Raven Grimassi is the author of several books on Wicca and Witchcraft, including The Wiccan Mysteries, which was awarded Book of the Year and First Place-Spirituality Book by the Coalition of Visionary Retailers in 1998.
Raven Grimassi was born in 1951 to an Italian immigrant who came to the United
States as a War Bride in 1946. The youngest of her three children, Raven was the
only one to fully embrace the Old Religion of Italy. Raven's training over the
years was a curious construction of a Catholic veneer fitted over archaic
elements of Italian folk magic, folk customs, and witchcraft. At age 13, Raven
shook off the surface coat of Catholicism. By age 18, it became Raven's passion
to deepen his study of the Old Religion in an attempt to unlock its innermost
secrets. In the summer of 1969 Raven discovered Wicca and was intrigued by the
similarities between it and the Italian Craft. Seeking out like-minded people
closer to his own age, Raven met a young woman who managed an Herb Shop in Old
Town San Diego. She introduced him to a woman who claimed to be a Gardnerian
Witch High Priestess called Lady Heather. She later initiated Raven into Wicca.
In 1974, Raven studied Wicca under Lady Sara Cunningham for the
traditional "year and a day". He then formed his own system of practice, which
was a blend of Lady Heather and Lady Sara's teachings mixed together with
elements of Italian Witchcraft. Raven then formed a small group known as the
Coven of Sothis, which operated for a few years in the San Diego area. In 1975
Raven became a member of the First Temple of Tiphareth and began a serious study
of the Kabbalah, a mystical Hebrew system. It was during his study of the
Kabbalah that Raven met and became friends with Donald Michael Kraig, author of
Modern Magick and Modern Sex Magick. That same year Raven was introduced to a
High Priestess and High Priest in the area. They became friends, and Raven was
initiated into their tradition of Brittic Wicca, a system claiming to be a blend
of Basque Witchcraft and English Wicca.
By the summer of 1979 Raven felt
that this period of exploration into Wicca was complete and he returned to the
sole practice of Italian Witchcraft. In the fall of 1979 he started
classes on the Italian Craft at Ye Olde Enchantment Shoppe in San Diego.
One of the people attending was Scott Cunningham. Raven and Scott became
friends, and in 1980, Scott was initiated into the Aridian Tradition of Italian
Witchcraft, a system formed by Raven that same year. Scott remained a
first degree initiate during his years of study with Raven. Three years
later Scott moved on from the Aridian Tradition in favor of a self-styled view
of modern Wicca.
In 1981, Raven wrote several booklets including The
Book of the Holy Strega, and a two volume set titled The Book of Ways, published
by Nemi Enterprises in San Diego, California. These books came to be
referred to as "the blue books" because of their covers. Many photocopy
versions of this book manifested and have been passed through the Craft
Community for many years. In 1983, Raven accepted initiation into the
Pictish-Gaelic Tradition in order to help preserve its teachings, but served as
a guardian of the material rather than a full participant in the
Raven currently lives in southern California and
divides his time between writing, directing the Arician Tradition, operating his
shop in Escondido California known as Raven's Loft, and spending time at Crow
Haven Ranch (the spiritual retreat shared by the Arician community). He is
devoted to preserving and teaching the Mystery Tradition of pre-Christian
Europe. Having been born on the festival day of the goddess Ceres (Patron
of the Mysteries), Raven maintains a shrine in her honor in the Arician Grove at
Crow Haven Ranch.
This information was provided by Raven Grimassi's
There is a wonderful array of information and articles there. Be sure to visit
when you can.
Mr. Grimassi, Thank you for joining us.
right in. When did you find your spiritual path? Can you tell us a little about
To me spirituality is a process that is always taking place around
me and within me. I've tried different religions/philosophies over the
years in an attempt to give spirituality some cohesive form of expression, or
perhaps a way to better define it in my life. In my late teens and early
20's I was drawn to Eastern Mysticism, and I've even explored Christian
Mysticism and the Kaballah. During this same period, I think it was around
1969, I became involved in Wicca. However, I was raised in a rather
archaic form of Italian folk magic and folklore, covered with a veneer of
Catholicism. This has been the way of the Streghe (Italian witches) for many
generations. I have always returned to the Strega Path despite my
wanderings, and have remained within its structure now since about 1979.
How has it inspired your life?
By definition the word "inspire"
means to be guided by divine influence, and Witchcraft has been for me a way of
living in accord with the way divinity expresses itself and communicates through
Nature and the cycles of the seasons. I see within Nature the imprint of
divine consciousness, the reflection of the artists that created Nature.
And so, by trying to live in common cause with Nature, I feel that I grow closer
to an understanding of the gods and the relationship we all have with them.
You come from generational witches, can you tell us a little about this?
When this comes up I always like to joke in response that I'm one of
those hereditary witches that everyone knows does not exist, practicing a bogus
family tradition with fraudulent claims of lineage dating back to the Middle
That one is a winner! LOL LOL
But the truth is that I come
from a line of Italian witches descended from a Strega woman named Caliente di
Tavani or Calenda di Tavani, I've heard it pronounced both ways over the
years. I'm 5th or 6th generation from her lineage, and it is said that her
Craft lineage dated back to the 14th century. The system we practice
originated in Tuscany, but my ancestors moved to the area of Naples about two or
three generations back. I often refer to what I was taught as "peasant
Witchcraft" because it has a lot of simplistic concepts, spells and
rituals. The system I practice was brought to the United States in 1946.
How has it inspired your life?
up moving every year to a different states because of my father's work, and it
was very difficult because I lost all of my friends every year. Eventually
I stopped trying to make any friends because it was so painful to leave them
behind. I spent many years basically alone. So, I guess I would have
to say that being a hereditary Witch shaped my sense of personal identity, and
gave me something that no one could take from me. However, since the
publication of my books, some people often try to deny me this because they
don't believe hereditary Witches exist, or they cannot afford to believe it
because of their own investments.
We all know
hereditary witches are alive and well in this world. If the lines really did die
out, then all of us as a whole are in trouble. LOL Do you feel growing up as a
hereditary witch has helped to mold your understanding with deity? Maybe a
stronger sense of the purpose?
If anything, I think it instilled in me a
greater sense of duty or obligation to pass things on. I liken it to an
experience I had years ago when a friend of mine gave me an ancient pottery
drinking cup dating to around 400 BCE. It was in almost perfect condition.
I told him I did not want it, and he asked me why. I replied that after
all these centuries I did not want to be the person who ended up breaking
it. But I did keep the cup, I'm not an idiot.
No, we wouldn't
suspect that at all! LOL I would have kept the cup myself.
We know that,
traditionally, witchcraft was born in Italy, can you tell us a little more about
the Strega Tradition?
The Strega Path is the Old Religion of
pre-Christian Europe. Residing within it are many of the Mystery teachings
that once flourished in Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. As it evolved,
the Italian Craft took on elements of rural folklore and folk magic, which is
what one would expect of an evolving tradition. The theology of Italian
Witchcraft is constructed around agrarian pagan society, meaning that the myths
and legends are rooted in planting, growing and harvesting. Some vestiges
of hunter-gatherer elements are still found in Italian Witchcraft as well, which
to me speaks of its great antiquity. In the early part of the 17th
century, an Italian Witch hunter named Francesco Guazzo described Italian
Witches as gathering in ritual circles traced upon the ground with beech wands,
and calling upon spirits of earth, air, fire and water.
How do you feel
it's different from the other paths?
I personally believe it's less
fragmented and contains less modern material. It also embraces ancestral
veneration, and some Italian systems have incorporated Catholic saints into the
When describing the Strega Path, you called it the "Old Religion of
pre-Christian Europe". I find it most common with the druids of pre-Christian
times. The similarities are strong. What are your views on this?
we really know very little about the ancient Druids. The vast majority of
material comes from ancient Greek and Roman writers, and some of this is not
very flattering. So I can't really speak to the similarities.
However, I would imagine a general commonality of thought and belief among
ancient pagans. People tend to think and to reason like people anywhere
you go on this planet. That's the good and the bad of it.
tell us what makes your chosen path now the right one for you at this time?
I would say because it gives me a sense of wholeness, balance, and inner
I have found during my own research and spiritual journeys that
Catholicism is mixed in with several pagan traditions, mainly the older
traditions like the Stregha and also in voodoun which, when mixed and brought to
the U.S., became Voodoo. Have you found other similarities in your research?
I think it's important to note that Catholicism "borrowed" a fair amount
of pagan traditions as it evolved. Therefore it is only natural to see a
commonality of various concepts in cultural sects that have been influenced by
Catholicism. I've seen it in some French traditions of Witchcraft, and it
is readily recognizable in traditions of the Caribbean, Central America and
You seem to have explored many different paths on your
journey. Do you feel you bring something from each of them to your belief
No, not to the tradition I practice. I try and keep
that as "pure" as I can. But I do integrate the things I encounter here
and there into my spiritual view of the larger picture.
some of your favorites if you don't mind. Can you tell our readers, who is your
favorite author, and why? What is your favorite book?
My favorite author
is Charles Godfrey Leland. I identify with his passion for the Old
Religion and his love of folklore. He was criticized and dismissed by the
"learned scholars" of his day, and I have shared this high honor as well since
becoming published. I also very much enjoyed the writings of Doreen
Valiente, and found in them a strong sense of love for the Old Ways. I had
the privilege of corresponding with her during the last couple of years she was
still alive. I've never before known such a gracious and humble lady.
What type of music do you like?
Well, this is sure to date
me...but my favorites are old bands like the Moody Blues, Buffalo Springfield,
Led Zeppelin, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Seals and Croft. I very much
like ballads now and softer music, something that speaks to the spirit. I
was a drummer in various rock bands when I was much younger, but those days are
long gone now. I still enjoy drum circles though, and have a couple of
nice hand drums.
Who is your favorite singer, and why?
really have a favorite, but these days I enjoy Loreena McKennitt among others.
Many of us born in the era of classic rock music are older now and do
tend to like gentler rhythms. Although we could still rock. LOL Do you feel it's
our evolving more than just age that brings us around to this side of the
I think, in part, it's natural to the aging process. We've
lived a longer life of stimulation than the younger folks and we enjoy something
more relaxing now. I think as we get older we tend to reflect upon our
lives more, and the lessons we've learned or have failed to learn. It's
hard to reflect to a heavy rock beat in the background, and it's impossible to
do it with rap music.
Do you watch TV? If so, what is your favorite show
I don't watch much TV anymore. I'm a big fan of Star
Trek, and I was a fan of the X-Files in the early days of production. I
still watch the Sopranos on HBO, and Sex in the City. My taste in movies
runs to films like Braveheart, Excalibur, and Dune. But I aso love old
black and white films like Harvey with James Stewart, and Bell, Book and Candle
with Kim Novak. I also love the old black and white horror films like
Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolf Man.
Also, who is your favorite
actor or actress?
I don't really have a favorite, and I like actors or
actresses for different and varied reasons. But I don't think I've ever
wanted to see a movie because a particular actor or actress was starring in it.
What is your favorite magazine and also e-zine and why?
afraid I have little time these days to read magazines or spend time on the
Internet. The vast majority of my reading time is spent on research for my
What is your favorite color?
Red, and black.
What is your favorite time of year, and why?
I love October,
always have. I lived in upper state New York for several years and very
much enjoyed the change of seasons. October has always had a special
feel. For me it always evoked, and invoked, a sense of the inner
What are some of your favorite hobbies and past-times?
I collect Dr. Strange comics and Vampirella comics, and have since I was
a teenager. I also collect witch figures and images. In the
past I worked with clay and made fantasy figures, supernatural beings, and
things of that nature.
And the last of these...What is your favorite
time on day or night?
It depends upon what I'm doing. But I do
love to watch the sun set, and the moon rise.
Who was the greatest
inspiration to you growing up, and who is now?
If you mean spiritual
inspiration, I would say various poets, the name Kahlil Gibran comes to
mind. I was moved by the words of song writers like Simon and
Garfunkel, Seals and Croft, and the words in Moody Blues songs. I was also very
fond of Bob Dylan's lyrics in the 60's. Today, I enjoy the writings of people
like Joseph Campbell.
Can you express your philosophy of life to us?
Yes, participate fully in your life, and don't sit back and be a willing
Who are your favorite Deities, or rather the ones you feel
The Goddess Diana and the God Dianus.
What is the
main thing you have learned from being an author?
How much I never knew
and have still yet to learn.
Please take us
step by step through your books, what inspired you to do each?
my first book - Ways of the Strega - at the urging of friends, and I suppose to
see if I could do it. My second book - The Wiccan Mysteries - I wrote
because I felt a need to provide material for those who wanted something more
indepth on the Craft than what was available in the popular realm. Wiccan
Magick was an attempt to demonstrate that magick is a metaphysical science, and
not a bunch of "mumbo-jumbo." In Hereditary Witchcraft, I wanted to
preserve some of the older teachings of Witchcraft before it all disappeared
beneath the abundance of the self-styled Craft material that has become the norm
today. My book, Italian Witchcraft, was a new and expanded edition of Ways
of the Strega. I wrote Beltane at the request of my Publisher, as part of
a series on the Sabbats. I wrote the Encyclopedia of Wicca and Witchcraft
in order to help others who wanted to research the Craft, its concepts, and its
history. It was intended to be a community resource.
several of your books. I find your writing style not only in depth without being
boring, but also enlighteningly unique. You can see the time and effort you put
into them. For instance, Encyclopedia of Wicca and Witchcraft; this book is very
thorough and I reference it often during my own research. It's 470 pages. How
long did it take you to research and write this book?
I think I was
writing this particular book most of my life, but it took me about a year to do
the data entry for the manuscript. I've always kept notes on my studies
and research through the years. With the computer, I have a huge file with
topics and I add information to each topic whenever I do research. So, for
example, If I'm researching the occult properties of a plant, and I find
something in the material related to a charm, a planet, a star, or to some
regional folklore item, then I make entries in my file under each individual
related topic. So when the day comes that I reference my file for a
certain topic like a specific herb, I find everything I ever encountered on this
herb as well as a multitude of references to other related topics. Each
related topic also contains entries of other things related to it, and allows me
to cross-reference to things I never originally knew were related. It's
quite enlightening to see how interwoven all this stuff is, which I believe
demonstrates how unlikely it was that one or two people created the religion of
witchcraft back in the 1950's.
What kept you
going on it?
I just have a passion for this, and I love to share
information and lore. I believe my magical training gave me the mental
discipline to be a writer.
What was your inspiration at the time to
write the Encyclopedia?
The abundance of misinformation that passes for
fact in our community. Collectively, we've been sloppy with our research
and history in the past, and it's cost us credibility. I wanted to try and
begin to turn the tide back in our favor.
I also have read your book,
Wiccan Magick. There are many Wiccan books on the market. Can you tell our
readers why this one is different?
It's one of the few that explains why
things work. It presents magick as a metaphysical science. Most
books today simply tell the reader how to do things, but give no foundation.
With your book, Italian Witchcraft, did you think it would be as popular
as it turned out to be?
No, I pretty much thought it would be just
another addition to the books on various traditions. But, I'm finding an
ever increasing interest in Stregheria around the country as I travel.
Your book, Beltaine, is wonderful! What was
your inspiration for it?
I wrote it at the specific request of my
publisher to be part of the series on the Sabbats.
Do you plan on doing
anymore books on the individual Sabbats?
No, I have no plans for this.
Of all your books to date, which is your
favorite, and why?
Wiccan Mysteries is still my favorite. because of the
nature of the Mysteries themselves, it gave me more freedom as a writer to
create the text. When I write about a specific tradition, I'm more
confined within its scope.
With your new book The Witches' Craft; do you
have a release date on it yet?
At this time it is scheduled for release
in November of 2002.
What do you hope each reader will walk away with
after reading your books?
A sense of the greater depth of the Craft, and
a realization that things are not so black and white as they have been lead to
believe. I hope that something in my writings will be of some value to
them, and that a love of the Old Ways will be awaken or be strengthened.
What is the one thing that you hope each of us would learn?
truth lies in both what is apparent AND what is hidden. One cannot know
the whole truth without knowledge of both halves.
Can you tell us what
the book you are working on now is about?
Yes, I'm working on a book
with a tentative title of The Witches' Craft. It's about the art of
As you look back and see the roads your journey of
life has taken you down, where would like to see it go next?
It is my
desire to someday open a Mystery School for the Craft, complete with State
accreditation. I would like to provide a place for people to come and
train to be priests and priestesses of the Old Religion. I would like to
provide an environment in which people can study a variety of texts, both old
and new, earn a degree, and take their rightful place among the "credible"
figures of other religions of the world.
Mystery School for the Craft. I
think this is something that has been needed in the U.S. for many years. Do you
feel at this time that it can happen, and do have a time frame on it?
Regretfully, it's years away. But it is a definite goal.
Money is always a factor, and I'll need to think of ways to raise the funds.
If you have learned one thing in your experience, can you tell us what
this has been?
Walk your path whether the road is smooth or covered with
pitfalls or jagged rocks. Accept the disfavor and mistreatment others
bestow upon you, as being part of what you must endure. Speak your truth
and don't let anyone deny it to you. Be true to the Path you have decided
If you could change one thing from your journey what
would this have been?
To change one thing would be to change everything
that followed. I would not deny myself the lessons of darkness, because
without them I would not know the light.
What would you like to
accomplish before your next journey?
Preparedness for the trip...
You seem to have touched on so many different topics with your books.
What topic have you yet to do that you would find interest in? Do you see this
happening in the near future?
I feel that part of my soul contract is to
complete my compendium of the works of Charles Leland on Italian
Witchcraft. I have another significant work designed for the average
person in mainstream society, but I can't go into it at this time in order to
protect the concept until the manuscript is in the hands of a publisher.
How do you feel this book will be different from the others?
feel my Leland book will be more of a scholarly work and folklore text, than
what I've done to date.
You mentioned you're not able to be on-line much
at this time. Are you still producing your magazine Raven's Call?
put the magazine to rest in August 2001.
Can you tell us about Clan
Umbrea that you founded?
Clan Umbrea is the body of initiates that
comprise membership in our Tradition. We come from all walks of life and
Is there anything else that you would like to
add to our interview?
I would just like to express my sincere
appreciation to all my readers. Your support of my books allows me to live
my bliss as a writer, and for that I thank you so very much.
Mister Grimassi, you have been a pleasure! Would you come back and interview
with us again in the future?
My pleasure, thank you for thinking to
include me in your publication. It would be an honor to meet again.
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