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.

Review ~ Grandmother Moon: Lunar Magic in Our Lives, by Zsuzsanna E. Budapest

October 12, 2012

Grandmother Moon recently became available again through Amazon Createspace. The book is a collection of goddess lore based on the lunar calendar, a wheel corresponding to the zodiac sign for each lunation. There are thirteen sections or “lunations,” each starting with basic information about the moon followed by a contemplation about a goddess associated with this moon energy. There is information about the emotional side of the moon, auspicious activities, a few spells, and descriptions of lunar holidays. The lunar holidays are usually not European but Middle Eastern, Chinese, East Indian, Native American or Mesoamerican. Z explains, “This was my intention because these cultures have preserved their lunar calendars to this day.”

Looking at the section for the upcoming new moon in Libra, October 13–15, Grandmother Moon categorizes it as the “Blood Moon.” Its herb is oatstraw and its animal is the cat. The goddess is the Egyptian overseer of truth and justice, Maat — not surprising since the symbol for Libra is the scale. This is a good time to fall in love and to decorate the home, and the energies of pleasure dominate. In keeping with this, Z offers a spell for physical pleasure. The festivals for this moon highlight the difficulties of incorporating an array of lunar calendars in a solar framework. The Jewish festival of Rosh Hashanah occurred at the last new moon and the Hindu festival of Diwali will occur next month. The full moon festivals occurred the end of September. We’ll have to look ahead to the Mourning Moon on October 29th and the festival of Oschophoria, when the full moon in Taurus will celebrate the ecstatic Greek God of the grapes, Dionysus. Sounds like a wonderful time for a party.

Grandmother Moon is easy to pick up and put away, skim through and read out of order. It seems tailor-made for busy schedules and short attention spans. It has an index, which is helpful. The rituals, which appropriately focus on the emotions, can be done solo. It’s a great book for developing an understanding of moon energies.

And What About The God?

June 1, 2012

Shiva lies on his funeral pyre while Kali prepares to straddle his erect penis. Note the sword, the necklace of skulls and her hanging tongue symbolizing her devouring nature. Painting circa 1800.

Sorry to be late in posting. Something came up that I had to attend to.

Many years ago the god Shiva appeared to me in a startling vision. This was not a fleeting glimpse of the deity, which I have frequently, but a long sojourn in his presence. I have since learned that when Shiva appears in this way, it is a sign that you may ask for any boon you wish, and he will grant it. If only I had known this, I would have asked for lots of money, but since at the time I didn’t know any better, I asked for knowledge. Specifically, I had a question that had been provoked by a recent trip to the art museum. The special exhibit on classical Indian religious painting depicted Shiva and Kali Ma, with Kali in coitus with Shiva, or Kali devouring Shiva, or Kali in coitus with Shiva while devouring Shiva at the same time. Like medieval artists who painted the Madonna with Christ Child again and again, Indian painters seemed obsessed with the theme of Kali devouring her mate.

So I asked Shiva, “Do you love Kali?”

“Of course!” he exclaimed.

“But she stood on your stomach,” I protested, “and she ate your intestines.”

He replied, “Everything belongs to her.”

Everything belongs to her. Something to think about for a week. Or a year. Or a lifetime. To me encounters with the God are about understanding, appreciating and accepting the Goddess. He is the model of devotion.

One of the things that is frequently said about Dianics is that we “don’t honor the God.” Consciously or unconsciously, this is meant to criticize us, and repeated over and over again, without reflection, it has become a form of slander. It reflects not only a lack of understanding of our tradition but a lack of understanding of the nature of worship itself.

Dianics do worship mainly the Goddess, in her many forms. Most (but not all) of the images on my alter are of feminine deities, and though I do ritual to the Goddess twice a day, months may go by when I do not invoke a male deity. Yet Dianics also believe in and acknowledge the God. As in many traditions of witchcraft, we consider him the lover of the Goddess, who gave birth to him along with the rest of the universe. Because the Goddess gives birth to all things, and takes all things back to her at will, she is complete within herself, and we see no need to summon God and Goddess together in order to connect with creative power. At the same time there is no taboo about mentioning or connecting with a god. Even the purportedly extreme defender of feminist witchcraft, Z Budapest, talks about the God at times and discusses him a bit in her books. Admittedly, there are a few Dianics who are absolute about not admitting male deities or images into their personal space, and many non-Dianics disapprove of this, yet the compulsion I see in other pagan groups to never invoke the Goddess without the God or vice versa is its own form of extremism. Regardless, worshiping the Goddess alone is not equivalent to “not honoring the God.” Quite the opposite, in fact.

Like me, the God holds the Goddess in highest reverence. She is his entire world, as she is mine. To view the creator of all things as incomplete does not honor the divinities within her creation. And to misrepresent her priestesses, to mischaracterize the living tradition dedicated to the Goddess–how do you suppose the God feels about that? Has he been honored by willful disinclination to understand and accept those who worship what is most precious to him?

There is a great deal of fear and resentment about the presence of a women’s religion, and the reasons are complex. Dianics do not demand that others feel comfortable with us. It would be better, however, if criticism were not cloaked in the hypocrisy of “honoring the God.”