In researching my next Austen-inspired cozy mystery, The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy, I have been reading LOTS of tales of paganism, witchcraft, and folklore. Believe me, this is not my usual fare, so it’s been quite eye-opening. Below, one will find the tale of Diana, Lucifer, and Aradia.
Aradia, a principal figure in American folklorist Charles Leland’s 1899 work “Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches,” is considered a central figure in the modern pagan witchcraft revival. Aradia is featured in various forms of neopaganism, including Wicca and Stregheria, as an actual deity. Raven Grimassi, founder of Stregheria, claims Aradia was an actual historical figure who led a group of “Diana-worshipping witches” in the 14th Century in Tuscany. That figure was called Aradia di Toscano.
When Leland published his book, he claimed he had received the book from a Tuscan woman named Maddalena and that the story was the religious text belonging to a group of Tuscan witches. In the tale, Diana seduces her brother Lucifer, who is described as “the god of the Sun and of the Moon, and of the Light, who was so proud of his beauty, and who for his pride was driven from Paradise.” When Diana sent her child Aradia to the earth below, Diana instructed Aradia “To be a teacher unto women and men/Who fain would study witchcraft.” Aradia became the first of Earth’s witches, and she promised her students that “Ye shall all be freed from slavery/And so ye shall be free in everything.”
According to the legend, Aradia taught witches and gypsies about spells and charms. She also reportedly taught peasants how to perform magic to be used against the upper classes and, specifically, against the Roman Catholic Church. Leland’s tale speaks of Aradia performing magic and of the night assembly, known as the Sabbat. Leland speculated that this folklore ultimately had roots in ancient Etruscan mythology.