Diana (Artemis)

 Classical goddess of the Moon and
the hunt and one of the most important aspects of the
Goddess in Wicca. Diana (counterpart to he Greek Artemis)
personifies the positive attributes of the moon,
which 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
Hecate and serves as patron goddess of witches. In the
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 beehiveshaped
temple to her at Ephesus circa 900 b.c.e., 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 temple in 380, allegedly because he despised the religion
of women. Early Christians sought to destroy the
cult as Devil-worshipers, 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 torn 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
Apollo and Diana (Albrecht Dürer, 1502)
104 Diana
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 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
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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Categories:   Paganism and Witchcraft


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