Martello, Leo Louis

Martello, Leo Louis (d. 2000)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Leo Martello, a self-proclaimed Witch, was born in Dudley, Massachusetts, and grew up in nearby Worcester and Southbridge. He was the son of Rocco Luigi Martello and was baptized and raised a Roman Catholic, spending six years in a Catholic boarding school. In his early teens he took an interest in fortune telling, being especially drawn to palmistry and graphology. At age 18 he moved to New York City and attended Hunter College.

Martello's grandmother, Maria Concetta, was known as a strega, or Witch, in her hometown of Enna, Sicily. She was reputed to cast the evil eye and claimed to have cursed a man to death of a heart attack.

In 1955 Martello obtained a doctor of divinity degree from the National Congress of Spiritual Consultants and became minister of the Spiritual Independents, Nonsectarian, serving as pastor from 1955 until 1960. He did research into graphology and hypnotherapy, in 1950 founding the American Hypnotism Academy in New York and acting as treasurer for the American Graphological Society from 1955 to 1957.

In 1964 and 1965 he spent time in Tangier, Morocco, studying Oriental magic. In 1969 his book Weird Ways of Witchcraft was published, but it was mainly his own personal attack on the Roman Catholic Church. The publisher later regretted its appearance and asked the author to write Witchcraft Ancient and Modern to replace it. Martello subsequently claimed initiation into various branches of Witchcraft and established himself as a spokesman for Wicca in New York, although his methods were frequently controversial among Wiccans and non-Wiccans alike. He founded the Witches Liberation Movement and the Witches International Craft Association (originally called the Witches Institute of Craft Arts). On October 31, 1970, he sponsored the first Hallowe'en "Witch In" in New York's Central Park. Initially, the Parks Department refused permission, but when Martello took his case to the New York Civil Liberties Union, threatening a discrimination suit, he got the permit. He went on to draft a "Witch Manifesto" calling for a National Witches' Day Parade and the condemnation of the Roman Catholic Church for its torture and murder of Witches during the Inquisition, with a $500 million suit against the Church for damages to be paid to the descendants and a $100 million suit against the city of Salem, Massachusetts.

In 1974 University Books, Inc., of New Jersey, published Martello's book Witchcraft: The Old Religion, a serious attempt to detail the background and present-day practice of Wicca. Other of his books included Black Magic, Satanism and Voodoo; Curses in Verses; Your Pen Personality; and The Hidden World of Hypnotism.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.