Diana Queen of the Witches
For those of you reading my last few articles you probably noticed that I am using phrases from the Charge of the Goddess as my inspiration for the topics and the Goddesses. The Charge of the Goddess was written by Doreen Valiente (1) based on Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches by Charles Godfrey Leyland (2). He claimed that it contained the traditional beliefs of Italian witchcraft as conveyed him in a manuscript provided by a woman named Maddalena, whom he referred to as his “witch informant”. In Leland’s Gospel, Aradia is portrayed as a Messiah, who was sent to Earth in order to teach the oppressed peasants how to perform witchcraft to use against the Roman Catholic Church and the upper classes. Aradia is not historically a Goddess but her name is now linked to the worship of Diana. According to the legend, Aradia was born in 1313 in the town of Volterra in northern Italy. She gathered a small band of followers and went about the countryside, teaching and preaching the Old Religion of Italy, the worship of the Goddess of Witches Diana. She spoke of an Age of Reason to come that would replace the Age of the Son. When she departed, Aradia requested that a meal be held in her honor, and that she be remembered by future generations.
Doreen Valiente was one of Gerald Gardners’ High Priestesses, initiated by him in 1952. When Gardner retired and moved back to England from the Far East he met a group of people claiming to be a Traditional Witch Coven. This Coven was reported to be of the nine covens formed by George Pickingill (3) but the rituals and the teachings were fragmented. Gardner had added some of the work of Aleister Crowley into the Book of Shadows but Doreen, who was a writer and a poet, removed the Crowley material and re-worked the BOS into a usable and beautiful document. Most Witches (Wiccan) Covens today use the Charge of the Goddess by Doreen Valiente in their rituals. (See the end of this article for the whole text.)
Today we confuse Diana with the Greek artemis, seeing both in the familiar picture of the lightly clad, bow-bearing goddess who rides the moon or strides through the forest with her nymphs. And in later Roman times, Diana was indeed so pictured, but only after the original Italian goddess was assimilated into the powerful figure of Artemis, the goddess of the conquered Greeks.
Diana was originally queen of the open sky, worshiped only out-of-doors, where her domain stretched overhead. Possibly she was ruler of the sun as well as the moon, for the early Italians had no sun-god and had to adopt Apollo for that role. Diana’s name comes from the word for “light”; probably she was the original Italian ruler of the sun.
She ruled on earth as well, as bestower of sovereignty and granter of conception; thus she was sometimes called the threefold Diana Trivia. With two other deities she made up another trinity: Egeria the water nymph, her servant and assistant midwife; and Virbius, the mysterious woodland-god. The three lived together in the famous Wood of Nemi near Aricia. On her feast day, August 13th, processions of women would journey to Aricia to offer thanks in Diana’s grove for her help that year and to implore her continuing aid. The hunting dogs who accompanied them were crowned but kept leashed so as not to disturb the wild creatures who lived under Diana’s sky. Eventually Diana’s worship moved closer to the population center, to the Aventine Hill in Rome itself, where women continued to flock to her shrine for ritual hair washing and invocation for aid in childbirth.
We can use the information we know about Diana to connect with her and meet her in a spiritual experience. This ritual would be especially important for women who wanted to conceive a child, or perhaps anyone wanting to “birth” something new in their lives, such as love, a creative project or positive change. Set up an altar outside, better in the woods, during the Full Moon or on August 13th. If you have a dog you could take him with you, but I’m not sure the dog would be willing to wear a crown! I know my dogs would pull anything on their heads and eat it! While creating the ritual keep your hair tied up and loose it as you petition Diana. Wash your hair at the altar and leave an offering of food for the wild animals that Diana protects. You could recite the Charge of the Goddess under the moon during your ritual. Eat food in honour of Aradia, priestess of Diana.
The Charge Of The Goddess
Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who was of old also called Artemis; Astarte; Diana; Melusine; Aphrodite; Cerridwen; Dana; Arianrhod; Isis; Bride; and by many other names.
Whenever ye have need of anything, once in a month, and better it be when the Moon be full, then ye shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of me, who am Queen of all Witcheries.
There shall ye assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet have not yet won its deepest secrets: to these will I teach things that are yet unknown.
And ye shall be free from slavery; and as a sign that ye are really free, ye shall be naked in your rites; and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in my praise.
For mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and mine also is joy on earth; for my Law is Love unto all Beings.
Keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever toward it; let naught stop you or turn you aside.
For mine is the secret door which opens upon the Land of Youth; and mine is the Cup of the Wine of Life, and the Cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the Holy Grail of Immortality.
I am the Gracious Goddess, who gives the gift of joy unto the heart. Upon earth, I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal; and beyond death, I give peace, and freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before. Nor do I demand sacrifice, for behold I am the Mother of All Living, and my love is poured out upon the earth.
Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess, she in the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven; whose body encircleth the Universe; I, who am the beauty of the green earth, and the white Moon among the stars, and the mystery of the waters, and the heart’s desire, call unto thy soul. Arise and come unto me.
For I am the Soul of Nature, who giveth life to the universe; from me all things proceed, and unto me must all things return; and before my face, beloved of gods and mortals, thine inmost divine self shall be unfolded in the rapture of infinite joy.
Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth, for behold: all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. And therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honour and humility, mirth and reverence within you.
And thou who thinkest to seek for me, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not, unless thou know this mystery: that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee.
For behold, I have been with thee from the beginning; and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.
© Copyright the Doreen Valiente Foundation
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aradia,_or_the_Gospel_of_the_Witches to read this book on line for free see: http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/aradia/index.htm
- Monaghan, Patricia. “The Book of Goddesses and Heroines” 1990 Llewellyn Publishing