Saturday, November 27, 2010

Aradia - the mysterious 'Messiah of the Witches' and daughter of Diana

Aradia - the Messiah of the Witches
Born: As a Goddess: daughter of Diana in pre-Christian times & as the ‘second coming’: the niece of a witch
13 August 1313 (Diana’s day of worship)
Found in: Dianic witchcraft, Italian/Strega witchcraft, Gardnerian, the writings of Janet and Stewart Farrar
Setting: The town of Volterra ,Tuscany, Italy
People who write about her: Charles Leland, Raven Grimassi
Stone: Moonstone
Number: 13
Offerings: Strega liquore, walnuts, rue and tools of witchcraft and divination
Famous for: The Gospel of the Witches, from which The Charge of the Goddess derives from as well as many other rituals which feature in Wicca

Aradia ‘The Beautiful Pilgrim’
(artist unknown)

Herodias the biblical figure & Jewish princess of the Herodian dynasty
by Paul Delaroche

I first came across Aradia in Janet and Stewart Farrar’s AWitches Bible whose coven worshipped Aradia and Cernunnos. For some bizarre reason I’d never heard of her and decided to do some more research using this to find out whether there is some truth to the ‘mythological’ woman whom so few talk about. When searching through baby names and their definitions, many websites insist that Aradia is Greek for ‘Goddess of Witches’, with some believing that her name is derivative of Herodias or Erodiade, the latter being the Mediaeval Italian pronunciation of the name Herodias. Herodias, however, is a biblical character and does not replicate any characteristics of Aradia apart from the possibility that the name Aradia derives from Herodias. It is very strange that the two images above appear to almost resemble the same person – with such particular features.

Aradia was brought to our attention in recent history by Charles Leland who published Aradia: Gospel of the Witches in 1899. This text is meant to detail a true picture of Tuscan Witchcraft from this ‘messiah of the Witches.’ Many dispute the antiquity of Leland’s knowledge of Aradia, however his research also crosses over to other closely related topics in his other publications Etruscan Roman Remains, Legends of Florence and The Gypsies and Gypsy Sorcery (1) which would make him an expert on the area. Aradia has become the source of great inspiration for the Pagan Renaissance as one of the only true witches to be named openly in her era thanks to this scholar and folklorist writer. The Gospel of the Witches doesn’t give anything away about the personality of Aradia, and only implies to worship her and for her followers to work against their oppressors and to free themselves from slavery – in quite literal terms. Leland says that women of her day were often poor workers in a low wage who ultimately wanted to be freed from slavery. The Gospel also asks of their followers to work against Christianity and it isn’t clear whether the Inquisitors ever knew this, and it certainly didn’t stop them from slaughtering witches regardless.

Tis true indeed that thou a spirit art,
But thou wert born to become again
A mortal; thou must go to earth below
To be a teacher unto women and men
Who fain would study withcraft in thy school

- Gospel of the Witches

The writer Raven Grimassi states that Aradia was a worshipped Goddess and also walked the earth as a person called Aradia di Toscano, who adopted the Goddess’ name and taught Witchcraft. In Goddess form it is told that Diana sent Aradia to Earth to teach others the magickal arts as taught by Diana. The living Aradia is rumoured to have been born in 1313 in Tuscany in the town of Volterra, forming the grounds of Italian Witchcraft which in approximately 150 years’ time would fall into the hands of the Inquisition which famously imprisoned and killed heretics for ‘the public good’(2). In 1508, ‘Italian Inquisitor Bernando Rategno noted that a rapid expansion of witchcraft had occurred one hundred and fifty years earlier, corresponding in time with Aradia’s second coming’ (3). The living Aradia was said to have been burnt at the stake having made sure that her manuscript, the Gospel was both written in detail and kept away from the Inquisitors. It is from The Gospel of the Witches that we derive a great deal of our rites: mooncakes, the feast after the ritual, consecrating salt and being skyclad during ritual.

Nicknamed ‘The Beautiful Pilgrim’, Aradia "travelled far and wide, teaching and preaching the religion of old times, the religion of Diana, the Queen of the Fairies and of the Moon, the goddess of the poor and the oppressed. And the fame of her wisdom and beauty went forth over all the land, and people worshipped her, calling her La Bella Pellegrina (the beautiful pilgrim)(4).”

Leland’s text tells the story of Diana and her brother/lover Lucifer who bore Aradia. Indeed, this is where the Roman Catholics found their source of ‘devil worship’ in The Craft, but Lucifer was not always a Biblical figure. Lucifer is Latin for “Light Bringer” as the ‘Sun’ to balance with Diana of the Moon – the archetypal dark and light, yin and yang, with Lucifer formed from Diana herself. Diana is said to have changed herself into Lucifer’s cat and seduced Lucifer to produce Aradia. The Christians also replaced Diana of Ephesus: ‘Ephesus became a place of Mary, Mother of God’ (5) as Christian groups often quashed Pagan sites quite literally by either building over what were Pagan sites of worship or rewriting over the top of Pagan stories. The bible states that Lucifer was an angel in heaven and had been banished from Paradise for being too vain which could be seen as a way of Christian society criticising Pagans for their “vanity” or in truth for the love of their bodies in comparison to the Christians’ conservative approach to the body as a vessel of ‘sin’.

Doreen Valiente took the following verse from this text as well as Aleister Crowley’s version – which was much darker. This became The Charge of the Goddess with this original version urging you to continue until the ‘last of your oppressors shall be dead’ which we could relate in a metaphorical sense to The Ordeal we face in our first degree initiation.

When I have departed from this world
Whenever ye have need of anything
Once in the month, and when the moon is full
Ye shall assemble in some desert place,
Or in a forest all together join
To adore the potent spirit of your Queen,
My mother, great Diana. She who fain
Would learn all sorcery yet has not won
Its deepest secrets, them my mother will
Teach her, in truth all things yet unknown.
And ye shall all be freed from slavery,
And so ye shall be free in everything;
And as a sign that ye are truly free,
Ye shall be naked in your rites, both men
And women also: this shall last until
The last of your oppressors shall be dead;
And ye shall make the game of Benevento,
Extinguishing the lights, and after that
Shall hold your supper thus

Text sources:
(1) http://www.controvers...
(2) http://en.wikipedia.o...
(3) Judika Illes, ‘Encyclopedia of Spirits’ Aradia
(4) Grimassi, Raven: http://www.stregheria...
(5) http://www.covenofthe...
(6) Leland, Charles, 1899 ‘Aradia: Gospel of the Witches’

Image Sources:

Desired Home VI

I tried to trace who designed this and where it is and I couldn't find anything, and I'm scared that the tree trunks will grow more and sssquash this house like a big hand and turn it into match sticks!
via Sun in Scorpio

Witchy Outfit of the Week XV

The rules?  There are no rules.
Image via Wurzeltod

30 Days of Paganism [Day 5: Beliefs - Sacred Sexuality]

I had been deliberately putting off this Day for for ooh, about a month now!  Before you know it, I'm behind in a lot of writing.  My torturously long hours at work are now over and I finally have time to write some more and a whole month to very carefully about Sacred Sexuality.

How we perceive ourselves as sexual beings can change and alter slightly with ebbs and flows just like in any other area of our lives.  How I view my sexuality could depend on how I feel that day and my looking in the mirror on different days I'm viewing someone constantly evolving, changing, maturing and learning.

I just switched the television on to an old 1940s film where the woman runs into the arms of her lover, head tilted back in awe, covered in makeup and hair set into place almost in a pose of submission as he holds her wrists.  How women are portrayed in the media as the seductee, is very different today and different again amongst various cultures.  Separate societies are constantly changing and evolving to work around values, depending on where you live and also - just as importantly - the way we view our sexuality is affected by the media.  How are we supposed to feel about our bodies?

The way we think is often affected by where we live and when, for example: during the 1800s, women would react to bad news by fainting whereby they would have to have smelling salts put underneath their nose to 'wake up' from their state of shock.  Women then carried out learnt behaviour taught to them by society in the age of 'hysteria' which in the 1900s turned into 'schitzoid' behaviour (I'm not using my words there) which had women reacting to actions in a very different way.  Anorexia in one side of the world is created for very different reasons - for example, in the Western world, women are usually anorexic because they are abhorred by their bodies and don't ever feel that they will ever be thin enough.  However, in parts of Eastern Asia, the majority of women who become anorexic do so because they're simply unhappy - and rather than being thin all over have distended stomachs, much like the images we see of children starving in Africa.  This has changed again thanks (or no thanks) to their access to Western media which now sees young women in Asian countries taking up eating disorders in order to actually be thin, rather than out of self-destructive sadness.

Thus, the Western view of sexuality changes and warps: what is the ideal figure for a woman, how does she approach a man and how do we choose to seduce each other and appreciate our sexuality and form?  This afternoon I watched Faster, Pussycat!  Kill!  Kill!  from 1965 which features a triad of wild car-racing women, ready to take on the world with their huge hips, tiny waists and buxom pointed bras.  Only five years later, the rail thin hippy look is in.

I've read several articles of late on how some men have a skewed view on what to expect from women in bed which has been badly affected by watching a lot of porn.  The porn industry does not allow for the healthy, loving and rewarding experience of sharing sexuality which is instead a place of extreme fantasy, depicting an unrealistic appetite for carnal experiences which could be very out of the ordinary.

This is why I found this post so hard to write - sexuality is so changeable and interpreted by many in so many different ways.

We are born into the world skyclad (i.e: naked, or clad only by the sky) as nature intended and are most beautiful in our natural form.  Wiccans in particular are encouraged not only to perform magick amongst nature as much as possible but to also honor their diety skyclad if and when they can, particularly for Beltane.  You are beautiful without makeup, without clothes, with all but the form you were meant to be.  Pagans do not view themselves as being separate from the rest of the animal kingdom - we are one with every part of nature and recognise ourselves as being perfect as we are.  We treat our bodies well and listen to them carefully to make for the strongest energy force to contribute our positivity to the world.

Pagans respect their bodies in their natural state, and approach sex and sexuality in much the same way.  Our creativity also comes into play, thinking of how partners in arrays of pantheons would interact with one another, which is then filtered through our own personal aesthetics and particular Pagan belief system.  Pagans that I have met are much more at ease when they unexpectedly put on a few kilograms, and thanks to that attitude, they can easily find healthy and constructive ways of remedying it if they want to and if it's necessary.  One Wiccan woman that I know is close to her 40s and, having been slim her whole life, takes the approach that the Goddess is voluptuous and beautiful - so comparitively it's much easier for her to cope with.

My self image is very different to the average Western woman.  I have found that over the years I avoid women's magazines unless it's a Pagan publication or about women's health.  In general, I have become less materialistic and when I do buy something, the colour or shape resonate somehow back into my Wiccan belief system and thus have more value and meaning.  Jewellery becomes more symbolic with images of bumblebees, cats, frogs, faeries or simply for their colour or the crystal that features in them.

The Great Rite is performed at the end of a ritual, which is a metaphorical performance of the sex act, putting the athame or wand into the chalice which represents the phallus uniting with the womb.  This rite concludes the ritual to honor the balance of gender roles in the form of our chosen Goddess and God, and to generally honor the balance of life itself.  Woman and man are equal, and their energies as Mother Earth and Father Sky make for the balance of the Universe.

I almost feel like apologising for making this post more about self image than sacred sexuality, so perhaps this will be Part I....

)O( E

*My apologies for not putting sources into this article, I had an amazing article many months back on how mental disorders change and are intepreted across periods of time and cultures around the world.  I just couldn't find it so that I could add quotes to this post!