Often women contact me for instruction in witchcraft who are unfamiliar with the Dianic Religion. One of the first things they want to know is whether they will have to worship naked with men present. I have also been asked about the practice of self-flagellation or scourging. In Dianic worship we usually practice in all-women groups, and we certainly do not practice naked with men. Women’s experience with sexual violence and subjugation under patriarchy makes mixed nudity and scourging questionable practices, whatever their inherent benefits. But there are many traditions that do not practice nudity or scourging. What makes Dianic witchcraft different from these traditions?In Dianic witchcraft we focus on the female. We worship the mother of all things who is all gods and all goddesses. She is many and she is one. We see the great mother as whole within herself: she gives birth to the god but she is the original and first creator, as a male cannot give birth to one creature let alone a whole universe. We see woman, born with the capacity to give birth, as a divine reflection of the goddess and therefore whole and complete within herself. The Dianic Religion centers on the reproductive life cycle of the woman. We see this as divided into three phases: maiden, mother, and crone. We are born in the maiden phase which is girlhood and adolescence, we reach the mother phase with the birth of our first child, and the crone phase commences at menopause. Each of these phases has their own powers and their own focus. They are not equal: the crone is the most powerful because she has experienced maidenhood and motherhood. Sometimes women say to me, I went through menopause in my early 40s or I have had a hysterectomy. Do I have to see myself as a crone if I’m still young? In these cases, and in cases where a woman does not have children or delays childbirth until late in life, we set the commencement of the mother phase at the first Saturn return (which is roughly age 30), and the commencement of the crone phase at the second Saturn return in the late 50s.As females virtually all of us are born with the expectation that we will someday have children, and much of our socialization revolves around this expectation. Although attitudes are slowly changing in this regard, women who do not raise children are often considered to be unfulfilled or incomplete. The Dianic tradition teaches that we can use our mothering abilities in a variety of ways, whether or not we have children, and all priestesses in maturity are considered mothers. At the same time, we recognize that nurturing is something we must accept as well as give, and ritual with other women is a way we can be nourished and recharged.Body acceptance is an important goal of the Dianic path. Most women struggle with feelings of inadequacy because their body does not meet a certain ideal. Worshiping with other women in a non-judgmental setting helps a woman come to terms with the body she has, and this is one of the reasons we may encourage nudity in our circles, according to situation and inclination. Many of our rituals are geared toward helping women to become more embodied. Dianics reject the idea prevalent in modern Western culture that mind and body are separate entities. Paradoxically, in becoming more aware and accepting of our physical bodies our ability to do psychic work is enhanced.The existence of the Dianic Religion is very important not only to Dianic priestesses, but to all religious women. Women in the more progressive Christian, Jewish, Sufi and Buddhist sects, as well as other Pagans, are aware of our philosophy and borrow from our tradition. Some have even formed women’s traditions of their own. I also think the knowledge that women’s religions exist (and function well) helps women negotiate greater power within religious structures that include men.Further ReadingBarrett, Ruth. Women’s Rites, Women’s Mysteries: Intuitive Ritual Creation. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 2007.Budapest, Zsuzsanna E. The Grandmother of Time: A Women’s Book of Celebrations, Spells, and Sacred Objects for Every Month of the Year. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989.