Updated: Jun 4, 2021
The Charge of the Goddess is sometimes recited by a High Priestess during a Wiccan ritual, right after she has drawn down the moon, which means she has invoked the essence of the Goddess into herself. Key portions of the Charge come from the writings of Charles Leland in Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, published in 1899
Leland says the manuscript was given to him by an Italian Witch named Maddalena in its original dialect. He translated and later published it.
The story itself is a mirror of the Christ story. Diana, the great goddess, gives birth to a daughter, Aradia, who must spread her mother's gospel while walking the earth in human form. The portion of the book that seems to have inspired the Wiccan Charge of the Goddess is Aradia's final instructions to her disciples. This segement was translated by Leland as follows:
When I have departed this world,
Whenever ye have need of anything,
Once in the month, and when the moon is full,
Ye shall assemble in some desert place,
Or in a forest all together join,
To adore the potent spirit of your queen,
My mother the great Diana. She who fain
Would learn all sorcery yet has not won
Its deepest secrets, them my mother will
Teach her, in truth all things as yet unknown.
And ye shall be freed from slavery,
And so ye shall be free in everything;
And as the sign that ye are truly free,
Ye shall be naked in your rites.
Why a story so similar to other religions?
Was Wicca young and just finding its way, and so creating a mythology that used Christianity, which was more familiar, as a framework? Or is its basis so old that Christianity based its stories on those of the ancient Witch traditions?
I suspect the tale of the god who walked the earth as a human is so old that we all derive our mythology from the same common source.
Anyone wanting to delve into the history of Leland and the Gospel of Aradia should grab this book. The authors, Mario Pazzaglini Ph.D. and Dina Pazzaglini, provide a new, more accurate translation of the original text of Maddelena's manuscript. Contributors Chas Clifton, Robert Mathieson and Robert Chartowich provide commentary and insights. I have read this cover to cover and consider it an essential part of my reference library. If you want to know about the roots of Wicca, this is a must read.
The Nudity Part
One more bit of background before you dive in: The line about being "Naked in your rites" was likely a misunderstanding in the translation. The word that meant naked could also mean vulnerable, exposed, or even without guile or pretense. Be vulnerable in your rites or Be real in your rites are more likely the intended meaning than "worship in the nude."
The original text said nothing about rites. It basically translates to "You'll always be vulnerable until your oppressors are dead." Which is far afield from the way Leland interpreted it. Read the book. It's fantastic.
Back to The Charge
The other parts of the rite obviously adapted from Aradia, have been added by who knows how many writers in how many traditions. Sequels have been spun. The Charge of the God. The Charge of the Dark Goddess. But the full length charge inspired by that bit from Aradia, was by Doreen Valiente as far as I know. I have a book of her writings that shows it written out in her own hand. (That book is linked below. It's such a cool thing to have.)
There are many versions of The Charge of the Goddess as it has been molded and shaped and adapted by the entire Wiccan community. But I think they all sprang from this one.
Personally, I feel like that which we call Goddess does not require or need worship, nor even care if we worship at all. I feel we're more like nesting dolls. The smallest doll is also the densest--the physical me. The next doll is the part of me that is non-physical, but experiencing through me. I call this my consciousness or soul. And the bigger one after that is the much larger part of me that is still non-physical, and the bigger one after that is the larger part of all of the rest, which encompasses all the other non-physical beings, and so on. We are emissions from Source. We are the physical expression of Source energy. We are how Consciousness experiences itself.
Also in my opinion, the gods are real. We create by our belief and our focus. If we call upon the Goddess, She will surely respond.
The Charge of the Goddess is a beautiful work, and a tradition that strengthens the bond among wide ranging Wiccan groups. In my opinion, every Witch should know what it is, where it comes from, and what it means.
So now, with all that said, here is the Charge the Goddess from Doreen Valiente's writings.
The Charge of the Goddess
Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who was of old also called Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Dana, Arianrhod, Bride, and by many other names.
Whenever ye have need of anything, once in the month, and better it be when the moon be full, then shall ye assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of me, who am Queen of all witcheries.
There shall ye assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet have not won its deepest secrets, to these will I teach things that are yet unknown.
Ye shall be free from slavery and as a sign that ye are really free, ye shall be naked in your rites, and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love all in my praise.
For mine is ecstasy of the spirit and mine also is joy on earth, for my law is love unto all beings.
Keep pure your highest ideal. Strive ever toward it. Let naught stop you or turn you aside.
For mine is the secret door which opens upon the Land of Youth, and mine is the Cup of the Wine of Life, and the Cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the Holy Grail of Immortality.
I am the Gracious Goddess who gives the gift of joy unto the heart. Upon earth, I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal, and beyond death, I give peace and freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before.
Nor do I demand sacrifice, for behold! I am the mother of all living, and my love is poured out upon the earth.
Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess, she in the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven, whose body encircleth the Universe. I who am the beauty of the green earth, and the white moon among the stars, and the mystery of the waters, and the heart's desire, call unto thy soul. Arise and come unto me.
For I am that Soul of Nature that giveth life to the universe. From me all things proceed and unto me all things return. And before my face, beloved of gods and mortals, thine inmost divine self shall be enfolded in the rapture of infinite joy.
Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. And therefore, let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.
And thou who thinkest to seek for me, know that thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not, unless thou know this mystery, that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee.
For behold, I have been with thee from the beginning. And I am that which is attained at the end of desire.