Mary Worship? A Study of Catholic Practice and Doctrine

This strikes me as a well presented essay from a former Roman-Catholic Nun. She left the Church when she realised that she’d been practicing ‘Mary Worship’, placing Her above Jesus Christ and God.

I’ve already heard of and have already accepted that there is a distinct difference between Roman-Catholcism and The Bible. I struggle with which is truer to ‘original’ Christianity, which has become the least biased through the centuries. Without a doubt, both have been ‘adjusted’ by those in power over time, buT can’t help but wonder which is worse, whatever it is that ‘worse’ means.

I think I’ve actually made it clear that I like that ‘Goddess worship”-ness of Catholicism. I agree with many of the parallels drawn up by Ms. Collins. Not being a Christian myself, I have a different sort view of God and the inconceiveble entirety of his Whole-ness. I do believe that He is in all things and all people, in the good and in the destructive, in Mary and Jesus, and hey, Joseph too.Of course, my opinions don’t matter much. I just find it too bad that so many Christian sects are opposed to each other.

An adaptation for the Hail Mary.

Queen of Heaven, full of grace
Your child prays to thee.
Blessed art thou among women
And blessed is all, the fruit of thy womb.

Holy Lady, Mother of All
Bless us with your wisdom and
Guide us through our darkest nights.


Mary Queen of Heaven
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven;
a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet,
and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.
And she being with child cried, travailing in birth ….

And she brought forth a man child,
who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron:
and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne

Book of Revelations (12:1, 2 & 5)

Within the past few months I’ve been struggling to explain this fascination with The Virgin. So many Pagans hold Christianity in contempt for their past, for the persecution of Witches… Many Christian sects, in turn, consider Roman-Catholicism to be blasphemous because its idolization of Mary and Saints takes away from the worship of Christ and/or God.

She’s  so complex. She fascinates me. In Neo-Paganism we speak of many Mother Goddesses and how important they are.  She is the only one who resonates with me so. I guess this inarticulate exploration is above all a plea for understanding from my peers who generally wouldn’t “get it”.

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The Altar – and not spelled ‘alter’ – is the work-table of the Witch. While some traditions have specific tools,  solitary practitioners can feel at ease to work with whatever they find satisfying.

Personally, my choice in tools has evolved and changed over time to suit my personal practice. I love seeing how others have set up theirs and thought I would share mine.

Manas Altar

Mana's Altar

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I have trouble getting intot he Yuletide spirit sometimes, since as student, finances and the semester’s end comes with far too much stress. Here is a list of my favourite things about the holidays!

1. Decorating the Home

My place is always a dump by the end of exams.  Tidying it up and adding some holiday decor makes a huge difference! We have acorns hanging from ribbons, faux-spruce over windows with tiny lights just waiting to be put up.

2. Baking!

On my list this year is chocolate-hazelnut biscotti, double-chocolate chip cookies, crispy gingerbread cookies, and tiramisu for dad (which, no, isn’t baked.)

3. Yule Fair

I wouldn’t say “shopping”, as it sometimes puts me in a bad mood. Montreal has a lovely Yule Fair every year! Jewlery, soaps, metal and wood works!

4. Making a Yule Log

I take a log and burn decorative motifs in it. Sometime’s it’s an offering to my Mum’s fireplace. This year it’s to be a centerpiece and candle holder for my own home.

On my beloved forums, this issue pops up now and again: people who describe their practice but can’t define whether or not it is spellwork. I think this is definitely worth defining and should be different from rituals of worship.

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A continuation fo my exploration of “Italian Witchcraft”. 

Difference Between Latin and Etruscan

Grimassi relays the studies of Charles Leland, Etruscan “folklorist” in his teachings of Stregheria. He writes that “Italian Witchcraft, or Stregheria, pre-dates Celitc Witchcraft by centures. […] Italian Witchcraft is the proud legacy of Etruscan Civilization and the Roman Empire” (i, Italian Witcraft: The Old Religion of Southern Europe). There are great errors in this opening statement.

Rev. Agnostino Taumaturgo points out acontradiction’s FAQ, question number six where it says “[Stregheria] is primarily derived from Etruscan religion rather than Roman.”

This is getting confusing! The Etruscans and Romans were actually very different!

Cultural Influences

First of all, the Etruscan Civilization was focused in central Italy long before the great empires of Rome. At their height they were marvelous sea merchants and wondrous goldsmiths with evident trade relations with the Middle East and Egypt. They were also served a specific vase market for The Greeks – Greek artists actually made specific vases to suit Etruscan tastes. We know this because many of the least-damaged Greek vases in existence today have been found in Etruscan tombs.

Greece had a great influence over Etruria. We see from tomb illustrations that Etruscan religion and attitudes towards death became darker, more similar to Greek religion over time. We can find some parallels between Etruscan and Greek deities but it is also possible that scholars are being misled by the names inscribed on Greek vases. Do they show Etruscan deities or Greek deities with Etruscan names? Perhaps the Etruscans saw them as enjoyable characters. Or they saw parallels between the two pantheons. We may never know.

The Etruscans weren’t a unified people. Italy was scattered with their loosely affiliated independent city-states, much as Greece was. This unfortunately also made them much more susceptible to attack. Weakened by attacks from the Greeks over the centuries, the Roman Empire finally overcame the Etruscans and assimilated them almost seamlessly into their religion and culture.

The origins of the Etruscans will always be a mystery. They weren’t there only peoples who ever populated Italy – the Greeks moved into the south, the region of Sicily, during their period of greatness. There we also the Umbrians. The great majority of pagan european cultures, including the Norse, Indian, and the Celts, actually shared ancestry. This is most strongly proved by their languages, which share common elements and can be traced back to the Indo-Europeans. We also see similaries in the cultures values as well as their religions. Looking at common elements between Celtic and Vedic religion has allowed for a lot of theorization and exploration of the similarities between Druids and Brahmins, the “priests” of Celtic Paganism and Vedism respectively.

The Romans were quite adoptive of other religions. They had a great philosophy: “Come with us to Rome, and bring your Gods with you! We can all pray to them to bring victory and prosperity to Rome!” It definitely worked for them, for a while. 

It is important to note that the Etruscans were not descended of the Indo-Europeans. This gives them a completely different background than the latin-speaking Romans. Genetic testing has linked Etrsucans with the Turkish, though there’s definite room for error in this theory. Still, this likens the Myth of Aradia (depending on how you feel about Leland)  to the Descent of Inanna and opens new, exciting doors.

Furthermore, the Etruscans didn’t actually call themselves that. The Greeks called them Tyrrhenoi . They called themselves The Rasenna. We commonly use the Latin title. If Grimassi’s craft draws primarily from Etruscan roots, is deeply connected to them, why doesn’t he call them by the name they had for themselves? Why call themselves Streghe at all when it is an Italian, Latin-descended and not Etruscan word?

Etruscan vs. Italian

Etruscan mythology and culture is an important piece of the Italian puzzle. Someone on working in an an Etruscan-centered tradition has a lot of dust to stir up and many mysteries to explore. Despite it all, a craft called Italian could never particularly emphasize Etruscan religion. Italy is a country in name only. With so many dialects and city affiliations, with such rowdy politics, the people of Italy are united in the way they are so very different from each other. Contemporary elements of Italian life, including politics and religion, must be considered when it comes to Italian Craft because it reveals the true, distinct qualities of Italians.

Fratelli d’Italia! Culture and Language Identity

What does it mean to be Italian? This is something I personally struggle with as someone of mixed heritage in North America. I was not born in Italy, do not speak the language, am not a part of the local Italian community. I do not call myself Italian, though do feel many ties to this country and culture that has so shaped myself and my family. Certainn tendencies and customs have remained through years of assimilation and immigration, which is why I consider them so important.

Is being Italian important?

Grimassi has written that being Italian isn’t neccessary in order to be a Strega.

“No, you don’t [have to be Italian to practice Stregheria.] Stregheria is a spiritual path that is open to all. It is, however, based on traditional Italian witchcraft and does have an Italian flavor.”

This is a bit confusing, given that Grimassi’s website claims to be home to Traditional Italian Witchcraft and not something based on it, but I have to disagree somewhat here. A connection to Italy is neccessary to work with Italian Craft. That doesn’t seem to be unreasonable. Why else would anyone else want to practice it?

Even Italians amongst one another will refer to their specific area/village/province/dialect with great pride. I’ve heard of Montreal-Italians in the 60s who knew multiple Italian dialects – that really impressed me. 

Community, Filial Piety and Ancestor Worship

I will argue that the family core and remembrance of the ancestors must be central to any modern Italian Craft. Italian-North Americans are very family and community oriented.

Little Italies have popped up in every every major city and Italian communties have grown to accommodate entire lives and routines. My Nonna lived in Montreal her whole life and never learned French or English, never learned how to write and never needed to become a Canadian citizen. She enjoyed Italian TV, local stations and ones syndicated from Europe. There’s an Italian Hospital, an Italian Market, etc. Large families, village life, church life – a connection to the community is part of being “Italian” and should be very improtant to an Italian Witch. 


A lot of practitioners disagree on the subject of Christianity. Some, like myself, believe that a lot of core beliefs unique to Italy would have been integrated into Christianity to attract the Pagan native and facilitate their conversion. I entertain the possibility that certain distinct qualities about Roman-Catholicism that differ from other Christian sects might be remnants of La Vecchia Religione, The Old Faith.

For example, most Christians believe that after death, spirits depart to either heaven or hell. Italian Roman-Catholics traditionally put great influence on all souls day, visited  graveyards, kept a candle lit for the Beloved Dead next to a display of photos. Is this not, in it’s own way, a belief in spirits? An act of ancestor worship?

What about the very religious, pious nature that we see in our relatives? I’ve come to associate piety with italians as well, people who live their faith. 

The Virgin Mary

Despite not being Christian, I cannot help but feel humbly awed by The Virgin. She has many names bestowed by various Christian sects: Queen of Heaven, Queen of the World, Madonna, Mother of God, Mary of Guadaloupe, Our Lady of Lourdes… Specific practices, such as rosary bead prayers, are devoted to her. The association with the rose is but one of many elements that link her to other Mysteries.

There is something mystical about Her that I feel is imperative to Italian Craft, this awareness and reverence to The Virgin.

She is the First Mother, She who have birth by herself.  She is the void before the “Big Bang”. She wears the stars in the sky and is the darkness that lies beyond, that which we will never truly know. She holds the mysteries of birth and death. You may have already have another name for Her, but she has always been truly loved by Italians. 

What else?

Dare I add feasting, wine, fine art, games and competitions to list? Story-tellings and joking? Very loud conversation? These of course are not unique to Italians, but are important for people and families. 

The Makings of an Italian Craft

  • A Mother Goddess, an Agriculture God
  • An awareness of the land, its distinctiveness, its spirit(s)
  • Reverence of the Beloved Dead, remembrance of The Ancestors, honouring the newly born
  • A commitment to the community, be it your neighborhood, your local Pagan community, your child’s school…

And so, I share the above list because it is a truly important part of my Art. While developing your own path, I urge you never to forget what is most important to you, to think about what you love most about life and give thanks for it in your spiritual tradition.

A recommendation – and I don’t always enjoy Witchvox.

To Be Young, Gifted, Black…and Pagan in 21st Century America
Dina, Witchvox.

There are frequent posts on one of the forums I enjoy about deity semantics. I call them semantics, but they’re obviously very important to the poster. I don’t mean to belittle their concerns, but IO feel that people so often get caught up on the details that they end up missing the point.

I see forum posts asking “Who was this God/dess who visited me in my dream” or “I don’t understand, which is Wiccan, hard-or-softpolytheism(or other)?”.  I always feel bad, because they always get variety of answers that won’t give them a direct answer.

When we’re at that philisophical point in our development, we really have to move away from books and start committing to ritual and personal experience. Here we can establish our relationship with The Dive, develop our senses and intuition. Do we feel He/She is all encompassing? Do we feel different Forces, distinctly different Beings?Do only a few of them touch you?

It tooks me years to “decide” on “My Truth”. To explain it in words would sound contradictory, so I won’t, but I’m quite satisfied with it. It doesn’t matter what Their names are, how many of Them there are. To me, these are semantics.

Respect those who touch your life.

If you don’t know their name, give them one- see if it fits. We all have special names for people close to us, nicknames, special titles. Don’t forget that deity names often translate as titles into English. Even our own have distinct significance in another language, or we are named after a notable figure.

Very good for you!

Very good for you!

V&VNPism. Ismism. What mouthfuls! Honestly, I don’t see how a Neo-Pagan could NOT be conscious about what they put in their bodies.  I think we Pagans especially should be aware of nutrition and making an effort to be vegetarian, to eat organic, and/or eat local as a consideration of our bodies, economy and  our Earth.

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