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Diana, Goddess of the Hunt

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Diana, Goddess of the Hunt

Many shrines to Diana are still found in Italy today.

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Many Pagans honor the goddess Diana in her various aspects. Particularly in feminist and NeoWiccan traditions, Diana holds a place in the heart of a number of modern magical practitioners.

Much like the Greek Artemis, Diana began as a goddess of the hunt who later evolved into a lunar goddess. Honored by the ancient Romans, Diana was a huntress, and stood as a guardian of the forest and of the animals who resided within. Despite her virginal status, Diana later became known as a protector of women in childbirth.

A daughter of Jupiter, Diana’s twin brother was Apollo. There is significant overlap between the Greek Artemis and the Roman Diana, although in Italy itself, Diana evolved into a separate and distinct persona.

In Charles Leland's Aradia, Gospel of the Witches, he pays homage to Diana Lucifera (Diana of the light) in her aspect as a light-bearing goddess of the moon, and details the birth of her daughter, Aradia. Obviously, there is some discrepancy between Leland’s interpretation of Diana as mother, versus the traditional Roman mythology which names her as a virgin.

Many feminist Wiccan groups, including the aptly-named Dianic Wiccan tradition, honor Diana in her role as the embodiment of the sacred feminine. She is often associated with the powers of the moon, and in some classical artwork is portrayed wearing a crown that features a crescent moon. She is typically presented carrying a bow, as a symbol of her hunt, and wearing a short tunic. It is not uncommon to see her as a beautiful young woman surrounded by wild animals. In her role as Diana Venatrix, goddess of the chase, she is seen running, bow drawn, with her hair streaming behind her as she takes pursuit.

Don't let Diana's lovely appearance fool you into thinking she's all kindness and beauty. In one myth about Diana, the goddess is out hunting in the woods and takes a break so she can bathe in a stream. While doing so, she is observed by a young man, Actaeon, who has wandered away from his own hunting party. Foolishly, Actaeon reveals himself, and confesses that Diana is the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. For whatever reason - and scholars tend to vary on this - Diana turns Actaeon into a stag, and he’s promptly chased and torn to bits by his own hounds.

 

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