Dr. Leo Louis Martello
By Lori Bruno
Reprinted with the gracious permission of Lori Bruno
Born September 26, 1930
Born into the Summerland June 29, 2000
Where do I begin to write about a legend? A man who gave tirelessly of himself for the fight for human rights, animal
rights, gay and lesbian rights, and for Witches worldwide to worship in complete freedom?
Leo Martello was an amazingly compassionate man. He never turned away anyone who genuinely needed his time and
effort in the pursuit of a just cause. He fought long and hard for the freedom of Witches and Pagans. He coined the very
phrase: "Out of your broom closets and on to your brooms!" He was always humorous, but in that humor there were
always wise lessons. He was fond of saying: "The coward finds a way out; the brave find a way." And he was himself
brave and always in the forefront of a controversial or difficult movement. It is to his credit that he stood up in the initial
movement for gay and lesbian rights in New York City's "Stonewall Riots" in the 1970's. A spirit of light imbued the mortal
body of Dr. Leo Louis Martello. He was equal to a million Suns and was crucial to the craft's beginning in this country. He
was not one who jumped on the bandwagon because it was the "in" thing to do. Many write about the craft; however,
Leo possessed an inner fire--the "heartfire" of the true Witch.
To have known Leo Louis Martello was an honor, and ever a challenge. Leo was a loving man, yet sometimes caustic.
Leo taught this way. Sometimes he was a tough teacher, but it was to make you strong, and he did it with love. I soon
learned I could never hide myself from him. He could see right into me and knew me for who and what I was. If at times
he was critical, it was never intended to hurt, but rather to help me grow to my true potential. He once said these wise
words to me: "Never let your failures poison your heart, nor your successes poison your disposition." With Leo you could
make no excuses and take no shortcuts. To him, only cowards made excuses.
To me he was a beloved teacher, high priest, and father. After my own father died, it was Leo who taught me. He was
there for me, a beloved mentor. No one can ever take his place. Leo Martello now sits with the Ancient Ones, and they
surely are telling him: "Welcome, our son. You did well. Join your ancestors, all those who paid with their lives to bring
the Ancient Ways back to a breeding Mother Earth."
As I write these words, it is with great respect and a very sad heart. There isn't an hour of the day or night that I do not
My comfort is knowing he walks now in the Elysian Fields and the Summerland with his beloved pets and all of his animals. Tears well up in my
eyes as I remember the dream I had in August (2000), at Lammas, when he came and asked to kiss my beloved Tasha, a snow-white Samoyed
(dog) who lived eleven years by my side. I awoke to find Tasha not her old self. She refused food and would only drink water. We took her to the
veterinarian, and after tests discovered she had cancer of the pancreas and liver. There was no hope. As I held her close to me, I knew that he
had come from the other side to take her to run with him in the beautiful fields before she would suffer on this earthly plane.
Tasha passed away in my arms, and that night, in my dreams, I ran with Tasha in a beautiful wheat and poppy-filled field, and we came to a
wooden bridge. How I wanted to cross that bridge as Tasha ran ahead of me, but my legs could not move. And as I looked across where Tasha
ran, there was my beloved high priest, second father, mentor and wise one, waving to me saying, "Go back and do what you have to do."
THE BIOGRAPHY OF LEO MARTELLO
There have been many times since Leo's passing that his spirit has been made known to the members of Our Lord and Lady of the Trinacrian
Rose Coven. If it were not for him in 1992, we would not be the coven we are today. We are a Sicilian coven, whose beginnings stem from ancient
Sicily. Our name comes from the ancient name of Sicily--Trinacria, meaning "three capes." We are all priests and priestesses of the ancient secret
Sikelian Goddess. The Sikels were the first inhabitants of Sicily. Primarily, we are all a sacred priest and priestesshood. To the people of my
tradition--the Mago and Maga, Strega and Stregone--Leo had a true heart, and heart is the true magic, and anything else is technical. The Gods
see the human heart, and here alone you are truly judged in your rites. Leo Martello was one of the blessed ones with his endless and boundless
To understand this heartfire, I must say something about Leo's history. For this we go back to the 1930's America, during the time of the Great
Depression. Poverty was rampant in the United States. Joblessness, homelessness, and hunger were prevalent. It was a most terrible time for
anyone to come into this world.
Leo sprang from a Sicilian immigrant father who had a farm in Massachusetts. Leo was baptized a Catholic. In his book Witchcraft: The Old
Religion, he states that many of the Strega and Stregone hid under the very eyes of the Roman Catholic Church. His parents divorced when Leo
was very young; consequently, Leo's father put him in a Catholic boarding school. The six years he spent at the boarding school were the
unhappiest of his life. Needless to say, he did some mischief there and got into no little trouble. However, through this experience, at a very young
age, Leo became strong and determined to move forward and never looked back, and never let sadness poison his spirit--as we Sicilians and
Italians say, "Avante!"
Leo had many psychic experiences as a child. In his early teens, he began his study of palmistry and tarot with a Gypsy woman. Aside from being
a Sicilian Stregone and Mago, Leo also in time became a learned hypnotist, graphologist, publisher, and author. His publications included works
on the craft, as well as books on hypnotism and handwriting analysis. When he was sixteen, he began making radio appearances, and giving
handwriting analyses and selling stories to magazines. Later, he made television appearances. At the age of nineteen, he won a gold medal for the
best fiction written by a teenage author in New York City.
Leo was educated at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts and at Hunter College and the Institute for Psychotherapy in New Your
City. He managed all of this on his own, supporting himself with a variety of odd jobs.
Leo's grandmother on his father's side, Maria Concetta, was a well-known Strega Maga and High Priestess of the secret Goddess of the Sikels, in
her hometown of Enna, Sicily. Enna is the place where the sacred Lago Pergusa and the cave from which Hades took Persephone to the
underworld are located. Maria Concetta was reputed to have helped many people in Enna. It was also said that Maria Concetta, who loved her
husband very much, was the cause of a local evil Mafiosi's death when he threatened to kill Maria Concetta's husband if the husband did not pay
protection money to him. The Mafiosi dropped dead of a heart attack. We can only speculate whether this was Maria Concetta's doing--after all,
what goes around comes around. This may seem terrible to some, but in those days, sometimes it was necessary for the Strega to take justice into
their own hands, and Maria Concetta was a Maga. She protected her own.
Leo's father said that Leo physically resembled grandmother Maria Concetta. He surely had her temperament and psychic abilities. Leo's father
also told Leo there were cousins in New York City who were of the Ancient Ways, and who wished to meet him. Thus began the journey that was to
change his life forever.
Leo met his cousins and they told him they had been watching him for years for his potential in the Old Religion, or as it is know, "La Vecchia." On
September 26, 1951, Leo was given initiation into his cousins' secret Sicilian coven; he then became a Mago, a Stregone, or male Witch. The
initiation involved a blood oath never to reveal the secrets of the coven or its members or any of the secret teachings. In any and all of Leo's
books, he has never revealed the secret Sicilian teaching to which he was privy. He was never an "Infamia," or "Oath-breaker."
In 1955, Leo Martello was awarded a Doctorate of Divinity degree by the National Congress of Spiritual Consultants. He became a minister of
Spiritual-Nonsectarian, and served as Pastor of the Temple of Spiritual Guidance from 1955 to 1960. He left his position there to pursue his
interests in witchcraft, parapsychology, psychology, and philosophy, thereby no longer accepting the theology of the National Congress of Spiritual
He also used his talents as graphologist, or handwriting analyst, to examine handwriting for various corporate clients. He was founder and director
of the American Hypnotism Academy in New York from 1950 to 1954, and was treasurer of the American Graphological Society from 1955 to 1957.
In 1964, Leo Martello decided to travel to Morocco in North Africa. From 1964 to 1965, he resided in Tangier, Morocco, to study oriental religion,
magic, and witchcraft.
In 1969, before he published his first book, Weird Ways of Witchcraft, Leo sought permission of his Sicilian coven to go public as a Witch.
Subsequently, he contacted and was initiated into the Gardnerian-Alexandrian, Alexandrian, and Traditionalist witchcraft traditions.
He was the first public Witch to champion the establishment of legally incorporated tax-exempt Wiccan churches, civil rights for Witches, and like all
mainstream religions, paid days off for Witches on their holidays. To strengthen and further this cause, Leo founded the Witches' Liberation
Movement and the Witches International Craft Association (WICA). In 1970, he launched publication of the WICA Newsletter and Witchcraft Digest..
Leo Martello was a very outspoken man with a colorful way of saying things. On All Hallows Eve, in 1970, he arranged for a "Witch-in" in New York
City's Central Park. At first the New York City Parks Department refused to issue a permit. However, they changed their minds when Leo secured
the services of the New York Civil Liberties Union and threatened a lawsuit on behalf of a minority religion whose rights were being violated. On
Thursday, October 29, the permit was granted in a most cordial manner. Leo's sense of humor became apparent when the Parks Department
wanted to change the words "Witch-in." Leo refused, saying, "Since we will be in the sheep meadow in Central Park, and it once had sheep grazing
in it, and since the symbolic God of the Witches is a goat, what could be more appropriate! Shall we call it a Goat-In?" Their jaws dropped, and he
said, "I guess it was a good thing I didn't ask for permission for a Goat-in!"
The Witch-in was attended by 1,000 persons, and was filmed and made into a documentary by Global Village. The Witch-in constituted the first
civil rights victory for Witches. Witches and non-Witches held hands in the ever-widening circle and danced the Witches reel, while singing and old
Wiccan tune, "London Bridge is Falling Down," with new words composed by a Connecticut Witch.
Witches meet in Central Park, Central Park, Central Park,
Witches meet in Central Park. For our Lady!
Leo always honored the women of the Craft, saying that there had to be balance between God and Goddess.
Leo drafted a Witch Manifesto which called for a National Witch Day parade, the moral condemnation of the Catholic Church for its torture and
murder of Witches during the Inquisition, a $500,000,000 lawsuit against the Church for damages and reparation to the descendants of victims to
be paid by the Vatican, and a $100,000,000 suit against Salem, Massachusetts, for damages in the 1692 Witch Trials.
Leo foresaw that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would enable the establishment of Wiccan temples and churches. His definition of a Witch was: "A
wise practitioner of the craft, a nature worshipper, and a person who is in control of his or her life." To Leo, many people entered the craft with a
great deal of hang-ups from their Judeo-Christian upbringing. The Sicilian tradition of the craft teaches that a wrong needs to be rectified in this
life, not left to karma in a future life. The Witch must not condone injustices. Leo's own philosophy, as outlined in his 1966 book How to Prevent
Psychic Blackmail, is one of psychoselfism, and sensible selfishness versus senseless self-sacrifice.
In time, Leo founded the Witches Anti-Defamation League [ later renamed the Witches Anti-Discrimination Lobby-WADL], dedicated to ensuring
Witches' religious rights. By the late 1980's, chapters of the League had been established in every state in the U.S.A.
Other major publishing credits include Witchcraft: The Old Religion; Black Magic, Satanism and Voodo; Understanding the Tarot; It's Written in the
Start; It's Written in the Cards; Curses in Verses; Your Pen Personality; and The Hidden World of Hypnotism.
Dr. Leo Louis Martello took a lot of important stands in the early days of the craft, and enabled those who came later to have it a little easier.
However, Leo would now more than ever want us to continue creating an air of respect for the craft, never to allow our detractors to destroy our
sacred faith. The craft is a sacred Priest and Priestesshood. No matter how holy and sacred you try to appear--how many books you write, or
lectures you give at festivals--if you are not sincere and respectful, then you have failed. You are not a Witch, and the God and Goddess see you
down to your naked bones.
The following words of Dr. Leo Louis Martello are from his book, Witchcraft: The Old Religion:
"In the Craft, there is no hard dogma. Hard drugs are forbidden. Mindless morons can't be a compliment to our Mother Goddess. Sex is sacred,
not something to be exhibited at a peep show. Power is something personal, not to be used over others, which is contrary to Craft ethics. Those
who think the Old Religion will make them masters over others are slaves to their own self delusions. A happy person is always a powerful
person and is hated by those who aren't. A happy person is in many ways selfish; in the Craft we must protect our best interests and ensure that
the power that comes from joy remains constant, knowing that none of us are immune from the vicissitudes of life, but that our Old Religion will
help us handle any adversity. The Craft has survived for thousands of years. After everything else has come and gone, it will remain. And one
day, in the coming Age of Aquarius, there will once again be magnificent temples to the Goddess."
If you, as a Witch, allow wrongful acts in your midst and say nothing, you are as guilty as the perpetrator of the wrong. Leo believed in justice, and
he detested cowards.
He was the honorary father and elder of our coven. Our people miss him a great deal. Mere writing cannot tell how much we grieve for Leo. Within
each and every one of us, he still lives. As Leo profoundly surmised:
"The Craft is an underground spring which has existed for centuries and predates the Judeo-Christian and Muslim faiths, and occasionally rises to
the surface in small streams and lakes. The modern craft move-ment reflects a worldwide rising of this underground spring coming with such
force that it cannot be dammed by our enemies. The force behind this tidal wave is the murdered souls of the Witches condemned by the
Inquisition! We are back and are going to stay to guide people to truly know what peace andrespect of humanity is. Hail to our Goddess and
We remember Leo--your light will never be extinguished. Bless you for being a light unto the great light. May we meet again and walk the Elysian
Fields with you. And may you return to help this mortal world when the need arises for the voice of justice to be heard.
In The News: The following are transcripts of found newspaper articles re: Dr. Martello
1974-02-19 Tucson Daily Citizen
Witches fight for liberation
1995-10-31 Daily Sitka Sentinel - (Sitka Alaska)
Modern Witches Deny They Intend Any Harm