Witches of Benevento
How Benevento in Italy came to be associated with witch’s celebrations. And speculations on the link between Denmark and the witches of Benevento.
Some time ago I wrote about La Befana and her likeness to the Danish effigies burned on the bonfire at Midsummer. In an obscure document titled The Two Beneventos someone using the name Amra the Lion describes how the Longobards, who invaded Benevento in 568 A.D, were originally from the Danish peninsula Jutland. So although it sounds far-fetched and speculative there may be a link between the Danish and the Italian perceptions of hags.
Odin Worship in South Italy
According to the document mentioned, the Longobards had a very low tolerance for Catholicism. They confiscated church land and properties and forced the people of Benevento to convert to Paganism. As practitioners of Norse mythology, the Longobards would ride around a tree decorated with animal skins to worship Odin. Traditions the locals linked to witchcraft and the Roman Goddess Diana whose famous Temple in Benevento had been taken over by the Catholic Church.
Myth in the Cauldron
In other words the new invaders rekindled some old myths and legends, and to this day Benevento came to be associated with witch’s celebrations, dancing around trees (or Maypoles) and performing magic. But that was eons ago. Today’s witches of Benevento are mainly a tourist brand selling charms, tokens and Liquore Strega.
Which – by the way – is a spirit destilled from about 70 secret herbs and spices like the contents of most cauldrons. The yellow colour comes from saffron. Liquore Strega is mostly served as a digestive after dinner, but it can also be poured into hot drinks like Café Royale, mixed to cocktails or used in cakes and dessert.