La Vecchia Religione

By Leo Louis Martello

{Used w/Permission by, Rev. Lori Bruno}

I was born into a family of strege {witches}.  My ancestral home is Sicily.  My family passed themselves off as Catholics.  Sicily is the home of magnificent monuments and the notorious Mafia, has the world’s oldest active volcano, Etna, and the town of Trapani was founded by Eryx, son of Venus, a land where every town has its own patroness, where churches are built upon the sites of ancient temples, where the ancients travelled from all over the world to worship at the Temple of Demeter, in Enna, to celebrate her daughter Persephone’s resurrection from the underworld to reign as Goddess of souls and immortality.

Sicilians are a blend of many races and cultures, Carthaginian, Phoenician, Egyptian, Arab, Greek, Roman, Norman, etc.  They are not strictly Italians, thought most of them speak the language since it is now a part of Italy.  The ancient worship of the female deity exists to this day.  All modern depictions of the Catholic Madonna and Child being derivived from the Goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone.  Sicilians revere the Blessed Virgin more than they do the Christ.  Even when the Normans conquered Sicilyin the 12th century and converted the image of Christ into a fair-haired, blue-eyed self-portrait, the crafty Sicilians continued their worship of the Goddess.  The Cathoic Church in the town of Enna has a statue of the Madonna…..with a FEMALE JESUS.  The sculptor who worked on this was a member of la vecchia religione {The Old Religion} and in this way paid tribute to his Goddess of Demeter and Persephone.

There are many traditions in the Italian-Sicilian Craft just as in other countries.  Diana has always been called Queen of the Witches in Italy.  Charles G. Leland’s book, Aradia, or Gospel of the Witches is the basis for many of the rites and even secret names of modern-day Gardnerians.  Even Margaret Murray’s Witch Cult in Western Europeand the God of the Witches {upon with Gardner drew heavily} deal only with the Horned God.  Later,Gardner demoted the Horned God and elevated the Goddess using one of her Italian names.  Today, many Gardnerians seem to be more involved with dogma than they are with devotion and don’t seem to be fully aware of their origins.

Since Roman times {and long before} Diana has always been worshipped by runaway slaves, the outcasts, people of the night, the oppressed, disenfranchised, all those who deviated from the Establishment {including racial and sexual minorities}.  Thus, when a Gardnerian says that “a homosexual can’t be a true witch”, this is a perversion of the Italian-Sicilian Goddess they claim to worship, which indicates either ignorance of the historical truth, or a Judeo-Christian hangover.  Diana, and her daughter Aradia, protected all those who worshipped them.  The victims of oppression and injustice did not have a God to turn to {either Roman and later Christian } but they always had their Goddess.

There are many Sicilian Craft descendants in the U.S. but most of them {especially in California} retain only remnants of their traditions.  Our own branch of Sicilian Craft has always maintained strong ties with the motherland and our members make periodical pilgrimages to the ancient temples and caves.  We also maintain close contact with our secret brother and sisters Malta {only 60 miles away}.  Thus, our traditions have remained unsullied an undiluted, and even during the burning time our Crafters continued their secret worship.  In fact, many of the Catholic priests were, in reality, strege.  When danger threatened, my forebears went to “holy communion” and the “priest” warned them by the consecrated wafer:  It was either nicked or bent.  This was the danger signal.  For more of our Traditions read “Roman Robin Hoods” in my book Curses and Verses.  I can only give a brief glimpse here.



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