The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
The Divine Witch: Goddesses and Gods
According to Italian legend, the Cumaean Sibyl took refuge in a cavern in the Apennines. Her underground paradise was reached through a grotto filled with snakes in the mountains of Norcia, a region renowned for its witches and mushrooms. In this cavern, Sibilla teaches the magical arts to those who wish to learn them.
Sounds like a fairy tale? A real-life shrine, the Ridge of the Sibillini, once existed below Mount Vettore. During the fifteenth century visitors from throughout Europe traveled to Norcia to see the cave, some bringing grimoires to consecrate at Sibilla’s lake.
By the Middle Ages, the ancient prophetess had emerged as a goddess of witches. In Ferrara, Italy, Sibilla, in the guise of La Signora del Corso, presided over the witches’ flight and witches’ ball. At the end of the feast, she touched all bottles and platters with her golden wand; they immediately replenished. In re-enactments of ancient shamanic rituals, the witches gathered up all the bones from the meal they had completed. These were placed within animal skins. Sibilla touched the rolled-up skins with her wand and hey presto! The animals returned to life.
Sibilla is a hospitable spirit: according to legend, Diana and Fata Morgana frequently live with her. By the end of the fifteenth century, the Church had a standing order to excommunicate anyone who made the pilgrimage to the shrine at Norcia. (Of course, on the other hand, those who defied the decree and visited the shrine were allegedly blessed by Sibilla with a lifetime of joy.) Should you stay in Sibilla’s cavern for over a year, you would never be able to leave but would remain ageless and alive, living amidst abundance and revelry in a witches’ paradise.
Of course those are the positive legends: witch-goddesses usually weren’t permitted such good press and so other stories exist too, although even these may be interpreted in various ways:
Sibilla sprouts a snake’s tail every Saturday.
The legendary Wandering Jew allegedly finally stopped wandering, transformed into a snake, and serves as Sibilla’s door guardian.
According to another legend, at night, all the inhabitants of Sibilla’s paradise turn into snakes.
In another legend, in order to gain admittance to Sibilla’s Cave, one must have sex with snakes.
See also Kybele; ANIMALS: Snakes; BOOKS: Library of the Lost: Sibylline Books; DICTIONARY: Sibyl.