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:


Elspeth said...

Apologies for the weird links at the end - this was originally on the website for the coven that I'd left - I went back and grabbed my article because it took me ages!

Nick Perez Doujinshi and Theology said...

So is it better to say, that in the Strega Tradition, Aradia was an important priestess rather than a "messiah"? And in other traditions, to say that Aradia is just a name of the Goddess?

By Leland saying Aradia was the "messianic" daughter of Diana, that was just him putting his twist in just to rile people up? It seems like Leland was more of the Dan Brown of his tim.

Elspeth said...

Hello! Sorry it's taken me forever to get back to you. My brain has been here there and everywhere so I hope my response is helpful! I'll do what I can!

I think that Leland is just plain and simply trying to define her as 'an exceptional or hoped for liberator of a country or people' rather than drawing direct comparisons between herself and Jesus: it's more about the exact role she's playing and the exact definition of what a messiah is. Calling her a 'messiah' immediately makes us think of the Christian connotation, though it needn't do. I don't think that Leland labelled her as a messiah to rile people up, but as above, to define her role as an actual person amongst the people going about as a pilgrim. So really, you could describe the living Aradia as the 'messiah' and the venerated Goddess as just that: a Goddess. I guess (not that I'm any expert on Christianity) that Jesus always had the role of the Messiah, but also was a part of the 'son, father and holy spirit' at one with God. I think that we ought to regard Aradia in the same way, as a messiah and Goddess: the walking, living and breathing woman and how we revere her now.

Does that answer your question? Good question by the way, I hope I'm awake enough to answer it well for you.

)O( E

Nick Perez Doujinshi and Theology said...

It does answer my question, thanks.

But now that I look at it, Jesus who was Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was also God incarnate.

Aradia was Goddess incarnate and by extend Maiden, Mother, and Crone.

They are both labeled as messiahs and there are some similarities between Christianity and Wicca/Witchcraft. So my next kinda opinion question is this: Do you think that through Aradia and Jesus the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine were working in different ways to achieve the same goal?

Elspeth said...

Thanks Nick! Great questions.

If it's true that Aradia was anti-Christian in her sentiments when aiming to free the poor and oppressed from the slavery of the feudal system and the Christian faith then I would have to say no.

Just as I chose to define a messiah before from the dictionary (there were three definitions to choose from) as 'an exceptional or hoped for liberator of a country or people' she's only really aiming to free the oppressed who want to live their pagan lifestyle freely without the pressure of the church and state ruling their lives.

There's nothing written down on whether she healed people, but I got the impression that she helped those certain people who she saw as needing to be liberated.

)O( E

Nick Perez Doujinshi and Theology said...

Okay, thanks for the clarity. It's just that I've been reading Raven Grimassi's stuff on Stregheria and Catholicism adn he believes that Leland's Aradia, or the Gospel of Witches is a distorted view of Aradia's story.

Also, I found an article where the writer did believe Aradia was against the oppressive church at the time but said no true Wiccan or witch should be associated with writings or group based on Leland's Aradia (here's the article: )

I am simply trying to wrap my head around Aradia. There are some similarities between her and Jesus but still there's some difference that confuse me. Thank you anyway

Elspeth said...

Hi Nick! Indeed, the antiquity of the information that we are provided with via Leland is very hard to prove - particularly with Leland as one of the sole sources of information on Aradia. She's certainly a confusing subject! It is sad that there is not more information out there on her and it does make me wonder whether there ever was more information out there which could have possibly been snuffed out by the church OR whether they had their part in writing in more information at some point to include Cain etc. The truth is: who knows! I would certainly love to know more, but like many things lost in time, we may never know. She certainly is fascinating though and yes, a lot of the practices from then do not reflect what we do in Wicca now, but a lot of the practices in old witchcraft are seen as very unethical now - such as using animal body parts in some hedgewitch practices. Have a look into hedgewitchery if you haven't already, it's a fascinating subject.

Take care,
)O( E

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Elspeth, for your page on Aradia, and particularly for the picture of “The Beautiful Pilgrim.”

I have been a worshipper of Tana/Diana for many years, but always considered Aradia to be a mere mortal until two things occurred. First, a few years ago, I had the experience of sensing a “presence” emanating from my statue of her; and, second, it suddenly struck me that the words, “my race is of the stars,” in Grimassi’s “Charge,” suggested divinity. Since then, I’ve come to believe her to be *a* goddess, though not *the* goddess – if that makes any sense to you!

I had read of the pairing of Aradia and Cernunnos, but had always thought it nonsensical. However, just yesterday, this pairing came to me with the force of revelation. I don’t mind saying, I found it disturbing. However, since then, I’ve done a bit of research and found that it isn’t necessarily as nonsensical as I thought. I plan to pursue this pairing, particularly since before now the God has had no place in my devotional life.

Anonymous said...

Aradia was not Anti-Christian. Heck the original story did not even have her as teaching witchcraft. Yes she healed and had potions and such but she was a messiah like Jesus. She taught people to be free with themselves. To free themselves of oppression by a corrupt church. To love themselves and to love eachother. She wanted people to have the freedom they deserved. She only disliked those who destroyed her and tried to destroy the belief that their could be more then one way to search for spiritual happiness. She was tortured over a period of about a month by a corrupt priest searching for power which she never had. As they did in the old times in belief that you could never be brought back into this life, they dismembered her body after she passed and was scattered to the far reaches of the churches empire. She knew she would die. She just needed to show people how corrupt the world was becoming under the church's rule. She was "The Second Coming since she basically was supposed to do what Jesus Had done. Their will be a lot of Justice being sought in the Third Coming for destroying two of the children of the higher powers.

Elspeth said...

That's a shame that it's been interpreted that way (to be against Christianity). Whereabouts did you get this information from, I would love to read more.

charley rodriguez said...

So can you still worship Aradia? And I've heard a lot about Aradia and Cernunnos being the "divine lovers" or the God and Goddess.Is that something totally separate? Would it be wrong to think of them in that way? Sorry. I'm totally new to all things spiritual.

charley rodriguez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.