Aradia in Wicca

Janet and Stewart were originally taught there were only two true deities of witchcraft, Aradia and Karnayna. Aradia is Italio-Etruscan in origin, and Karnayna, often thought by Stewart to be Alex Sanders' mispronunciation of Cernunnos, was in fact an egotistical joke: it was the name given to Alexander the Great by the Carthaginians on his reaching godhood. After moving to Ireland, Janet and Stewart changed the god name to Cernunnos, a more generic term of Gaelic/Latin origin meaning simply "horned god." The dogma of only two true names for the God and Goddess continues today among some hard-liners of Alexandrian and Gardnerian Wicca. On moving to Ireland, Janet and Stewart were faced with the realization that they were surrounded by a country full of its own mythology. Aradia began to take a back seat in their practices as the old Irish gods demanded recognition.
--Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone, Progressive Witchcraft (2004), p. 79
Why did Gardner choose an obscure Italian Goddess for his British trad?

The Celtic Irish apparently had a Goddess of the new moon, but her name has not been preserved in the stories of the Tuatha De Danann. Yet Irish monks, in approximately 600-1000 c.e., did preserve a prayer to her in the Carmina Gadelica in which they recorded much older, oral Celtic lore.

Greeting to you, New Moon, kindly jewel of guidance!
I bend my knees to you, I offer you my love.
I bend my knees to you, I raise up my hands to you,
I lift up my eyes to you, New Moon of the Seasons.
Greeting to you, New Moon, darling of my love!
Greeting to you, New Moon, darling of graces,
You journey on your course, you steer the flood tides,
You light up your face for us, New Moon of the Seasons.
Queen of guidance, queen of good luck,
queen of my love,
New Moon of the Seasons!
Greeting to you, gem of the night!
Beauty of the skies, gem of the night!

Mother of the stars, gem of the night!
Foster child of the sun, gem of the night!

Majesty of the star, gem of the night!

From Carmina Gadelica, Volume III
Translation by A. Carmichael, as quoted by Elizabeth Pepper in Moon Lore (1997, 2002)

It is my belief that Gardner was aware of this prayer in the Carmina Gadelica. However, whether he was aware of it or not, he seemed to be intuitively drawn to the archtypal figure of the moon Goddess.

Unfortunately, the only deity name preserved in British folklore associated with the moon was Mani, the Teutonic-Saxon moon God, the "Man in the Moon" in English folklore. His counterpart was Sunna or Sol, a sun Goddess. (Well, there is also the Saxon waning moon Goddess, Bil or Gil, but I can only guess it must have been hard to recite poetic invocations to a female named Bil.)

Gardner was an avid reader. At some point, he stumbled across Leland's Aradia and must have had an epiphany. "...a minor Celtic goddess crept in and by her beauty and sweetness wrought great changes in the primitive hunter's cult. This is simply a wild guess on my part..." Witchcraft Today, pp. 37-38. Gardner was speaking, of course, of the entrance of a Celtic goddess into the earlier native British culture. He did not add that he thought this "goddess" was the daughter of the Roman Diana, Leland's Aradia. Aradia, daughter of the beautiful moon Goddess, Diana, was apparently venerated as a witch Goddess in Tuscany--Northern Italy. Northern Italy had contact with the Gaulish Celts, and the two cultures surely had swapped ideas. Furthermore, the Gaulish Celts might have also passed some Italian ideas to the Celtic Welsh, Irish, and British. Or vice versa. If Gardner followed this line of reasoning, "Aradia," as a secret, known-to-initiates-only name, was a perfectly reasonable epithet to use in his British trad.

In her Witchcraft for Tomorrow, 1978 (p. 164), Doreen Valiente, Gardner's high priestess, theororized that Aradia's name might have originated from the Gaelic airidh, which was the summer pasture for cattle. Janet and Stewart Farrar have noted in their writings the word, airidh, also meant "worth" or "merit." Some Wiccans have also speculated that Aradia's name might be linked to Ardwinna, or Arduine, a minor Gaulish Celtic Goddess of the forest and hunting.

There are a number of variations on the name, "Aradia", bouncing about in Wiccan lore, including "Arida," "Arada," "Airdia," "Arawhon," "Araldia," "Airaidheach," and "Aradea."

Aradia continued, and will doubless still continue, to make brief, but interesting, appearances in Neo-Pagan books:

Among these [deities concerned with fairy life] are Pan, the Horned God, who is the masculine spiritual guardian of the fairies; and the three aspects of the Nature Goddess called Diana, Artemis and Aradia, who are concerned with inspiration of the fairy people and, most interestingly with our perception and knowlege of the fairy realm. These are Greek names of these tutelary goddesses, who appear in Celtic mythology as the star goddess Ahrianrad, the moon goddess Bride or Bridget and the fairy goddess or queen Aine (pronounced 'Awnie'). --Claire Nahmad, Fairy Spells, 1997, p 29.

Gardner's Brooch

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