Friday, December 12, 2014

Magical Lives ~ Raven Grimassi

Strega means "witch" in Italian--and the name that comes to mind when it comes to the Craft in the Italian sense, is Raven Grimassi. The author of many books on Wicca and Witchcraft (not just Italian-style!), Raven is also the directing elder of the Arician tradition, and together with his wife Stephanie Taylor founded the College of the Crossroads--a mystery tradition school that works to preserve ancient paths (Stephanie also co-wrote The Well Worn Path and the Hidden Path!). Add to that a huge research project, and a cross country move and you have one very busy, very magical person, but I was able to catch up to Raven and ask him a few questions about where he's been, and where he's going... 

NZ I have always loved the name Raven (not to mention the bird). I read that this is your pen name—how did you come to choose it? 

RG I have always been attracted to ravens since I can remember. This increased when I began to study the occult and found the bird held a significant role there. Later I had the opportunity to work with injured ravens and became fascinated with them. The lore of ravens and their trickster nature appealed to my own sense of humor, and so I eventually took on the name of raven. I also had some training with an American Indian group, and they gave me the name "Laughing Crow" without knowing my name as Raven. I found that confirming. 

NZ You're a first generation Italian-American (I'm second-generation, my mom's parents were from Italy—hopefully I got the generation thing right!), so this next “set” of questions is close to my heart:) You studied Italian folk magic and customs from a young age—was this in the family, or something you did on your own? If the former—can you tell us about a fond memory you have about learning at the hands of a family member? If the latter, what inspired you to find out more about this path? 

RG In family traditions people grow up learning "the things we do" without any real label. I learned various things from various family members. My relatives from Italy visited in the summers and I learned a variety of things about the Old Religion from them. These visits were always special to me, and I also learned more things about Italian culture this way as well. A conversation on any topic almost always led to talks on old lore and the revelation of some old technique of folk magic. 

NZ A good deal of the available information on Wicca and paganism is Celtic. What makes the Italian practice of the Craft different? 

RG There are more similarities than differences, and certainly the seeds of southern European witchcraft were influential in the development of Wicca. The popular Charge of the Goddess, for example, begins with a verse from Charles Leland's work on Italian witchcraft, which is the Aradia material. In general, Italian witchcraft involves an emphasis on the veneration of ancestral spirits and upon a variety of nature spirits. There is no "Wiccan Rede" in old Italian witchcraft, but there is a rule against harming the innocent. Innocent is defined as someone who does not provoke the witch. When someone provokes a witch, then he or she loses the protection of being an innocent.

NZ Any suggestions for how our readers—especially those with Italian or European roots—can incorporate (for lack of a better way of saying it, and please, pardon the pun) an “Italian Flavor” into their practice? 

RG I think that an emphasis on southern European deities will help along with the incorporation of guardian spirits such as the Lare (spirits of people related to us by blood). At the core, I feel that all Craft traditions are simply the cultural expression of the same beliefs and practices. So there are few true differences when all the dust settles. 

NZ When Broomstix was an e-zine we explored direction and location as a theme. You took a new direction with a a big move a few years ago when you moved from west to east. What inspired the change? What do you miss most about California? What do you love the most about your new home, Massachusetts? 

RG One of the reasons I moved to New England was to be able to live the seasons of the Wheel of the Year. In California, from a ritual perspective, you have to imagine the seasons more than you actually experience them. Surprisingly I don't miss California at all, but I do miss family and friends. I love the look and feel of New England. There is a vibrancy of the life force here that I never felt in California, at least not in such a tangible way. One of the primary reasons for moving to New England was the closer proximity to the annual events we are often invited to, and so in that sense it was a business inspired move. 

NZ The Well Worn Path, and The Hidden Path are among my favorite divination/oracle decks: What inspired these projects? Was it a challenge to produce them as a group effort (you, Stephanie Taylor and Mickie Mueller)? I love that both decks can stand alone, but that they can also be brought together—was that the vision from the beginning, or was it something that evolved? Will there be future additions to this system? 

RG The idea for the decks grew from a feeling that we (our community) could benefit from a system more rooted in Pagan themes. The Tarot is, in essence, a system based on Western ceremonial magic and Hebraic mysticism. As such we felt something was missing in terms of pre-Christian European spirituality. So instead of trying to make yet another "Witchy Tarot' or "Pagani Tarot" we set about the task of developing a system rooted in Pagan European themes. Originally we designed an 80 card deck, but the Publisher asked that it be reduced to 40 cards. So we separated out what we call the 40 foundational cards (in terms of teachings concepts) and those became the Well Worn Path. Later on, the Publisher wanted the other 40 cards, and so those became the Hidden Path (consisting of the 40 mystical concepts). The two decks have the same back design, are the same size, and are by the same artist, and so the continuity and compatibility are there. Therefore the decks can be shuffled together to make one deck (which was our original intent). 

NZ Any new books and/or projects in the works? 

RG Oh, I always have something in the works. I just submitted a proposal for a work tentatively titled 'Old World Witchcraft" which is about the commonality of European traditions. It is part history and folkoric and part Grimoire (note--this book is now available!). I am also just one chapter away from completing a compilation of the writings of Charles Leland in the subject of Witchcraft. I add commentaries and expand on his writings. (Charles Godfrey Leland was an American writer and scholar who did a great deal of research on folkways and folk lore. He wrote Aradia, Gospel of the Witches, a classic read for people on a pagan path.) * Since I first conducted this interview, Raven has had several books published--have a look at them HERE.

NZ We ask this of everyone we interview—what is your favorite sabbat and why? What do you do to celebrate? 

RG I will assume that my answer is the most common one - Samhain. In my own tradition we have an emphasis on ancestral veneration. Witches have always been associated with communicating with the dead, and so this season in particular is very meaningful and intimate. 

This is true--everyone loves Samhain! Discover more about Raven and his many projects:

Stregheria ~ A site devoted to the Italian Craft. 
Raven's Loft ~ Raven and Stephanie's online shop.
Raven's Author Site ~ www.ravengrimassi.net

You can also follow Raven on FACEBOOK and TWITTER


Get ready to soar!
Interview by Natalie Zaman

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Shine a Light at Yule!

Lucia wore a crown of candles on her head so that her hands could be free to bring comforts to folks who went into hiding for their faith. Kindness and caring apply to all paths. As 2015 draws to a close, be a light for others! Read more about Lucia HERE and celebrate her on her day, December 13--this Saturday!

Click HERE to get a printable Lucia coloring page!

Lucia coloring page by Robin Ator

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gratitude with Cat-itude!

Greetings, human kittens. It is I, the witch’s cat with the pen name The Divine Feline, and this is where I usually dish up the inside scoop on all things familiar--when I haven’t been so terribly wronged, that is!

 What’s got my tail in a twist today, you ask? I’ll tell you--I’ve been banished from the kitchen! And (unlike the infamous Cheese Platter Sampling Incident of Beltane 2008), I actually didn’t do anything to deserve it! My witch is being so unfair! So, for today’s lesson, I thought we’d have a little chat about Appreciating Your Familiar...

Familiars have always been the cat's meow! An animal familiar is much more than just another mystical tool. (Does your athame or your scrying mirror give you a sympathetic head-butt when you’ve had a bad day? I think not!) An animal familiar not only boosts your spiritual side--they give your spirits a boost, too! In return, much like a cherished pet, we’re supposed to be treated as a member of the family. (At least!)

Appreciating the animal(s) in your life isn’t a new concept--it’s a practice seen in many enlightened cultures throughout history. But no other group could hold a candle to the kings (or should I say, pharaohs?) of animal appreciation, the ancient Egyptians. And what animal was the favorite of these obviously highly advanced people? Why, the cat, of course!

The Divine Feline and the Divine Sekhmet--purrrfect together!

The Egyptians treasured us. Revered us. Adored us as the marvelous magickal beings we are! They worshipped feline gods (the cheetah-headed goddess Mafdet, lion-headed god Maahes, lion-headed goddess Sekhmet, and cat-headed Bast/Bastet), and constructed exquisite temples—even cities, such as the famed Bubastis—to honor them. They left offerings before art bearing our likenesses, and wore cat-shaped charms to bring protection, increased fertility, and good fortune. They celebrated cats for their ability to rid rodents from the granaries, their skill in dispatching poisonous snakes, and even brought their cats on hunting expeditions to retrieve fowl and fish.

It was illegal to export a cat from Egypt, and harming or killing a cat was punishable by heavy fines--or death! Cat welfare was so important, that when an Egyptian house caught fire, the rescuers would save the cats first! And, legend tells that when a Persian king sent his invading army marching into the Egyptian city of Pelusia, the Pelusians surrendered rather than harm the cats that the soldiers held!

Statues of cats were placed outside Egyptian homes to ward off evil spirits. And inside the home, family cats were adorned with collars and earrings of gold and jewels, allowed to eat from their owners’ plates, and showered with attention and respect. (Hmph. I’ll bet they were never shooed from the kitchen!)

And when an Egyptian house cat died, its family observed full mourning rituals--including shaving off their eyebrows to express their sorrow. They continued to grieve as their cat’s body was prepared for mummification, then placed in a little sarcophagus with food, milk, and anything else the cat might need in the underworld--even mummified mice to play with! Then, funeral rites were held as the cat was laid to rest in the family’s vault, in any of the numerous cat cemeteries throughout the land, or in the Necropolis of Bubastis. (In 1890, over 300,000 cat mummies were discovered there. 300,000!)

Well, it’s nice to see that someone knew how a cat--never mind a familiar cat--should be treated! Hiss! I don’t know what’s gotten into my witch, but I do know that I’m getting into that kitchen right now and finding out what she’s been up to!

Er, I’m back. And, I found out why I wasn’t allowed in the kitchen. My witch was making me a surprise Tuna Cake--my very favorite. (You take the recipe for a basic chocolate cake, and replace the chocolate with tuna. Delicious!) She makes me one every year…

…on the anniversary of the day I became her familiar.

Uh-oh.

Please excuse me, my mini mages… I have some serious make-up ankle-rubbing and purring to do. Give your familiars a big hug (you hedgehog owners can just smile and wave), and have a divine time until we meet again!

By Ame Dyckman
Sekhmet Awakening by Sandra Stanton
Divine Feline by Steelgoddess

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Eldon's Last Complaint

“Just look at him, primping all the time in the water bowl. You’d think he never saw his own reflection before.”

"Stop complaining, Eldon,” said Festus the donkey. “You know that turkeys get all the attention around this place. You’re a rooster. Get used to it.”

“It’s not fair! What’s so great about Otto? I do more things around here than he does.” 

Eldon continued to grumble as he strutted back to his perch on top of the fence post. He proceeded to cock-a-doodle, just to make sure Farmer didn't forget that he was on the job. Otto stuffed his beak, preened in the sun and slept away most of the day. It really wasn't right. Eldon was up every morning in the cold darkness. As the sun peeked around the hills and through the trees, Eldon crowed, telling everyone it was time to get up and start their chores. The animals, Farmer and his wife, and even Otto needed Eldon. So why did that dumb turkey get the best grain, the freshest berries and the first drink from the water bowl?

The more Eldon thought about the special attention Otto received, the madder he got. But none of the other animals wanted to listen to Eldon grouse. They were busy taking care of babies, or exercising wobbly legs, or working with Farmer. Even Francine the rat refused to discuss Otto. Everyone seemed happy to mind their own business. Eldon sulked.


Days passed. Summer blew away and Autumn snuck in with brisk weather and crisp apples--Eldon’s favorite treat. This year, though, Otto got most of the best apples. Eldon and the others, even Farmer’s favorite horse Spencer, had to wait until Otto had his fill.

By late October, Eldon was furious. He refused to talk to Otto, although these days, Otto was quite full of himself and didn't speak to anyone. That gigantic bird thought he was too good to chat with the working animals like Eldon or Kirby, the workhorse. Otto was king. He did no work, he did nothing but eat and grow. And grow. And GROW.

November arrived and the days snapped with coldness. Still, even in the dark before dawn, Eldon hopped up to his fence post, his feet freezing, to cock-a-doodle-do. He never missed a morning, but Farmer never said, ‘Thank you, Eldon,’ or, ‘You’re doing a great job, Eldon.’ Only Otto offered an opinion. He wanted Eldon to stop doodling so he could sleep late.

“Sleep late!” squawked Eldon. “You sleep half the day already! How much more can you sleep?”

“With my thick legs, plump chest and magnificent feathers, I get very tired strutting. I need my rest.”

“Some of us have to work, even if we would like to sleep in once in a while. Farmer and the animals depend on me to wake them. You’re a lazy turkey who doesn't do anything for anyone!”

Otto yawned noisily, then dozed off, leaning against Eldon’s fence post.

“COCK-A-DOODLE DOODLE DOO!” screeched Eldon as loudly as he could. 

Otto jumped, harrumphed at Eldon, and tottered off to find a quieter place in the barn. When Eldon started complaining about Otto again, the animals meandered away, shaking their heads. Only Calliope, the ancient farm cat, remained to listen. When he finished his long list of criticisms, Calliope simply shrugged.

“The grain is always better in someone else’s trough,” she purred.

“What do you mean by that?” asked Eldon crossly. He was in no mood for puzzles. And why wouldn't anyone sympathize with him? He couldn’t understand it. They were all getting cheated.

“All I’m saying is that sometimes it seems like someone else is getting more than their fair share. Wait and see if you think Otto has it so good.” 

“Wait for how long? Till Yule?” snapped Eldon. 

“Not that long,” was all the cat would say and she, too, went into the barn for a nap.

Eldon waited. The next day, Otto was still getting the best of everything. The day after was the same. Eldon shook his comb in disgust and went to work. He crowed until Farmer turned on his light, then waited for his breakfast.

One day, Otto was no where to be seen. He didn’t make a grand appearance for any of the meals or extra tidbits, not even for his daily parade around the yard. Eldon was too happy to care. With Otto gone, he could get the best food- especially since he was the first out of bed.

The days passed and Otto never reappeared. No one talked about him, so Eldon didn’t bother either. He was thrilled to be getting all the best grains and scraps. He was plump and sported grand feathers for a rooster. And since two youngsters were practicing their doodles, he didn't always have to get up early every day.

“So,” hissed Calliope, “the best grain is in your trough now. You’re getting nice and plump!”

“Yes!” piped Eldon disdainfully. “It’s my turn now.”

“So it seems. I hope it’s all you wished for.” She slunk off toward the root cellar where Hamilton the rat sometimes hid. At lunchtime, Farmer strolled by, throwing down some delectable apple chunks for Eldon.

“Coming to show his appreciation at last,” mumbled the rooster unkindly. In one lightning swoop, Farmer caught him, and holding him upside down, headed off to the woodshed. “Say hello to Otto for us!” snickered Francine.

After dinner, Calliope sat by the fire, scrubbing her face and paws most thoroughly. Eldon was a good friend, but he was a better dinner.

Moral: Wishes are powerful. Sometimes things that others have or do might look a lot better than what they really are. Be careful of what you wish for--you just might get it!

by Charlotte Bennardo

Friday, November 14, 2014

LapiDairy ~ Azurite!

Greetings, everyone! Bo Finn here... well, it's only been two weeks since we've moved from Goddess season to God season. To welcome in the New Year we filled a wicker man with produce from the fields (and jugs of milk, of course!), and set it ablaze beneath Samhain's azurite sky.

 What is azurite?

Well, it's the perfect stone for this most serious time of transition. Its name may come from the Persian word “lazard” or “blue.” It's been said that this gem was the special stone of ancient Egypt, one that focused the mind and strengthened perception. It cleanses and opens your third eye, brings knowledge, and overcomes fear and anxiety. This is very valuable on a night when anything from the “other realm” could be walking the darkness!


Azurite is excellent for learning. If you are a student in a classroom by day, or a student of magic by night, keep an azurite on your desk or with your magical texts. It will stimulate comprehension. When put in the room where someone is ill, Azurite, is said to absorb the negativity and unhealthy energy. It also aids the healing of bone and the nervous system--and reduces bouts of sadness, hysterics and hallucinations. (Samhain is NOT the night to start imagining monsters in the closet!)

For those of you who have family traditions or covens who use Samhain as a time for psychic work, there's nothing better than Azurite. In strengthening your astral body, it makes you resistant to psychic attacks. Meanwhile, it sharpens your intuition, your predictive ability, your inner vision and your remembrances. What better time to recall your past lives! Better still, azurite guards you from being misled, so you can see the true motives of others, and avoid any possible false memories.

This remarkable gem can plug any “holes” in your aura, shielding you from any negative, incoming energy while keeping positive energy from leaking away, causing fatigue. Finally, azurite is a dream stone. Place it under your pillow and have clear, prophetic images populate your slumbering mind. (Note: azutite is often found combined with malachite. When tumbled smooth into a sphere, it resembles a miniature planet earth! The two stones together create an extra powerful dream stone.)

by Katharine Clark
Art by Robin Ator

Friday, October 31, 2014