Leo Louis Martello was an American Witch, hypnotist, psychologist, and a civil and gay right activist during the 1960s. Born and raised in Massachusetts Martello was a descendant of Sicilian Witches, or steghe, a heritage which during childhood he knew little about except from his father saying he resembled his grandmother. He was baptized a Catholic and claimed six worst years of his life was spent in a Catholic boarding school. His psychic experiences began early in life, in his teens he begun studying palmistry and the Tarot with a Gypsy. When sixteen he was on radio shows giving handwriting analyses, and selling articles.
He continued his education at Assumption College, Worcester, Massachusetts, and Hunter College and the Institute for Psychotherapy, both in New York City. When moving to New York at the age of eighteen he learned of his Sicilian heritage from his cousins. They informed him that they had been watching him for some years looking for his potential in the Old Religion. His grandmother, Maria Concetta, was renowned in her hometown of Enna, Sicily as the local strege (see Stregheria), whom sought her help when the Catholic Church failed them. She invoked the deities who had helped the people for centuries. She was reputed to be a jettatore, one having the ability to cast an evil eye. It was eluded that she cursed a Mafiosi to his death by a heart attack, after he beat up her husband and threatened unless he paid monthly protection money. Secretly, Concetta was a high priestess of the Goddess of the Sikels, the founding inhabitants of Sicily.
On September 26, 1951, Martello was initiated into his cousins’ secret Sicilian coven becoming a mago, a male witch. The initiation involved taking a blood oath swearing not to reveal the secrets of the coven or its members.
In 1955 Martello received a doctorate of divinity degree from the National Congress of Spiritual Consultants. He became an ordained minister (Spiritual Independents, Nonsectarian) and served as pastor of the Temple of Spiritual Guidance from 1955-1960. He left the position to pursue his interests in Witchcraft, parapsychology, psychology and philosophy, and rejected the theology of the previous organization he was associated with.
He worked in hypnographology, the study of handwriting obtained under hypnotic age regression, and was a professional graphologist, an handwriting analyst for business clients. He was founder and director of the American Hypnotism Academy in New York from 1950 to 1954, and served as treasurer of the American Graphological Society from 1955 to 1957.
Living in Tangier, Morocco, 1964-1965, he studied Oriental Witchcraft. In 1969 just prior to the publication of his first book on Witchcraft, Weird Ways of Witchcraft, and with the permission of his coven he decided to go public as a Witch to better promote the truth about Witchcraft. Subsequently, he was contacted and initiated into the Gardnerian, Alexandrian, and Traditionalist traditions. He was the first public Witch to champion the establishment of legally incorporated, tax-exempt Wiccan Churches; paid legal holidays for Witches; and Wiccan civil rights activists and demonstrations.
Being colorful and outspoken, Martello drew much attention with his “Witch-In” on in Central Park on Samhain (Halloween), 1970. At first the New York City Park Department refused him a permit to hold the Witch-In but relented after Martello secured the assistance of the New York Civil Liberties Union and threatened to file a suit of discrimination against a minority religion. The affair drew an audience of about 1,000 people. Following this Martello formed the Witches Anti-Defamation League, dedicated to ensuring Witches’ religious rights, which by the late 1980s had chapters in every state.
He drafted the “Witch Manifesto” calling for a National Witches Day Parade; the moral condemnation of the Catholic Church for the torture and murder of Witches during the Inquisition; a $500 million suit against the Church for damages and reparations to the descendants of the victims, to be paid by the Vatican; and a $100 million suit against Salem, Massachusetts, for damages in the 1692 trials. No doubt he hardly expected these suits to be won or the damages paid, but the condemnations emphasized the horrific crimes that had been committed. He foresaw that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would enable the establishment of Witches temples and churches.
Martello made his livelihood mainly as a writer, graphologist, and lecturer. His numerous publications educated others about the Craft. He spoke at many Pagan/Wiccan festivals and gatherings. He compared the Craft to an underground spring that predates Judeo-Christian and Muslim faiths, and occasionally surfaces in small streams and lakes. The modern Craft movement reflects a worldwide surfacing of this underground spring with such forced that its enemies cannot dam it. He claimed this tremendous force is a spiritual force comprised of souls of those murdered as Witches during the Inquisition. He defined a Witch as a wise practitioner of the Craft, a Nature worshipper, and one who is in control of his or her life. He was of the opinion that too many people enter the Craft bringing along too many hang-ups from their Judeo-Christian upbringing, and too much emphasis is placed on personalities in the broad neo-Pagan community.
His Sicilian upbringing taught him that a wrong must be rectified in this life and not left to “karma” in a future life. The Witch must not permit injustices. His own philosophy as outlined in How to Prevent Psychic Blackmail (1966) is one of “Psychoselfism: sensible selfishness versus senseless self-sacrifice.” Those who knew him say Martello was a kind and generous person, helping anyone who asked.
He authored numerous magazine articles and books which include Witchcraft: The Old Religion; Black Magic, Satanism and Voodoo; Understanding the Tarot; It’s Written in the Cards; Curses in Verses; Witches’ Liberation and Practical Guide to Witch Covens; Your Pen Personality; and The Hidden World of Hypnotism. A.G.H.
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen.The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft. New York: Facts On File.1989. pp. 223-224
Leo Martello. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_Martello>