Aradia The Tuscan legend of Aradia, daughter of the moon goddess Diana who was dispatched to earth to establish witchcraft and teach it to witches, was published by the American folklorist, Charles Godfrey Leland, in 1889. Leland said the legend had been passed on to him by a hereditary Etruscan witch named Maddalena. Godfrey said the name Aradia is a corruption of Herodias, or Queen Herodias, the wife of Herod, with whom Diana came to be identified by the 11th century.
Leland went to Tuscany in northern Italy in the 1880s. There he met a “sorceress” named Maddalena, whom he employed to collect from her witch “sisters” old spells and traditions. In 1886, he heard about a manuscript that supposedly set down the old tenets of witchcraft. He told Maddelana to find it. A year later, she gave him a document in her own handwriting, an alleged copy of this manuscript.
Leland translated it into English and published it as Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches. He was struck by the references to Diana and Lucifer, and offered it as evidence of witchcraft as an old religion. In his preface, he acknowledged drawing from other, unspecified sources. He never produced Maddalena or any documentation to verify her existence.
Aradia recounts the story of Diana's daughter and of Diana's rise to become Queen of the Witches. Diana is created first among all beings and divides herself into light and darkness. She retains the darkness and makes the light into Lucifer (whose name means “light-bearer”), her brother and son. She falls in love with him and seduces him by changing herself into a cat. Their daughter from that union, Aradia, is destined to become “the Messiah of witches.” Aradia lives for a while in heaven and then is sent to earth by Diana to teach the arts of witchcraft, especially poisoning and malevolent acts against “oppressors”:
And thou shalt be the first of witches known;
And thou shalt be the first of all i' the world;
And thou shalt teach the art of poisoning,
Of poisoning those who are the great lords of all;
Yea, thou shalt make them die in their palaces;
And thou shalt bind the oppressor's soul (with power);
And when ye find a peasant who is rich,
Then ye shall teach the witch, your pupil, how
To ruin all his crops with tempests dire,
With lightning and with thunder (terrible),
And with the hail and wind . . .
And when a priest shall do you injury
By his benedictions, ye shall do to him
Double the harm, and do it in the name
Of me, Diana, Queen of witches all!
When Aradia's task is finished, Diana recalls her daughter to heaven and gives her the power to grant the desires of the meritorious witches who invoke Aradia. Such requests include success in love, and the power to bless friends and curse enemies, as well as:
To converse with spirits.
To find hidden treasures in ancient ruins.
To conjure the spirits of priests who died leaving treasures.
To understand the voice of the wind.
To change water into wine.
To divine with cards.
To know the secrets of the hand [palmistry].
To cure diseases.
To make those who are ugly beautiful.
To tame wild beasts.
The invocation for Aradia is given as follows:
Thus do I seek Aradia! Aradia! Aradia! At midnight, at midnight I go into a field, and with me I bear water, wine, and salt, I bear water, wine, and salt, and my talis- man — my talisman, my talisman, and a red small bag which I ever hold in my hand — con dentro, con dentro, sale, with salt in it, in it. With water and wine I bless myself, I bless myself with devotion to implore a favor from Aradia, Aradia.
The truth about the origins of Aradia may never be known. Some skeptics believe that Leland fabricated the entire story, or that he was duped by Maddalena, who made it up. A more likely scenario, put forward by scholar Ronald Hutton, is that Maddalena, pressed to deliver, collected some authentic bits of lore and embellished them. Leland, who is known to have embellished his other folklore accounts, probably added his own flourishes. Contemporary folklore scholars do not accept Aradia as authentic.
Aradia had little impact on contemporary European Witchcraft, but enjoyed more prominence in America. In contemporary Witchcraft, Aradia is one of the most often used names for the Goddess.
- Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon. Revised ed. New York: Viking, 1986.
- Clifton, Chas S., ed. Witchcraft Today: Book One The Modern Craft Movement. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1993.
- Farrar, Janet, and Stewart Farrar. A Witches Bible Compleat. New York: Magickal Childe, 1984.
- Leland, Charles G. Aradia: Gospel of the Witches. Custer, Wash.: Phoenix Publishing, 1990.
Aradia – In the beginning was Diana, primordial Spirit of Darkness. She divided the world into complementary opposites: yin and yang, male and female, light and darkness. The light half evolved into her brother, Lucifer. Diana desired him, wishing to unite and merge, but Lucifer wanted light to remain completely distinct from darkness. Diana pursued him but he resisted.
Lucifer slept with his favorite cat. Diana switched places with her and so she seduced her brother, in the guise of a black cat. From this union, the world’s first witch was conceived: Aradia, Messiah of Witches. Diana sent her daughter to Earth with the mission of teaching witchcraft, the sacred arts of Diana, Queen of Witches. That’s the first coming of Aradia the Messiah according to the mysterious grimoire, Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches. Aradia returned for a second coming, too.
This Aradia was born in Volterra, Italy, on 13 August 1313 (13 August is Diana’s sacred day) and stimulated a revival of Italian witchcraft and pre-Christian traditions long driven into hiding by the Church. She learned the Old Ways from her family and taught them to others. She was caught by the Inquisition and burned but not before leaving the manuscript that is allegedly the framework for the testament Aradia or The Gospel of Witches, published in 1899 by folklorist C. G. Leland. No documentation regarding either Aradia exists prior to publication, but in 1508, Italian Inquisitor Bernardo Rategno noted that a rapid expansion of witchcraft had occurred one hundred fifty years earlier, corresponding in time with Aradia’s second coming.
The story of Diana as Creator of the World, Mother of Witchcraft, does not correspond with anything from classical mythology, although that in itself proves nothing. Many myths and deities are known from but one single source. This could be another instance of a lone survival of an ancient myth, or it could be an attempt to defame witches.
The name Lucifer (“light-bringer”) predates Christianity and was a title given to various Roman deities, female and male. It was originally intended as benevolent, but during the medieval period when Aradia was allegedly written, Lucifer was exclusively identified with Satan, the proud handsome fallen angel. Inquisitors branded Diana as the bride of Lucifer in order to damn and defame her and her devotees. (Alternatively, some think Lucifer has also been defamed. See: Peacock Angel.)
The name Aradia resembles Herodias, among medieval Italy’s favorite witch-goddesses. Leland, for his part, thought that Aradia was a distortion of Lilith, the real first woman, not the New Testament’s Herodias. Italian Jews who brought Lilith to Italy do identify her with black cats.
In the late twentieth century, Aradia emerged as an important Wiccan goddess. She is a major spiritual inspiration for modern Wiccans and practitioners of witchcraft. Rites and descriptions are found within her book and testament.
Strega liquore; walnuts; rue and tools of witchcraft and divination
- Witchcraft Glossary
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.