The Dianic Tradition: Who is it for?

February 12, 2021

A question arises frequently on social media regarding who is eligible to become a Dianic priestess. I wrote a longish essay on Dianic Witchcraft in Witchcraft Today: 60 years on. Here is a short answer to that question.

In the feminist Dianic Tradition founded by Z Budapest, who belongs in a particular coven/ritual is the prerogative of the Dianic coven and its High Priestess. That used to be the way of all Witchcraft traditions, until 1970s feminism threatened male domination. The Dianic Tradition as a whole is for all women (defined by biology, not feelings or sex stereotypes). Some covens are lesbian only. If that’s what the coven wants, we’re fine with that; we respect women’s boundaries. Sometimes an odd Dianic ritual will include men or transwomen, though I doubt any coven from Z’s line would initiate someone who wasn’t born-female. (Strange term that, but trans activists have muddied the language so that these convoluted terms have become necessary.) Dianics from Z’s line who have found themselves more inclusive of trans women have broken off from the tradition and given themselves new names (with our blessing).

There are some who have formed their own “Dianic” traditions which are completely in line with transgender ideology regarding who prescribes (those born with a penis) and who obeys (now known, in the parlance of gender ideology, as uterites, menstruators, vagina havers, people with a cervix). The practitioners of these new traditions deliberately try to confuse outsiders, to the point of naming their covens after older Dianic covens. The problem here is the deliberate attempt to sow confusion, not the deities or practices of the new groups per se. Being a priestess in the Dianic Tradition is not necessarily the same as being a worshipper of the goddess Diana. Veneration of Diana, and her Greek counterpart Artemis, goes back a long long way, and she has always had males among her acolytes. None of us own our gods. Legend in the Greco-Roman canon cautions, however, that a man who crashes a women-only ritual may incur the wrath of the goddess.

I don’t know much about the McFarland Dianics. Their founder, Morgan McFarland, did not court attention beyond her close-knit community. The McFarland Dianics, as they came to be called, received widespread publicity as a foil to Z Budapest’s overtly feminist Dianic tradition. Patriarchy always needs “good” women to oppose the uppity women they frame as “bad,” and McFarland, being neither lesbian nor emphatically feminist, fit the bill. McFarland is now in the Summerland, and her tradition has undergone many changes, as we all have, but their unsought role of “good Dianics,” as opposed to the bad ones, remains their popular distinction. No doubt, if Z’s lineage were to fade away (extremely unlikely), the Pagan “community” would go after the McFarlands, creating invidious comparisons among those women.

[Comments for this post are closed. If you have further questions, please read the essay in Witchcraft Today.]

Reflections on Recent Events in the Dianic Community

September 5, 2014

Portrait of a Woman as a Vestal Virgin by Angelica Kauffman
Portrait of a Woman as a Vestal Virgin by Angelica Kauffman

It has been reported on a few of the more popular (non-Dianic) blogs that Z Budapest and Ruth Barrett are at odds over Z’s decision to ordinate Brazilian Claudinay Prieto as a Dianic priest in the Kourete tradition, which is a matriarchal men’s path parallel to women’s mysteries. There have been press releases, official statements in protest, and responses to the official statements. I am somewhat bemused at the interest in our disagreements and squabbles to those outside the Dianic tradition; it is further proof that what we do is important, however much others claim to dislike us.

I have nothing to add about the disagreement between Z and Ruth, because I know nothing other than what is in their statements. Though I have been a Dianic Priestess for a very long time, I live in an obscure corner of the universe trying to keep a small number of worshipers nourished in the wilderness. I am saying a few words because I also have a modestly popular blog, and I want to address the speculation about “what this means.”

I try, as much as my integrity will allow me, to avoid telling priestesses in my tradition what they should do, or even making judgments about whether they are taking the right or wrong path. This is part of my practice as a feminist witch. Therefore, I am not going to comment on, or even try to decide, whether Z was correct in ordaining a man, or whether Ruth is correct in breaking with Z over this issue. My most immediate concern is for healing between Ruth and Z and their closest supporters, as their statements reveal that there are personal issues tied up with these disagreements over ideology and strategy. It is difficult to sort things out on the intellectual plane when there are uncomfortable feelings lying in the heart.

It may well be that over time Z’s decision will be proven to have been beneficial, but I think we do need a long, in-depth, and measured discussion about the ordination of Kouretes. The pros and cons need to be weighed both ideologically and strategically. I am mindful that this issue has arisen in the context of a persistent and at times vicious attack on biological women’s intentional space. The commitment of all parties here to women’s only space is strong, but we need to be conscious about the effect of our actions on our ability to keep this commitment, given the realities of the world we are living in.

I do not have a position on the ordination or participation of Kouretes, and I am resisting the impulse to form a conclusion at this time. I look forward to reading more and speaking more with other priestesses over the months and perhaps years ahead before reaching a decision. I think one of the most baneful habits of humans on the planet right now is the tendency to form quick judgments and take positions without allowing thoughts to ripen and many sides to be explored. If I can add anything to the discussion right now, it is not by producing an argument or a strategy, but by offering a reminder to take things slow.