Il Sabba

In Benevento there was a pagan and mystery cult linked to the Egyptian goddess Isis, in which the characteristics of both the Roman goddess of the Moon, Diana and the goddess of the underworld, Hecate, converged.

Among the peculiar aspects of these deities there was a strong feminine element and an equally strong link with magic. From this devotion was born the figure of the witch, who in the area of ​​Benevento is called Janara, (from Diana).

In the seventh century AD, as reported by the historical treatise of the writer Pietro Piperno, Della Superstitiosa Noce di Benevento, the city became the capital of a Longobard duchy. Although officially converted to Christianity, many Lombards continued to profess a pagan creed, in which a gilded, winged and two-headed viper was worshiped, linked to the worship of Isis.

The adepts used to meet on the banks of the Sabato river (hence the name of sabba, referring to demoniac gatherings), where the great walnut tree stood, to celebrate rituals related to the Moon and the harvests. Until one day Barbato, bishop of Benevento – determined to eliminate all traces of paganism – not only eradicated the great Noce, but condemned as satanic and evil any cult that was not attributable to the only Christian god. In particular, women dedicated to the ancient pre-Christian rural rituals were referred to as witches – from the Latin strix, a screech owl, a nocturnal bird of prey. According to the legends of ancient Rome, the strix was a bird bearer of bad luck that fed on blood and human flesh.

The tree had therefore been uprooted, but the cult did not stop. It is still handed down that Lucifer himself – and no longer the pagan gods Isis, Diana and Hecate – had caused the great Noce di Benevento to re-grow in a secret place in one night, to ensure that his followers came from all over the world to celebrate his glory under the branches of the great tree

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