Day 4 —Aradia (Moon, Queen of Witches, liberty from oppression, nature)
Aradia is a Moon Goddess from Tuscany, honoured by the witches of that region but not well known outside of Italy until in 1899, when the American folklorist Charles Leland published Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches
According to the legend, after her birth, Aradia is sent to Earth by Diana to instruct humans in the ways of witchcraft. Aradia is a Messiah to the slaves, peasants, and those oppressed. Becoming the first witch, Aradia teaches witchcraft as a tool of liberation, offering spells and enchantments to help the peasants/slaves rid themselves of the “race of oppressors.” Her students become witches themselves, and establish the worship of Diana. Aradia promises “ye shall all be freed from slavery,/ And so ye shall be free in everything.” Witchcraft here is specifically used to bring down the elite/Church and liberate the masses from their oppressive yoke.
“the Gospel of the Witches” greatly influenced Margaret Murray and her witch-cult hypothesis, and key pieces of prose and mythology from “Aradia” went on to influence Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente. The promise Aradia makes to the witches, by way of “The Charge of the Goddess”, became “And ye shall be free from slavery; and as a sign that ye are really free, ye shall be naked in your rites…” establishing the Wiccan tradition of ritual nudity. Aradia is worshiped by modern Pagans and Wiccans as the Queen of the Witches.
Aradia is both the daughter of and messenger of, Diana in Her aspect as Great Mother. The legend of Aradia may have originated in a dim memory of an actual woman who was a great teacher of magick and witchcraft and who was a defender of the poor.
Aradia has become an important figure in Wicca as well as some other forms of Neo-Paganism. Some Wiccan traditions use the name “Aradia” as one of the names of the Great Goddess, Moon Goddess or “Queen of the Witches”. Portions of Leland’s text influenced the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, especially the Charge of the Goddess. Between 1950 and 1960, “Aradia” was probably the secret name of the Goddess in Gardnerian Craft. The Goddess Aradia is a central figure in Stregheria, the“ethnic Italian” form of Witchcraft.
The Goddess form of Aradia today is that of a nature Goddess, crowned with the crescent Moon of Her mother/other self-Diana. She is young and beautiful, but wise. Her consorts are Cernunnos, Herne or Pan.
Champion of the Witches
Aradia is often described as the Witches Messiah, the saviour sent to Earth by the old gods to help their enslaved people to be liberated from the oppression of the Roman Catholic Church and the Italian upper classes. Although it is true that the Gospel portrays her in this light, I much prefer to think of her as the “Champion of the Witches.” Aradia’s witches do not seek freedom through her; instead they acquire the power to liberate themselves from following her example. The Craft does not, and has never, needed an intermediary, and Aradia does not claim to be one. Aradia empowers her people to liberate themselves with the gifts of witchcraft, and this is as relevant to us as practitioners today as it ever was.
Personality of the Goddess
As a champion leading the people in their fight for freedom we are shown a lot about the nature and personality of this amazing goddess. As a champion of the oppressed, Aradia is shown to stand against injustice. This not only highlights her nature as a feisty rebel willing to challenge the establishment; she is also shown to have great empathy and compassion for those disempowered souls who need to reconnect with their own magic and personal power. As a teacher to these people, she tells them: “When I shall have departed from this world whenever ye have need of anything, once in the month, and when the moon is full… adore the mighty spirit of my mother, Diana… and ye shall all be freed from slavery.” In this she demonstrates that she does not require devotion or a cult of personality, as her goal is to help her witches find their way back to the Goddess. She is not driven by ego or self-important.
Other Known Names and Roles
The infamous 1486 CE witch-hunting manual Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of the Witches) has curious footnotes that links Aradia, or Herodias, with the witches’ cult of Diana in Italy. In addition to Malleus Maleficarum, the famous canon Episcopi also indicates the same relationship between Diana and Aradia. This demonstrates these two figures were central to the witchcraft practices of that time period. Although the exact date of its publication cannot be accurately identified, other texts published as early as 906 CE reference the canon directly. This means that Aradia had been recorded as a key part of the religious gatherings of witches in the cult of Diana, acting as Witch-Queen or teacher, for seven years short of a millennia before Leland first brought this incredible Gospel to the attention of the world.
When working with the spirit of Aradia it is important to remember this fact and not attempt to limit or restrict her sphere of influence. She is a witches’ goddess, after all; just as we can work in multiple aspects of the Craft, it stands to reason that such a goddess would be far more capable.
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