Goddess worship and a celebration of women’s mysteries have been garnering more and more attention lately. The activism of those before us has led us to this point in time – where many women, especially in the West (but also globally) are questioning and rediscovering their histories (or rather, herstories), and that is a powerful thing. As mentioned in other places in this blog, religion is a powerful tool for control, information and indoctrination. Because religion touches so many aspects of people’s lives, the fact that most of the world’s conventional religions are male-focused is important. It is critical to be aware of what it means to be a woman living under the patriarchy, and what it means for half of the world’s population to not be able to find herself in leadership positions within religion. Witchcraft, Wicca and pagan practices are viewed as liberating for this reason – here women take on the role of not just practitioner but priestess, not just one of consumption but control, and that is empowering.
Wicca is a religion of orthopraxy – meaning it focuses more on practice than belief and faith. This is why, whereas many people believe you have to be duotheistic to be Wiccan, this is simply not true (in fact, there are atheists that are Wiccan, and they are valid). In any case, the conventional duotheistic model places at the center a God (usually representative of the Divine Masculine) and a Goddess (usually representative of the Divine Feminine). Dianic Wicca focuses on only goddess worship and the divine feminine.
Who is Diana?
Diana is a Roman goddess associated with childbirth, hunting, fertility, crossroads and the countryside. She is viewed as being part of the triple goddess motif, alongside Hecate.
What is Dianic Wicca?
Dianic Wicca is a form of Wicca founded by Zsuzsanna Budapest that focuses on goddess worship and women’s mysteries. While Dianic Wiccans can also acknowledge and venerate the God, this part of their practice is distinct from their Dianic practice. Remember that you can always incorporate and blend different elements from different traditions as you see fit as part of the eclectic tradition.
Dianic Wiccans come from a deeply feminist analysis of patriarchal religion and Wicca. Whereas other forms of Wicca divide the Wheel of the Year calendar into events that honor the God and the Goddess, Dianic Wiccans and witches are concerned with the Goddess alone. The Goddess is not a consort to the God, but the primary creatrix figure, who created both Herself, the God, and everyone else – She is the beginning and the end, from Her we came and to Her we return. Dianic Wiccans celebrate not just the Goddess but cycles of a woman’s life – her birth, her menarche or first menstruation, her sexuality, her fertility, her childbirth, and eventually, her death. Dianic Wiccans point out the fact that patriarchy and patriarchal religions usually label women and their natural processes as unclean, impure or repulsive. An example of this that comes to mind is how menstruation is viewed in popular Western culture – feminists or female artists that wish to center their works around menstruation are either ridiculed as “feminazis” or called disgusting and immature for making their self expression about their bodies and body processes. Patriarchy has also orchestrated in women a deep hatred and insecurity for themselves and their bodies; women’s bodies are sexualized at every turn and women are taught from a young age that what matters most is not their physical, mental or spiritual health, but how they look for men.
Dianic Wicca then, is more than just spiritual, it is political. Dianic Wiccans center women in their practice, and don’t operate from the heterosexual fertility perspective like other forms of Wicca do (and as such, empower and uplift lesbian and bisexual women in a way that other practices often leave out). Dianic Wicca questions the gender roles that often get enforced through other forms of Wicca (and no, it is not Wicca that propagates this sexism but often some neopagan renditions of it that do this); for example, on many online forums and resources, a budding witch might find that the God and Goddess balance each other, with the God representing strength, power and bravery, and the Goddess representing beauty, humility and grace. While these characteristics are all great to have, why does the Goddess keep being referenced as only passive, nurturing and receptive, while the God gets referenced as active, powerful and dominant? Ruth Barrett, a Dianic High Priestess and author of Women’s Rites, Women’s Mysteries, states, “Enforced gender stereotypes ultimately disempower everyone…The human traits of strength and gentleness are traits that all people need to be in balance within themselves…These arbitrary separations are oppressive to both sexes, limiting us in our thinking and behavior about who we are as individuals and what we are capable of being or becoming.”
At its core, Dianic Wicca is about liberating women from the shackles of oppressive religion and the reclaiming of authority and power taken from them, whether on an individual level, institutionally, or as a class. Over time, women’s power of creation has been devalued and ignored, and Dianic Wicca seeks to revitalize women’s consciousness about their own value, power, and potential.
Dianic Wicca for Healing
A lot of women use Dianic Wicca as a means to heal and reclaim their power and position in the world. Some Dianic circles are closed off entirely to women, many of whom are sufferers of abuse and trauma from men and male-bodied individuals in some way. If you are a male witch who is reading this, don’t despair! As always, read, read, and read. Breaking gender norms and stereotypes (an important aspect of Dianic Wicca) can be beneficial and healing to men as well as women. There are several Dianic covens and traditions that allow male practitioners in some way, and there is no reason why you as a male witch can’t include elements from Dianic Wicca into your own eclectic practice. Your spiritual journey is your own, and it evolves with you.
Some Dianic Wiccans use hexes in their practices, especially against oppressors and abusers of women. While many say this violates the Wiccan Rede (An it harm none, do what thou wilt), it is important to address this very common misconception. The Wiccan Rede is a statement or couplet from Doreen Valiente, an English Wiccan who many consider to be the mother of Wicca, alongside Gerald Gardner (the founder of Gardnerian Wicca). However, Wicca is not a centralized religion, has no sacred text in the same sense as Islam’s Quran or Judaism’s Torah, and no prophets or holy people. As a result, Valiente’s text is a general guideline, not a rule or scripture to follow.
How to Practice Dianic Witchcraft:
- Create a special altar. Fill it with images, symbols, photographs, paintings, or other references to either important women in your life, in your ancestry (grandmothers, grand-aunts, whoever comes to mind), or to goddesses you wish to connect with.
- Discover and revel in your own power. At your altar to the Goddess, there is no priestess/priest but you. Empower yourself and trust yourself. There are no wrong steps here. Do what feels right – you make the rules.
- Meditate on your altar (or a calm and quiet place that is sacred to you) and call out to goddesses based on their purpose. Ruth Barrett points out this essential element, and I think it is incredibly useful. Instead of naming those you do not know, call out to goddesses based on what you need and wait for them to contact you. For example, “goddess of abundance, I need you for…” or “goddess of wisdom, lend me your insight for…”.
- Reevaluate how you view creation, power and deity. Educate yourself on female-centered folklore and mythology. Seek out a patron goddess if you need one. Turn to other feminist Wiccan/witchcraft authors such as Starhawk, Doreen Valiente, Margot Adler, Sybil Leek, and Margaret Murray (despite a lot of her debunked work). Consider looking into other cultures and pantheons – for example, if you are interested in Durga Pooja, consider reading the Devi Mahatmya.
- Incorporate daily (or as often as possible) folk magic into your practice and into your thinking. The women of the past honored goddesses, ancestral protectors and other spirits through more simplistic folk or hedge practices. Whether it is speaking to the Goddess before bed or practicing kitchen or herbal magic, interact with the Goddess as much as you can and call on Her.
- Incorporate female-honoring content in your life as much as possible. It is okay to feel uncomfortable – many women and men find certain elements of the female body frightening or “repulsive” because of the patriarchy. Normalizing non-sexual nudity or celebrating menstruation are healthy steps to embracing the female and beginning the healing process. This means that you must center these things in both your sacred life as well as mundane life. Check out the wonderful Samantha Neal (@wisdomwithin_) on Instagram. She is a menstrual educator and activist dedicated to women’s health, the Great Divine Mother and to normalizing and celebrating women’s bodies – someone empowering women and men through her message. Centering brilliant content creators like Neal is a crucial step in normalizing women’s power. As part of this point, make it a point to prioritize female friendships and mentor-ships in your life. Empower and uplift each other.
The Dianic path to Wicca comes from an intersection on faith, feminism and empowerment. It is not for everyone, and that is fine. Wicca and witchcraft are so liberating because there are so many paths to choose from, or you could simply create your own unique magickal path. Blessed be.