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The witches of Benevento

Under the spell challenge

By emaPublished 7 months ago 6 min read
The witches of Benevento
Photo by Vadim Sadovski on Unsplash

From the four winds and the river banks

to the devil's grinds, we are here to give thanks,

to renew the appointment with the powerful ointment,

under the walnut tree show what you were born to be!

The voices of the witches rang out in unison in the night. The large walnut tree waved its long branches whipped by the wind and held them out towards the blazing fire in the center of the clearing as if it wanted to caress the flames.

Angela pronounced the magic formula together with the other women in a faint voice. She had learned all the spells to sound like one of them, but for the first time, she feared the power of those words. She now understood their strength.

She hadn't had the courage to take her smartphone with her to secretly record the event, even if only with audio. At the last minute, she had decided to abandon it in the car, and with it to abandon her investigation, as she would have no evidence of what was about to happen. The next morning she would go away and she would write a simple article, the usual folklore story about the witches of Benevento, no more and no less than what was already known.

Angela was a journalist passionate about history and a few months earlier she had decided to transform her research into a real investigation. However, her determination to bring justice to women accused of witchcraft over the centuries clashed with recent news events, when a famous magician from Florence was arrested for fraud. During his TV programs, she read tarot cards and gave love advice with a friendly and in everyone's eyes, harmless attitude, but in private she met clients from whom she had stolen thousands of euros by saying she could cure cancer with a powerful spell.

Angela was determined to demonstrate that witches do not exist and that women were persecuted unjustly, but to do so she would also have to take a clear position against those who deal with esotericism and magic and do nothing but exploit popular credulity and deceive poor unfortunates.

During her research, Angela met Arisa. The woman claimed to be the descendant of the Archwitch of Sannio, the most powerful witch who ever existed, the one who could give other witches the power to fly thanks to an ointment obtained from the walnut tree.

Clearly, Angela hadn't told that woman that she was a journalist because her intent was to gather as much information as possible. Arisa had explained to her that her ancestor had been unjustly condemned and that at the time the Holy Inquisition and the whole community had not understood the important role that the woman had with her ointments and herbs. Centuries later, justice had still not been served and even Arisa was forced to work in secret. Angela became passionate about this story and told Arisa that she wanted to know her world, that she wanted to learn, and told her that she would help her get justice. Within a few weeks, Angela met a dozen other women, all descendants of witches who had lived centuries earlier. Not all of them were as welcoming as Arisa, but Angela was determined to know as much of their secrets as possible.

Angela soon discovered that those women were not kust fortune tellers. They were very educated, they knew medieval history very well, and they were aware of very particular implications. They told her of witches who passed under doors, witches who dragged children down into bottomless pits. They were facts reported by popular tales and known by all, but they knew the most macabre and impressive details. They knew how witches could transform, become invisible, and fly without ever being seen. They knew how witches drove their victims mad so that no one could believe their stories. And what Arisa did one day left Angela astonished. After inviting her to tea, Arisa opened a drawer and took a jar, smeared her face, hands, and arms with ointment, then opened the door of the house and flew away.

Angela believed she had been drugged by something in the tea, and this to her was proof that the witches were a bunch of tricksters. So, instead of being discouraged, she continued her investigation. Until now, until Saturday, a few steps from the Sabato River that laps the city of Benevento. Angela would have attended the Sabbath.

The witches around her picked nuts from the tree, stripped them of their shells, and crushed them in a mortar while mumbling incomprehensible words. They were making their own magic ointment. Angela couldn't move, her feet were anchored to the ground, her arms felt heavy and she saw the whole scene as if she were behind a glass wall. For a moment it seemed to her that the great walnut tree was growing bigger, and taller and that the walnuts were growing visibly on her branches.

Then all the witches turned towards the darkness. The flames subsided. A dark figure advanced from the darkness and approached the walnut tree. Her dark coat was old and wrinkled, a worn hood barely covering his long white hair. The witches bowed their heads as a sign of respect, while Arisa advanced, holding out her hand. The figure also stretched out his hand, a bony and old hand, and let herself be guided near the fire which suddenly came to life. For a moment, the light from the flames illuminated the faces of the old woman and Arisa, as they both turned to Angela and looked into her eyes.

Angela understood. She felt the blood rush through her veins as her mind resisted something unimaginable, something reason could not accept. The old figure was the Archwitch. She must have died at the stake in 1540, condemned by the Holy Office of Rome. That's what everyone knew. But Arisa had told her what no one knew. She had told her that the Archwitch had been dragged from Benevento to Rome on a cart, locked in a cage. It took two and a half days of walking, and two and a half days of darkness, death, and pain. As she passed, the animals collapsed, the plants died, the waters rotted, and the newborns suffocated in their cradles. The Archwitch crouched in the cage and uttered her spells in a low voice, and then shouted, "you are making a mistake, you cannot understand ignorant little men, I must finish my work, you cannot change nature, you cannot oppose death", then she crouched down again in a corner, she cried and returned to uttering soft words, but wherever her voice reached it brought death.

The witches stripped the old woman of her worn clothes. Her bony, frail body was covered in horrible scars. Calmly, they spread the ointment on her hair, on her face, on her shoulders, and then all over her body down to her toes. Her wounds disappeared, her wrinkled skin changed and she became young and golden again, her long white hair regained its old brown color and her deep black eyes burned like coal in the light of the flames.

Then the witches dressed her in a dark silk dress, she took a step forward and flew away, towards the river, towards the city, where she went to demand her blood tribute. It was All Saints' Eve, Saturday October 31, 2020.

Angela saw Arisa and the other witches surrounding her. She wanted to run away but she couldn't feel her legs. She couldn't move. Arisa spread the walnut ointment on Angela's face and hands, then said to her in a low voice:

This ointment will give you eternal memory.

You can't become one of us, no one can.

Of women, we only have the shape.

We are creatures you cannot understand.

We are creatures you cannot overcome.

We were born before the world.

We are Nature.

We are Death.

Angela woke up feeling cold. The fire was out in the center of the clearing and the colors of dawn lit up the sky. The large walnut tree stood out majestically in all its grandeur. A pungent, enveloping scent filled her nostrils. Angela touched her face with her hands. It was the ointment.

She returned to her car, shocked by what had happened, and left. As the days passed, her fear vanished, and her memories faded. She became convinced that she had been drugged and that the ointment contained some hallucinogenic substance. Or at least that's what she wrote in the article. She never returned to Benevento.


Thanks for reading!

In Italy, the city of Benevento is considered the "city of the witches". Archwitch of Sannio is a historical figure who actually existed.


About the Creator


I invent stories, sometimes they need to be written.

Carpe Diem Tempus Fugit.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (3)

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  • Charlene Ann Mildred Barroga3 months ago

    The unsettling atmosphere of your story about witches in Benevento makes you wonder where the line between myth and fact should be drawn.

  • Donna Fox (HKB)7 months ago

    Wow Ema, I love the direction you went with this!! It was engaging, thrilling and enchanting! I like the narrator/ perspective you chose it was an angle I haven't seen before and really landed some originality to your bone chilling tale! Great work!

  • Whoaaaa, you wrote this based on a true story! Never heard of the Archwitch of Sannio before! Your story was so creepy and suspenseful! I loved it!

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