Herodias - The Divine Witch: Goddesses and Gods

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

The Divine Witch: Goddesses and Gods

The historical Herodias, granddaughter of Herod the Great, was the wife of King Herod Antipas of Judea. He was her second husband; her first was Philip, the brother of Herod Antipas. (This is according to the Gospels of Mark and Matthew; some historians suggest that her first husband was yet another Herod, her paternal half-uncle.) Philip and Herodias had a daughter named Salome. During a trip to Rome, Herod Antipas and Herodias fell in love; she abandoned his brother, he divorced his royal Nabatean wife and they married. Due to the technicalities of Jewish law, this might be construed as incest. Herod, Rome’s puppet ruler in Judea, was already widely unpopular among the masses: the marriage was a major public scandal, earning the condemnation of John the Baptist (see CREATIVE ARTS: Dance: Dance of the Seven Veils).

Herodias didn’t take this criticism lightly: according to the New Testament, she was the actual instigator of the murder of John the Baptist. She instructed her dancing daughter Salome to request the prophet’s head served to her on a plate as a reward.

In real life, the Roman emperor Caligula banished Herod to Gaul in 39 CE. Herodias accompanied him, dying there in c.47. To early Christians, Herodias epitomized the Wicked Woman; she emerged as the New Testament’s primary female villain and was even reputed to be a demon.

Her name was used by Christians to rail against Pagan goddesses. At some point she evolved into one herself, although it is unclear whether Herodias herself emerged as a witch-goddess or whether her name was used to mask or camouflage another.

The spirit called Herodias bears little or no relationship to the historical Herodias but was worshipped alongside Diana in Italy. Herodias and Diana are the deities most mentioned in Italian witch-trial transcripts. This pairing clearly corresponds to Diana and Aradia in the grimoire, Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches. Together they lead the Wild Hunt and night parades of witches.

Herodias may be any of the following:

Image The biblical Herodias, re-emerged as a spirit

Image A Pagan spirit also named Herodias, or perhaps renamed after the biblical queen

Image Lilith, in disguise

She was perceived as a figure of power: Ratherius, Bishop of Verona (c.887—April 25, 974), complained that many saw Herodias as a queen, even a goddess (as though, he remarked, this was her reward for killing John the Baptist.) In 936 a movement, outlawed by Ratherius, arose in Italy claiming that Herodias ruled one third of the world and was thus worthy of petition and devotion. By this time she was also identified with Hecate.

During the Medieval Era, Herodias and Salome were conflated and confused. (And of course, Salome plays the more dramatic role in the legend, even if Herodias was the brains behind the operation.) In some versions both mother and daughter are called Herodias; in others, the emphasis is on a daughter called Herodias. In one legend, Herodias is doomed to ride with the Wild Hunt until Judgment Day, carrying the head of the Baptist.

In Romania, Herodias manifests as the spirit Irodeasa. Her sacred number is nine. Masked dancers riding hobby-horses and carrying clubs and swords undertook nine-day rituals in her honor. They visited nine boundary points and filled ritual vessels with water from nine springs. At the end of the ninth day, a sacred pole was cast into the river.

In Russia, there isn’t one solitary Herodias; instead the troop of female fever demons called Herod’s Daughters number either nine, twelve, forty or seventy-seven spirits, the youngest named Salome. (Sometimes these spirits are Herod’s Sisters instead.) They are either conflated with Lilith’s Daughters or are amazingly similar: several myths are virtually identical.

See also Aradia, Diana, Hecate, Lilith, Odin; BOOKS: Grimoires: Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches; DICTIONARY: Wild Hunt; FAIRIES: Nature-spirit Fairies: Keshalyi.