Famous Witches Throughout History: Aradia


Aradia is a witch whose story originates in the country of Italy. Aradia is the main character in Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, a book written by Charles Leland in the late 19th century. The authenticity of this book is debated to this day, but the book has actually aided in the resurgence of Paganism in the 20th century. Supposedly, Charles Leland was handed a book by a woman who lived in the Tuscany region of Italy named Maddelena, and it was with this book that Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches was composed.

If one is to look at Aradia as she is presented in Leland’s Gospel of the Witches, one would believe in Aradia as a sort of goddess of witches. The actual basis of Aradia’s story in Leland’s book is upon her birth to the goddess Diana and the god Lucifer. Her followers were supposedly a group of witches that had survived since the 12th century by using Aradia’s knowledge of witchcraft to fend off the Roman Catholic church’s advances to wipe out Paganism from Tuscany.

Was Aradia a goddess of Italian witches, or merely a powerful witch from the fourteenth century, according to the modern author Raven Grimassi? You must do the research on your own her story can be convincing either way. I believe she was a witch who has had a strong following since her life in the 14th century, but others still believe Aradia was more of a goddess and much more than a mere witch.



Who Was the Mysterious Aradia – Italian Goddess or Wicked Witch?


The line between goddess and witch or witch and saint is very thin in ancient history. One example of this confusion is the legendary story of Aradia – a woman whose life has been explored in neo-pagan and folklorist accounts of ancient myths and legends.

Aradia’s story became popular with the growth of Wicca and other Neo-Pagan traditions. She is known as the queen of the witches and the goddess of the moon. Aradia is often presented as an important deity and her character appears in many books. However, her origins are not so obvious. In fact, it seems that there are still more questions than answers related to this mysterious woman.

Her 19th Century Story

According to Charles Godfrey Leland, an American folklorist, his book Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches is a text which is based on the old knowledge of pagan witches from Tuscany, Italy. Leland says that his book is based on a text he received from a woman named Maddalena who lived in Tuscany. This account of Aradia is said to be created from ancient Etruscan mythology. The folklorist presents Aradia as a female messiah who came to Earth to support witches in their fight against the Catholic Church.

Leland’s writings became very popular following 1899, but the main question asked by historians is about the validity of his text. Leland claimed that the book he wrote was based on very good resources and stories repeated by centuries of people who were interested in witchcraft. However, many historians doubt it.

The story of Aradia starts with her birth. Leland writes that she was a daughter of a good and powerful deity named Diana, and Lucifer – the most powerful of the devils (who was also her brother.) In this version of the myth, Lucifer is the god of the sun, moon, and light, whose handsomeness was overwhelming. Since the first chapter, the author of the book shows Aradia’s power and an important mission which had been given to her by her mother. One day Diana said to her daughter Aradia:

”Tis true indeed that thou a spirit art,
But thou wert born but to become again
A mortal; thou must go to earth below
To be a teacher unto women and men
Who fain would study witchcraft in thy school
Yet like Cain’s daughter thou shalt never be,
Nor like the race who have become at last
Wicked and infamous from suffering,
As are the Jews and wandering Zingari,
Who are all thieves and knaves; like unto them
Ye shall not be….

And thou shalt be the first of witches known;
And thou shalt be the first of all i’ the world;
And thou shalt teach the art of poisoning,
Of poisoning those who are great lords of all;
Yea, thou shalt make them die in their palaces;
And thou shalt bind the oppressor’s soul (with power);
And when ye find a peasant who is rich,
Then ye shall teach the witch, your pupil, how
To ruin all his crops with tempests dire,
With lightning and with thunder (terrible),
And the hail and wind…. ”

Some parts of Leland’s text are related to ancient mythology while others remind one of local stories of different spirits, creatures, and witches. The truth behind Aradia’s story was mixed with other myths and legends, and it created a monumental book which inspired new life in pagan beliefs.

A Goddess for Modern Pagans

Leland’s book also inspired new books, including the famous Charge of the Goddess . These publications sound very convincing and assert that they describe the real legend of the goddess, however, their information is still uncertain because most of the texts are based on the book Leland published in 1899. And in Leland’s representation of her, Aradia appears as a sexual and sensual character, whose powers of witchcraft are stronger than many others.

Current historians and folklorists still can’t prove or deny the story created by the book published more than a hundred years ago. Nonetheless, Sabina Magliocco, a specialist in Italian folklore, believes that Aradia’s legend is a compilation of many characters known from ancient times to the 19th century.

She suggests that Aradia must have been a supernatural creature related to Italian folklore. Magliocco identified Aradia with the legendary witch figure – who is probably a supernatural legend known in the Sardinian tradition as ”sa Rejusta”.

Another theory comes from Raven Grimassi, who created Stregheria – a neo-pagan tradition. He says that a woman known as Aradia di Toscano was a real person who lived in the 14th century and was a witch, or a powerful leader of a group of witches, who worshiped the goddess Diana. Grimassi supposed that the woman described by Leland was none other than a medieval witch who believed she was an ancient goddess’ daughter.

One more hypothesis comes from Mircea Eliade, a Roman historian of religion who lived between 1907 and 1986. Eliade suggested that the name Aradia comes from Arada and Irodiada – a folkloric name for the famous Queen of the Fairies. In Romanian culture, she was related to Diana and was a patron for a group of dancers who existed until the end of the 19th century (although it’s possible that they secretly continue their work even now.)

The Story Continues

No matter what the origins of Aradia are, she is still an important part of the story of the goddess Diana. Leland’s text is one of the key books of modern witchcraft and also one of the most fascinating materials on literacy, folklore, mythology, and historical research.

By Natalia Klimczak


Aradia, the book

In the late 1800’s, the folklorist, Charles G. Leland, received some folklore, a “vanglo” from an Italian woman, Margherita (aka Maddalena), which he published under the title of Aradia or the Gospel of Witches. Among the other spells and stories, the vanglo recounted the story of Diana and her daughter Aradia. Aradia was born to Diana by her brother Lucifer, the sun God. Diana took pity upon the suffering of the poor and oppressed. Observing how they suffered from hunger and toil while the upper class lived in luxury, Diana sent Aradia, who had existed in the celestial realm, to Diana’s people. Aradia gave them witchcraft as a tool against a corrupt system of Church and State. Having completed her mission, Aradia returned to Diana’s abode, from whence she may be invoked.Leland said this fragmented collection of spells and stories was evidence that in Italy there was a living, though hidden, religion of the moon Goddess, Diana.Perhaps because of some of the material’s anarchistic and anti-Christian nature, or because of some of its sexual frankness, Leland’s book seemed to fall into obscurity. Curiously, it escaped the notice of Margaret Alice Murray in her witchcraft research.However, Fortuna must have smiled. For as serendipity would have it, both Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente independently stumbled upon Leland’s Aradia. Gardner, the Grand Old Man of Wicca, became the person most responsible for the rebirth of the Old Religion in twentieth century England and the USA. When Valiente became Gardner’s High Priestess, she recognized the use of some of the material from Leland’s Aradia in Gardner’s Book of Shadows. Valiente also used some of the “traditional material” from Leland’s Aradia to write, or re-write, the now famous “Charge of the Goddess,” a cornerstone of Wiccan ritual.

Aradia, the Goddess

A modern Wiccan Goddess who is at least 100 years old, she may date back to the 14th century. Nevertheless, in 1899, Charles G. Leland published Aradia or the Gospel of Witches, where Aradia is described as the daughter of the moon and sun. Wiccans frequently invoke her as a lunar Goddess, a protector of the poor and the oppressed, and a Goddess of witchcraft. Due to questions about the antiquity of the name, “Aradia,” she is not listed in the “Goddesses Dictionary.” Aradia’s name, in Italian, means “altar of Diana” or “altar of the Goddess.” Her name may be related to the female figure in Sardinian folklore, Araja.The material in Leland’s book is fragmentary and some modern Wiccans have sought to “fill in the chinks.” Numerous oral and written traditions about Aradia abound. In particular, there is the assertion that chapter 11, “The House of the Wind,” in Leland’s Aradia, described the life and childhood of Aradia as the messiah of “la vecchia religione.”

Aradia, the name

The name, Aradia, was first recorded by Charles G. Leland in Aradia or the Gospel of Witches (1899). It is usually derived from Herodias, which in Italian is spelled, Herodiade or Erodiade. The pronunciation of the Italian variation of the name is Air-oh-DEE-dah, which is very similar to the pronunciation of the name of Aradia among Wiccans, Ah-ra-DEE-ah.




Rosemary Ellen Guiley, The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, 1989

Doreen Valiente, The Rebirth of Witchcraft, 1989.

Charles Godfrey Leland, Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches,1899.


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