The Night Battles: Witchcraft & Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries by Carlo Ginzburg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In the area of Friuli Italy back during the medieval times there was a group of people properly known as the Banadante. There work was connected primarily to the agricultural farming seasons. There job was to protect the seeds and the harvest from the witches. Going to sleep at night lying on their backs there astral bodies would float thorough the air to meet the witches for battle. Armed with fennel sticks the Benadante were ready to defend , mean while the witches were armed with Sorghum sticks. Battle would ensue, no one really got killed but there were definite winners and losers. If the witches one it would be a year of famine if the Benadante won then it would be a bountiful year. Sometimes the Benadante ventured into Hell itself to rescue the seeds. Coming back from battle they would stop I houses and seek refreshment. If cool clear water was a available they slaked their thirst with it and if not then they would raid your basement drin the wine and then urinate in the barrels. Four times a year they would go out for battle, the ember days. Sometimes they went out every Thursday to do battle.
How does o0ne become a Benadnate, one is born with a caul over their head. They keep the caul and have a priest say mass over it or a blessing. Often times the caul is worn on the person in order for them to participate in the battle. One is usually summoned in their early 20’s and their service ends when they are forty or whenever they are inclined to leave the service. Usually they are summoned by an angel or the captain . The banner for the good guys is a golden flag and a lion. The bad witches had a black flag.The bendnantes sometimes knew who each other were and who the witches were at other times they didn’t. They were vowed to silence unless they get beaten or killed.
The Inquisition by the Catholic church which was started to route out heretics and witches took a lenient view toward the Benandante during the 1300’s . Often times they would question them and then let them go. As time progress they were associated more and more with witches and they could end up being imprisoned or tortured. They were often said to have gone to the witches sabbats and partaken in profane rites that blasphemed Christianity. A total change in attitude.
It seems connected with the Witches sabbat where in a goddess like Diana in Italy or Hulda or Perchta led a procession of fairies or souls of the dead. At their sabbats they would dance, sing, drink and eat among other things. The inquisition often made it worse then what it was. Like Margaret Murray had [postulated that therer was an ancient pagan religion of Europe that was goddess and agricultural based that prdated Christianity. These seemed to be connected.
Over all good book. The author does a great job explaining the concepts that even a layman would find it comprehensible and enjoyable. It is filled with case studies that document that change and progression of attitude by the church towards the Benadante. It get’s a bit over kill at the end with the appendices but then again this is a scholarly book.
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