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The witches of Volterra and other mysteries

Sunday 05 november 2017

Greek deities, witches, bizarre street names and "blasphemies". A journey through the legends and the mysteries of one of the oldest Italian village

The witches of Volterra and other mysteries

Thinking of Volterra, the collective imagination flies immediately at very remote times, tied to the Etruscan people who ruled the Balze, but how many people know that the history of this villageis also filled with magic and mystery?

The magic in Volterra is born in ancient times and is closely linked to the world of witches and evil.

It seems that the first ever witch has lived here. She was called Aradia, the daughter of Goddess Diana, who was sent to earth by her mother to teach sorcery to humans, who at that time had great famine and poverty. History itself tells of an Aradia born in Volterra on August 13, 1313. The church condemned and imprisoned her, but on the day of her execution her cell was found empty.

Certainly the most famous is the legend of the Witches of Mandringa and of the homonymous boulder.
Arriving at Volterra, at the end of the bendy road and just before the sign indicating the beginning of the village, you will find the Masso di Mandringa, a massive titanic rock under which one can still find one of the oldest and celebrated spring sources thanks to his excellent and clear water. Throughout the centuries, in the daylight hours, the fount has always been animated by the chatter of women who want to wash their clothes or to get their precious water and the impulse of children who are about to play there in the near, but on Saturday evening is a completely different story; on Saturday evening the boulder became a ghastly, wretched place. It seems, in fact, that witches gathered in that place to celebrate their dancing sabbah and to celebrate nothing less than the prince of darkness.

Still today there are those who say that they hear distant voices and screams, on Saturday nights, coming from the massif.

From witches to oddities, Volterra boasts curious roads, thanks to the names of some of the recurring ways of discomfort or danger, and places infested with ghostly presence, is to fuel an imaginative already lively and full of fantastic suggestions. Try strolling through the streets of the village and you will surely cross the Witches alley, the Gypsy bark, the lane alley or the alleyway of the abandoned. Other unmissable destinations for your bizarre volterra tour are the alley of the Prison and Street of the Prison, the Street of the Labers, Via della Pietraia, Avelli square and Via Coda rimessa, which seems to allude to some notes from the clergy, not so elegant, to meet with the prostitutes.

It would seem like a strange land, but perhaps even more bizarre is the legend that gives rise to all this. The legend of the "Bestemmia" and, from this, the origin of the Balze.

The legend tells us before 1200, when in those lands there was a hare that worked hard and dry. The locals, who called him the "Bestemmia" (blasphemy), believed he was actually a malignant spirit. One day, a friar asked him if he was committing sin and the man answered, of course, in a bit of a way and with disgruntled. At this reaction, the ground collapsed by swallowing the spirit and creating the current geographic conformation of the Balze.

Other are legends and others are the mysteries of this ancient corner of Tuscany but perhaps, after all, this is another story.

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