I am a witch, and I spent most of my adult life avoiding Aradia.
I know, I know. Blasphemy!
Honestly, the fact that it can be viewed as blasphemy was a good part of my motivation for avoiding her. Gospel of the Witches was another one. Yet another was that I was told I should read about her, or that I needed to read about her, with the implication that I was somehow failing as a witch if I didn’t drink the punch. Being a bit of a contrarian, just the last one alone probably would have been enough to make me avoid her, but I had more reasons than just that.
I was raised nondenominational Christian. I understand the Christian god, and I even believe he exists. I just believe he is at best a jerk, and at worst an unmitigated schizophrenic narcissist. While I have from time to time met and befriended the occasional beautiful soul who happens to be Christian, for the most part I actively avoid all things Christian. I have serious moral and ethical issues with the hate so many of them spew, with the shaming and vilifying of the human body and independent thought, and with the overbearing judginess and restrictions on personal freedoms which are part and parcel of the principles governing sinning. I also greatly dislike the tendency towards dogmatic belief in Universal Truths and other absolutisms, most of which never rang true for me.
So, when Aradia was pushed at me, and it was called a Gospel, and presented as some sort of Universal Truth, which would Speak To All Witches, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and walk away.
Another issue that didn’t help in my case was the fact that she was presented as integral to Wicca. At this point, I honestly have no idea if that is true, but that was how she was presented to me when I was young. If Wicca works for you, that’s awesome, and I’m happy for you. Personally, I’ve never really liked it, mostly because of the overwhelming emphasis on binary gender polarity, aggressive gendering of All The Things, and the repeated imposition of symbolized heterosexual intercourse on non-sexual things as a sign of Spiritual Perfection. The dominant symbolism in Wicca read to me like the mental wanderings of a just post-pubescent, straight, cis gendered youth with a newly minted and active sex drive, who sees boy and girl parts and heterosexual sex in everything, and believes everyone else does too.
As an asexual nonbinary person, it was more than a little tiresome and off-putting. I understand that at this point there are many Wiccan traditions which are addressing those issues and working to be more inclusive, and I applaud those efforts, but at the time (some twenty years ago) no one I’m aware of was even attempting such changes. Even if they were, I certainly wasn’t going to waste my time looking for them, when the impression I had of the foundations of the religion were anathema to my personal experience.
So, two strikes! Dogmatic presentation, and was strongly associated with a religion I had no interest in.
The third issue gets back to my aversion to Christianity. I didn’t find out until just a few years ago that Aradia is said to be the daughter of Diana and Lucifer. After not hearing about her for years, Aradia started coming up repeatedly, through gentle hints and coincidences. I decided that maybe I had been reactionary in my youth, and I was considering reading the Gospel of the Witches. I didn’t get far enough to even buy a copy before coming across that little tidbit regarding her parentage. Cue hard eye roll, and once again I turned away.
The problem isn’t that I think Christianity and witchcraft are universally incompatible. They are not compatible for me, but they are extremely compatible for some people. As a proponent of following the path that works best for you, I accept that those paths are valid, even if they baffle me personally.
My issue is that witchcraft does not require the validation of having roots in Christian anything. It’s like the idea that all witches are descended from angels or demons or Nephilim, and that drop of divine blood is what makes magic work possible. I am a witch simply because I am a witch, not because some Christian pantheon mythic being got busy with a mortal woman way back when. By the same token, non-Christian deities and mythic figures do not exist because some Christian pantheon mythic being got busy with a non-Christian somebody or other.
The only religion which requires that all things have an origin in Christianity is Christianity. Due to the overwhelming influence of Christianity on Western culture, laws, and thought for the past 1.5 millennia, it is understandable that people have now and again justified non-Christian things through Christian avenues and Christian trappings. However, in this era, and with me not being Christian, I don’t need, and don’t want, my cosmology to begin or end with anything from that cosmology, even if I do feel fondness and sympathy for Lucifer (demanding freedom in the face of oppression is the right side of history in my book).
So, strike three, but the world continued to gently remind me that Aradia was there.
I wasn’t immediately convinced, but it was the first time I had encountered someone discussing Aradia, and it didn’t come across as dogmatic. Quite the contrary. It came across as something that might be of interest and value to me and my path. However, I still glanced at the Gospel of Aradia, and couldn’t help but cringe at the title alone.
In The Truth of Myth, Tempest put Aradia forth as a myth which was valid and useful, regardless of whether it was ancient or modern in its conception. I couldn’t help but agree, and yet I still cringed when I saw that damned title, Gospel of Aradia.
Then Tempest proposed, and then edited and published the book The New Aradia: A Witch’s Handbook. I was intrigued by the project, since it clearly called to an aspect of Aradia I was completely ignorant about. I even submitted a couple pieces for consideration. Neither made it in, but I understand why. I haven’t dusted them off myself and submitted them to this blog, because they need work.
But, I had other concerns and other priorities, and I still couldn’t help but cringe about that damned title, which reinforced all the dogmatic bull which had turned me away from Aradia in the first place. I tend to work with deities and such very infrequently anyway, so there wasn’t any impetus to overcome my prior associations.
So, I ignored it. And I ignored her. And every so often something would tap on me, and remind me that Aradia was still there. In recent weeks, that has happened a lot, and never with even a whiff of the dogmatic pressure I experienced when she was first thrust at me. It was always in reference to the aid she can give to the downtrodden, and the leadership she can inspire for making positive changes.
And then Tempest announced that her Patron-only Zoom meeting last week would focus on Aradia. I wasn’t sure I would manage to attend, but I decided to take the hint and try. I felt that if anyone could introduce me to her in a way that didn’t make me want to gag, it would be Tempest.
I was nervous and I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew it was important, so I logged into the meeting even though I was a few minutes late to the table. While other people continued to filter in, she chatted casually with us, and then talked about the various publications of Aradia’s myths, and The New Aradia handbook.
I was starting to wonder if I was just there to get another “read the damned book” reminder, when Tempest started us into the trance meditation which was the focal point of the meeting.
I must admit that I have never deliberately sought a state of trance, but apparently I’ve been doing it for years, mistakenly considering it to just be a state of hyperfocus. I had never done the ease in and ease out meditation Tempest led us through, and at first I didn’t know what we were hoping to accomplish with it, so I did my best to stay with her and everyone else, even though my mind was ready to jump straight into the deep end.
The moment Tempest started to describe her cottage, I was there. I could see sunlight gently streaming in through glassless windows and the open door. I could see the thatch of the roof, and the herbs and other things hanging from the wood that held up the thatch. I could see the hearth with a chimney, various pieces of furniture, and a giant cauldron which was just below simmering temperature, sitting beneath one of the windows to the left.
An older looking woman, just past menopause, looked up from stirring the cauldron to give me a warm and welcoming smile, while she cheerfully informed me that it was about time I came by for a visit. There wasn’t any real rush, and she understood why it had taken so long for me to come visit, but she had something she needed to give me.
She went back to stirring the cauldron, almost absentmindedly, for the hard work was already done, and she just needed to keep it moving periodically so it didn’t stick to the bottom. I got the feeling she always had something going, but that I would always be welcome to drop by for a visit.
She laughed, amused at my insecurity and sheepishness, and said she took no offense about my preconceptions, or my delays. I could see additional layers to her form overlaid on the crone: a mature woman and a young woman and a much older woman. Her hair was simultaneously every color and texture known to Caucasian humans, as were her eyes. She was multiple heights, multiple weights, multiple statures. I knew she was simultaneously all at once, though most people can only perceive one form at a time, the form that will be the best vehicle for teaching them what they need to know. She told me that I have an unusual perspective, and it allows me to easily see things which others miss, though sometimes I miss things that others see easily.
She also laughed about the parentage issue, and said it was immaterial whether or not Diana and Lucifer were her parents. It was the metaphor people needed at one point, and which some people still needed. She didn’t care one whit whether or not anyone believed it was true, or whether or not people believed her stories were new or old, because those details only mattered if they helped convey her message, to inspire others to do the Work.
The moment Tempest started to say that Aradia put something on the table, Aradia made a noise like she almost forgot something (although I knew she hadn’t), and she set down a sphere covered by a cloth. Tempest went on to suggest that it was held on a plate or in a basket, so the vision changed so the sphere was sitting in a metal bowl, completely hidden. Noncorporeal reality is like that, and it has a tendency to shift with expectation and suggestion.
Aradia giggled at the shift, and told me to look, with a glint in her eye like she was handing me something she had been anticipating for some time, and looked forward to with great delight and anticipation.
Tears began to run down my cheeks.
The sphere in the bowl was a crystal ball, sort of. That’s pretty much what it looked like, though I knew that wasn’t a completely accurate description. I’ve never worked with crystal balls, and have had limited success with what mirror scrying and gazing I have attempted in the past. I knew this orb was what I needed, and yet I was confused as to why it looked like an object I admire, but have never really been able to use.
Aradia told me that the physical limitations I have in this life are sadly necessary, for if I did not have them, I would be too distracted by being busy and physical doings to be able to give the Work the attention it needs. She reminded me that I knew that, and agreed to that when entering into this life (a fact I’ve been aware of since I was a child when I regularly contemplated what me being disabled as an adult might be like).*
She repeated that there was no rush (my disability means I am not really capable of rushing anything), but it was good that I had taken the time and devoted the energy to come by for a visit. I needed a tool to help me find clarity when I doubt what I’m doing, or when I’m having trouble deciding where to put my energy, as I have recently. The “crystal ball” was to help focus that inner clarity, for I already know, deep in my soul, what I am here for, and what I need to do, but sometimes it can be hard in an embodied life to see those answers clearly.
She stirred her cauldron periodically, but it didn’t require her full attention or interrupt the conversation.
We talked a bit about those things, as she smiled with true compassion, kindness, and joy. I had chosen a hard path, and she was happy to help. All I needed to do was visit every now and again, and she knew that now that I had taken that step to visit once, I would visit again.
I carry the orb in my heart, in my center, for it is my heart that knows the path when my mind gets confused or caught up in insecurities. I didn’t need to search for a place to put it, because that is where it always was. She simply showed me how to find it, so I could lift the fabric cover off of it and let it shine.
I was still silently crying.
I almost laughed when Tempest said we should turn our attention to the door we hadn’t noticed before, for it had been there the entire time. It was always there, and always open, with sunlight and a cool breeze streaming in, but, being a bit of a contrarian, I didn’t want to walk out the door as prompted.
Aradia laughed, and said I didn’t have to leave through the door if I didn’t want to. She had seen my eyes glance to the window over her cauldron. Any portal was a door through which I was welcome to travel. So, instead of taking the door, I flew out the window as a bird, and was back fully in my body, out of trance.
I did my best to finish out the closing meditation with everyone else, because I knew there were benefits to doing so, but it felt a bit like I had jogged backwards in a race so I could run alongside a friend for the last lap after I had already crossed the finish line.
Meeting Aradia was a profound experience, and one that I believe I will be unpacking now and again for the rest of my life. I guess I had better get a copy of her Gospel and bother reading it, although that won’t change my experience, or my willingness to visit her again, especially when I feel lost and need guidance. I know that most likely she will simply hold a mirror up to what I already know, but the ability to do so accurately and with compassion is a rare skill, and one that I will always cherish.
Until next we meet, Aradia, you are Beloved.
*I feel it is important to mention that just because my status as a disabled person is an important part of my spiritual journey, the same cannot be said for every person who struggles with illness and disability. In fact, I’d say that my situation is a tiny minority. So, don’t take my story and go shame someone who has limitations by telling them they somehow “need” that in their life. They probably don’t, and it is cruel to imply they deserve to struggle, or that their struggles are somehow of “greater benefit” to them. That kind of attitude belittles and dismisses the very real problems caused by illness and disability. Coming to terms with and making peace with disability is a deeply personal process. The ONLY person who can decide if their limitation is of spiritual value, and what that value is, is the person who has the illness or disability.