Have you ever wondered what a much more feminist version of Witchcraft might look like? The answer is Dianic Wicca. A denomination of the neo-pagan religion of Wicca, Dianic Wicca embraces the flourishing goddess-like nature of every woman and promotes working in harmony with the pagan Wheel of the Year. Its traditions are vibrant, empowering, and some are even considered rather controversial.
The Formation of Dianic Wicca
Just like many other Wiccan traditions, the Dianic one has a few lineages, which are mostly similar, however, they demonstrate some differences. I’ll circle back to that later. For now, let’s focus on the most popular and definitive lineage, which was founded in 1971 by Zsuzsanna Budapestduring California’s Winter Solstice.
It’s no coincidence that the time of its formation falls just a little after the notorious “Summer of Love” when the sexual revolution and civil rights movements were both hyper-charged. The founding pillars of Dianic Wicca are deeply inspired by the liberated thinking associated with the then surging hippie ethic, especially the revolutionized perception of women.
Zsuzsanna Budapest, also referred to as Z, interwove radical feminist beliefs into the newly-established Wiccan tradition, most of which are available in her book, 1979’s “The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries.” Within, Budapest challenged the patriarchal structure and aimed to provide women with a safe, female-only space for healing from the tormenting effects of the dominant culture.
Dianic Wiccans worship a single goddess, whom they see as containing all other goddesses from all cultures. She is the ultimate source of all living things, life springs from and comes back to her in a perfect synchronicity with natural cycles.
This goddess and the path’s namesake is the Roman goddess Diana, who is also equated with the Greek goddess Artemis. Born on the island of Delos, and a child of the Roman god Jupiter and his mistress Latona, Diana is the goddess of hunting, the moon, fertility, children, childbirth, the forest, and wild animals. Diana protects mothers and children, while embodying purity. To this day pagans honor Diana on August 13 as the original mother-goddess, who epitomizes egalitarian matriarchy and is still heavily referenced in art and culture (and with good reason).
What Is Dianic Wicca? The Main Characteristics
Zsuzsanna Budapest implemented her rich understanding of a gamut of whimsical traditions and practices in the formation of her coven. As such, Dianic Wicca is an eclectic fusion of British Traditional Witchcraft, Italian folk-magic as recorded by Charles Leland in “Aradia”, folk magic that she learnt from her mother, as well as other healing practices from various cultures. What had the most impact on defining Dianic Wicca, however, was Budapest’s embrace of the values offered during the Hungarian uprising of 1956 and the feminist movement in the United States.
Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of this form of Witchcraft is that only women are accepted into Dianic Wicca covens. As you can imagine, this policy has triggered a strong backlash as well as recent accusations of transphobia.
We believe that we are part of a changing universal consciousness that has long been feared and prophesized by the patriarchs. We are opposed to teaching our magic and our craft to men. Our immediate goal is to congregate with each other according to our ancient women-made laws and remember our past, renew our powers and affirm our Goddess of the Ten-Thousand Names.
While Dianic Wiccans have faced some criticism when it comes to fluid gender identity, they do readily embrace other members of the queer community, so long as they are women. In fact, exploring female sexuality outside the influence of any male energy is often rather encouraged.
Regardless of any discriminatory accusations cast upon Dianic Wiccans, it is important to understand that they don’t seem to view their tradition as built upon separation or division, but rather unison with the feminine divine, the female body, the reproductive cycles, and the role of the woman as a birth-giver.
Dianic Wicca Vs. Other Forms of Wicca
The day-to-day life of Dianic Wiccans is very similar to that of other Wiccans. They form covens or small circles, attend festivals, and adopt similar altars and rituals. Most importantly, they also honor the pagan Wheel of the Year, which consists of eight festivals (Sabbats): four solar festivals ((Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, Fall Equinox) and four seasonal festivals (marking prominent seasonal changes).
Dianic Wiccans also celebrate the Wiccan Triple Goddess: Maiden, Mother and Crone, which is a spiritual analogue of the female life-cycle. These aspects are also represented by the three phases of the Moon as it goes around the Earth: the waxing crescent, the Full Moon, and the waning crescent. These phases symbolically align with the three phases of a woman’s reproductive life—before, during, and after the body’s ability to give birth.
Dianic Wicca Rituals
Although Dianic Wiccan rituals have their foundations in traditional Wicca, they also feature highly feminine nuances that reinforce the symbolic figure of the Goddess Diana. There are certainly a set of rituals that are popular among many of the Dianic covens, but the beauty of this tradition is in its ability to adapt its practices, in order to suit the needs of the circle.
The rituals are generally crafted based on the pagan Wheel of the Year. They celebrate the harmonious relationship between the Goddess’ mythic cycle of birth, death, and reincarnation.
Interestingly, unlike traditional Wicca, hexes and curses are not forbidden in Dianic Wicca. In fact, they are sometimes encouraged as a method by which to engage in the balancing of Karma and as a safety precaution against abusers.
Another significant aspect of the Dianic Witch’s practice is rooted in mourning society’s many abuses toward women. As such, healing rituals for alleviating the effects of living in a patriarchal system and rejuvenating the feminine divine within each practitioner are commonplace. Many women who have overcome personal traumas such as abuse, rape, or incest have reported deep, therapeutic value drawn from such Dianic practices.
There’s actually a good scientific basis for feminine rituals as transformational agents in the lives of women as well. One ethnographic study in 1989, for example, explored how female-centered healing rituals can reduce negative emotions as well as increase one’s sense of power. The observed ritual, in this case, involved women shifting their understanding of power from an abuser’s hands into their own.
Dianic Wicca Lineages
Now that we know what the Budapest lineage consists of in detail, let’s briefly explore the other Dianic Wicca lineages.
McFerland Dianic Wicca is a neo-pagan, Wiccan tradition, founded by Morgan McFerland and Mark Roberts in 1971. The McFerland tradition mostly references Margaret Murray’s “The Witch Cult in Western Europe”. It also emphasizes feminist beliefs and allows only women to be priestesses. However, it is different from Budapest Dianic in that on specific occasions, males can be allowed into covens. Some argue that the McFerland tradition is the pioneering Dianic Wicca and that the other lineages have adopted their name(s) from it.
The Living Temple of Diana is a shamanic witchcraft tradition of Dianic Witchcraft, which is gaining more and more interest. It was started by Devin Hunter and embodies the motto “We were created whole”. This speaks toward its primary vision that the web of life, including all living things created by the Goddess and extending to the cosmic realms, is to be honored. The Living Temple of Diana is inclusive to male, female, and transgendered members.
Non-Wiccan Dianic Witches, also referred to as Solitary Dianic Witches, are those who uphold the Dianic beliefs and are most often inspired by Z. Budapest and/or a host of other female-centric spiritual movements. These witches perform their own rituals, but are not considered a part of a particular tradition.
Dianic Wicca Books
If you are interested in learning more, there are a lot texts out there to help further initiate you into the practices and beliefs of Dianic Wicca.
From a more modern perspective “The Witches’ Goddess: The Feminine Principle of Divinity” by Janet and Stewart Farrar combines history, lore and extensive information on the goddess in all forms. In the same fashion, “Women’s Rituals: A Sourcebook” by Barbara G Walker provides a practical guide on how to use healing rituals and other divinatory and ritualistic tools.