I BENANDANTI [Carlo Ginzburg] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Con questo volume (apparso in prima edizione nel ) Carlo Ginzburg ha ricostruito una vicenda, che getta nuova luce sul problema generale della. The benandanti came armed with stalks of fennell, the witches and Carlo Ginzburg’s account of this Friulian ‘fertility cult’, as he calls it, first.

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The benandanti “Good Walkers” were members of an agrarian visionary tradition in the Friuli district of Northeastern Italy during the 16th and 17th centuries. The benandanti claimed to travel out of ginzbugg bodies while asleep to struggle against malevolent witches malandanti in order to ensure good crops for the season to come.

Between andin the midst of the Early Modern witch trialsa number of benandanti were accused of being heretics or witches under the Roman Inquisition.

According to Early Modern records, benandanti were believed to have been born with a caul on their head, which gave them the ability to take part in nocturnal visionary traditions that occurred on specific Thursdays during the year. During these visions, it was believed that their spirits rode upon various animals into the sky and off to places in the countryside. Here they would take part in various games and other activities with other benandantiand battle malevolent witches who threatened both their crops and their communities using sticks of sorghum.

When not taking part in these visionary journeys, benandanti were also believed to have magical powers that could ginsburg used for healing.

Inthe benandanti first came to the attention of the Friulian Church authorities when gizburg village priest, Don Bartolomeo Sgabarizza, began investigating the claims made by the benandante Paolo Gasparotto.

Although Sgabarizza soon abandoned his investigations, in the case was reopened by the inquisitor Fra’ Felice de Montefalco, who interrogated not only Gasparotto but also a variety of other local benandanti and j mediums, ultimately condemning some of them for the crime of heresy.

Under pressure by the Inquisition, these nocturnal spirit travels which often included sleep paralysis were assimilated to the diabolised stereotype of the witches’ Sabbathleading to the extinction of the benandanti cult.

Night Battles: How the Benandanti Fought Witches During the Sabbath

The Inquisition’s denunciation of the visionary tradition led to the term “benandante” becoming synonymous with the term caroo meaning “witch” in Friulian folklore right through to the 20th century. The first historian to study the benandanti tradition was the Italian Carlo Ginzburgwho began an examination of the surviving trial records from the period in the early s, culminating in the publication of his book The Night Battles: In Ginzburg’s interpretation of the evidence, the benandanti was a “fertility cult” whose members were cralo of harvests and the fertility of fields”.

He furthermore argued that it was only one surviving part of a much benanadnti European tradition of visionary experiences that had its origins in the pre-Christian period, identifying similarities with Livonian werewolf beliefs. The benandanti — a term meaning “good walkers” when translated benandanri English [2] — were members of a folk tradition in the Friuli region.

The benandantiwho included both males and females, were individuals who believed that they ensured the protection of their community and its crops. The benandanti reported leaving their bodies in the shape of mice, cats, rabbits, or butterflies.

The men mostly reported flying into the clouds battling against witches to secure fertility for their community; the women more often reported attending great feasts. Across Europe, popular culture viewed magical abilities as either innate or learned; in Friulian folk custom, the benandanti were seen ginzbburg having innate powers marked out at birth. From surviving records, it is apparent that members of the benandanti first learned about its traditions during infancy, usually bdnandanti their mothers.

Although tinzburg were described by benandanti as spirit journeys, they nevertheless stressed the reality of such experiences, believing that they were real occurrences. On Thursdays between the Ember daysperiods of fasting for the Catholic Churchthe benandanti claimed their spirits would leave their bodies at night in the form of small benandantk.

The spirits of the men would go to the fields to fight evil witches malandanti [9]. The benandanti men fought with fennel stalks, while the witches were armed with sorghum stalks sorghum was used for witches’ broomsand the “brooms’ sorghum” was one of the most current type of sorghum.

If the men prevailed, the harvest would be plentiful. The female benandanti performed other sacred tasks. When they left their bodies they traveled to a great ginzbudg, where they danced, ate and drank with a procession of spirits, animals and faeries, and learned who amongst the villagers would die in the next year.

In one account, this feast was presided over by a woman, “the abbess”, who sat in splendour on the edge of a well.

I benandanti. Stregoneria e culti agrari tra Cinquecento e Seicento

Carlo Ginzburg has compared these spirit assemblies with others reported by similar groups elsewhere in Italy and Sicily, which were also presided over by a goddess-figure who taught magic and divination. The earliest accounts of the benandanti’ s journeys, dating fromdid not contain any of the elements then associated with the diabolic witches’ sabbath; there was no worshipping of the Devil a figure who was not even presentno renunciation of Christianity, no trampling of u and no defilement of sacraments.

Ginzburg noted that whether the benandanti were themselves witches or not was an area of confusion in the earliest records. Whilst they combated the malevolent witches and helped heal those who were believed to have been harmed through witchcraft, they also joined the witches on their benandanyi journeys, and the miller Pietro Rotaro was recorded as referring to them as “benandanti witches”; for this reason the priest Don Bartolomeo Sgabarizza, who recorded Rotaro’s testimony, believed that while the benandanti were witches, they were ‘good’ witches who tried to protect their benajdanti from the bad witches who would harm children.


Ginzburg remarked that it was this contradiction in the relationship between the benandanti and the malevolent witches that ultimately heavily influenced their persecution at the hands of the Inquisition. In earlyPaolo Gasparotto, a male benandante who lived in the village of Iassico modern spelling: This event came to the attention of the local priest, Don Bartolomeo Sgabarizza, who was intrigued by the use of such folk magicand called Gasparotto to him to learn more.

The benandante told the priest that the sick child had “been possessed by witches” but that caroo had been saved from certain death by the benandantior “vagabonds” as they were also known. Sometimes they go out to one country region and sometimes to benandani, perhaps to Gradisca or even as far away as Verona, and they appear together jousting and playing games; and Don Sgabarizza was concerned with such talk benandantj witchcraft, and on 21 Marchhe appeared as a witness before both the vicar general, Monsignor Jacopo Maracco, and the Inquisitor Fra Giulio d’Assis, a member of the Order of the Minor Conventualsat the monastery of San Francesco di Cividale in Friuli, in the hope that they could offer him guidance in how to proceed in this situation.

He brought Gasparotto with him, who readily furnished more information in front of the Inquisitor, relating that after taking part in their games, “the witches, warlocks and vagabonds” would pass in front of people’s houses, looking for “clean, clear water” that they would then drink.

According to Gasparotto, if the witches could not find benandangi clean water to drink, they would “go into the cellars and overturn all the benandqnti.

Sgabarizza did not initially believe Gasparotto’s claim that these events had actually occurred. In response to the priest’s disbelief, Gasparotto invited both him and the Inquisitor to join the benandanti on their next journey, although refused to provide the names of any other members of the brethren, stating that he would be “badly beaten by the witches” should he do so.

During and after the meal, Sgabarizza once more discussed the journeys of the benandanti with both Gasparotto and the miller Pietro Rotaro, and later learned of another self-professed benandante, the public crier Battista Moduco of Cividalewho offered more information on what occurred during their nocturnal visions.

Ultimately, Sgabarizza and the inquisitor Giulio d’Assisi decided to abandon their investigations into the benandantisomething the later historian Carlo Ginzburg believed was probably because they came to believe that their stories of nocturnal flights and battling witches were “tall tales and nothing more”.

Five years after Sgabarizza’s original investigation, on 27 Junethe inquisitor Fra Felice da Montefalco decided to revive the case of the benandanti. To do so he ordered Gasparotto to be brought in for questioning; under interrogation, Gasparotto repeatedly denied having ever been a benandante and asserted that involvement in such things were against God, contradicting the former claims that he had made to Sgabarizza several years before.

The questioning over, Gasparotto was imprisoned. Vehemently denouncing the actions of the witches, he claimed that the benandanti were fighting “in service of Christ “, and ultimately Montefalco decided to let him go. I am a benandante because I go with the others to fight bnandanti times a year, that is during the Ember Days, at night; I go invisibly in spirit and the body remains behind; we go forth in the service of Christ, and the witches of the devil; we fight each other, we with bundles of fennel and they with sorghum stalks.

On 28 June, Gasparotto was brought in for interrogation again. This time he admitted to being a benandanteclaiming that he had been too scared to do so in the previous interrogation lest the witches beat him in punishment. Gasparotto went on to accuse two individuals, one from Gorizia and the other from Chianaof being witches, and was subsequently released by Montefalco on the proviso that he return for further benandanfi at a later date.

This time, Gasparotto added an extra element to his tale, claiming that an angel had summoned him to join the benandanti. For Montefalco, the introduction of this element led him to suspect that the actions of Gasparotto were themselves heretical and satanic, and his method of interrogation became openly suggestive, putting forward the idea that the angel was actually a demon in disguise. As historian Carlo Ginzburg related, Montefalco had begun to warp Gasparotto’s testimony of the benandanti journey to fit the established clerical image of the diabolical witches’ sabbat, while under the stress of interrogation and imprisonment, Gasparotto himself was losing his self-assurance and beginning to question “the reality of his beliefs”.

When Moduco was also summoned to Montefalco, on 2 Octoberhe went on to announce the same thing, proclaiming that the Devil must have deceived him into going on the nocturnal journey which he believed was performed for good.

Both denounced as hereticsthey were spared from excommunication but condemned to six months’ imprisonment, and furthermore ordered to offer prayers and penances to God on certain days of the year, including the Ember Days, in order that he might forgive their sins.

However, their penalties were soon remitted, on the condition that they remain within the city of Cividale for a fortnight. Gasparotto and Moduco would not be the only victims of Montefalco’s investigations, however, for during late he had heard of a widow living in Udine named Anna la Rossa. While she did not claim to be a benandante, she did claim that she could see and communicate with the spirits of the deadand so Montefalco had her brought in for questioning on 1 January Initially denying that she had such an ability to the inquisitor, she eventually relented and told him of how she believed that she could see the dead, and how she sold their messages to members of the local community willing to pay, using the money in order to alleviate the poverty of her family.

Although Montefalco intended to interrogate her again at a later date, the trial ultimately remained permanently unfinished. That year, Montefalco also took an interest in the claims regarding the wife of a tailor living in Udine who allegedly had the power to see the dead and to cure diseases with the use of spells and potions. Known among locals as Donna Aquilina, she was said to have become relatively rich through offering her services as a professional healer, but when she learned that she was under suspicion from the Holy Inquisition, she fled the city, and Montefalco did not initially set out to locate her.


Later, on 26 AugustMontefalco traveled to Aquilina’s home in order to interrogate her, but she fled and hid in a neighbouring house. She was finally brought in for interrogation on 27 October, in which she defended her practices, but claimed that she was neither a benandanti nor a witch. InMontefalco had also begun investigating a Cividale widow named Caterina la Guercia, whom he had accused of practicing “various maleficent arts”. Under interrogation on 14 September, she admitted that she knew several charms which she used to cure children’s sicknesses, but that she was not a benandante.

She added however that her deceased husband, Andrea of Orsaria, had been a benandante, and that he used to enter trances in which his spirit would leave his body and go with the “processions of the dead”.

The village of Pieris was near Monfalcone, across the Isonzo river and therefore outside of Friuli; it was nevertheless within the diocese of Aquileia. The anonymous source claimed that Toffolo openly admitted to being a benandanteand that he went out at night on his visionary journeys to battle the witches.

The source also asserted that Toffolo regularly attended confession, recognising that his activities as a benandante were contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church, but that he was unable to stop the journeying. Having heard this testimony, the members of the Holy Office of Udine met on 18 March to discuss the situation; they requested that the Mayor of Monfalcone, Antonia Zorzi, arrest Toffolo and send him to Udine.

While Zorzi did orchestrate the arrest, he had no men spare to transfer the prisoner, and so let him go. In Novemberthe inquisitor of Aquileia decided to re-investigate the matter, and travelled to Monfalcone, but discovered that Toffolo had moved away from the area over ginzbjrg year benajdanti.

Lambasting Domenatta as a “guilty sorceress”, he claimed that she had encouraged mothers to put their newborn children on a spit in order to prevent them from becoming either benandanti or witches. Agreeing to investigate, the inquisitor travelled to Monfalcone in January to gain depositions against the midwife.

When he came to interrogating Domenatta, she openly admitted to the practice, and was condemned to public penance and an abjuration. Ina woman named Benandantti Busetto of Valvasone made two depositions regarding the benandanti of Moruzzo village to Fra Francesco Cummo of Vicenzathe commissioner of the Inquisition in the dioceses of Aquileia and Concordia.

Claiming that she wanted to unburden her conscience, Busetto informed the commissioner that she had visited the village, where she met a friend whose child was injured. Seeking out the perpetrator of the injury, she talked to the old woman she believed to be guilty, Pascutta Agrigolante, who claimed that she was a benandante and knew witches.

Busetto did not know what the benandanti were, so enquired further, to which Agrigolante obliged by providing her an account of the nocturnal journeys. Agrigolante also named several other benandante who lived locally, including the village priest and a woman named Narda Peresut. Busetto proceeded to seek out Peresut, who admitted to being a benandante carko who stated that she performed her healing magic in Gao to avoid prosecution from the Inquisition.

Busetto would inform the commissioner that she did not believe any of these claims, but while he agreed to investigate further, bensndanti is no evidence that he ever did. InGiambattista Valento, an artisan from Palmanovawent to the superintendent general of the patria of the Friuli, Andrea Garzoni, and informed him of his belief k his wife had been bewitched.

Garzoni was concerned, and sent the inquisitor general, Fra Gerolamo Asteo, to Palmanova to investigate. Asteo found that the villagers widely concurred that Valento’s wife had been the victim of witchcraft, gnizburg a benandante was implicated, an year-old shop assistant named Gasparo. Talking to Gasparo, Asteo heard the stories of the nocturnal journeys, but the benandati benandante was insistent that they served God rather than the Devil.

Gasparo proceeded to name some of the villagers as witches, but the inquisitor did not believe him, benamdanti brought the case to a close. In this was followed by the denunciation of another benandantea peasant named Bernardo of Santa Carloo la Longato the religious authorities. Although not described as a benandanteTrevisana’s work in claiming to combat witchcraft might have indicated that she would have considered herself to be of caro benandanti. While imprisoned, it was revealed that she described herself as a biandante and worked as a professional healer and anti-witch.

She proceeded to accuse a number of local women of being witches, but when questioned further in January admitted that she had paid homage to the Devil, but only to gain powers which she used to help people.

Benandanti – Wikipedia

Here, Panzona denied ever honouring the Devil, insisting that she and other benandanti served Jesus Christ. The members of the Holy Office did not believe that the stories she related ever took place, allowing the two accused witches to go free, and condemning Panzona to a three-year prison sentence for heresy.

Ginzburg suggests that by the s, the benandanti were becoming bolder in their public accusations against alleged witches. Badou had become unpopular locally as a result, with the inquisitor not taking his claims seriously and proceeding to ignore the situation. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Italian folklorists — such as G.

Last modified: August 16, 2020