Sunday, August 24, 2008

Val Camonica witch trials

I'm basing this entry on three items: 1) the new Wikipedia page for the "Val Camonica witch trials," 2) an extension of my earlier entry entitled "Strange Occultic Tradition Excavated in Valle Camonica," and 3) a very related e-mail that I just received from our friend Pier Luigi Milani of the Camunian historical, genealogical, and cultural group Circolo Culturale Ghislandi. All of this just sort've fell into my lap, and should make for a nice addition entry here. I will start by simply adding most of the information from the Wikipedia page, then tying all of this together at the end.

Val Camonica witch trials

Val Camonica witch trials was the name of two large witch trials which took place in Val Camonica in Italy between 1505-1510 and 1518-1521. They were among the biggest witch trials in Italy and caused the deaths of hundreds of people; c. 60 in each trial.

The best source for the trials are considered to be that of the Venetian Marin Sanudo, who was the chronicler of the Council of Ten in 1496-1536. The documents were to have been ordered to be destroyed by the bishop of Brescia, Giacinto Gaggia, to prevent it from being used by anticlerical opposition.


Christianity is not considered to have been strong in the area, though it was formally Christened in the 400s. In 724, King Liutprando of Lombardy feared a rebellion after he had issued a ban against Paganism. In 1498, stern laws were issued against all "Devilish heresy." In 1499, some were accused of having participated in a "Black mass," and it was reported to be common with such "depravity" in the area.

The first trial 1505-1510

In 1433, witches were burned in the South Tirol, 1460 in Valtellina, and in 1485, the Inqusisitor Antonio da Brescia had strongly criticized the ongoing heresy and witchcraft in Val Camonica in the Venteian Senate. On 23 June 1505, seven women and one man were burned in Cemmo in Val Camonica, and in 1510, witches were burned who were accused of having caused the drought by magic: 60 women and men confessed to having injured people, animals and land with their spells, caused fires with help of Satan: "The whole world mourns for the sad lack of faith in God and the saints in Valcamonica. In four places in Valcamonica, c. sixty four people men and women, have been executed, and many more are placed in prison..."

The second trial 1518-1521

The second trial occurred after the peace of Noyon with France. During the first months of 1518, inquisitors were stationed in the parishes of the Val Camonica; Don Bernardino de Grossis in Pisogne, Don James de Gablani in Rogno, Don Valerio de Boni in Breno, Don Donato de Savallo in Cemmo, and Don Battista Capurione in Edolo. All were under the bishop Inquisitor Peter Durante, who presided at the central court of the Inquisition at Cemmo. In July 1518, more than sixty women and men were burned at the stake.

In a letter from August 1518, an official, Josef di Orzinuovi, reported the trial to Ludovico Quercini. The letter stated that several people had been burned for witchcraft after spreading the plague by magic. They were also accused of causing thunder and lightning storms.

The same year, one Carlo Miani, a Venetian nobleman, wrote to Dr Zorzi: "Some women in Breto have confessed to having spread powder from Satan through the air, which caused sickness and the death of 200 people..."


In 1573, it was reported that Christianity was still weak in the area; few fulfilled their religious responsibilities, women went to church without covering their hair with a veil, and people danced on holidays. In 1580, the church again instigated a visit to make the inhabitants "more Catholic." A lot of old Pagan cults and habits were still alive there. On the Tonale mountain, the "witches" were reputed to meet in July. This time, however, the visit of the church did not lead to executions.


Mr. Milani sent me the following link, entitled 'La caccia alle streghe nelle valli alpine e in Italia nei secoli 16° e 17°' ('The witch hunts of the Alps and Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries'). It seems to be of a program of upcoming lectures regarding this unfortunate part of the history of our people. In Greek culture, as far as I know, there was/is no conflict between the Greek Orthodox faith and honoring ancient Greece's pagan past. Personally, I would like to know more about the unique pagan traditions of the Camonica Valley, which has been supressed for so long.

As detailed in my previous entry entitled "Strange Occultic Tradition Excavated in Valle Camonica," there was some very complex knowledge of the stars and how they affected the earth, and the witchcraft and occultic traditions which surrounded it. I haven't even presented an entry yet for the prehistoric rock art of the valley, but do go ahead and google that, and you will find much information. The United Nations has declared these areas as a "world heritage site," but we can go into that at another time. Hopefully very soon.

On top of key periods in history, which affected the world (Etruscan civilization, the Roman Empire, the Venetian Empire, the Kingdom of the Lombards, etc.), we have this astonishing local history that goes back well over 6,000 years. Of course, the Rosa Camuna (Camunian Rose) can be traced back many thousands of years, and is featured on the present flag of Lombardy. I'm proud to be of Camunian descent. I'm sorry that I can't just go on and on here! We haven't even begun to delve into this history. Thankfully, Circolo Culturale Ghislandi is doing the work they are.

Lastly, and perhaps this may sound a little silly, but maybe we can produce some artwork, symbols, or costumes which relate to this history? To reiterate what I said earlier, when I was at a local Greek-American festival a couple of years ago, with the backdrop of a Greek Orthodox Church, they're not the least bit ashamed of their pagan past. It doesn't mean they're pagan now, but as a way of celebrating their heritage. Lets maybe look into this.


  1. why did you copy this off wikipedia?

    1. 1) It's relevant/on-topic (Lombard/Brescian/Camunian). After all, the Camunian Valley was known in the Middle Ages as "the valley of the witches"... part of our history, since ancient times; 2) It's a short amount of text; 3) It's similar to re-posting an article; 4) It's difficult to find information regarding these witch trials, or even the Val Camonica in general (in English); 5) native pagan or Ambrosian culture are both on-topic, and even relevant/overlapping in an expanded sense beyond Lombard heritage; and 6) I have, on a few occasions, actually saved what I consider important text.. which later disappeared. Often due to the publisher simply erasing older articles..and of course they're lost permanently. For example, the Odinic Rite interview with the Slavic Faith Association.

      I try now to reduce text from Wikipedia to short snippets.