The Strega Tradition
Part One: All In The Family
My Great Grandmother, Domenica Colella, was a Strega, a wisewoman, healer, witch, midwife, soothsayer of the Italian Mountain Village tradition. I grew up hearing stories about my Great Grandmother and her abilities: her knowledge of the plants, evil eye rituals and dowsing, her “doctoring.” My aunt and father passed many of the anecdotes and stories to me. The Streghe are an ancient and long standing lineage in Italy to which my family belong. I am very honored to be part of this tradition.
After researching the Goddess for years and writing two novels about the priestesses of Minoan Crete, I decided to explore my own heredity for indigenous Goddess traditions. In doing so, I discovered a lost lineage in my very own family line: The Strega Tradition.
The Strega Tradition is a tradition of wisewomen that is passed down through the family line in Italy and families of Italian descent. Because it was held so tightly within the context of family first and then community, it has survived where other traditions have not. It is believed that ancestors return as future Streghe.
The Streghe Tradition is not only for women. There are male Stregone. The male and female roles present themselves differently. Also, there are very different customs from the different regions in Italy. My family is from the hilltop village of Torre dei Passeri in the Abruzzi. Our lineage has its own character, very different from the well-known Tuscan version. Like anything else, Strega lineages have their own regional flare.
Much indigenous wisdom was lost in the big immigration to the United States at the turn of the last century. With the increased understanding that we are all native to this planet, many people are ready to remember and reclaim their own lost lineages. Some of the indigenous pieces still retained in the Strega tradition are the worship of the moon, connection to stars, The World Tree, belief in ancestors and elementals, and various forms of “divination.” Worship of the Goddess Diana in the form of a tree is one consistent and deep-rooted element
While there is an outward “exoteric” presentation to the Strega of midwife, herbalist healer, there is also an “esoteric” aspect that includes divining, working with energy and the spirits of place. The Strega Tradition is very much a function of place and ecosystem. As these ancestries are reclaimed, they will emerge within the context and with the “flavor” of the ecosystem each individual Strega and Stregone find themself in.
In his book Italian Witchcraft, Raven Grimassi states that the true translation for the word Strega is “sorceress.” Though Grimassi prefers the translation “witch,” I believe the word sorceress, which predates the word sorcerer, is worthy of return as well. The dictionary definition is: “One who influences fates and fortunes. One who works magic.”
With their healing work within the community at all levels—physical, energetic and inter-relational—the Streghe influence the fates and fortunes of the events in all the multi-dimensional systems.
My Great Grandmother and her magic are fondly remembered and held in my family lineage and memories. I am honored to walk in her footsteps and bring this tradition back in the best way I can.