Canon Episcopi

Bishops and their officials must labor with all their strength to uproot thoroughly from their parishes the pernicious art of sorcery and malefice invented by the Devil, and if they find a man or woman follower of this wickedness to eject them foully disgraced from their parishes....Those are held captive by the Devil who, leaving their creator, seek the aid of the Devil. And so Holy Church must be cleansed of this pest. It is also not to be admitted that some wicked women, perverted by the Devil, seduced by illusions and phantasms of demons, believe and profess themselves in the hours of the night to ride upon certain beasts with Diana, the goddess of the Pagans, and an innumerable multitude of women, and in the silence of the dead of the night to traverse great spaces of earth, and to obey her commands as of their mistress, and to be summoned to her service on certain nights. ...For an innumerable multitude, deceived by this false opinion [of those women], believe this to be true, and so believing, wander from the right faith and are involved in the error of the Pagans when they think that there is anything of divinity or power except the one God.... Who is there that is not led out of himself in dreams and nocturnal visions and sees much when sleeping that he has never seen waking? Who is so stupid and foolish as to think that all these things which are only done in spirit happen to the body, when the Prophet Ezekiel saw visions of the Lord in spirit and not in body, and the Apostle John saw and heard the mysteries of the Apocalypse in the spirit and not in the body, as he himself says, "I was in the spirit." ...Whoever therefore believes that anything can be made, or that any creature can be changed to better or to worse or be transformed into another species or similitude except by the Creator himself who made everything and through whom all things were made, is beyond doubt an infidel. (Canon Episcopi as quoted by Chas. S. Clifton, Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heritics, 1992, p. 27-28.)
Myth's Notes:

Elsewhere in this web page I state, "Evidence for the continued existence of Diana's cult in Italy can be historically verified by the Canon Episcopi, a Catholic ecclesiastical law written circa 10th century." See Dianic Mythology. I still believe this statement is a valid historical speculation. An active cult worshipping Diana might not have been still existing in Italy in the 10th century, but it could just as easily indicate the persistence of Diana as a fata in folklore.

The Canon Episcopi is an eclesiastical legal document of unknown origin. Regino of Prum, the abbot of Treves (or Trier, a western German city), first publicized this document in about 906. The abbot claimed it had originated in the 4th century. Possibly due to its alleged antiquity, it then passed into the body of religious law. Many scholars do not believe it predates the 10th century.

The Canon Episcopi is an intriguing document for several reasons.

Most important for this web page, it specifically mentions "Diana, the goddess of the Pagans" as leading a night ride of her worshippers, nymphs or fatas.

This canon also stated that the ability to bodily fly through the air with a "goddess of the Pagans" or a spirit was a delusion, "dreams and nocturnal visions". Hence, belief in the power of a goddess to cause such night flights is in and of itself a heresy. Such heretics were to be expelled from parishes.

Nevertheless, the canon's author does believe in the reality of the Devil and "the pernicious art of sorcery." In other words, witches exist, but they do not fly. Neither do they have the power to transform people into animals.

Primarily, this document seems to deny the reality of certain tales in folklore--old time "urban legends."

In 10th century folklore, there were stories of fatas or fairies who caused people to fly through the air and transformed them into animals. There are also stories of witches trafficking with these spirits.

Some scholars have questioned whether Diana was the actual goddess of these folktales. It is possible that the 10th century author of canon simply inserted the Latin name of a Pagan moon goddess to represent a fairy queen (Fata Regina). It is also possible that legends of the night ride had become attached to Diana. Amra the Lion makes a good case for this in his article on this web site, The Two Beneventos.


Chas. S. Clifton, Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heritics, 1992
Rosemary Ellen Guiley, The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, 1989

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