Herodias the witch-goddess leads the Wild Hunt. Popularly venerated during Europe’s witch-hunt era, Herodias the goddess may or may not derive from the historical Herodias, granddaughter of Herod the Great and wife of King Herod Antipas of Judea. Herod Antipas was her second husband; her first was Philip, his brother, with whom she had a daughter named Salome. Herodias herself descended from royal Hasmonean (Macabeen) lineage. Marriage to her may have helped legitimize her husband’s rule.
Herod Antipas and Herodias fell in love while on a trip to Rome. She abandoned his brother. He divorced his wife and they married. Due to technicalities of Jewish law, this could be construed as incest. Herod, Rome’s puppet ruler, was already widely unpopular among the masses and so the marriage was a public scandal, earning the vocal condemnation of the prophet, John the Baptist.
Herodias did not take his criticism lying down. According to the New Testament, she instigated John the Baptist’s murder, instructing her dancing daughter, Salome, to request the prophet’s head served to her on a plate as a reward following her performance of the Dance of the Seven Veils. In 39 CE, Roman Emperor Caligula banished Herod to Gaul. Herodias voluntarily accompanied him and died there, circa 47, in what is now France. (Salome accompanied them, too.)
To early Christians, Herodias epitomized the wicked woman; she emerged as the New Testament’s primary female villain and was popularly reputed to be a Demon. Herodias is to the New Testament as Jezebel is to the Old. Her name was used to defame Pagan goddesses but at some point she evolved into one herself. It is unclear whether Herodias herself emerged as a witch-goddess or whether her name serves as a mask for another. Herodias may be any of the following:
• The biblical Herodias, reemerged as a spirit
• A Pagan spirit also named Herodias or perhaps renamed after the biblical queen
• The Semitic Demon-witch-goddess Lilith, in disguise
Although also venerated elsewhere in Europe, Herodias was especially beloved in Italy. She and Diana are the goddesses most frequently mentioned in Italian witch-trial transcripts and were apparently worshipped together. (The two will share an altar.) Together they lead the Wild Hunt and night parades of witches.
Ratherius, Bishop of Verona (circa 887—April 25, 974), complained that Herodias was perceived as a queen, even a goddess, as though, he remarked, this was her reward for killing John the Baptist. In 936 CE, a movement, outlawed by Ratherius, arose claiming that Herodias ruled one-third of the world and was thus due devotion and petitions.
Also known as:
Herodias is usually envisioned as a beautiful and seductive woman. Among the artists inspired to create portraits of her are Aubrey Beardsley, Paul Delaroche and John Reinhard Weguelin. Herodias is frequently portrayed in the company of her daughter Salome and sometimes with John the Baptist’s severed head.
- Wild Hunt
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.