The Secret Story of Aradia
by Myth Woodling
Aradia was a pure spirit who descended from the moon to fall to mortal parents. Her true parents were Diana Primigenia and Apollo Lucetius. 1
Thus the child who was to become Aradia came to the wealthy merchant and his second wife. This merchant had been a widower with four grown children from a previous marriage.
The merchant’s second wife had many miscarriages. Being a pious woman, she purchased numerous masses said on her behalf that she might have a child. She vowed in her heart that any child born living would grow up to be a priest or nun.
Supposedly after one night of much fasting and prayer, the wife was suddenly ravenous. Having finished her vigil, she gathered and ate some walnuts from a tree near Benevento. Shortly thereafter the wife discovered she was pregnant.
She gave birth at the full moon to a beautiful girl, whom they named Arabella. 2
Though her mother adored the little girl, her only thought was one day Arabella should become a nun, a dedicated bride of Christ.
Yet one day, while looking from her window, young Arabella spied a nest of baby birds chirping loudly for their mama and papa.
The little girl said, “Mama, one day I hope to have a nest full of babies like that mama bird.”
Her mother firmly said, “No!” and explained, “You, my child, are promised to become a bride of Christ. There is no higher calling.”
The little girl stamped her foot and declared she had made no such promise.
At which point, the mother was so angry she gave Arabella a cuff.
Arabella blinked back tears and said boldly that on no account would she ever be a nun. The pious woman was very angry.
Arabella fled and later appealed to her father. The merchant, however, had already paid two handsome dowries for his two daughters from the previous marriage. He had no desire to pay for a third. The merchant told Arabella he had only enough money to pay for the lesser dowry that the church took–and Arabella should be content with the life of a nun if that was indeed what her mother desired.
Arabella did not like what her father said. She declared to both parents haughtily that she hoped to be married like others, dowry or none. The merchant told her she should mind her tongue unless she wanted to be locked in her room. To which Arabella replied, “Whether you lock me up or beat me, I will still find some way to escape. You will not make me a nun against my will.”
The merchant was not pleased with his haughty daughter. However, at hearing this proclamation his wife was seriously frightened, for she knew the spirit of the child. She feared force might eventually push her precious maiden into the arms of some libertine, ruining the girl and causing a great scandal.
Turning it all over, the wife thought of an elder cousin, though some say aunt, related to the merchant through marriage and now a widow. She was a lady well known for her wit, learning, and somber virtue. “Such a governess,” the wife thought, “will induce my daughter to become pious and fill her head with devotions.”
Eventually, Arabella sought the aid of her confessor, that the priest might intercede on her behalf with her parents on the subject of becoming a nun.
The old man had admonished Arabella for her sin of disobedience to her parents and then rambled on about the parable of the foolish virgins. In the end, he instructed Arabella to pray for guidance.
In the meantime, Arabella’s kinswoman was appointed her governess and became her constant companion.
However, the lady did not encourage her charge to become a nun or vex her with pieties. Though the girl was reminded to say her prayers, she was largely instructed in practical pursuits such as weaving, sewing, spinning, dying cloth, the making of candles and soap, the names of plants and herbs, etc., which might be useful in either a convent or household.
One night when the moon was full and round, Arabella thought she heard her elder cousin’s voice speaking or singing softly to someone. By the open window, Arabella spied her kinswoman kneeling in the moonlight, apparently praying, but praying no Latin prayer of the Church.
Much later when they were alone, Arabella confronted her governess, who first denied everything. At last, she promised to explain if Arabella would vow secrecy.
“I, like you,” her kinswoman explained, “was brought up to worship an invisible god with contrition and prayers. Yet an old woman in whose wisdom I had great trust said, ‘Wherefore give adoration to a god, his son, and their martyrs, who never appear to thee nor give any comfort to thee in this world of misery? There is the Moon, visible in all Her splendor. Thou shouldest worship Her. She is Viridia Diana3 unveiled.’ Great Diana, the goddess of the Moon, will grant your prayers. Invoke and praise Diana, who is Queen of the Faeries and all spirits and the moon. If you, too, desire to learn this sorcery, I will teach you the old ways and how to worship Diana.”
Arabella was converted to the worship of the Moon. Her governess required her to learn many charms and conjurations before she would teach Arabella the conjuration to bring admirable suitors. Arabella invoked the Moon, requesting young men of stations suitable to her father.
The merchant’s wife was distraught that a parade of hereto unknown men should suddenly be showing an interest in her virgin child. She sent the governess away. She complained bitterly to her husband that their daughter was willful and wanton. Angrily, he shut Arabella away in a tower used for storage, with nothing but a stone floor to sleep on. He said she should remain in the tower until she was again sensible and accept she had been vowed to be a nun.
Arabella prayed with tears to the full moon for deliverance, and a great storm came up. During the storm, Arabella escaped, for the house shook with wind and the door to her chamber opened. Some say Diana threw a spear of lightning at the tower. Others say a lamp fell over, setting a tapestry aflame. A large portion of the house was burned due to the fire, including the tower where Arabella was kept. The merchant and his wife thought Arabella had perished in the flames. They mourned her death.
Arabella hurried away through the night, not knowing where to go.
After the storm had passed, a beastial and brutish fellow spied the girl dressed as the daughter of a wealthy merchant and followed her with the intent of doing harm. Seeing she was followed, Arabella started to run, but she tripped on her dress and fell. She looked up at the moon between the clouds and said, “I have no one to defend me. Diana, thou alone dost see me. Therefore I pray to thee!”
A cloud passed over the moon and a white shadow appeared and said, “Rise and go thy way to the safety of my wood. This one shall trouble thee no more.” Under the cover of darkness, she ran toward a group of trees. As she reached the shadows of the trees, the moon came out from behind the cloud. Arabella turned and saw the form of her attacker standing still as stone under the cold moon. She hurried on through the woods.
She walked much that night. She rested by an open field until the next evening.
There, when the girl was alone and without companion, she sat far from human habitation. As fireflies danced over the open field, the moon arose. The fireflies slowly faded away. From the moonlight, there appeared moon white shining ones, thousands of faeries as beautiful as the light of the moon.
“What are you?” the girl asked the shining ones.
“We are the children of Diana. We are children of the moon,” they replied.
“You are lovely,” the maiden said.
“You are like us, because you were born when the moon was round and full. For those born under a full moon are children of the moon.”
The voice of Diana said to her daughter, “It is true indeed that you, a spirit, are, but you were born to be yet again a mortal. You must go to earth and become a teacher to women and men who seek to learn witchcraft.”
The maiden said, “As my mother is Diana, I am Aradia.”
Later, she came to a small vineyard and house, with a face crudely carved in a tree stump outside it. There she traded her costly dress for food and the clothes of a peasant.
In the time of Aradia, many peasants and serfs had lived as slaves. In those days, there were many slaves who were cruelly treated; in every palace tortures, in every castle prisoners.
Many oppressed escaped. They fled to the country, to the wood of Diana. Thus they became thieves and desperate folk. Some had robbed their masters and slew them as they slept, so they dwelt in the forests and mountains as robbers and assassins, all to avoid oppression. They had escaped into the hills and the forest. These people gathered into outlaw bands, living like gypsies and thieves in order to survive.
Dressed as a common woman, Aradia searched them out. It is said she lived with them for a time, practicing her healing craft. Some say they hid near Nemi, the ancient site for the worship of Diana. In ancient times, a runaway slave, if he were brave, strong and desperate enough, could seek asylum at the grove of Nemi. 4
In the wood, Aradia heard the plight of these people. Many were evilly treated by the great lords, wicked masters who abused them. Others had been cast from their homes during a poor harvest. Virtuous girls who had been used as playthings were outcast as ruined. One girl, Margherita, had been branded on the cheek for having an affair with a nobleman’s son. After this lord’s son refused a pre-arranged marriage, it was Margherita who bore the lord’s wrath. She was convicted of sorcery for giving her lover a spiced wine philtre. The court, at the lord’s insistence, decreed her nose should be cut off if she returned to that town. Some suffered persecution from the Church, ejecting them from the district of the parish, because they kept to the old ways. From those who kept the old ways, she learned as much as she could about the follettos, fauni, sylvani, monachettos, linchettos, and other faery spirits as well as any enchantments she did not yet know. Among these outlaws, Aradia came to know the good women of Diana who believed and professed they had ridden at night upon certain beasts with a hoard of women and Diana, the goddess of the pagans, all in the service of their mistress.
A widow of a fisherman told how she and a multitude of women had flown under wind and over wave on the backs of billygoats to beneath the walnut tree of Benevento. There on a dais sat a beautiful lady, white as the moon, and a young man, red as the sun, who were queen and king of the faeries. She and the women knelt in adoration of Fata Diana in hope of being granted wealth, beauty, and young men to make love with. She described how everyone sat down to a celebratory feast of food and drink. “I always awoke in bed, where I had gone to rest the night before. Such was the power of the faery queen. For telling of this, I was cruelly driven from my home when the priest cast me out of the parish district.”
Aradia had such a passion for witchcraft, and became so powerful therein, that her greatness could not be hidden.
But the band was hard pressed by the lords, who disliked such a large band of assassins and thieves. One day, while Aradia gathered herbs of vervain and rue before dawn, the band was scattered by the soldiers of the nobility.
Aradia obtained a pilgrim’s dress that she might hide in the open as a pious pilgrim, wandering between Christian shrines–but in truth she sought the old places of power, some of which the Church had built upon. She traveled far and wide. When she slept in people’s homes, she would give them charms or perform healings, speaking of La Matrona, Regina della stelle, Donna Sophia, or Regina Fata. 5
But some she taught in secret.
To those who were feign to learn the truth of sorcery, she taught its secrets: to bless and to curse, to cure diseases, to make a good vintage and fine wine, to cool a fever, to stop bleeding, to make those who are ugly beautiful, to know the secrets of herbs, to know the secrets of hands, to divine the wind, to divine with cards, to tame wild beasts, to converse with spirits, to conjure the spirits of priests who died leaving hidden treasures, to call tempests with lightning, thunder, hail and wind.
Aradia had been taught to work all witchcraft, how to destroy those men of evil, those oppressors.
She taught her people, “When I have departed from you, whenever you have need of anything: once in a month, and when the moon is full, you shall assemble in some lonely place in a forest all together, to adore the potent spirit of your queen, my mother, Great Diana. To them, women and men also, whoever would like to learn witchcraft, who would not seek to surpass my mother–my mother, Diana, Queen of faeries and witches, she will teach them. You will be free from slavery. Men and women will be naked until the last of your oppressors is dead. You will play the game of moccola of Benevento.” 6
Aradia taught them to bake cakes for the moon. “You shall make cakes of meal, wine, salt, and honey in the shape of a crescent moon. You shall say over it the incantations:
I bake neither bread nor salt, I cook neither wine nor honey, I cook the body, blood, and soul, The soul of great Diana that A favor be granted me that I asked of her from my heart. If this favor, oh Diana, you will grant me A feast in your praise will be made We will eat, we will drink, We will dance, we will leap. Then when the dance is the wildest, all the lamps Shall be extinguished and we'll freely make love.
All will come to the feast, men and women, naked, and, the feast over they shall dance, sing, make music, and then love, in the moonlight, and so they will dance and make music in her praise.”
In secret, taught Aradia, daughter of Diana, “You poor suffer hunger and toil wretchedly. You will suffer bondage and imprisonment. Yet you have a soul, a better soul, and you will be happy in the other world and an ill fate for others who do you wrong.”
To those with a willingness to learn the art of witchcraft, she taught under the moon of Diana. From her lips came the words of her Mother: “You shall be the first of witches–first among witches in all the world. You shall bind the oppressor’s soul with power. You shall teach the art of poisoning to poison those great lords feasting in their palaces while their serfs starve. Where a greedy peasant is rich at the expense of his neighbor’s misfortune, teach to the witches, your pupils, how to ruin his harvest with tempest, thunderbolts, lightning, hail and wind. If a priest shall do you injury, you will return harm twice, in my name, the name of Diana, queen of all the witches.
“I have come to sweep away the bad, to destroy the evil people and I will destroy them riding down upon my besom.”
These are some of the teachings Aradia taught in secret of her mother, goddess of the poor and the oppressed.
At a well, two young children were drawing water. The older, a young girl, gave Aradia, who was dressed as a pilgrim, a drink and invited her to their home. Their mother, the mistress of the house, was abed, because her feet and legs pained her greatly. Aradia applied goose grease to the woman’s aching limbs, rubbing the flesh vigorously. Such was the power of Aradia’s healing that the women rose and walked and prepared a supper in gratitude.
At twilight, Aradia took a sickle and cut a sheaf of grain, gold as the harvest moon. “This is the seed which is cut and made into the blessed bread. When the grain is ripe, the harvest comes. That which is cut down and trod under foot will raise up. The seed will sprout and grow in the dark, where all secrets hide. The earth produces the blade and bear the grain in the ear, to dance in the wind and meanwhile did also bear in thee strange secrets, flitting as fireflies among the golden, glittering grain. All mysteries we attain with Donna Sophia.”
At a household where Aradia stayed, a little girl, Lucia, daughter of the cook, was plagued by horrendous nightmares. Lucia had grown ill from lack of sleep. The cook said, “It has been such since her father died. She says the things in the dark frighten her.”
Aradia gathered a fresh branch of rue before dawn. In private, she prepared a wreath of rue, bound with ribbons of yellow and red. In the evening, she brought it to Lucia, who lay in bed.
Aradia said, “Look through this garland and see with clear sight. When thou dreamst, thou wilt see with clear sight which frightens thee, and thou wilt see it cannot harm thee.” She sang the child a song of power, a song of night, which soothes sleep. She hung the garland over the bed and the child slept peacefully.
A maiden complained to Aradia that the young man to whom she was betrothed had abandoned her to court a wealthy widow. Tearfully, she asked Aradia if there was any way she might cause him to return to her. Aradia said, “Perhaps, he never loved thee.”
“No,” replied the maiden, “look, he gave me a lock of his hair as a love token.”
Aradia sat at the maiden’s spinning wheel. She took soft, white, carded wool and began to spin, fashioning a thread beautiful as moonlight. She hummed:
A-thrum, a-thrum, a-thrum, Hear the humming, humming, The spool is spinning, With the humming of bees, Sweet as the honey of love; The song of the Queen humming, Humming, a-thrum, a-thrum; Spinning wheel, spinning life, Spinning the lives and fates, From wool drawn from moonlight; Fata Diana, spins the fate of women and men; All things are spun from the wheel of Diana, Lucetius turned the wheel. A-thrum, a-thrum, a-thrum.
She handed the maiden the spool of thread she had spun. “Bind his lock of hair with thine using this thread and bring to him cakes of honey. He will forget this widow and return to thee.”
There was a man who owned a small vineyard. He was known for his kindness to strangers, even if his harvest had been poor. His household received Aradia as a wandering pilgrim–as payment she went out to the vineyard where the vines had been pruned back for the season, taking a horn of wine. She drank from the horn, murmuring softly in the light of the slender, crescent, waxing moon. Later, this old man had an abundant harvest of grapes, which yielded a good vintage.
A story around the daughter of the goddess grew, and she was called La Bella Pellegrina, the beautiful pilgrim, so renowned for her beauty, and wisdom, and healing arts. Some said she was an angel or a saint. To have La Bella Pellegrina abide in your home was a blessing, for it was known folk had sometimes entertained angels unaware.
Those she taught in secret called her La Maestra, the teacher.
Eventually it seems tales of La Bella Pellagrina reached the ears of the merchant’s wife, who was now a widow. The merchant’s widow sought out authorities and had them arrest La Bella Pellegrina as a wayward daughter.
The widow greeted the young woman joyfully in prison, claiming God had sent a blessing by restoring her beautiful child alive and returning her as a holy pilgrim. She then asked if her daughter was at last ready to embrace her true vocation as a nun.
Aradia responded stiffly, “It is not possible for me to be a nun. I have left the Catholic Church, and become a worshipper of the Moon. I have no mother, except Diana.”
“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Church, what are you saying?” exclaimed the widow.
“Your God, his son, and the Church are three devils!” Aradia answered.
Thus this pious woman gave the girl up as lost and abandoned her to be put to the torture and death as a heretic.
Aradia prayed at the window by the light of the full moon to Diana that she might be delivered. In the morning, she was not found in her cell. How she escaped is not known. It is as though she evaporated with the moon’s dew.
Some say later, south of Rome, she was captured again and a lover aided her that she might pray again in the light of the moon.
While she was imprisoned in the dungeon of the palace, a great storm came up. A terrible tempest which overthrew and swept away everyone in it, all the evil overlords. There was not one stone left upon another.
Perhaps Aradia, as a mortal, died there. Others say she escaped alive and traveled North, where she was worshipped as a goddess and lived to a great age.
There are many other things that Aradia did that are not recorded here. These things are known in the heart that rejoices in the Amalthean horn of compassion, the cornucopia of love, the cup of the wine of life.
Whatever a thing should be asked of the spirit of Aradia, that should be granted to those who merit her favor.
“Thus do I seek Aradia, Aradia, Aradia, Aradia! At midnight, at midnight, at midnight, I go into a field, and with me I have water, wine, and salt, I bear water, wine, and salt, and my talisman–my talisman, my talisman, and a small red bag which I hold in my hand–con dentro, con dentro, sale, with salt in it, in it. With water and wine, I bless myself, I bless myself with devotion to implore a favor from Aradia, Aradia.
Aradia! My Aradia, You who are the daughter Of the oldest of spirits, Of the sun and moon; Your mother desired To make you a spirit, A benevolent spirit, And not malevolent! Aradia! Aradia! Much do I implore you, By the love which your mother has for you, By the love which I also feel for you; I pray you will grant me this favor And send me an omen if this favor be granted."
Copyright 2000, 2007 Myth Woodling
1 Diana was an ancient Italian divinity. Her earliest aspects made her a Goddess of light, mountains, and woods. In Leland’s Aradia, she is also a Goddess of night and witchcraft, in particular of dark and light. The dark represented the dark before light–where everything began. Thus I use the name Diana Primigenia, meaning “Diana the first created” or “Diana the first born.” I could have used Jana, an ancient Italic Goddess often identified with Diana. Or I could have used Juno Lucia, “Juno the Light-bearer,” another moon Goddess who was often coupled with Diana. Juno was the queen of the Roman pantheon. The name Leland used for the sun God, Aradia’s father, was Lucifer, a Latin name meaning “light-bearer.” He also identified her father with Cain in the sun. The name I have used, Apollo Lucetius, “Apollo the Light-bearer,” is supposed to hark back to the ancient Etruscan sun God, Apulu. However, I could have used Janus Matutinus Pater. As the God of beginnings, Janus also presided over daybreak in his aspect as a solar God. Janus was the consort of Jana. Perhaps Jana and Janus were originally viewed as the moon and sun?
2 Speculations of Aradia’s birth name include Andrea, Reginia, Iredeasa, Arada, and Lucina.
3 Green Diana, Diana as the spirit of the trees and plants of the forest.
4 A runaway slave could go to the grove of Nemi and challenge the guardian of Diana’s shrine to ritual combat by breaking a branch from an oak tree. The fight was to the death and the victor became the new guardian, Rex Nemorensis, the King of the Wood, Diana’s priest. He remained in his office until his death at the hand of his successor.
5 These are euphemisms for Diana–“The Mother,” “Queen of the Stars,” “Lady Wisdom,” and “Queen of the Faeries.” The first three might be considered to be epithets of the Virgin Mary as well. Incidentally, “Donna Sophia” probably ought to be rendered in Italian “La Signora Sofia.” After some thought, I stuck with “Donna Sophia,” as I thought that rendition of the name might make more sence to a reader familar with the Greek Gnostic “Sophia” or “Hagia Sophia.”
6 According to Mario Pazzaglini, PhD, and Dina Pazzaglini, “Moccola most commonly refers to the burnt stub of a candle. The game’s full name is moccola di Benevento and it probably has pagan origins. Benevento means good wind….It may also refer to a hop into another world perhaps after death real or symbolic…” (362)
When I wrote this story back in 2000, I thought the name Aradia meant in Italian, “altar of Diana” or “altar of the Goddess.” Ara is an Italian combine name meaning, “altar,” and dia could either be short for “Diana” or another spelling of dea, meaning, “Goddess.” In fact, I wrote this “Secret Story” prior to the creation of http://www.AradiaGoddess.com website by my webmaster spouse. The first photocopies of this story were distributed free at sundry events I attended. After leaving them free at a number of places, I decided my husband might have fun helping me create a website where I could put this story and some other lore I collected.
In my original photocopied introduction to this story, I wrote: “According to certain oral Wiccan lore, Aradia was an actual woman.” When we entered a coven in Baltimore in 1984, one of the things we learned was some people believed Aradia had been a living woman and other people did not. Our typed and photocopied Book of Shadows had a couple of brief references to Aradia, along with her name in a couple of rituals. One of the coveners of that group told me he was not in contact with any stregas by mail at this time. I now suspect that one of them might have written to Raven Grimassi or one of his coveners in California. It’s also possible that someone who was a member of this coven in the past had owned some of the books, because many years later I found some of the materials from our Book of Shadows in Raven Grimassi’s writings.
I still think much of the life of Aradia–if she lived at all–remains a mystery. Her birth name remains unknown. Originally, many scholars doubted that Leland’s text even represented a genuine historical form of Italian Witchcraft, or Stregheria, never mind the possibility of a flesh and blood woman named Aradia.
This narrative is fiction–albeit fiction heavily based on the text of Leland’s Aradia, or The Gospel of the Witches (1899) and some bits of Wiccan oral lore about Aradia. Over the years, I’d come across little snippets of information and file them away in notebooks or in my brain. In late 1988 or early 1989, I wrote a fan letter to Janet and Stewart Farar about their book, The Witches Goddess. In it, I told them that I thought the name Aradia meant “altar of Diana.” Janet and Stewart wrote me back, which resulted in a long correspondence, eventually resulting in my husband, Thoron, organizing their first tour of the USA and Canada in 1990. Steward had been initially intrigued by my speculation about the meaning of Aradia’s name.
Many years later, I was delighted to see a new translation of Leland’s Aradia by the Pazzaglinis with Stewart Farar’s name also on the cover. I spent many happy hours reading and rereading it.
A little muse whispered her breath of inspiration to me one day while I was thumbing through the new translation of Leland’s Aradia, by Mario Pazzaglini, PhD, and Dina Pazzaglini (Phoenix Publishing, 1998). Some Wiccans claim that Aradia was the female avatar of Diana, daughter of the sun and the moon, a messiah of the Old Religion. I was struck that if Aradia was responsible for a revival of la vecchia religione in 14th century Italy, certain events in her life would have directed her to that path.
After all, Prince Siddhartha may have been destined to become the Buddha, but first he had to behold the spectacles of the infirmity of old age, disease, and death. Then, he had to go forth as a monk and achieve bodhi, perfect Enlightenment, under Bodhi-Gaya, the tree of wisdom. Perhaps Siddhartha might not have been so intent on achieving bodhi, if his father, King Suddhodhana, had not been so determined that his heir live a life of delight and pleasure, until the prince finally assumed the throne.
The goddess Aradia, in Wiccan lore, is a protectress of the poor and the oppressed. She is particularly invoked as such among Feminist Dianic Witches (Feminist Wicce trad).
Published in 1899, Leland’s Aradia had a ring of the angry 19th century socialist.
In those days there were on Earth many rich and many poor. The rich made slaves of all the poor. (127)
Though while this statement could reflect the travesty of the treatment of the working class of the industrial revolution, life for the peasant of the Middle Ages or Renaissance was no picnic either. Serfs and peasants were at the mercy of the whims of the nobility. Capital punishment was pervasive. The whipping post, stocks, and branding iron were likewise used against any who landed on the wrong side of authorities. One could be fined for not going to church, and heretics were burned at the stake. Life was cheap.
If the harvests were bad, a beneficent lord might open his storehouse to feed the populace. However, the lords were not always beneficent.
A widow in hard straits might call upon the charity of her neighbors or parish, but charity might be rendered only grudgingly, or not at all.
Folk magic was common during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The natural cures from apothecaries, herbalists, and midwives were often mixed up with magic and prayers.
Magic is often employed to empower the powerless. Vodou, for example, played a significant role in the slave rebellion of 18th century Haiti.
In Leland’s text of Aradia, the “haves” are definitely vilified and the “have-nots” are encouraged to retaliate via magic.
And thou shall 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 tempest dire... (130)
Leland claimed he was preserving very old folklore, and indeed poisoning one’s political enemies was a common practice in ancient Rome.
It should be added modern Wiccans neither teach nor practice the art of poisoning anymore than they teach or practice the art of highway banditry, a la Robin Hood–another champion of the poor fictionalized and romanticized by Wiccans. For example, Gerald Gardner, in Witchcraft Today (1954), wrote: “He [Robin Hood] had his coven of twelve, including the High Priestess, Maid Marian, all dressed in Lincolnshire green.” (p. 66)
I also wrote in my original introduction, according to some Wiccan lore, the woman who became Aradia was born on August 13, 1313. The date is clearly chosen for magical reasons. August 13 was a feast day of the ancient Italian goddess, Diana. The year, 1313, most probably simply repeats the magical number, 13. This information came from my high priestess in Tapestry Coven. She also told me it was “from a story,” explaining that she didn’t own that book and didn’t remember the author. Since I didn’t know the ultimate source of the suggested year (1313), I didn’t use it in my retelling. Instead, I used the Wiccan oral lore that Aradia was born under a full moon.
Anyone who remembers the late 1970s and 1980s knows it was commonplace for Wiccans to lend their books to each other. I never asked who owned the book. She also told me the actual story was hidden in Leland’s original book and then directed me to another covener to ask him more about it. He pulled a photocopied version of Leland’s Aradia off the shelf and showed me Chapter XI, “The House of the Wind.” Supposedly, this was the coded story of Aradia’s childhood. I’ve since heard more than one Wiccan express this opinion. I believe this oral lore walked in through either Raven Grimassi’s teachings or people reading his early books.
Another Wiccan tradition insists Aradia was born under the full moon. Another Wiccan told me that, but it does not seem to have any connection with Grimassi’s writings.
Aradia is generally believed to have been born in Northern Italy, particularly Tuscany, where some Etruscan lore and custom survived. Benevento and its infamous walnut tree growing somewhere in the vicinity of the town are also sometimes linked to her birth.
I originally wrote, “None of this retelling of Aradia may be historically accurate.” I put that in my original introduction, because I knew how very little I knew about Italy at the time. I was simply delighted to be able to tie it all down in one coherent story.
Myths and legends should have a sense of timelessness. There are champions of the oppressed in every age. I have envisioned Aradia as a woman angry at the injustices of humanity if she lived in the 14th or 15th century as such a champion.