The feminist Dianic tradition is one of the most misrepresented traditions in Paganism with:
• A sole focus on female deity.
• Beliefs and actions grounded in feminist principles.
• Practice in women-born-women only circles.
• Embracing women-born-women’s natural women’s mysteries.
A Herstory of the Dianic Tradition
The Dianic tradition grew out of the Second Wave Feminist Movement when Z Budapest recognized that many women were unable to validate their spiritual beliefs within the structures of traditional patriarchial religions. In the early 1970s, women active in the Women’s Movement began sharing their spiritual experiences in consciousness-raising groups. Women learned that they shared many similar spiritual aspects and decided to construct their own religious experiences and thealogy. This prompted a search for a spirituality that supported social change for women and sustained a woman-centered perspective.
Zsuzsanna Budapest recognized the connections between Witchcraft/Wicca and Feminism and formed the Susan B. Anthony Coven #1 on Winter solstice 1971. In 1976, her book The Feminist Book of Lights and Shadows documented the basics of the revised ancient Dianic tradition. Over time that book grew and was renamed The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries. Z’s book continues to represent, the foundational principles of the original Dianic Tradition. This book and Z’s charismatic presentation of its ideas ignited the Women’s Spirituality Movement.
From the early-1970s to the mid-1980s, most Dianics were isolated within the women’s community and Dianics were largely unaware there was a broader Pagan community. They were not influenced by other mainstream Pagans traditions.
It should come as no surprise that when Dianics began attending mainstream Pagan gatherings they wanted to celebrate in women-only circles. Some mainstream Pagans found this upsetting. Because of the fervent belief in duality held by some mainstream Pagans it was thought that single-sex ritual would permanently damage anyone who participated. During one of the first women’s circles at a mainstream Pagan gathering, husbands actually removed their wives from the circle to protect them from this perceived injury. Z Budapest, who was Priestessing this circle, formed an alliance with Faerie (gay) men who were also at the gathering. The Faerie men formed a circle around the outside of the women’s circle allowing the women to complete their ritual without further interference. Z later wrote about this incident and named these protectors as Guardians.
Despite these early difficulties “mainstream Pagans” and Dianics now interact with relative ease and respect. Each group has come to value the contributions and beliefs of the other. Mainstream Pagans have come to respect the spontaneity and creativity of Dianics, while Dianics have learned to value the traditions and history of mainstream Pagans.
A major milestone in the Dianic movement was the Dianic Wicca Conferences and Goddess Festival sponsored by various Dianic groups. Dianics from around the world gathered to discuss, deliberate, and celebrate the Dianic Tradition, the Goddess and Wicca. These were the first large gatherings in which Dianics could confer on their beliefs, cosmologies and find common beliefs among women who called themselves Dianic. It should come as no surprise to anyone who has had contact with Dianics that a wide diversity of practice and opinion emerged among the women present. The areas of similarity are those discussed in the Core Beliefs section that follows.
Across North America and to a lesser degree in other areas, the Dianic Tradition became a feminist religion. Because of the isolation and diversity of the women who practiced the Dianic Craft, it developed as a very individualistic tradition. There are, however, areas of commonality or core beliefs among virtually all women who practice the in women-only circles of the Dianic Tradition. They are:
• Belief in female divinity, most often referred to as “The Goddess.”
• Celebration of various ancient holy days as outlined in The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries.
• An underpinning of feminist ideology.
• A belief that women’s bodies are sacred.
• An honoring of women’s experience as authentic.
• An understanding that patriarchal society does not accurately reflect women’s experience.
• No recognition of male Gods in ritual or elsewhere.
• A belief that only women-born-women truly understand women’s experience.
Morgan McFarland in Texas, after meeting Z Budapest, created a mixed-gender tradition that is also identified as Dianic, but it is largely focused on Celtic mythologies. Z’s original Dianic Tradition (Feminist Dianic Wicca) focuses solely on a Goddess, while the McFarland tradition worships both female and male deities. Feminist Dianics do not espouse a dualistic female/male concept of divinity, believing instead that the Goddess is the Creatrix and sustainer of the Universe and all life. Most Dianics do not exclude men from their cosmology. They acknowledge all people, including men, as women’s children and, therefore, a part of Her creation. They simply do not practice their Dianic Tradition with men.
One might suspect that the Goddess celebrated by Dianics is Diana; however, this deduction is incorrect. Dianics do not focus specifically on any one Goddess or pantheon. Stemming from the multicultural roots of feminist ideology Dianics are global in their approach to divinity. Dianics celebrate the Goddess in all her forms. The presence of the Goddess in all cultures unites all women.
Some Dianics believe in what they call spiritual virginity and choose only to work in groups with other women. However, for some women who consider themselves Dianic, being in a woman-only group is not the only way they celebrate their spirituality. These women find value in women-only space and also in celebrating in mixed-gender groups. Unlike traditional religions, which espouse that one can only have a single religion and it must be your only religion, many women value multiple Pagan spiritual traditions, Dianic being one of them. It would not be unusual for such a woman, for example, to celebrate a full moon in a Dianic group and to celebrate Summer Solstice with her husband and family in a mixed-gender Pagan tradition. She can experience each of these as a valid form of spiritual expression.
Dianics believe a primary source of women’s power is in women-born-women’s shared experience and women-born-women’s biology. Although supportive of the rights of transgendered individuals, Dianics believe this is not a tradition that encompasses the experience of transgendered people.
Beyond the information mentioned above, the basic beliefs of the Dianics are similar to those commonly shared by most Wiccans. Acknowledging again the vast diversity of tradition and belief among Dianics, it would be true to say that most Dianics:
• Believe in the Wiccan Rede.
• Hold the three-fold law as a foundational principle of their cosmology.
• Celebrate the Celtic holidays common to Wiccans.
Sisterhood: Blessing All Communities (Susan B. Anthony Coven) supports an online Goddess College for Dianic women seeking to deepen their understanding of the Dianic Tradition. Their core group is The Sisterhood lead by Bobbie Grennier.
The International (RCG-I). Founded in 1984, RCG-I was the first officially recognized women’s religion in the United States. It has affiliated circles and solitary members around the world. Members of the Congregation embrace a variety of spiritual paths, the common element among them being a belief in female divinity and a commitment to positive spiritual practice. RCG-I is a multi-traditional women’s religion; however, a majority of the women in the Congregation consider themselves to be Dianic. Most of RCG-I’s members are from North America, but there is growing representation of women from around the world.
The other global Dianic Tradition women’s group is Ruth Barrett’s Temple of Diana, Inc. which serves the needs of many Dianic covens globally. Temple of Diana was created to help heal, empower, and celebrate women by offering personal and public community rituals, classes and workshops in the tradition of Dianic Wicca. Temple of Diana’s spiritual tradition is a Goddess and woman-centered, earth-based, feminist denomination of the Wiccan religion. Dianic tradition is a vibrantly creative and evolving Women’s Mystery tradition, inclusive of all women-born-women.
Z Budapest’s Women’s Spirituality Forum, Inc. Non-profit is a foundation organization.
– Z Budapest