La Storia Della Bella Pelegrina, Aradia
An assimilation and retelling by Preston Whitehurst of The Story of the Beautiful Pilgrim (based upon Raven Grimassi's: "The Book of the Holy Strega" and Charles Leeland's: "The Gospel of the Witches.")
Italian folklore preserved from the 14th century tells of a gypsy witch, Aradia, born in 1313.
She lived her life traveling incessantly among the peasants and forest outlaws, teaching to them the disappearing Old Ways.
In the year 1313, Aradia was born in Volterra, Italy to an affluent couple.
Her mother raised her with a heavy hand and in Aradia’s early youth, in an attempt to secure her future in becoming a nun, she sought out a governess. And yet, after binding Aradia in the strictest secrecy, this governess did instead open her inner eye to the hidden things.
In her youth, Aradia woke with the dawn, walking through the Alban hills near Lake Nemi. It was there that she first learned to understand the voice of the wind. And one day, the voice spoke to her, saying:
“Look well into the skies, and know that you are chosen.”
So, Aradia gazed upward and the sky went dark, and the voice whispered again to her:
Lowering her gaze along the hillside, the Spirit of the numberless beings awoke within her and and she saw before her inner eye all that was beautiful in the Earth, and also the sufferings upon it. She beheld for the first time the plight of the people and feeling their sorrows as her own within her, was overwhelmed with compassion.
There were peasant slaves who had escaped into the surrounding hills and forests who in order to survive had organized into bands of outlaws and soon Aradia sought them out and they took her into their woodland camps near Lake Nemi.
She listened with a heavy heart to the plight of those who had suffered persecution and torture from the Church or had been made slaves by evil lords because they did not follow the new religion.
Upon completing her studies with the governess, Aradia let it be known that she had no desire to join the convent. Her mother became livid, and in a fit of rage gave Aradia a cuff to the face, to which she retorted that if ever again treated so disdainfully, she would flee to the hills and lead a vagrant life the rest of her days.
Aradia soon left her childhood home, joining her friends in the forest camps.
And in time, she went down to the villages to restore hope in the people, proclaiming:
“Blessed be the free.
Blessed be they who rejoice in Truth and Love, and seek not to conserve evil and misguided teachings.
Know that the Spirit is upon you all, and that Spirit is Love.
Love punishes not, neither a day nor an eternity. Do not lend yourselves to teachings of fear and restriction.
Blessed be the free in Spirit for their Kingdom is of both Worlds.
They are the Children of the Earth who neither hate nor teach hate, fear nor teach fear, restrict nor teach restriction. These same are the Children of Spirit.”
She roamed the countryside dressed as a pilgrim, blessing the poor, and curing their sick. The knowledge of her spread among the peasants and in the forest camps of the outlaws and many heard of her and desired to join her.
To those who sought her out in good faith, Aradia revealed to them the inner mysteries of the Old Ways known only to their ancestors: the casting of the circle, the summoning of the Grigori (Watchers), the invocations to the gods and goddesses of Old, of the law of reincarnation, the Art of protective magic, and of the latent magic and healing powers within herbs.
She soon attracted the attention of the Church and fell into their disdain. The priests plotted against her making arrangements with mercenaries to have her arrested for heresy and sentenced to death.
Once located, they approached her mockingly, publicly humiliating and disgracing her before the peasants. Then, imprisoned, she was starved, beaten, and tortured. But on the day of her sentencing, Aradia was not found in her cell for in the night, she had traveled, as witches do.
Some time later, in the south of Rome, she resurfaced teaching and healing anew, but this time not without the utmost secrecy. Aradia traveled alone or with a small band, and night to night, she was sheltered under countless hosts.
On word of her appearance, the priests again sent mercenaries in her pursuit. But all those questioned denied that they knew anything of Aradia. And so the priests sent spies to dwell among the peasants. But she soon became aware of their presence and journeyed far back into the wooded hills, joining once again with the outlaws she had camped with around Nemi.
Some fellow travellers, passing through one of their forest camps, came across Aradia as she was sitting with her disciples. She saw that they were joyful to encounter her and she stood to them saying:
“Blessed be the free in Spirit and they who love without profit.
For love is the greatest attainment. It is the gift of the Spirit’s blessing.
Therefore never betray a love, nor deceive one.
Love each other and care for each other, and for each thing, with the heart and soul of a poet. Strive to see the world as does the artist. Go, seek, and capture the beauty which is there.
And take care that you hurt not even one that is among you.
But love, and live, to the fullest, in awareness and compassion in the minds and hearts and souls of everyone around you. Live in peace.”
Many people began to question one another concerning Aradia. Her disciples came to her and said: “My Lady, some say you are a prophetess, and some say you are a Magus. What shall we tell them?”
Picking up a handful of earth, she proclaimed:
“I am the Daughter of the Sun and the Moon. I am the Earth.
I am the love of freedom, which is the love of the gods.
And whoever shall find themselves as this, the same shall know themselves as a child of the Mother and Father who indwell all things.”
A pair of spies from the Church eventually found their way into one of their camps, and posing as fellow gypsies, went undetected. The following day one of them approached Aradia, and interrupted her morning practices, asking of her:
“Lady, we know that you are a holy one. Tell us of the God from which your power comes.”
In reply, she queried:
“Though men shall call upon many gods, there is but One, Who is the many.
A man in his life is called by many names. Some may know him as Father, or a friend. To some he may be an enemy or a brother, and to another a cousin.
Yet is he still not one?”
The other spy then joined:
“The priests tell us that God is male, and that women must submit to men. What do you say?”
She rose in reply:
“Does not even Nature show you, in all ways, that all is equal? In all flora and fauna, there is male and female. Who among you can truly say which is more important? One cannot be without the other.
The priests tell what they have been told. It is with they who are above the priests that the truth is known, and hidden.
There are many greedy and power-hungry men who profit from the Church. It is better for them to control with false teachings that restrict and threaten independence from the priesthood.”
The pair returned to the priests, repeating her words to them and they were infuriated, spreading lies far and wide.
A heightened search was carried out and as Aradia and her band were in the midst of moving camp, a gang of mercenaries surrounded and captured them, forcing them to go with them to Rome where they would be faced with charges of high treason and heresy.
As they journeyed, a large assembly of outlaws approached, the leader of whom had once been a slave Aradia had once sheltered and shown directly the secrets.
He and his men enveloped the mercenaries amidst the trees and on seeing their impending peril, they surrendered Aradia and her followers.
Conjoining, the two bands of outlaws made their way back into the protection of the forest and set up camp.
That night she chose twelve disciples from among them, six male and six female.
Leading them to a clearing, Aradia decreed:
“With you I now re-establish the Old Religion.
Know that there are others who still live and love in the ways of their ancestors. Seek them out and tell them the Mother is with Child, and they will understand my meaning. Seek out also they who will come to follow us."
And the disciples asked her:
“Who is this Child? Tell us of her.”
“The infant is the Child of Mother Earth. She shall be known as that which is Reason and Wisdom. She shall come to the world and deliver all people of all nations from the rule of kings, and of authorities. In this Age of the Daughter, great changes shall manifest, such as the Earth has never known. This shall be a time of renewal.”
“When shall this occur?”
“The dawning of the Age will be signaled by the Will of the Daughter.
Her words will be heard among the words of men.
Then women shall walk in the ways of men, and the law shall know no difference. When this occurs the Age has begun.
And my prophet shall then restore my teachings, making ready the dawn of the Age for she who will come. And in the year of this prophet’s birth there shall be a sign for which all witches may rejoice. For this year shall be the rebirth of the Old Religion.
Yet before this time there shall be death among our people.
The time is near when my followers shall be taken before the courts. And know they shall persecute you.
But the Age of the Son shall draw to an end, giving way to the Age of the Daughter.
You have heard the priests tell you of hell and of damnation. But I say to you, believe not in such things. For the Spirit of the Great One is Love, and love damns not, but blesses.
For a Father’s and Mother’s love does not forget the child, nor does it put one child away and keep the other.”
Aradia and her disciples went again out into the villages and towns to heal the sick and teach the Old Religion, even though they feared for their safety.
Through means of deception, mercenaries accompanied by several priests finally succeeded in locating Aradia and entered the cottage she had stayed the night.
Realizing she was cornered, Aradia looked upon them sternly, saying:
“I rebuke you, and cast you out from the people because you teach punishment and shame to those who would free themselves from the slavery of the Church.
These symbols and apparel of authority that you bear serve only to hide the nakedness in which we are all equal.
You say that you serve your God, but you serve only your own fears and restrictions.”
A third time, Aradia was seized and taken back to Rome, her disciples taking refuge among the peasants in the town of Benevento.
While in prison, a certain guard was very moved by her beauty and charm and Aradia allowed him to come to her as a lover.
On the eve of her execution, she persuaded him to take her into the courtyard, so she could pray by the light of the Moon.
As she knelt, a storm began to gather from the West with great fury, and before she could be led back to her cell, a tremendous quake shook the prison to the ground stone by stone.
Seven days later, Aradia appeared in the camp of the forest outlaws and everyone was in rapture because it was reported that she had died.
She would not speak to them concerning this, and gathering together those disciples who still sought to follow her, she left the forest, journeying with them into the hills near Nemi.
When they had settled for the night, Aradia came to them and said:
“The time is now marked, and I shall remain with you for but a short while longer.”
She marked a circle upon the ground, spanning nine paces from the center. Once cast, she gathered her disciples into the circle, invoking the Power and giving the sacred Charge:
“When you have need of anything, gather then in some secret place and adore the Spirit of Me who am Queen of all Witches.
Within the circle of the Arts, secrets that are as yet unknown shall be revealed.
And ye shall be free from slavery, and as a sign, you shall be naked in your rites.
For Mine is the ecstasy of the Spirit and mine is also joy on Earth.
Your law shall be naught but love unto all.
Keep pure your highest ideal and strive ever towards it, let naught stop you or turn you aside.
For ours is the key to the mysteries and the cycle of rebirth, that which opens the door unto the womb of the Divine Union.
I am the Spirit of all Witches, which is joy and peace, and harmony.
In life, She reveals the knowledge of the Spirit, and in death does deliver you unto peace, renewing your life again.”
Aradia then instructed them:
“In memory of Her, you shall eat cakes of meal, salt, and honey shaped as the crescent of the Moon. Then shall you bless them and partake of them upon your sacred gatherings.
As of old, you shall hold sacred the first day of May and of August and also the eve of November, which is the time of Shadows. Of February shall you observe its second day.
Also shall you observe the Solstices of midsummer and midwinter and the Equinoxes of Spring and Autumn.
To all who observe these sacred times will the Queen of Heaven give the Power.
And you shall enjoy success in love.
And you shall have power to bless and to consecrate.
And you shall know the tongue of the spirits, obtain knowledge of hidden things, and raise forth the spirits from beyond the void.
You shall understand the voice of the wind, and the knowledge of the changing of forms.
To you shall the future be known and secret signs revealed.
And you shall have power to cure disease and bring forth beauty.
Wild beasts shall know you and cause you no harm.
Know that the Power is gained through Wisdom and that Wisdom is gained through understanding.
All living things are of female and male essence. See to it that you do not exalt the one without the other. Come to know both as to be complete for each is contained fully within each.
Blessed be the free in spirit. When you hate, or despair, or do not understand it is because you are not in balance with yourself or your surroundings. Here I do not speak of masculine and feminine but rather of elements and causes and forces. Seek first the balance, then you will understand, and understanding, you will surely overcome what you must."
Aradia let her garments fall, fully revealing herself to her disciples:
“In this, we are equal.”
She took the nearest by the hand and brought him beside her upon the ground and they joined in love. And soon each disciple was joined to the other in the most ancient rite upon the Earth.
The next morning, Aradia entrusted to them a scroll upon which she had written thirteen laws and also nine larger scrolls upon which she had written her life’s grimoire.
Preparing to depart, she said to them:
“With you I now establish a covenant, between you and me and likewise to all who shall come to follow once again in the Old Ways.
Soon you shall go forth among they who dwell outside the Ways, and you shall meet ignorance, fear, and misunderstanding. Therefore, protect yourselves, as I have shown you.
And you shall come upon many who truly seek to be one with the nature of all things. Teach all whom you find sincere and truly worthy. Yet take care that you do not become judgmental.
Keep your own manner of being separate, and do not expect everyone to be a likeness of yourself. Show love and warmth to all persons, for if you do not then many shall turn away from you. How then shall you serve the ways?
Know that your first allegiance is to the God and Goddess, your second allegiance is to the Old Ways, and the third is to witches all.
When you serve only yourself, you do not truly serve. For when you serve your own whims, there is no exchange and you cannot be in the balance.
For in life all things are equal. No thing is more important than any other thing.
And yet, all beings have the right to do what they must to survive. This is to the disadvantage of some, which becomes the essence for survival.
Who can speak against the order of things?
Live your life as you must, according to the laws I have given you.
Enjoy each day and long not for the next. The only certainty is now.
Do not become bitter or cold at the seeming harshness and unfairness of life, for love has the power to overcome all things.
Nothing lasts forever and nothing remains the same, for everything is even now moving toward that which it will become.
Therefore I tell you to observe the cycles of everything, within you and without you.
The Age of the Daughter is the final Age to dawn upon Earth.
The first Age was that of the Mother, when all people worshipped the Great Goddess. The second Age was that of the Father, and the third Age was that of the Son. Under the Mother there arose all goddesses and their cults. With the Age of the Father arose the gods which came to then dominate the female cults. It was then that the warrior cults began to rule the world. The dawning of the Son brought love and compassion to the world. From this Age arose the Holy Christ Spirit, but men clung to their stern Father God.
Now when the Age of the Daughter shall come, then shall reason be restored and the world shall be in balance.
To herald the coming of the Daughter, and to keep it remembered upon the Earth, every two hundred years there shall arise a prophet. And these prophets shall be great teachers, and breathe life into the Old Religion.
When the Age of the Daughter draws near, there shall be an awakening in the awareness of women, and their will shall be asserted. Laws will then change and women shall walk in the ways of men. And there shall be a time when the last of the laws which persecute and suppress us shall be removed. In that year all of Stregheria shall rejoice.
When the Age of the Daughter begins to replace that of the Son, then shall my prophet appear, and many shall call this one the Silent Prophet.
And then shall she appear who is to reestablish the way among our kind, and she will be thirty-six at this time.
She will come in power, for the Silent Prophet will have prepared the way.
As this Age progresses, great suffering shall befall the people of all nations.
And out of the ashes shall arise the new world of Wisdom. People shall no longer be ruled by governments. Nor shall one people oppress another. There shall be no rulers, but only teachers and counselors. No one shall possess power over another, nor shall anyone restrict or control any other person.”
All that day and into the evening Aradia spoke of future events and as the dawn began to break, she bid them farewell and directed them to depart in pairs, to heal and teach as she.
They travelled from village to village, thus instructed, and while in Benevento, there, prepared to meet in secret with the covens of Aradia to share with them the final words she had spoken and the knowledge of the sacred scrolls.
Aradia was not to be seen again by the people.
In the days that followed, her wisdom and beauty became known throughout all the land, and the peasants began calling her La Bella Pelegrina (The Beautiful Pilgrim.)
She walked the Earth in all beauty and strength, the Spirit of She who art ever-alive.
Here ends the Gospel of the Holy Strega.
released 22 June 2014
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