As late as the fifth and sixth centuries, a Dianic cult flourished among European pagans. With the slow Chris-tianization 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 Wild 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 themselves, 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 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 A. MuRRAY erroneously believed that an organized Dianic cult of witches had existed throughout the Middle Ages and the witch hunt centuries, though no evidence survives to prove it. Murray relied heavily upon the Canon Episcopi in developing these ideas. They were adopted by GERALD B. GARDNER, a key figure in the revival of witchcraft in the 1950s in Britain.
Diana in Wicca. Though most Wiccans no longer believe in Murray's medieval Dianic cult, they do revere Diana as a 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 the Dianic tradition. She is a free spirit, an achiever, who knows what she wants and scores the mark with a single arrow shot. She is 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.
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