Aradia addressed her witches thus:
Ye shall not be like Gypsies and Jews, a race set apart, markedly different in dress and custom. Those are infamous for their sufferings at the hands of others. Like unto them, ye shall not be--easily found and easily persecuted--called "vagabonds," "strumpets," and "thieves." Ye are mine. I gather ye into the shelter of my cloak, into the shadow of my wings. Ye shall be as many pippins hidden in my nest. For behold, ye are the hidden children of the goddess. Ye shall be naked in the shadows til the last of your oppressors is dead.Having so spoken, Aradia departed from them. Diana recalled her daughter to the lunar sphere. Spirit born and mortal manifest, Aradia fulfilled her mission upon Earth; to teach witchcraft to the oppressed that they might have strength and hope by these secret arts and so they also know her mystery. Aradia, queen of spirits, still guards and cherishes her hidden children and those who merit her favor may invoke her name.
The area around Lake Avernus is riddled with numerous caves, many of which in Roman times were believed to be passages to the underworld, dwelling place of the dead.
In Leland's translation of Aradia, Diana said the following to Aradia:
Yet like Cain's daughter thou shall never be, Nor like the race who have become at last Wicked and infamous from suffering, As are the Jews and the wandering Zingari, Who are all thieves and knaves; like unto them Ye shall not be....
Zingari are Gypsies. Leland translated the Italian text, lines 8 through 13.
I was always rather puzzled why the original author of the text had such a negative attitude toward Gypsies and Jews. However, I recently realized this passage was not actually speaking badly about Gypsies and Jews. The passage was referring to their customs and lifestyles that identified them as minorities. In the 14th century, Jews and Gypsies were visibly different from their Christian contemporaries.
Jews were easy victims for religious and social persecution, living separately in the ghettos. They became targets of ugly rumors. For example, Jews were accused of blood libel. According to common belief, Jews killed unbaptized children and used their blood to make matzoh. They were also accused of conjuring demons and performing sorcery. Another example of what most Christians thought about Jews would be the character Shylock in Shakespeare, a greedy, cold-hearted money-lender.
Gypsies, on the other hand, riding around in their brightly colored wagons, serving as entertainers for a living, were viewed as thieves, liars, and con artists. Gypsies were likewise accused of sorcery, and cursing livestock and crops. Jews and Gypsies were convenient scapegoats for any problem in the community. They were outcasts to be shunned by good Christians, marked like the biblical Cain.
Hence, the words of Diana to her daughter, Aradia, were to advise the streghe to blend into Italian society, not to live separately as Jews in ghettos, or dress flamboyantly like Gypsies.
Having received a sip of the spring of a Camenae about the passage in Leland's Aradia, I wrote the above much as I wrote "The Secret Story of Aradia." I combined ideas and concepts from Leland's text with Wiccan lore.
For ritual purposes, the Legend of the Descent of the Goddess to the Nether Lands is frequently read aloud by a narrator and several coveners act this story out. In many Wiccan traditions, this mystery play is a key part of the second degree initiation with the following preface statement: "Having learned thus far, you must know why the Wicca are called 'The Hidden Children of the Goddess.'" There are many versions of the Legend... One of the earliest versions is below.
Now Aradia had never loved, but she would solve all mysteries, even the mystery of Death, and so she journeyed to the nether lands. The guardians of the portholes challenged her. "Strip off they garments, lay aside thy jewels, for not may ye bring with you into this, our land." So, she laid down her garments and her jewels and was bound as are all who enter the realms of Death, the Mighty One.This is a powerful, multi-level sacred story or myth. Doreen Valiente stated she did not write it, although she did pen large portions of the Gardnerian Book of Shadows. She did not know where it originated. It may have formed part of the original sketchy material Gardner was given by the traditional coven he was working with, or Gardner himself may have written it. Gardner, in Witchcraft Today (1954), wrote, "This myth upon which its members base their actions, is the central idea of the cult [of Wicca]." (p. 41)
Such was her beauty that Death himself knelt and kissed her feet, saying: "Blessed be thy feet that have brought thee in these ways. Abide with me, but let me place my cold hands on thy heart." And she replied: "I love thee not. Why dost thou cause all things that I love and take delight in to fade and die?" "Lady," replied Death, "'tis age and fate, against which I am helpless. Age causes all things to wither; but when men die at the end of time, I give them rest and peace and strength so that they may return. But you, you are lovely. Return not; abide with me." But she answered: "I love thee not." Then said Death: "As you receive not my hand on your heart, you must receive Death's scourge." "It is fate, better so," she said, and she knelt. Death scourged her and she cried: "I know the pangs of love." And Death said: "Blessed be," and gave her the fivefold kiss, saying: "Thus only may you attain to joy and knowledge."
And he taught her all the mysteries and they loved and were one; and he taught her all the magics. For there are three great events in the life of man--love, death and resurection in the new body--and magic controls them all. To fulfill love, you must return again at the same time and same place as the loved ones, and you must remember and love them again. But to be reborn, you must die and be made ready for a new body. To die, you must be born; without love you may not be born, and this is all the magic.
This story can be read as an explanation of the Wiccan concept of reincarnation, a description of the religious significance of the Wiccan deities, an initiatory "descent to the underworld" myth, or a seasonal "Death and Rebirth" myth. However, it never seemed to explain to me why we, "the Wicca," were the "hidden children." I therefore borrowed concepts of this beautiful Wiccan myth with the Wiccan lore that we are the hidden children and attached the concept from Leland's Aradia about not being marked like Cain's daughter.
The version of the Legend in The Grimoire of Lady Sheba, 1972, 1974, 2001, stated:
And our Goddess ever inclineth to love and mirth and happiness and guardeth and cherisheth Her hidden children in life: And in death She teacheth the way to have communion, and even in the world, She teacheth them the Mystery of the Magic Circle, which is placed between the worlds. (p. 151)
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