So before we move into other parts of the world, I thought I would spend a week in Rome. While Hecate (Hekate) is the Goddess of Witchcraft for both Greek and Roman Mythology (with a super quick reference I also found to Trivia), the Goddess Diana in Roman mythology or Artemis as she is known in Greek, is tied to one of the symbols most commonly associated to the craft. While Diana started out as the Goddess of the Hunt, she later evolved into the Goddess of the Moon and was also thought of as a protector of women in childbirth. I got to know this virgin Goddess pretty well, and there were some pretty fun ties to witchcraft that, while somewhat understated, were hard to ignore. Let’s dive in!
Origins of Diana
There are some indications that Diana started out as a local forest deity in ancient Italy, but it didn’t take long for her merge with her Greek counterpart Artemis, and her Roman identity Diana. The stories of their birth are similar in that Jupiter (Zeus) got Latona (Leto) pregnant, while he was married to the extremely jealous Juno (Hera). It didn’t take long for Juno to ban Latona, which made for a very traumatic pregnancy. Latona finally found refuge on the floating island of Delos, where she gave birth to twin gods Diana (Artemis) and Apollo (Phoebus Apollo). It was said that Diana was born first, then aided her mother in the birth of her baby brother, which accounts for her connection to childbirth and midwifery. Latona, Diana’s mother, just so happened to be the Titan Goddess of Motherhood.
Diana is considered to be a fertility Goddess, which is surprising since she is also said to be a virgin goddess and totally committed to celibacy. More on her virgin status in a minute, but I did want to mention that she is also the Goddess of Paradoxes which makes complete sense to me considering the fertility vs celibacy argument. She had yet another title, Goddess of Light, which later tied in with supplanting Luna and taking on her role of representing the moon. If you think about it, it isn’t surprising that fertility and moon cycles were tied together with her other abilities. She was a kick-ass Goddess, who wouldn’t want her looking out for them? It turns out her list of duties was pretty substantial.
The lower classes and slaves were welcome to seek sanctuary in her temples and many of her priests were former slaves. Diana symbolized protection for people in vulnerable states, and her feast day was sacred to both women and those who lived their life in servitude. Her feast day, the Nemoralia festival (Festival of Torches), fell around the time of August’s full moon, and was named after the Lake it was held by. Lake Nemi was surrounded by dense forests, and followers of Diana would walk by torchlight and by the light the moon cast. The festival honored her many facets, and in this way I can see similarities between her and the triple faced Goddess Hecate. Diana was also associated with wild animals and woodlands, and was best known for her strength, beauty, and most of all, her hunting skill. Oak groves were especially sacred to her, and she was also considered a Goddess of domestic animals.
As I mentioned before, Roman mythology, gives her the title of “Virgin Goddess.” However, a piece entitled Aradia, Gospel of the Witches, written in 1899 by Charles Leland, describes Diana as giving birth to the woman who came to earth to teach mortals about witchcraft so they could fight their oppressors during the Inquisition. I only mention this, because it is this belief that may have given birth to the ideas blended into Modern Witchcraft. While largely dismissed by scholars at the time, the book played a special role in the roots of Gardnerian Wicca and its offshoots.
Myths of Diana
The most famous myths of Diana don’t necessarily include anything “witchy,” but do bring to light her strength, capabilities and no-nonsense attitude, which are all attractive qualities to the modern day feminist. Diana didn’t need a man, and the stories about her pretty much show her turning them into stags at the drop of a pin, or in her case her clothing, since they always seemed to catch her bathing. She didn’t like peeping Toms, just sayin’. One such man, Actaeon, wanders from his hunting party and comes upon Diana bathing in a nearby stream. Instead of keeping quiet, he pipes up and confesses that Diana is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. She turns him into a stag, and he is attacked and eaten by his own hunting hounds. Okay, I take it back, I guess that was a pretty “witchy” thing to do.
For the most part she steered clear of men, but there was one that was said to have caught her eye. The giant Orion and Diana bonded over hunting, and before she knew it she was head over heels in love. Her brother, Apollo, caught wind of the love affair and the story goes he tricked his sister into a shooting contest using a target far into the distance. Never one to be bested and proud of her ability, she took him up on the challenge. Apollo pointed out the target and she took her shot, unknowingly sending an arrow through poor Orion’s head. She was inconsolable in her grief, and so that Orion could always be with her, she arranged to have him made into a constellation.
Diana in Modern Day Life
Diana continues to be an important figure in modern witchcraft, and it’s no wonder since she was a strong, capable female who represented the masses. Despite the best efforts by Christianity to squelch it, Diana worship still takes place today. She represents many of the things people are grateful for, and continues to be a big part of Wiccan self-practice as well as groups. One such organization I found, The Temple of Diana, offers guidance for the practice of Feminist Witchcraft through their world-wide virtual and in place locations.
Her archetype has been the inspiration for multiple books and movies, the most recent that come to mind for me are Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games, and Diana Prince in Wonder Woman. There are countless other works that incorporate her fierce independent spirit, that also embrace her complex and free-willed nature. Edgar Allen Poe, John Keats, even Shakespeare made references to this fascinating Goddess. Newer fiction, such as Secrets of Artemis by C.K. Brooke or The Goddess Test series by Aimee Carter are great examples of fiction today that include Diana-like characters.
The strong empowered woman is alive and well. It is exciting to see so much of it in our culture today, and it has to make you wonder if Diana has taken note. I would like to imagine she has, if only for the briefest of moments, since she is a busy lady and probably has a whole list of things to get done. But there is no doubt in my mind she will pull it off, just like every other woman who challenges herself to embody her amazing attributes. We’ve got this, and for any non-believers… well just take a seat and hold our wine glass.
If you are liking this series, please be sure to drop your comment below. I would love to hear from you! In the meantime, I have included some clips below as well as some other links that will give you more information on this amazing Goddess. And don’t forget to take the Goddess test and see which one you are!
Stay tuned for future segments, as we travel to other places in the world and check out the Goddesses in other cultures that tie into my Origins of Witchcraft topic. To make it easy, I have started an index of my #MythicalCreatureMonday posts which you can link to here. Happy reading! XO