenting my work.

I typically spend most of the day doing research, and at least four hours of writing the results of that research each day.  I rarely take a day off, and most of the time if I'm not working on a book or a research paper, I'm giving a lecture or workshop at a festival or convention.  I am fortunate to have a loving and beautiful wife who believes in my work and supports my writing by allowing me to spend so much time away from our relationship.

Even though I've been referred to as a scholar, I don't view myself as one.  I tend to think of myself as a religious writer or a writer on spiritual traditions. I have  a deep love of old lore, and of pre-Christian European religion.  My passion and my personal path is that of Witchcraft, the Old Religion.

I view Witchcraft as a religion that has evolved over the centuries.  I do not consider Witchcraft to be a modern invention .  Instead I deal with it in my writings as a Mystery Tradition with long roots to the past.  It has  always been my position that we don't need an ancient tradition in order to be validated.  We just happen to have one.

My view concerning Wicca is similar to my view of Witchcraft.  In other words I do not believe that Wicca originated with Gerald Gardner.  I think he was just another link added to the chain.  For many years I equated Witchcraft with Wicca, as did many people of my generation.  For my current views click here.

ABOUT MY WRITINGS ON ITALIAN WITCHCRAFT

My first attempts at providing information on the Italian Craft began around 1979 with the self publication of books and a magazine.  Working from material I had copied in my late teens and early twenties, I created an "outer-court" system through which I could convey the basic concepts of initiate teachings.  Looking back on these early projects they were crude and amateurish.   But for the time period they seemed to fit in with what most people were producing.

Thinking back on those days now I realize that  I  was a "true believer" in the things I had been taught and had learned.   I think this was no more evident than in my writings on Aradia, which I presented in a self published work titled The Book of the Holy Strega.   Some of my views have changed over the years as I've learned and experienced more.   But the problem with published materials is that they remain views that are  frozen in time.   Unfortunately some people allow past views to overshadow  the current ones. 

There is a rich legacy of ritual, lore, and magic in the teachings of Italian Witchcraft.   It has always been my goal to share this with others in whatever way I can.  This has been a challenge over the years because much of the material is protected by sworn oaths to not reveal various elements.  I have pushed that envelope over the year and continue to do so today.  Ironically this has brought charges from initiates that I am violating the oaths, and it has brought allegations from the public that I have nothing authentic to share and am simply using the "oath claim" as a shield.    We are a fascinating  community.   

The facts are that I plant the keys to initiate material in my non-initiate material.  I use common material as a carrier for the inner workings.  All that is required is for a person to sift through my books and join things together. The keys and the doorways are all there, it only takes a focused desire to reveal what resides within the written words.  Is this the breaking of oaths?  For some people it is, and some initiates feel that I am freely giving away keys that they have had to work for over the years.

Some non-initiates look at my work, and because it contains some common Wiccan elements they dismiss it all as unauthentic. I guess this is like finding a fly in your soup; it ruins the whole thing.  Except, of course, that the fly doesn't make chicken soup something else because the fly is mixed in.  It's chicken soup with a fly in it.  That's pretty much the situation with Wiccan elements in my writings on Italian Witchcraft.  I was particularly amused one time to hear my book on Italian Witchcraft referred to as Wicca with marinara sauce. While inaccurate, the statement is still funny.

I find that some of my critics invent things about me and work, which is really a misuse of  valuable time for all concerned.   While I appreciate respectful differences of opinion, and I value constructive criticism of my writings, I have little tolerance for unwarranted allegations and outright lies.   But I do realize that being a public figure is going to draw attacks upon my work and my character.  It's an unfortunate truth about human nature.  

It it is remarkable to find so much deliberate misinformation and misrepresentation about me and my work these days, that I feel obligated to try and set the record straight.  In this section I will not fully elaborate as you can read my article on my view on Italian Witchcraft here on this site for further consideration. Instead  I will simply touch now on a few allegations here (that  I did not want to clutter the article with).

1. Grimassi's depiction of Italian Witchcraft in his books is entirely made up and bears no similarities to what is actually practiced in Italy.

First it should be noted that I do mention in my book that I mixed Wiccan elements into my presentation of an overview of Italian Witchcraft.  I also stated in the book that the rituals are modern and were created by me (based upon the older models I was taught).  So, I am not sure why people use this as a criticism. It's the book I chose to write, and I encourage anyone to write their own book and present what they want to see in a book on Italian Witchcraft.  I think this is a more productive use of time, and one that can make a greater impact.

As to Italian Witchcraft in Old Italy, for my book I drew upon the field research of several folklorists studying Italian Witchcraft during the late 19th century in Italy.  Their research covered three different regions of Italy.  The research was unique in the regard that these folklorists interviewed people claiming to be Witches. In the accounts of these native Italian Witches there is support for the overview on Italian Witchcraft that I present in my published books.

I do hear the allegation from time time that the natives in Italy reject what I've written as not being true to their own understanding of Italian Witchcraft.  This is not unexpected for even in Italy you'll encounter people who are ignorant of what witchcraft is all about.  It's the same situation here in the U.S. , and if you were to stop the average person on the street and ask him or her what witchcraft is, you would hear the old tired stereotypes that have nothing to do with witchcraft old or new.  It's the same situation regarding the common man or woman on the streets of any Italian city. Therefore the allegation carries no weight.

2.  There is no such word as Stregheria in Italian, and Grimassi just made it up.

Actually there was and still is. 

The word "stregheria" is used almost exclusively in Apologia della Congresso Notturno Delle Lamie, by Girolamo Tartarotti (1751) .  It also appears as an entry in Vocabolario piemonteno-italiano del professore di gramatica italiana e latina - by Michele Ponza (1860), and in Vocabolario Bolognese Italiano - by Carolina Coronedi Berti (1874), and also in Nouveau dictionnaire italien-francais et francais-italien - by Costanzo Ferrari, Arthur Enkenkel (1900) .  In this book  both "stregheria" and "stregoneria" appear as separate entries with slightly different meanings; the entry on stregoneria refers strictly to sorcery, whereas the entry on stregheria refers to organized witchcraft in connection with the Sabbat. The word "stregheria" also appears in a modern Italian dictionary as a now rare usage in place of the modern word "stregoneria" (Vocabolario della Lingua Italiana, edited by Nicola Zingarelli, 1970)

3. Grimassi commits "cultural violence" against practitioners of Italian folk magic.

This very bizarre allegation stems from a passage that appeared in an article by Sabina Magliocco, which was titled  Spells, Saints, and Streghe: Witchcraft, Folk Magic, and Healing in Italy.  The passage is contained in the following excerpt from Pomegranate magazine:

For example, the people of "Monteruju," the community in Sardinia where I did fieldwork, plant wheat or lentil seeds on Ash Wednesday and grow them in the dark until the Thursday before Easter, when the etiolated sprouts, known as sos sepulchos ("the buried ones"), are placed in brightly-decorated yogurt containers and carried to church. Folklorists recognize in this custom a version of a number of similar ancient circum-Mediterranean practices, from the "Gardens of Adonis" described by classical authors to the small sarcophagi filled with sprouts which have been found in Egyptian pyramids. The adaptation of this practice to Easter is particularly appropriate, as Christ can be seen as just another dying and resurrecting god, much like Adonis or Osiris. But the difficulty with interpreting this practice only as a survival is that it does violence to the way practitioners perceive themselves. It is important to remember that practitioners think of themselves as Catholic. Monteruvians were furious when the local priest frowned on their Easter custom as a pagan vestige; as far as they were concerned, they were observing Easter with a very concrete symbol of Christ's death and resurrection. The folk practice is similar, but its meaning has changed through the centuries to reflect Christian mythology and values.

A few people misuse the reference to "violence" and accuse me of doing this because I point to Pagan origins for some of the customs found in Folk Magic traditions.  Apparently some people regard my opinion as being harmful.  However, upon closer examination, Magliocco is actually saying that the "violence" comes from  not supporting the position that these Folk Magic practitioners are Catholic.  My view is that they are Catholic and they aren't Pagan and aren't Witches.  Therefore I show them no disrespect.   Ironically, the people who claim I am doing cultural violence are self-professed Folk Magic practitioners who call themselves Witches.  Calling Italian Folk Magic users "Witches" is the type of cultural violence to which Magliocco refers in her article.

 4.  Grimassi is just in this for the money.

Like most authors of my genre, I have to chuckle whenever I hear this allegation.  First off, it's an urban legend that  authors of Wicca and Witchcraft are making a lot of money.  Not even the most popular Craft authors make much to speak of, and few if any make enough to cover the basic living expenses of even a modest lifestyle.

As to why I write, I'm afraid the truth is that it's simply my passion.   Even as a boy I wanted to write books.  I used to wander about the library and handle each book as though it was a rare and fragile antique.  I love to write and to share my research and my ideas.  As to accepting money for writing and teaching, yes, I am guilty of being paid for what I do to earn a living. 

5.  Grimassi manipulates, twists, and distorts data to fit the view he wants to promote.

This is another curious allegation.  The truth is that I often don't agree with the conclusions that some scholars have regarding the same data.  I have my own interpretation, and therefore I'm not ignoring the scholarly  view, it's just that sometimes I don't share it.

Another related allegation is that  I intentionally omit contrary views when the sources I use add a note mentioning a specific disagreement. This is typically in the form of a footnote or endnote in the source material that challenges the statement itself.  My reason for not mentioning such a reference is not because I'm trying to distort or avoid something, it's simply because I don't think the contrary statement actually contains any merit. In other words if I don't think it's worth mentioning, then I don't.  If however there is merit in the other point of view, I do include it.  Disagreeing with my point of view does not constitute a lack of merit.