Appalachian Granny Magic
A mix of Scots-Irish magical traditions and regional rituals of the Cherokee Indians (known then as Tsalagi), adherents of this practice referred to themselves as witch doctors or water witches, depending on their given specialties such as dowsing, ley lines, healing, charms and energy vortexes. Granny Magic was passed down from parents to children, staying in the family as a way of strengthening ties. These witches fared better than most would expect, their services valued particularly among new mothers.
Remedy and divination were these grannies’ calling cards, “hillfolk hoodoo” dating back to the 1700s.
An Italian form of witchcraft honoring the moon goddess Diana and her consort, the nature god Dianus, Stregheria is first mentioned in Girolamo Tartarotti’s Apologia Della Congresso Delle Lamie (1751), though persecution of Diana worshippers occurred as early as 1384. Fast forward to the 1970s where the modern Stregheria movement gained momentum in North America through the efforts of former hypnotist and graphologist Leo Martello. The religion further evolved during the 1980s when Raven Grimassi began teaching the Aridian tradition which combined elements of Gardnerian Wicca with concepts from Charles G. Leland’s Aradia, or the Gospel of Witches (1899).
Stregherian sects with stronger neopagan influences are more apt to celebrate the Wheel of the Year and its holidays therein: Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Midsummer, Lughnasadh, Mabon and Samhain. Authentic Italian witchcraft remains largely underground in its native land, given the country’s 87.8% Catholicism rate.
You think there’d be a Hallmark card…
Walpurgisnacht is a 17th century German custom shaped by the literary depictions of witches’ Sabbaths from centuries prior. It takes place on April 30, the eve of the feast day of Saint Walpurga, an abbess canonized in 870. Walpurgisnacht marks a time for occult convenings atop the Brocken, the highest peak in Germany’s Harz Mountains. Today it is often held as a celebration welcoming spring.
Various European cultures have added interpretations of their own. People in the Czech Republic gather around large bonfires where dark smoke heralds the witches’ departure. After midnight, women seek kisses under cherry trees to prevent them from drying up for a year. The Finns treat Walpurgisnacht as a series of festivities framed by a large picnic. Bavarians have rechristened the event “Freinacht” and it resembles Halloween more than a spring convocation, complete with pranks and Trick or Treat. Authors who’ve used Walpurgisnacht as an occasion or title include Stoker, Albee and Goethe. One can only guess what Walpurga, who offers protection from storms and hydrophobia, would make of this.
This fairy-tale file brought to you by editorial assistant Cindy Kilbourne and poetry editor Jon Riccio.