Witches from Abruzzo: popular legends in Roccascalegna’s area.
In the territory of Roccascalegna, according to the popular tradition, there are numerous places linked to legends of various kinds. It is said, for example, that the ruins of a house, still located on a plateau and known as “the fairy house”, are visited by some flying entities defined by some witches, by others fairies.
In the popular tales, in fact, these two figures are similar and are often confused. Of true, there is that in that point, after the Italy’s unification, in 1861, there was a bloody battle between brigands and the Piedmontese army. Around the “fairy house”, so told by the various owners over time, would occur strange apparitions or supernatural phenomena. One of the owners claimed that one summer night, while he sleeping into the bed, as soon as he fell asleep, he felt something alive jumping on the covers and of course, he ran away.
Other witnesses claim to have heard rumors of children coming from inside the house, when it was empty, or having seen unknown women appearing and disappearing in the yard, flying or standing still in midair. Others says they saw a crow, black as pitch, fly over that house in the exact moment when one of the owners’ wife died. And it is said that the animals preferred by witches are black cats and crows.
Legend tells that in a cave on the slopes of the Majella mountain, better known as “the mountain’s tail”, there are strange and disturbing presences. This cave was right in front of the villages of Gessopalena, Torricella and Roccascalegna and it is said that this is the reason for the many “presences” in the area. Witches, or fairies, this is not known.
One day, however, these magical creatures irritated a saint, perhaps St. Martin, who punished their by making the mountain collapse and thus closing the entrance of the cave forever. However, it seems that somehow they managed to get out, and according to some they would have dispersed who knows where, while for others they would have since been still hidden in the woods of the area.
There are rumors that says that during some particularly dark nights, some presences are wandering right in the castle of Roccascalegna. Indeed, a witch, called “Pink Comare”, lived right on the slopes of the fortress, and was well known for her magical skills, which she exercised in exchange for grain and other gifts. It often happened that newborns complained because of strange bruising on the body, and people ask help to Comare Rosa, who was able to heal these disorders with its rituals. At the beginning of the last century there was a child who was often found by parents returned from daily work in the fields, with the body marked by bruises and bites, and also he did not grow up and was always sick. His father then decided to take him from the well known witch in the village, who with his arts solved the problem, and the child grew up healthy and strong and lived up to 95 years old.
But it is also told of cruel witches, such as those who on special occasions met at night in hellish Sabbath among the great oaks, where they enjoyed cooking the newborns on the fire. It is said that, in the last century, a child was kidnapped by witches, but while they were taking her into a gloomy forest on the edge of the castle of Roccascalegna, where magical rites were sometimes held, they were seen by her father who began to rail against their. The witches, taken aback by the unexpected meeting, left free the girl who was taken to church and blessed. The old inhabitants of the area told that care should be taken not to make the witches angry. Never disturb them during the sabbath, and you never had to cut a walnut tree under which witches met. And yet, never fall asleep at noon under a tree, because it disturbed its inhabitants, witches or fairies, and according to the traditions, it was about the same thing. At the beginning of the twentieth century, whoever saw a light or something glistening in the woods, had to immediately plant a knife, or something sharp, in the ground, to neutralize the power of these evil creatures until they came home, safe.
Another story is about a man who, at the end of the nineteenth century, was working in the fields at dusk, until he saw a light approaching. The farmer, frightened, stuck a knife into the ground and suddenly appeared a man dressed in black who begs him to free him. The farmer accepted, provided he left his family in peace until the seventh generation. The mysterious man accepted and disappeared. Even today, however, there are many people who believe in the power of witches and sorcerers! In the Pescara area, for example, during a homily, a priest warned the people who were making these “magical practices” to stop, because he was sick of finding hair or other fetishes in the church aisles. Witchcraft was very common in the tradition of Abruzzo, and these practices were very common throughout the area. However, unlike other European countries, there are no documents related to witchcraft processes. Tradition has it that there are different ways to stop the power of witches (Strgheun, in the dialect of Roccascalegna!): For example, put a broom behind the door, so the witches, of very curious nature, will stay all night to count the dry twigs of the broom! The same purpose will be achieved by throwing a handful of grains of wheat. Meanwhile dawn will come, and then light, and they will escape. The tradition also wants that when telling facts related to witchcraft, as a precaution, it would be better to cross the legs. Someone says that so power vanishes!
It is said that witches and sorcerers can feed on the lifeblood of newborn babies, and even that they have the power to transform themselves into anything, an animal, but also a breath of wind. By the way, the women of Pretoro are said to have divinatory qualities, just like witches, and that they know perfectly the medicinal properties of all Majella’s plants.