I was not born in the Abruzzo. I was born in Keene, NH, the daughter of a second generation Italian American. I am not Italian but half of my ancestors are all from the same village in the Abruzzo: Torre de’ Passeri.
My journey back to the roots of my Italian lineage as a Strega is told in my books and many blog posts. So, if you are interested you can find it there.
More recently, in a divination I received from Amy Tanzman Palmer, I was tasked with creating and carrying out eight rituals for the wheel of the year emphasizing my Italian roots. I will do this over the course of a year at the end of which I will be initiated into “The Order of the Moon.”
I will share this journey here as I create each one, custom tailored (to the best of my ability and research skills) to my ancestral Abruzzesi-Italian legacy complete with my own feminist and modern twists. I will publish them a week before the event in case you wish to do a ritual of your own inspired by them where you live.
Check out Theresa’s new class for 2022 here
What’s the wheel of the year?
Quarter and Cross-Quarter Days—The Wheel of the Year
This division of the Earth year is observed by humans globally. There are varying names for these days but the basic idea is the demarcation and ritual honoring of solstices and equinoxes and the halfway points between.Dates listed are where they roughly fall every year. The Southern Hemisphere is reversed for seasons.
(Different cultures viewed the beginning of the year at different seasons. Some celebrated it at the spring equinox, others at the autumnal equinox.) Below I list general dates followed by the Italian infused celebration I plan to host, then in parentheses, the more traditionally known names.
February 2-5: Feast of Sant’ Agata (Imbolc/Candlemas/Groundhog Day)
March 20/21: Celebration of the Goddess Prosperina (Spring Equinox/Easter/ Passover)
May 1: Feast of Snakes with San Domenico & Angitia (Beltane/May Day)
June 20-24: Feast of San Giovanni, June 24 (Summer Solstice)
August 2: Festival of Ops (Lammas/Lughnasad)
September 21/22: Goddess Ceres Grain and Harvest Festa (Autumnal Equinox)
October 31/November 1: All Saints Day (Samhain/Hallowmas)
Dec 21/22: Winter Solstice
Raven Grimassi teaches that in Italy the wheel of the year is called the Treguenda (tray-gwen-dah) meaning quarterly or every three months. He also reports that in his understanding of the Italian tradition, the cross quarter days are spiritual days and the equinoxes and solstices are earth rites.
What do I mean by custom tailored to my ancestral Abruzzesi-Italian legacy and complete with my own feminist and modern twists?
For example, I understand that most of the Catholic Saints were once Roman Goddesses and Gods, and that almost all Roman Goddesses and Gods were taken from the Greek. So if I see the story of the Saint being honored, I am inclined to search for the Roman Goddess it was merged with and try to understand the deeper roots of the pagan tradition underneath.
Many saints and traditions in the Abruzzo are intensely local to place and events in the local history and in these cases, one cannot find direct references to Roman or Greek or even popular European Celtic references. In this case we can remember that traditions in indigenous cultures mostly arise out of the ecosystem itself. These we can finds hints toward or direct references to in the local folk tales and traditions. Many have a lot to do with climate, local animals and places: mountains, trees, caves and forests. Others are survival instructions. And once people believed, I mean really believed, in magic which includes shapeshifting, spirits, ghosts and elemental beings.
Food is and always has been huge in the traditions of Italy and the Abruzzo and so that cannot be separated out of celebrations of local customs and holy days. The food was the medicine and the cooking of certain foods at certain times had deep meaning and organic connection to the land. That is another way back in. Food, costumes, folk tales and dances, songs and stories.
The feminist and modern twists you will notice as we move through each particular festa. Especially in this first one, the Feast of Sant’ Agata. Imagine my delight when I found this saint and her celebrated feast. But more about that in the next post.
**moon photo credit: Ganapathy Kumar on Unsplash