Feronia - The Divine Witch: Goddesses and Gods

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

The Divine Witch: Goddesses and Gods

The spirit of Feronia allegedly still haunts the traditional marketplaces of Italy, territory she once ruled. Having been banished, post-Christianity, alongside the rest of the Pagan spirits, Feronia apparently refused to abandon her old stomping grounds but transformed from a benevolent spirit of freedom and prosperity into a bad-tempered witch in the guise of a shabby, elderly, muttering beggar-woman.

Don’t let her disguise fool you: she’s still working magic. Those she approaches who behave politely and generously find themselves blessed with good fortune. Those behaving otherwise are treated to very effective (and feared) curses.

Folklorist C. G. Leland reported in his 1892 book Etruscan Roman Remains that nineteenth-century Tuscan peasants classified Feronia as a strega-folletta or “witch-spirit.” He described her as a “wandering witch who exacts offerings.”

Little is now known about this ancient, mysterious deity. Feronia may have originated as an Etruscan or Sabine spirit. Her rites included fire-walking. Devotees walked or danced over glowing coals and burning ploughshares.

Feronia’s sacred animal was the wolf. She is friendly with those other Italian spirits associated with witchcraft, Mania and Proserpina (see pages 401 and 409). Feronia was the protectress of paupers, slaves, and refugees. She had various temples including one in the heart of Rome that contained a sacred stone. If a slave sat on the stone, freedom was instantly granted. (It’s not clear what kind of machinations were necessary in order to reach this stone.)