The Dianic Wiccan Tradition
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Article ID: 8451
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,636
Times Read: 50,267
Author: Falcon River
Posted: May 7th. 2004
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(Contaning exerpts from WOMEN'S RITES, WOMEN'S MYSTERIES: Creating Ritual in the Dianic Wiccan Tradition, forthcoming from AuthorHouse in Fall of 2004)
I hope here to address many of the questions asked of me over the years about what marks or distinguishes our tradition as "Dianic" from other Wiccan traditions and Goddess- centered spirituality forms. In presenting this, I am well aware that the term "Dianic" has a much less defined meaning in many communities throughout the United States and abroad. There exist great numbers of women who either self-define as Dianic, or who are defined by others as Dianic, when describing Witchcraft that is women and Goddess- centered. Most often these women have no magickal or ritual practices in common, and while Dianics generally tend to be fairly eclectic in their practice, some groups are more eclectic than others, and many do not affiliate with the Dianic tradition's foremother, Z. Budapest, or know the her-story of the tradition she revived. All the information described here refers to the Dianic tradition that emerged from the Z. Budapest lineage of which I am clergy, and not to the McFarland Dianics of Texas that are a co-gender Wiccan tradition based in Celtic Mysteries.
The Dianic tradition is a Goddess and female-centered, earth-based, feminist denomination of the Wiccan religion revived and inspired by author and activist, Zsuzsanna Budapest in the early 1970's. The Dianic tradition is a vibrantly creative and evolving Women's Mystery tradition, inclusive of all women. Our practices include celebrating and honoring the physical, emotional and other life cycle passages women share by having been born female. Contemporary Dianic tradition recognizes the greater or lesser effects and influences of the dominant culture on every aspect of women's lives. Since 1971, the Dianic movement has inspired and provided healing rituals to counter the effects of living in patriarchy, and strive to understand, deconstruct, and heal from the dominant culture wherein we live and practice our faith. We define "patriarchy" as the use of "power-over" thinking and action to oppress others, either institutionally, or within the personal sphere of our lives.
Dianic rituals celebrate the mythic cycle of the Goddess in the earth's seasonal cycles of birth, death and regeneration, as it corresponds to women's own life cycle transitions.
Inspired by the nature and aspects of the Roman goddess Diana (and her predecessor, the Greek goddess Artemis) as a protector of women and wild nature, Dianic Witches are committed to finding positive life-affirming solutions for personal and global problems. We envision and strive to create a world where the web of life, which includes all living things, is honored and respected as a sacred creation of the Goddess.
Her-Story of the Dianic Tradition:
The branch of the Dianic Wiccan tradition, often referred to as "feminist Dianic, " was inspired by Zsuzsanna Budapest, a Hungarian immigrant, hereditary Witch, and visionary who came to the United States at the time of the communist invasion of her native country. By 1971, she developed a Goddess-centered, woman-centered tradition of Wicca that combined elements of Gerald Gardner's Wicca, and Charles Leland's Aradia, Gospel of the Witches, with feminist values, and the ritual, folk magick, and healing practices learned from her mother. It was Z's spiritual activism that eventually brought Goddess religion to second-wave U.S. feminists, being the first to coin the phrase, "feminist spirituality." She called her denomination Dianic, after Diana, the Roman Goddess of the hunt and untamed nature. Through her books, (The Feminist Book of Lights and Shadows (1976), which became The Holy Book of Women's Mysteries), national travels and a knack for getting attention, Z. Budapest ignited the fire of what has become known as Dianic feminist Witchcraft.
Concurrently, feminist scholars, activists, writers, artists and musicians began to speak, publish, and create art, music, and song, inspired by Goddess iconography, mythology, feminist politics, and/or intuitive knowing. The works of feminists, Shekhinah Mountainwater, Merlin Stone, Judy Chicago, Ruth and Jean Mountaingrove, the activist women of WITCH, Mary Daly, and Kay Gardner inspired others with books, magazines, music, art and activism, that added to the growing tide of Goddess- consciousness. Books like When God Was a Woman (Stone, 1976), The Great Cosmic Mother (Sjoo & Moor, 1987), The Spiral Dance (Starhawk, 1979), The Chalice and the Blade (Eisler, 1988), and Beyond God the Father (Daly, 1973), carried the women's spirituality movement and feminist spirituality movement into the bookstores of mainstream America.
The work of archeologist Dr. Marija Gimbutas provided an academic contribution to the body of intuitive knowledge women held in their hearts. She argued that the original understanding and experience of what the dominant culture calls God was first worshipped as a Goddess. Dr. Gimbutas authored many books on ancient Goddess-worshipping civilizations that gave compelling evidence of the widespread existence of a Neolithic goddess-centered culture in pre-patriarchal Europe. Although her work is controversial and disputed in some academic circles, many practitioners of Goddess spirituality are thankful to Marija Gimbutas for the inspiration her work brought forward regardless of whether some believe she attributed more opinion than the evidence supported.
From the early 1970's as the Dianic tradition spread through Z's travels across the U.S., bringing along her first book, The Feminist Book of Light's and Shadows, the wildfire she started in California caught on in many places throughout the United States, and eventually in Great Britain and other parts of Europe. Still, to this day, many self-defined Dianics do not know that there is a her-story or tradition to be had! In some places, the term "Dianic" became synonymous with a lesbian Witch. According to Z, from the earliest days of her coven, The Susan B. Anthony Coven #1, to the present day, women of all sexual orientations were welcomed, participated and contributed to the Dianic tradition. Lesbian feminists were especially intrigued and drawn by the idea of women-only circles for female empowerment that combined political activism with a Goddess- and woman-centered spirituality. Goddess spirituality organizations like the Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess in Wisconsin helped women network with other like- minded women for spiritual support. Over the years, some communities around the United States that embraced a Dianic or Goddess spirituality focus drew a preponderance of lesbians, where other communities also drew bisexual and heterosexual women, as did my own Los Angeles community of Circle of Aradia. Although the Dianic tradition was the first Witchcraft tradition in contemporary times to welcome lesbians and include lesbian rites of passage (including same-sex union ceremonies), it was never Z's intention or vision that the Dianic tradition be synonymous with a lesbian religion. Her dream was to revive a Women's Mystery tradition for all women.
In 1980, before relocating to Northern California, I was ordained and inherited Z's 10- year ministry that she had founded in Los Angeles, California. I served the Los Angeles women's community for two decades, first through my Dianic coven, Moon Birch Grove, and then in 1985, as co-founder, High Priestess, and religious director of Circle of Aradia, which became the largest Dianic community in the United States. I ordained many priestesses during my Los Angeles ministry, with diverse focuses of spiritual service. I also ordained two High Priestesses: Badger Shu-bad, who serves the Inland Empire of southern California through Sage Stone Circle, and Letecia Layson, who serves the continuing community of Circle of Aradia. In 2000, I relocated to Wisconsin and co- founded the Temple of Diana in 2001 with my life-partner Falcon. Temple of Diana, Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt religious and educational organization that sponsors The Spiral Door Women's Mystery School of Magick and Ritual Arts, a national training program for Dianic Witches and clergy.
With this said, I present a concise definition and explanation of the Dianic tradition from my perspective and vantage point as a Dianic elder in the Z. Budapest lineage, who has perpetuated and evolved the tradition as it arose from its birth in Los Angeles, California in 1971. This means that the Dianics affiliated with these groups generally have an identifiable and continuous tradition that spans over 30 years, where thousands of women have greater or lesser degrees of training or exposure to the same her-story, cosmology, ethics, and magickal/ritual practices. With a shared foundation in common, these Dianics use their creativity to design and facilitate rituals that are often repeated over the years, and change as the groups' needs change.
The Dianic Tradition - Core Beliefs:
The Dianic tradition is a holistic religious system based on a Goddess-centered cosmology and the primacy of She Who is All and Whole unto Herself.
Dianics spiritually reclaim the Goddess exclusively, as the Source of Life, and to whom all will return in death. Religious rituals, approach to the practice of magick, our liturgy, imagery, and personal perception lies outside of a male/female or Goddess/God dualism within the self or our practices. Languaging and primary reference for life is female.
For many Dianics, the Goddess is not an entity but the Web of Life itself. We use female imagery as a metaphor to speak of this. That means when we address the Goddess, we are addressing the whole web and acknowledging our part in the web at the same time. We do not pray, in the usual sense; rather we focus our conscious awareness on the web. We invoke Her, aligning our personal will with the energies we call to conscious awareness within and without. When we do magic, we try to focus our awareness and will on particular strands in the Web.
Dianics recognize the God, and all that is specifically male in nature, as a variation of Her, sourced from, and contained within the Goddess, as males and females are created, contained within, and birthed from the wombs of women. Therefore, although the God is always present as one of Her sacred creations, He is not specifically invoked in Dianic ritual, and there are no specifically male images on a Dianic altar.
"There are only two kinds of people in the world, mothers and their children." (Z. Budapest)
The Dianic tradition is a Women's Mysteries ritual tradition that celebrates women's life cycle events.
Dianics recognize that it is in women's hands to restore meaning to our lives by honoring the rites of passage - called Women's Mysteries - and other life transitions. We recognize that our human experience is filtered through, and informed by our women's bodies and specifically female physiology.
Women's Mysteries include the physical, emotional, and psychic passages that women universally share by having been born biologically female. The five women's uterine blood mysteries are comprised of: being born, menarche, giving birth/lactation, menopause, and death. These Mysteries acknowledge and honor women's ability to create life, sustain life, and return our bodies to the Goddess in death. Whether or not a woman chooses to birth children, all women are Mother/Maker in acts of creating, sustaining, and protecting.
Women's Mysteries rituals support and celebrate female bonding, honor other significant personal milestones and transitions in women's lives, and include rituals for healing from the effects of patriarchy, personally and globally.
In the honoring of Women's Mysteries we also recognize that "our biology makes us human females, our culture makes us women." Dianic Witchcraft helps women develop into full personhood and create a new culture where patriarchal cultural definitions and limitations of what it is to be a human female is challenged and expanded to a wider self-identification and vision of wholeness.
The Dianic tradition is celebrated in exclusively women-only circles.
Being a Women's Mysteries tradition, Dianic religion is for women, not against men. We support the right of males to their exclusive celebrations of Men's Mysteries in recognition of their unique rites of passage and spiritual journey to the Goddess. Many Dianic circles welcome male infants and toddlers with their mothers providing that the ritual itself is age-appropriate for a child to attend.
Dianics support all people in finding their path to the Goddess. However, we do not recognize hormonally or surgically altered men as women, and therefore exclude these men, or men who self-define as women, from our tradition. Women's Mysteries cannot be understood nor experienced through chemical or surgical alterations to our human bodies. As women, we honor the ways that we are informed by our female physiology, cellular memory, and work power from our wombs outward. Even if a woman has had her womb removed later in life, her body of wisdom has been informed by her physiological experiences of girlhood and womanhood. She will continue to work power from the cauldron in her center all her life. The Dianic tradition focuses on rites to heal women from the effects of personal and global oppression as we deal with growing up female in woman- hating cultures worldwide. The depth to which patriarchy has shaped and impacted our lives as women cannot truly be understood unless one has experienced it from birth. In light of these bases of our tradition, it is simply not appropriate for hormonally/surgically altered males to attend our events. Our tradition is simply not about them, and does not address nor include their unique experiences. Exceptions to this exclusion are those true hermaphrodites, who have been raised female in our culture. The vast majority of other Wiccan traditions do not share this fundamental requirement, and most often welcome transsexual persons as participants. Women-born- women who self-define as male would, by their own definition, exclude themselves from Dianic circles.
Dianics honor women's voices, thoughts, and ideas.
The Dianic tradition is committed to uncovering, examining, re-claiming, or ascribing contemporary meanings to the lost or forgotten legacies, traditions, and magical practices of our foremothers from earliest times, and to recover her-story. We recognize that women's practices of the past are time- and place-specific, and that it is up to us to re-ascribe and reconstruct meanings for spiritual practices within today's cultural contexts.
We honor our ancestors, and the wombs from which we sprang, understanding that without honoring our past, we have no present or future. We honor our foremothers whose courageous pioneering efforts forged the way for us and made our path easier.
Power is sourced through our wombs (or "womb space, " if a woman has had a hysterectomy).
Our wombs represent our personal cauldrons of creation, our centers. Power (the ability to do) comes from within and with, not from power over another.
Emphasis on the body of woman as manifestation of the Goddess.
Dianic believe that it is healing and joyous for a woman to have a personal and direct experience of herself as sacred (not just intellectually, but on an ecstatic cellular level), and as a manifestation of the Goddess.
The Dianic tradition promotes the spiritual, religious, and celebratory use of female imagery as one the many manifestations of the Goddess, as we recognize ourselves and all our children as born in Her divine image.
Inspired by the nature and aspects of the Roman goddess Diana (and her predecessor, the Greek goddess Artemis) as a protector of women and wild nature, we are committed to finding positive life-affirming solutions for personal and global problems.
We are committed to the healing and protection of the Earth Mother, safety and human rights for women and children, and liberation for all people. Dianics use magick and ritual as a tool to counter patriarchy within and without, for healing and protection.
Dianic ritual and magical practices honor women's creativity, intuition, and ability to improvise (creative inspiration in the moment).
Rather than scripted or set liturgy as the consistent or expected norm, Dianics encourage authentic creative expression in the arts, dance, writing, inspired speech and song in ritual design and during the ritual itself. Beloved songs, chants, poetry, and invocations often become "tradition" when repeated over time, and as they continue to provide meaningful ritual experiences for a group or a solitary.
Spiritual practices are inspired by the awareness that the Goddess has been known throughout time, by many names, and in numerous cultures worldwide.
Rather than a focus on one pantheon exclusively, like facets of a diamond, Dianics honor She who has been called by Her daughters throughout time, in many places, and by many names. While we honor all of Her names and faces, there is an ongoing commitment to understanding and sensitivity where the lines of worship and cultural appropriation are too often crossed; an ongoing commitment to examining and challenging racism.
Dianics recognize that women's magick is a sacred trust. Therefore, Dianics do not teach our Women's Mysteries and magick to males.
Dianics are opposed to teaching women's magick to men ."..until the equality between the sexes is a reality."* However, most Dianics are pleased to discuss the Goddess with interested men, or refer men to books or other traditions that will encourage their own journey to the Goddess and address their life experiences and issues. Some women who practice in the Dianic tradition also share a different co-gender ritual practice with their male partners, family, friends or sons.
Sexuality is sacred. When lovers meet in mutual love, trust, and equality, these expressions of love and pleasure are a gift of the Goddess.
The Dianic tradition is committed to a feminist paradigm of true sexual liberation. We are working to free ourselves and our world from the effects of patriarchal culture that equates sexuality, sexual expression, and eroticism with sadism, masochism, dominance and subordination. We will neither support nor condone sexual practices which are dehumanizing, and whose purpose it is to cause pain, humiliation or suffering, whether consensual or not. Consistent with a feminist paradigm for an egalitarian and peaceful world where power shared means empowerment for all, we support nothing less than a revolution from within and without, in the world and in the temple of the bedroom.
Sacred play as a form of spiritual practice.
Finding ways to enjoy and appreciate the gifts of life offered daily, is a way to worship Her. Partaking fully counters despair and fuels courage and activism.
The Dianic tradition is a teaching tradition.
Women teaching, sharing, and passing down knowledge is sharing power. Teaching the next generation will help ensure that the Dianic tradition will endure and women's wisdom survive.
Adherence to the Wiccan Rede.
The Dianic tradition stands in accord with the Wiccan Rede which states, "An Harm None, Do What You Will, " honoring free will, and with the intention that our magical actions be for the greater good of all.
This Wiccan guidepost supports full consciousness with regards to the use of power in magickal workings and in daily life. This is not a rule accompanied with threats of retribution, but supports true ethical understanding of one's actions or inaction.
The mythic cycle of the Goddess is celebrated in the earth's seasonal cycles of birth, death, and regeneration, and as it corresponds to women's own life cycle transitions.
The Wheel of the Year celebrations of the Solstices, Equinoxes, and cross quarter holidays are based on the ever-changing cyclic and eternal nature of the Goddess. Unlike other Wiccan traditions, Dianic seasonal rites, do not focus on or celebrate the exclusively heterosexual fertility cycle of the Goddess and the God. These rituals may be creatively altered in their design year to year even as the seasonal theme remains constant.
The Goddess is celebrated in Her triple aspect of Maiden, Mother and Crone as a manifestation of the entire lifecycle of life: birth, maturation, and death. The Goddess has the power to bring forth life, nurture, protect, and sustain, and destroy it. This concept contains nature's entire continuum.
We are committed to valuing equally all phases of women's lives, from childhood to becoming an elder. As with the turning of the seasons, each phase is honored in its time.
Our rituals are conducted standing or sitting in a circle, either outdoors or indoors, depending on the season and ability to have the most privacy. Regular rituals coincide with the seasonal and lunar holidays. The seasonal holy days are:
- Winter Solstice (around December 21st)
- Imbolc (February 1st)
- Spring Equinox (around March 21st)
- May Eve (April 30th)
- Summer Solstice (around June 21st)
- First Harvest (Lammas) (August 1st)
- Fall Equinox (around September 21st)
- Hallowmas (October 31st)
Role of Clergy:
The Dianic tradition includes levels of learning and spiritual service as many traditional Wiccan traditions do, such as the apprentice, initiate, priestess, and high priestess. The opportunity to learn from experienced elders is less common. The Dianic tradition does not have a religious hierarchy in the traditional sense or "a" leader or pope. Rather, ordained priestesses earn respect from their community through the spiritual services they provide, and are honored for what they embody and teach through their words and deeds. To differentiate from patriarchal forms of hierarchy based on values of dominator/subordinate, we use the term "hierarchy of actualization, " introduced by Riane Eisler, author of The Chalice and the Blade, and The Partnership Way.
For example, members and students of Temple of Diana, who wish to provide spiritual service are trained in the tradition and may become legally recognized clergy through the tax-exempt status the Temple of Diana holds through the IRS. The governing body of Temple of Diana, Inc. is comprised of clergy and lay people who wish to serve the congregation. All women have an equal vote on the governing body, and decisions affecting the Temple are arrived at through a consensus decision-making process whenever possible.
For some women coming to the tradition through feminism, these levels of experience are sometimes misunderstood for oppressive hierarchal structures so familiar in patriarchy, and utterly dismissed as having any value at all.
Organization of Groups:
The Dianic tradition is practiced in covens and groves (larger groups that often provide open community rituals). Groups are autonomous and create their own structures of organization and leadership. Oftentimes, these groups form from peers who rotate "leadership" and learn from one another as they deepen in the coven process. If a group is fortunate to have a trained elder as a teacher, she may teach and organize her students according to levels of magickal skill such as apprentice, initiate, and priestess. Once her students are competent to teach, they are often empowered to hive off and start their own circle.
Reading, Music, and Other References:
This list contains Goddess and woman-centered books and music. Many of these women do not identify as Dianic, but have been included by Dianics as important references and inspiration.
Alba, De Anna. The Cauldron of Change, Delphi Press, Inc. Oak Park, IL, 1993
Barrett, Ruth, Women's Rites, Women's Mysteries: Creating Ritual in the Dianic Wiccan Tradition, AuthorHouse, forthcoming in Fall 2004. Contact: 888/519-5121 or www.authorhouse.com.
Brooks, Nan. Ceremonies for Our Lives, Spirit Magic Books, Bloomington, Indiana, 1991. To order contact: 1003 S. Washington Street, Bloomington, IN 47401.
Budapest, Zsuzsanna. The Holy Book of Women's Mysteries. Wingbow Press, Berkeley, CA, 1989.
Eisler, Riane. Sacred Pleasure, HarperSanFrancisco, 1996.
___________The Chalice and the Blade, Harper and Row, San Francisco, 1987.
Gimbutas, Marija. The Language of the Goddess. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989.
Grahn, Judy, Blood, Bread, and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World, Beacon Press, Boston, Massachusetts, 1993.
Griffin, Susan. (1978). Woman and Nature. Harper & Row: New York.
Mountainwater, Shekhinah, Ariade's Thread, Crossing Press, Freedom, CA. 1991.
The Beltane Papers. P.O. box 29694, Bellingham, WA 98228-1694. A Journal of Women's Mysteries.
Goddessing Regenerated, P.O. Box 269, Valrico, FL 33595. USA, International Goddess Journal, Willow LaMonte, Editor.
Recordings by Ruth Barrett, available thorough Dancing Tree Music, P.O. Box 6425 Monona, WI USA 53716-0425; firstname.lastname@example.org or www.dancingtree.org.
The Year is a Dancing Woman: Seasonal Chants, Songs and Invocations for the Wheel of the Year, Volumes I and II, Dancing Tree Music (2003).
Parthenogenesis (N.A.I.R.D. award-winning CD) Dancing Tree Music (1990/2001).
Invocation to Free Women (an educational cassette) 1985.
Recordings by Ruth Barrett and Cyntia Smith available through Dancing Tree Music:
The Early Years (CD compilation of Ruth and Cyntia's first two recordings, Aeolus (1981) and Music of the Rolling World (1982)).
Deepening (1984 CD).
A Dulcimer Harvest (1991 Instrumental CD).
The Heart is the Only Nation (1993 CD).
Singing the Wheel of the Year: Pagan Chant Workshop (Chant Video Tape) with Ruth Barrett. Available from Gaulkerry Productions, 2407 Lake view Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90039.
Gardner, Kay. Ouroboros: Seasons of Life, (on CD) an oratorio composed by Kay Gardner on Ladyslipper Records. Available through Goldenrod Distribution: www.goldenrod.com.
Hillyer, Carolyn, Old Silverhead, Songs and Initiations of Womanhood, CD available through Seventh Wave Music www.seventhwave.co.uk or email@example.com.
Mountainwater, Shekhinah. Contact Shekhinah at www.shekhinah.net or firstname.lastname@example.org for information on Womanrunes and her musical audiotapes.
DIANIC ORGANIZATIONS IN THE Z BUDAPEST LINEAGE:
Temple of Diana, Inc.
P.O. Box 6425
Madison, WI 53716
Classes and workshops in the Dianic tradition, The Spiral Door Women's Mystery School of Magick and Ritual Arts, a Dianic priestess training program with Ruth Barrett and Falcon.
Circle of Aradia
P.O. Box 461630
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Dianic seasonal rituals, ongoing classes, special events.
Letecia Layson, High Priestess
Daughters of the Goddess
Leilani Birely, High Priestess
The Women's Spirituality Forum (Z. Budapest's organization): www.thewsf.org.
* From the Manifesto of the Susan B. Anthony Coven #1, republished in The Holy Book of Women's Mysteries by Z. Budapest.
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