|The High Priestess of the
'Circle of the Mystic Moon'
shown 'Channeling' the Goddess Artemis (Diana) during a ritual in the Coven's Temple Sanctuary (2001)
of the Moon and the hunt, Diana is one of the most important aspects of the Goddess
in modern Witchcraft
. Diana (counterpart to the Greek Artemis
) personifies the positive attributes of the moon, which according to some is the source of Witches' magical power, as well as independence, self-esteem and fierce aggressiveness. A virgin Goddess
and maiden warrior, she is the "eternal feminist
" owned by no man, beholden to none. As a moon Goddess
, Diana shares the lunar trinity with Selene
and serves as Patron Goddess
of witches. In this trinity, she represents power over the earth.
Diana's origins as Artemis comprise a rich mythology. Her cult flourished throughout the Mediterranean region during the Bronze Age. The Amazons build a beehive-shaped temple to her at Ephesus circa 900 B.C., and it is considered the Seventh Wonder of the ancient world. The temple contained a statue of Black Diana, on which was implanted a magical stone. Emperor Theodosius closed the ternple in 380, allegedly because he despised the religion of women. Early Christians sought to destroy the cult as Devil-worshippers, and Black Diana was smashed ca. 400.
According to myth, Artemis was born of Zeus and Leto, a nature deity and the twin sister of Apollo, who became the god of Oracles and of the sun. As soon as she was born, Artemis was thrust into the role of protector and helper of women. Though Artemis was born without pain, Apollo caused Leto great suffering. Artemis served as midwife. As a result, women have traditionally prayed to her to ease childbirth.
As a youth, Artemis exhibited a boyish taste for adventure and independence. At her request, Zeus granted her a bow and a quiver of arrows, a band of nymph maidens to follow her, a pack of hounds, a short tunic suitable for running and eternal chastity, so that she could run forever through the wilderness. She was quick to protect wildlife and animals, as well as humans who appealed to her for help, especially women who were raped and victimized by men.
She was equally quick to punish offending men. Actaeon, a hunter who spied Artemis and her nymphs bathing nude in a pool, was turned into a stag and tom to pieces by his own hounds. She killed Orion, whom she loved, with an arrow shot to the head. In one version, she was tricked into killing Orion by Apollo, who did not like Orion; in another version, she killed him out of jealousy over his feelings for Dawn.
She sent a boar to ravage the countryside of Calydon as punishment to King Oeneus, because he forgot to include her in the Sacrifice of the first fruits of harvest. (None of the bravest male warriors of Greece could slay the boar. It took another woman, Atalanta, to do it.)
In British myth, Diana directed Prince Brutus of Troy to flee to Britain after the fall of that city. Brutus, who then founded Britain's royalty, is said to have erected an altar to Diana at the site where St. Paul's Cathedral is located today. A surviving remnant of that altar is the London Stone.
As late as the fifth and sixth centuries, a Dianic cult flourished among European pagans. With the slow Christianization of Europe, Diana became associated with evil and Satan. In the early Middle Ages, she was believed to be the Patroness of Sorcery (an evil) and to lead witches' processions and rites. Historian Jeffrey B. Russell notes that Dianic witches' processions were not known in classical times but probably grew out of the Teutonic myth of the Wild Hunt, a nocturnal spree of ghosts who destroyed the countryside.
Clerical scholars may have substituted Diana, a familiar deity, for the Teutonic Goddesses, Holda and Berta, who sometimes led the WIild Hunt and who were identified by the Church as followers of the Devil.
The Canon Episcopi, an ecclesiastical law written ca. 900, reinforced the portrayal of a devil Diana who leads the witches: "It is not to be omitted that some wicked women, perverted by the Devil, seduced by illusions and phantasms of demons, believe and profess them-selves, in the hours of the night, to ride upon certain beasts with Diana, the Goddess of pagans, and an innumerable multitude of women, and in the silence of the dead of the night to traverse great spaces of earth, and to obey her commands as of their mistress, and to be summoned to her service on certain nights".
Diana also became associated somehow with Herodias, wife of Herod, who was responsible for the execution of John the Baptist. Herodias took on the aspects of a demon, condemned to wander through the sky forever but allowed by God to rest in trees from midnight to dawn. In Italian lore, the name Herodias became Aradia. In the 19th Century, Charles Godfrey Leland recorded oral legends told to him by witches of Etruscan heritage concerning Aradia, the daughter of Diana and her brother Lucifer.
Diana dispatched Aradia to earth to teach witches their craft.
British anthropologist Margaret Alice Murray theorized that an organized Dianic cult of witches had existed throughout the Middle Ages and the witch-hunt centuries, though there is not a single piece of evidence survives to prove it. Murray's theory was adopted by Gerald B. Gardner, a key figure in the revival of witchcraft in the 1950's in Britain.
Though most modern witches no longer believe in Murray's medieval Dianic cult, they do revere Diana as an ancient Pagan deity and an Archetype. As part of the Triple Goddess aspect of the moon, Diana holds sway over the new and waxing moon, a two-week period that is auspicious for magic related to new beginnings, growth and achievement.
Diana is invoked as nurturer and protector. At the full moon, she turns her power over to Selene.
As an Archetype, Diana serves as a role model for feminist Witchcraft, called Dianic Wicca. She is a free spirit, an achiever, who knows what she wants and scores the mark with a single arrow shot.
She is regarded as neither dependent upon nor subjugated by men. Though a lunar Goddess, she walks the earth, and her domain is the wild; she is one with nature.
One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.
Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans. Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.
Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church. Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.
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