The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
The Divine Witch: Goddesses and Gods
No spirit is more associated with witchcraft than Diana, Mother of the Forest. Indigenous to Italy, preceding the Romans in the region, perhaps an Etruscan spirit, she traveled with the Romans throughout Europe and became well known all over that once heavily wooded continent.
Over the centuries Diana became intensely identified with the Greek goddess Artemis; their names are often used interchangeably and it can be difficult to distinguish between the two, although they apparently began their incarnations as distinct spirits.
Diana was adored throughout Europe. Other versions of her name include:
Jana, Tana (Italian)
Debena, Devana (Czech)
Diana has the same attributes and interests as Artemis although Diana’s associations with night, darkness, and magic are stronger. She is less ambivalent toward men and sex than Artemis too—her myth makes no pretense of virginity. Diana lives in the Forest of Nemi together with her consort Virbius, a male horned spirit.
Sir James Frazer’s epic The Golden Bough took its title and initial inspiration from rituals conducted in Diana’s sacred Forest of Nemi.
Diana also had a Roman temple on the Aventine Hill. In Celtic Europe she was worshipped in the form of a log. Men worshipped Diana as passionately as women: what are described as werewolves may really be male wolf-shamans or lunar priests dedicated to Diana.
Most surviving information regarding her worship and influence comes from her enemies—Paul of Tarsus and other early Christian writers. Although originally a local deity, Diana’s cult became so popular throughout Europe and Asia Minor that the early Christians perceived it as among their major rivals.
Was the subsequent destruction of Europe’s forests and wildlife, especially wolves, a method of eradicating Diana’s power and spiritual traditions?
When Christianity achieved political power, Diana was completely vilified. Associated solely with witchcraft—her name evoked during Europe’s witch-hunts as Queen of the Witches—the Inquisition described her as Satan’s bride. In 1487, Spanish Inquisitor Tomás de Torquemada stated: “Diana is the devil.”
Diana’s devotees were particularly persistent:
Gregory of Tours describes a sixth-century Christian hermit destroying a statue of Diana that had been worshipped by peasants near Trier.
Diana’s cult was vigorous until at least as late as the late seventh century in what is now Franconia (northern Bavaria).
British missionary St Kilian (c.640—c.689) was martyred when he tried to convert the Eastern Franks from their devotion to Diana.
In 906, Regino of Prüm noted the worship of Diana in what he called “The Society of Diana.”
“The Society of Diana” was among the Inquisition’s terms for witchcraft. No deity was more associated with witchcraft during the Burning Times than Diana. Each of the four instances above occurred in areas that would suffer particular virulent witchcrazes, however Diana was associated with witchcraft throughout Europe.
Devotion to Diana survived the Burning Times and remains persistent. She is among the most beloved of contemporary deities and is central to the Italian witchcraft tradition, Stregheria.
See also Aradia, Artemis, Hecate, Herodias; ANIMALS: Dogs.