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Wednesday, 3 June 2015


Wicca Deck by Sally Morningstar 

High note: Claim your birthright -- success awaits
Low note: Review your personal opinions and beliefs 

I have four meetings today, two of them key to the issue I've been fretting over lately. I'd like to have a close look at this card today. The companion book suggests that 'high spiritual powers' are acknowledging my efforts. Who knows about that, but these lines are welcome: 'You will receive all the help you need. Claim your power. Stand alone for a while, if necessary; you will not be alone for long.'

I think the most valuable advice I can take from this card today comes from its 'Low Note', telling me to 'review my personal opinions and beliefs.' Most days this week, cards remind me that I must be on guard against closed-mindedness.

The Aradia card has the keyword 'Heritage', because she has come to be seen as the foundation (or a key figure at least) in the development of modern pagan witchcraft, or Wicca. This is entirely down to an American folklorist called Charles Godfrey Leland, who in 1899 published a book called 'Aradia', which purports to represent the publication of a single manuscript, the Vangel or gospel of a secret religion of witches. He claimed to have received the manuscript from an Italian witch called Maddelena, who disappeared never to be seen again after that. In this book, goddess Diana mates with Lucifer after he has fallen from heaven, and produces Aradia, who is sent by her mother to earth to teach witchcraft to the oppressed masses  and to instruct her followers to meet naked in wild places at each full moon to worship Diana, hold orgies and take a supper of crescent-shaped cakes. They should continue these meetings until all of their upper-class oppressors are dead. The rest of the Vangel is a book of spells and invocations.

In Triumph of the Moon, Dr. Ronald Hutton examines three possibilities about the origin and authenticity of this book: 1) The book is indeed a witch's gospel, which he asserts is unlikely given the Roman Catholic church's diligence in detecting secret societies and heresy, 2) The book was concocted by Maddalena to satisfy her employer, cobbled together from unknown sources, 3) The book was the concoction of Charles Godfrey Leland himself. Leland actually did have a reputation for being an 'unusually unreliable scholar,' as Hutton puts it. To read the full details about this book, see pages 143-149 of Triumph of the Moon by Ronald Hutton. He himself says, 'So much space has been devoted [here] to Aradia because it was to be one of the most important texts of modern pagan witchcraft.' In any case, there is no other evidence that a religious cult holding these beliefs ever existed in Italy (or anywhere else). From Roman times to present, there is only evidence to suggest that some people believed in a supernatural being called Diana and some also believed that witches prayed to her and to Herodias (the queen who secured the head of John the Baptist in the Bible; Aradia is the Italianized version of Herodias), and that witches met at night to plot evil. The other details appear only in Leland's book.

None of that detracts from the relevance of the message of the card today. In fact it may reinforce it: 'Review your personal opinions and beliefs.' Gotcha.

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