Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Italian Witchcraft by Raven Grimassi

This book raised the post with, at current, more comments than any other. This post is the promised review of the work, and in order to approach the review in the appropriate fashion I read through the book fully, and thoroughly. To those that encouraged me to "really read" the book - doing so did it no favors.

Basic info: Italian Witchcraft (formerly Ways of The Strega) by Raven Grimassi. Ranges from $17-$3. Summary for the impatient: Had I read the book prior to the purchase, I would not have purchased it. A stronger pass by an editor, and some terminology revisions in this later edition would have been beneficial.

The First 'Book'.
The author will present a small portion of information and spend many more paragraphs ensuring that you will come to no other conclusion than the one he himself holds. I suppose that's to be expected - but it's really not pleasant to read.

Lack of citations or sources on small tidbits of otherwise interesting information. It's impossible to follow up and do research on these bits, and I think that the wealth of the book would have been in these.

Large blocks of text are quoted, and often repeat within the same chapter. In the prior post I suggested that a better pass by a more ruthless editor would've been beneficial for this. I suppose that the quotes at the start of chapters are alright if repeated, but it is not limited to this.

The aforementioned "cropped illustration" was one hurdle I had difficulty getting around, small though it was. However, that is nothing compared to the response I had to the later chapter on the Benandanti v. Malandanti wherein Mr. Grimassi states:

"Today, Witches may face a very similar situation to that of the Benandanti. Satanism is on the rise, and appears to be spreading quite rapidly across the United States. Many sub-cults of Satanism are forming, whose actions toward other people and animals can certainly be defined as evil. Once these sub-cultists become skilled in magickal practices, then all hell is likely to break loose." and "I think it not unlikely that Witches in the near future will be faced with protecting their own communities from the destructive energies of an evil which is surely coming."
I'll let my own blog readers mull that'n over for a moment, and come to their own conclusions. I will say that at this point I strongly considered returning the book - a feat only once before accomplished by the 'authorship' of one Konstantanos.

The Second 'Book'.

This portion of the book covers the ritual tools and ritual practices of the Strega as reinvisioned by Grimassi. There are only so many ways one can rehash the four suits of the Tarot, the basic tools of witchery, until it loses all meaning. There are a few novel things presented here, but with little attribution - again, it's hard to follow up on the ideas and find their source.

One thing which utterly blew my mind was the suggestion of using a bowl to hold an alcohol-based liquid which is ignited and periodically replenished (while still burning). For anyone who is not familiar with setting alcohol ablaze - here's a nice article about what happens.
The suggested alcohol, Liquore Strega, is 40%/80-proof. Alcohol of that strength still burns pretty hard, and surprisingly long.

The Aridian rites are a form that will be instantly familiar with anyone who has read Aradia or any works on Wicca (BTW or otherwise), and perhaps anyone familiar with the Lycian Wiccan tradition. The emphasis on male/female sexual union as the "highest possible" type of energy and worship became tiresome for this witch, and the rituals did not present anything novel to my eyes.

The final nail in the coffin was that Grimassi continually quotes The Vangelo/Gospel of Aradia, and later states that the majority of it is rubbish and propaganda to be thrown out. The idea of historical information being rubbish is what sets my teeth on edge more than anything. I expected a far more scholarly tone and content from this book, and was disappointed. This was Grimassi's earlier work, and I have since become aware of that - the lack of scholarly tone makes more sense, but does not alleviate my wanting of it.

As a note to readers: I will not be accepting nasty comments from ANY camp on this one. Take measure of your statements before you hit post


  1. HHMMMmmm....Satanism on the rise in the USA.......Is this true? Am I in the dark about it? Where does he get his info? How about the rest of the world?

  2. Pft. Heresy has always been highly profitable in the U.S. ... On the other hand, is it on the rise?

    Probably not.

  3. Perhaps you can re-sell it rather quickly on Amazon. Make up a good pseudonym so that you won't be embarrassed to have paid full price. Someone will buy it.

  4. I think the last statement is meant for me, at least in part. I just expressed what I felt after reading Grimassi's works on "Italian Witchcraft" some years ago.
    I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend anyone.
    I agree about your review.

  5. @Elizabeth - Honestly, I'm not sure where he got this info, though the publishing date of the book (early 90's) was still during the Satanic Panic, to which he may have fallen prey.

    @Faust - See above. :P

    @Poopsian - Actually, unless the book is so atrocious as to have NO redeeming value. This book had a few small tidbits that I want to keep around, even if they are examples of what not to do in writing.

    @The Meadow Of The Satyr - I don't know if the comment/s were yours. During the prior discussion of this book a few out and out nasty comments came up. They were rejected. Some were Pro-Grimassi to the point of making personal threats, some were Anti-Grimassi to the point of nastiness. I didn't take offense to any of the comments - I just chose not to publish some that went beyond the scope and tone I want of this blog.

  6. Hello again Lady Scylla. I just commented once and it was published. I think I wasn't Anti-Grimassi to the point of nastiness on my comment, just critical. But another reader referred to my comment and it made me think so.
    Keep posting :-)

  7. Brass tacks: If I publish it I don't think it's gone beyond the pale. I'm a very easy-going sort, but I want to keep the tone within a certain range.

    I've mostly left an entire internet forum because it fell prey to it's own savagery.