After returning from 15 extraordinary days giving workshops and presentations from Milan down to Palermo on my books The Cult of Divine Birth in Ancient Greece and Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity, I have news that will be thrilling to those of you who consider yourselves Sacred World Servers: Finally, after nearly 2000 years, the priestesses are reincarnating on the soil of Italy and Sicily. These women are alive, well, awake, and growing in number. Like contemporary priestesses around the world, including many of you reading this post, they venerate and serve a wide range of deities. But what is particularly fascinating for those of us who gravitate toward the Mediterranean tradition is that quite a number of them are strongly embracing their ancestral goddesses and gods.
I witnessed intense and moving devotion to Hera/Juno, Athena/Minerva, Artemis/Diana, Demeter/Ceres, Persephone/Kore; to Sirens and Nymphs called affectionately by their specific names; even to gods like Apollo, Aries/Mars, Dionysus, and more.
As in days of yore, each priestess has her favorites, the ones who have called her and the ones she calls. And in contrast to many Euro-Americans, who are cut off from their DNA homes through colonization, these women are connected organically to place: the Sibyl’s lair at Cumae, the many sacred power spots and temples in Rome, the temple to Diana at Nemi, the erstwhile Isis temple in Turin, Demeter’s rock at Enna in Sicily, churches built over sacred sites, locations of witch burnings, and the list goes on.
Imagine, refugees, your double helix vibrating in time with the land under your feet! Interestingly, my trip coincided with the resignation of the Pope… just two days before I left for Italy (not to mention the circus-like atmosphere of the Italian elections, which happened two days before I returned). Many people were taking that startling event at the heart of Western patriarchy as a sign that the Old Walls are crumbling because they NEED to.
People were also struck by the synchronicity of the timing with my coming to Rome to talk about both divine birth as a real priestess practice as well as to present information on the oracular priestesshoods of Delphi and Dodona. The overall feeling was that something spooky was definitely going on, and that this is indeed the moment for Sacred Women to step up, step out, say “no more,” and create a new agenda. Time to take the Papal Bull by the horns!
What Are These Italian Priestesses Doing?
Like many of us, these Italian priestesses communicate with their deities and ancestors on behalf of themselves, others, and the world, make offerings, and follow their instructions. They open portals. They channel, give prophesy, and bring guidance and healing through a whole host of means familiar to all of us – Reiki, psychic readings, astrology, tarot, runes, sacred dance, etc., etc., etc. Some of them even… and those of you familiar with my books and teachings will not flinch… have tantric relations with male deities. And they are learning.
They deeply sense they are the souls of the Pythias of Delphi, the Sibyls of the various specific locations throughout the ancient world, the so-called “nymphs” who were really Dakini-like women who knew how to move between the worlds. Many of them know or sense they are also the reincarnates from ancient Avalon, Atlantis, Lemuria, Egypt, Tibet, and well beyond. Post-2012, they are flocking back to the ancient posts to reassume their roles both in their homeland and abroad wherever they have resonances.
But those whose flesh walks in sync with land of their ancestors have a special, deeper power of knowing and memory than I have seen among the rest of us who have appropriated foreign soil. It is thus a particularly moving and instructive experience to be among them.
Remembering Who We Are
I was honored these last two weeks to come to Italy as a teacher, bringing my own particular flavor, which contains elements drawn from my academic research and personal/spiritual explorations, combined with my own Pugliese/Sicilian roots, the fresh air of American freedom, and my knowledge (though rusty) of Italian language. A daughter of these lands myself, I helped remind them of Who They Are, and in so doing, they Reminded Me of Who I Am.
The material I shared about divine birth and the ancient oracles was deeply received and appreciated, affirming what they already sensed or knew, but also helping them go to new levels. I was impressed with the work these women have already done to take priestessing to new levels. They are accessing their knowing, journeying to the Otherworld, exploring the Shadow, and more.
A journalist named Valentina Minoglio started me off well at the beginning of my trip by writing an article about me that has since been read, appreciated, and shared widely on Facebook, entitled, “Priestesses from Past and Future: Time to Wake Up” (“Sacerdotesse tra Passato e Futuro: Tempo di Sveglarsi”)
This trip was a moment some 12 years in the making. For, in 2001 I had completed my master’s thesis on sacred sites to Demeter and Persephone of Enna and Lake Pergusa in Sicily wondering: Where are those who still love these goddesses and who want to save their sacred lake, which is being “raped” just as Persephone was? (For some of my writings on this, go HERE ). Now, they are emerging.
One editorial house in Sicily may be interested in publishing that master’s thesis, so at long last we will be able to raise consciousness and support the environmental campaign to save Persephone’s sacred lake, Lake Pergusa in Sicily, with new vigor among the next generation.
Re-Attaching Medusa’s Head – They Were into It!
Prior to my trip, during Jan and Feb men and women in more than 16 Italian cities joined forces with Valeria Trisoglio, a priestess, writer & my translator, to follow up on my call to create rituals to “re-capitate” Medusa. This culminated in the ritual I joined them for in Milan on Feb 14, just after the rousing One Billion Rising in the Piazza del Duomo in Milan and all over the world. These people have felt deeply the travesty for all women that was Medusa’s beheading, and they have understood the esoteric import of re-attaching her head publicly, over and over, in ritual format.
See HERE for photos and a moving short clip of the end of our ceremony.
What’s Made This Movement Happen?
Amazingly, the Italian priestess movement is but a scant ten years old. And I must not overlook the fact that the movement includes men. They are an integral part of those who identify as “pagan,” or “wiccan” – although, as in the U.S. and elsewhere, these streams are only one part of this vibrant renaissance. From the northern region of Trentino all the way down the boot and beyond to Sicily, the men are also there as strong leaders and allies helping to propel forward greater consciousness on the planet.
A great deal of credit for the inspiration behind these movements goes to elder Luciana Percovich. From her post as a scholar, in addition to authoring her own work in this regard, she has kept a keen eye on the literature being produced by goddess scholars all over the world, particularly in the U.S. and U.K., cherry picking the volumes and valiantly petitioning Italian editorial houses to publish them. Due to translations now being available – and demanded — in growing numbers, Italians are receiving the sparks of information they need to turn their whole minds aflame.
In step with this, various authors, such as Phyllis Curott, Janet Farrar, Vicki Noble, Starhawk, Kathy Jones, and others, men included, have come to Italy as teachers, opening paths and opening minds. And this is not to neglect the remarkable work of Italians themselves, such as Michela Zucca, Momolina Marconi, Sarah Perini, and others. And of course I must honor one of my mentors, Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum, who, in turn, has pointed me and so many others back to Italy with her studies of Black Madonnas and feminism in Italy. A nod also to my friend Mary Beth Moser, who just defended her remarkable dissertation on women’s indigenous wisdom in the region of Trentino. (This list is not intended to be complete, but merely to honor those I’m aware of — apologies to anyone inadvertently left out!).
And… Tante Grazie…
My deepest thanks go to Genevieve Vaughn, Luciana Percovich, and Sarah Perini for having helped get the Italian translation of my first book published, and to Vicki Noble, who has helped cultivate in Italy a wonderful group of spiritually sophisticated, hearted women. Infinite grazie also to my incredible workshop producers Valeria Trisoglio (also my book and workshop translator), Morena Luciani, Sarah Perini, Dario Pastore, and Laura Petrinelli, all powerful priestesses and priests themselves, as well as to Federica Carmana, who served as my translator in Turin, and Maurizia Merati, who created an amazing Medusa for V-Day! Again, gratitude to Valentina Minoglio for her wonderful article, which helped introduce me to many through Facebook. In addition, gratitude to Daniela Degan, Alberto Castagnolo, and Mirco Horvath for their gracious hospitality and warm support. And thanks and admiration to the scores of women and men I met in my talks and workshops who are also doing The Work with heart and soul. (Di nuovo, mi dispiace se ho dimenticato qualcuno.) Se c’e’ qualcuno qui vuole tradurre questo blog post in Italiano per Facebook, mi farebbe molto piacere… Coraggio, tutti!
Marguerite Rigoglioso, Ph.D.
Seven Sisters Mystery School