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Friday, September 28, 2012

News for our customers!

News for our customers -

Mike and I have been extremely busy redesigning our business model, improving the technical specs of our various website projects, and giving the sites a "makeover". Our goal is to have the redesigns up and running by the beginning of October. I can't guarantee that it will be up for October 1st, but it should be live sometime during the first week of October.

Currently we have Arsenic & Old Lace for our main commerce site, tarot readings, and resources. Unfortunately, at a commerce focused site, the Tarot Readings and Resource Section tended to get lost. To add to that, we have StregaCrafts as our "boutique shop", what seems like dozens (!) of "homepages" on various Pagan Community and forum sites, and finally, Vinnie's blog (of occasionally interesting things) at blogspot.com.

Until now, we've felt like we were spread all over the place with no real connection between our various projects: go to blogspot for Vinnie's blog, go to X Community Site for discussions, go to Arsenic & Old Lace for occult supplies, go to StregaCrafts for custom products, go a subsection of Arsenic & Old Lace for resources (book reviews, blogs, etc.), go to yet another subsection of Arsenic & Old Lace for Tarot Readings, etc.

Rather than have one or two really "busy" sites, we're breaking things down into several discrete and less busy sites that will be dedicated to specific purposes:

Arsenic & Old Lace (http://www.arsenic.com) will become our main "portal" site to all of our other activities and products with a "universal menu bar" to help folks navigate our offerings. From here, folks will be able to find links to whatever we're working on.

http://www.OneStopOccultShop.com will become our main Occult and Witchcraft commerce site carrying over 7500 products of major brands like Anna Riva, AzureGreen, 1618Gold, etc.

http://www.StregaCrafts.com will be for our hand-made crafts and custom magic products;

http://www.VinnieRusso.com will focus on Vinnie and his Tarot Consulting;

and http://www.Streghe.US will be dedicated to resources, book reviews, blogs, and article with future plans to integrate forums and members' pages. If you have suggestions for content, or would like to contribute content, then please let us know!

This will be a long-term, ongoing project and we're open to your suggestions!

Ciao,

---Vincenzo

Monday, September 24, 2012

Resources and Reviews

Ciao a tutti,

There is so much going on for us right now that I almost don't want to take the time to write a post!

Here is it:

We're almost ready to unveil the new portal and resource site. One of the things that I really want on the new resource site is all of the reviews that Mike Gleason has sent me over the years.  I think that he put in so much effort to give good reviews of available books and resources that it would be a nice way of remembering him by having a place on the web where his work lives on.

It's a lot of work.  I'm in the process of converting all 327 of the reviews that he had previously sent me. It's more work than I expected.  I have to open each one in a word processor, add "Review (c) Mike Gleason", and convert the saved file into a PDF.  Once that is done, I'll work on creating a page on the new site to be a home for Mike's reviews.

That's it for now, I really want to get back to work and make this happen!

Benedizioni,

---Vincenzo

P.S.  If you have any of Mike's reviews, please let me know what you have.  I'm sure that I've missed some and I'd like to have a comprehensive library of his work.  Grazie!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hereditary Witches...


Ciao a tutti,

I was just asked the question:
"What is your take on hereditary witches?"

It made me think.  Really think.  I had never really given it much though.  I suppose that in order to have a discussion on hereditary witches, we have to go back to my favorite thing - coming up with a common language and description/definition for the words and terms we are using.

Using the dictionary as my guide...

First, there are different types of hereditary that we can talk about.  There is the type of hereditary that refers to information and customs that are "genetically transmitted" or transmittable from parent to offspring. The there is the type of lore that is characteristic of or fostered by one's predecessors (via inheritance or by reason of birth). Finally, there is the type of lore that "hereditary" of a kind that is established by tradition .

Second, when we use "witch" in this context, it can mean many things from a practitioners of pagan religious faith/spirituality/practice, to folk customs and other cultural identifiers, to magickal practices. Often, the "lore in question" is usually confined to social unit whether that be a family, town, region, or national culture.

Given the whole wealth of combinations of the above descriptions, "hereditary witch" can mean quite a few things!  Hereditary witchcraft could even be an accurate description for a *modern* system that is consciously developed/invented/reinvigorated and intentionally passed for several generations through either through blood lines or through intentional inheritance. Personally, I'm seeing this more and more.

Generally speaking, I find that when people refer to hereditary witches, they are referring to a body of witchcraft lore and practices handed down to offspring over several generations. Personally, I think that is what is being refered to when most folks talk about "hereditary witches".  So...

Do I personally believe that there are people who come from families (blood or chosen) that have preserved (or re-enlivened) witchcraft lore?  Yes.

Do I personally believe that there are "families" (for lack of a better term) who have preserved their lore and continue to pass it. Yes.

Do I think that it is likely that there are "families" that transmit their lore and system of practices from generation to generation. Yes, absolutely.

Do I think that it is likely that there are "families" that transmit ancient, whole, intact systems of practices that have been passed *unchanged from generation to generation* for *untold aeons*? Unlikely but possible when phrased that way. My issue is with the *unchanged from generation to generation* and the *untold aeons* time frame parts.

Why? Well, especially with oral traditions, it is inevitable that there will be cultural, generational, and communicative "drift". This is apparent when you study immigrant cultures and how things do change, even after only 1 or 2 generations, often unnoticed. Later generations are under the impression that nothing has changed because the change tend to happen very slowly (i.e. can't see the forest through the trees syndrome). That's why I have a hard time with *unchanged from generation to generation* and the *untold aeons*. Partially because witchcraft tends to be "society based" or culturally based and the culture that we have now is not the same that was 100 years ago and that is different from the culture 1000 years before that.

I know quite a few people who believe that they are from a long line of hereditary witches and have been passed lore that has remained intact and unchanged for generations - some, *externally* verifiable for more than 100 years. Some claim a far greater time frame.  Then again, "for generations" (at least to me) is very different from "untold aeons". :-)

I certainly know people who have practices and lore that is quite similar to those of ancient Greece and pre-Italy and are totally sincere in who they are and what they do.

I think it's more likely that our perceptions are that there hasn't been any change in the transmission from "ancient times" but that the changes have been slow and subtle.  People being people, changes in culture would seem to dictate that at least SOME of an entire body of lore would be changed as a result of the changes cultures over time. Even so, I think that hereditary witchcraft can be both valid (does it work and it is relevant to the practitioners) and authentic (is it what is says it it).

However, my opinion shouldn't impact either the validity or the authenticicty of someone else's system. :-)

Benedizioni,

---Vincenzo

Monday, September 10, 2012

American Traditional Witchcraft

So, my friends, what is American Traditional Witchcraft?

I've been mulling this around for a couple weeks now and I find it quite fascinating.  No two people that I've spoken to use same definition - or even close to the same description!

In this context:
American means the people and cultures residing in America, specifically the U.S.A.
Traditional means pretty much the dictionary definition -
1
a : an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom) b : a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable
2
: the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction
3
: cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions
4
: characteristic manner, method, or style tradition
and in this context, Witchcraft means a system of magic (as a spirituality or set of practices), generally based in a culture or sub-culture.

Now, I know that not everyone will totally agree with the above but at least it is a starting point.  If we take the above as a working description, then American Traditional Witchcraft is incredibly diverse with many different cultures harmoniously contributing to something uniquely American.

That got me thinking.  There are so many people looking for something from "the Old Country" or some form of external verification of "what really was done".  Why aren't modern Pagans in the U.S.A. looking to what is right under our noses?

It's almost as if they don't realize the immense value of what is already here.

The U.S.A. is a country build on the fabric of the diversity of the immigrants from many countries and cultures who came before us. Each of the cultures and sub-cultures that has contributed to the greater syncretic culture that we call American Culture.  This is equally true of many "American based" forms of Witchcraft.

I found this interesting bit here:
  • Magic was done as early as the 1700’s in the Appalachian Mountains by those of Scottish and Irish heritage, and is more commonly called Appalachian Granny Magic, kitchen witchery, hedge witch craft or Ozark Folk Magic.
  • Magic was done since the time of slavery in the south from South Carolina to Texas by those of African heritage. These practices are more commonly known as Hoodoo, Conjure and Rootwork.
  • Magic was done in the 17th and 18th centuries in Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvanian Dutch, German settlers. This is known as powwow magic, braucherei, or hexenkraft.
  • Magic was done as by fisherman of Sicilian and Portugese heritage along our sea coasts, particularly in California, Louisiana, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.  This is known as Stregheria, or witchcraft.
  • Brujeria, Americans of Spanish colonial heritage in the South West and West.
  • Scandinavian Folk Magic in Minnesota and Wisconsin, from Sweden, Norway and other Scandinavian countries.
  • Native American practices and influences.
  • More recently Chinese and Japanese folk magic.

Perhaps American Traditional Witchcraft can be described as Witchcraft practiced in the U.S.A. that has a specific connecting to the culture, people, and lore of the practitioners' ancestral homeland (often through successive generations of Immigrants and their descendants) yet strives for a balanced and harmonious blending with being part of the modern day culture of America?

In my case, the personal questions that this raises are -

When does something go from being Stregheria (Italian Witchcraft, practiced within Italian culture)

to American Stregheria (Italian Witchcraft practiced as part of Italian culture in America)

to becomming Italian-American Stregheria (Italian based Witchcraft practiced as part of Italian-American culture in America)

to becomming American Traditional Witchcraft (syncretic traditions of American Culture/Magic with the Ancestral culture, usually through several generations starting with immigrating to the U.S.A).

And finally, does it matter except to help us find a common language?

Perhaps I am over thinking it.  I welcome your thoughts and personal insights into what I believe is a fascinating group of Traditions and traditional practiced that is right under our collective noses.

Benedizioni,

Vincenzo

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mail issues... again

I was thinking of doing a blog post on the nature of ethics, civics, and morals but I'm not in a headspace to do that at the moment.  At a later date, remind me to tackle that topic.

All week, I've been struggling with our mail server on both a business front and on a personal front.  We host our own website as well as our mail servers but it is time to change.  As many of you know, this years we have had MAJOR technical issues with our mail including having all of our mail mysteriously disappear or become corrupted.  Well, it just happened again.We've tried everything to recreate the last several days of missing or corrupted messages but we just can't get anywhere with the SmarterMail program.

Over the next few days, I will begin to migrate our mail and the mail servers over to a new provider.  If you send email and don't hear back, please try again or send us a post at Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ArsenicAndOldLace).   (The hosting of the website will stay put as the hosting company is fantastic and all the coding was done by Mike.)

We should be done with the email migration by Monday.

Thanks for your patience and understanding~