Benandanti

Hell Really Exists

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testified to being transported through the air to sABBATs on the backs of demons or the Devil, and to being thrown off to fall to the ground when a church bell sounded in the night.

Thunder and lightning storms were believed to be the work of witches and demons, and church bells also would be rung at an approaching storm in an attempt to dispel it. At someone's death, the tolling of the church bells helped the departing soul on its way to heaven and prevented evil spirits from interfering with the journey.

Church bells were baptized, named for saints and in some cases, ascribed human characteristics. Some were said to talk, ring on their own and sweat BLooD at the invasion of their community. Medieval Europeans believed that their church bells traveled to Rome on Good Friday; everyone stayed inside so as not to witness their flight from the belfries. A bell that missed the Good Friday pilgrimage brought bad luck to the community.

Shopkeepers hung bells over their thresholds, not so much to alert them to the entry of customers but to keep evil spirits from entering their premises.

The Necromantic Bell of Giradius. Bells have been used in rituals for summoning the dead. One such necromantic bell is that of Giradius. Eighteenth-century French instructions specified that the bell be cast from an alloy of gold, siLVER, fixed mercury, tin, iron and lead at the exact day and hour of birth of the person who intends to use it. The bell was to be inscribed with various astrological symbols and the magical words of Adonai, Jesus and the Tetragrammaton (see NAMEs of power).

The bell was to be wrapped in green taffeta and placed in the middle of a grave in a cemetery. It was to be left for seven days, during which time it absorbed certain vibrations and emanations. At the end of a week, the bell was properly "cured" for NECRoMANCY rituals.

FuRTHER READING:

Farrar, Janet, and Stewart Farrar. A Witches Bible Compleat.

New York: Magickal Childe, 1984. Thomas, Keith. Religion and the Decline of Magic. New York:

Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971.

benandanti Participants in the lingering remnants of an ancient agrarian cult in northern Italy, which came to the attention of the Inquisition in the late 16th century because of the cult's nocturnal battles with witches and warlocks over the fertility of the crops and livestock.

The term benandanti means "good walkers." The cult flourished in the Friuli region of Italy, an isolated area where Italian, German and Slavic traditions met and mingled. The benandanti were comprised of men and women born of the caul, that is, with the inner fetal membrane still covering the body, especially the head. This was a sign not only of the benandanti but of supernatural powers of HEALING the bewitched and the power to see witches.

Some benandanti saved their cauls and wore them about their necks as amulets or TALisMANs.

The benandanti were compelled to serve their villages during the Ember Days, the changing of the seasons marked by the solstices and equinoxes. At midnight, usually on Thursday but sometimes on Friday or Saturday of the Ember Days, they were summoned, sometimes by drums or, tradition has it, by angels. If they did not respond promptly and were late, they were severely beaten. They left their bodies, and their spirits assumed the shapes of butterflies, mice, cats and hares (see METAMoRPHosis). They went to the valley of Josaphat in the center of the world, where they met the army of witches and warlocks, also in spirit guises. The benandanti would be armed with stalks of fennel, renowned for its healing properties; the witches would be armed with sorghum stalks, a type of millet perhaps identified with brooms.

For an hour or several hours, the opposing spirit armies engaged in battle, beating each other with their stalks. If the benandanti won, the year's crops would be abundant. If the witches won, storms would plague the growing and harvesting seasons, and famine would ensue. After the "games," as the battles were called, the benandanti and the witches passed by houses looking for clean water to drink. If they found none, the witches entered the cellars and either overturned the wine casks, or drank the wine and urinated in the casks.

The spirits had to return to their bodies by cock's crow. If they did not, or if their bodies had been turned over onto their stomachs while their spirits were gone, they either had great difficulty re-entering them, or could not get back in at all. The spirits then were forced to wander the earth until their bodies' destined time of death arrived.

The origins of the benandanti cult are unknown; the roots are probably ancient. The leaving of the body and doing battle in spirit, in the guise of animals, is shamanic in nature. The benandanti may be an offshoot of the cult of DIANA, which was known in Italy from the end of the 14th century. Followers of Diana held peaceful sABBATs at night and were not associated with diabolical rites until later by the church. The rites of the benandanti had no similarities to the celebrated witches' sabbat but were entirely agricultural in intent, and were emotionally intense. The benandanti considered themselves soldiers of the good fight, preserving their crops and protecting their villages from the evildoing of witches. The cult persisted in spite of the magical/holy measures provided by the church to protect crops, such as the sprinkling of holy water over the fields, the erection of a cross and the processions and prayers on Rogation Days. Apparently, the benandanti believed their ways were more effective.

Though pagan, the cult had acquired Christian elements by the late 16th century. The benandanti went out in the service of Christ and God, to battle the agents of the Devil.

The benandanti came to the attention of the church in 1575, when a priest in Brazzano heard rumors of a man

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