Recently, I got back in touch with my teacher after nearly two
years and dropped a couple of bombshells on her: I had changed gender
identity and had come together with two other women to form a Dianic
coven.  When the initial shock wore off, Rita sent me a complete run
of Protean Synthesis and a solicitation for this article.
     Several years ago I subscribed to several stereotypes regarding
"those peculiar Dianics".  They were thealogically unbalanced, they
hated men, they denied that men had souls, they were all lesbians,
they couldn't spell (in the orthographic sense; no one has yet accused
Dianics of inability to work magick), etc. etc.  When I came together
with my covensisters, I realized that these notions were at most
partially true and some cases were patently false.
     I believe there are only three valid generalizations that can be
made about Dianics: 1) We are all feminists.  2) We all look to the
Goddess(es) far more than to the God(s).  3) We are all eclectics.
Note well that there are plenty of non-Dianic feminist Witches,
non-Dianic eclectics, and non- Dianics who are primarily
Goddess-oriented.  There are also doubtless a good many feminist,
Goddess-oriented eclectics who do not choose to call themselves
Dianic.  In my own case I use the "If it quacks like a duck, it
probably is a duck" argument, as well as the fact that my HPS learned
the Craft as a Dianic and runs Dianic rituals.
     Some of the stereotypical generalizations I can dismiss out of
hand.  I don't know of a single Dianic who denies that men have souls.
Even Z Budapest doesn't believe that piece of tripe anymore!  It is
true that Dianism is particularly attractive to separatists, and many
separatists actually hate men.  Many Dianics are lesbians.  Some
misspell words like "woman", women", "egalitarian", and "holistic" on
purpose.  Not all fit these, however, and I think that Z Budapest in
her younger, or spiritual bomb-throwing, days represents an extreme
and a small minority.  There are a number of males involved in
Dianism, and some of those are men [NB: I use the terms "man" and
"woman" to indicate gender identity, that is, how one's heart, mind,
and/or soul are configured.  I use "male" and "female" to indicate
physical sex, that is, how one's plumbing is configured.  I hope this
dispels confusion.].
     Thealogical and magickal imbalance is not so easily dismissed and
needs to be addressed further, as that is the most valid objection
that thoughtful Witches have to Dianism.  The apparent imbalance comes
from the Dianic emphasis on Goddess-worship, often to the complete
exclusion of God-worship.  This upsets many Witches' sense of polarity
balance.  The resolution of this apparent imbalance lies in the
consideration of other polarities than sexual and/or gender as the
primary polarity.  There are indeed many other polarities to consider:
true-false, life-death, dark-light, rational- mystical,
creation-destruction, order-chaos, and good-evil, to name but a few.
One problem with the masculine-feminine polarity is that there is a
strong tendency to express all other polarities in terms of it.  The
Chinese were particularly fond of this, and mapped everything they
liked into the yang side, and everything they disliked or feared into
the yin side, the patriarchal no-accounts!
     One thing I have discovered is that if you look hard enough, you
can find goddesses to fit both ends of most polarities.  Some even
occupy both ends simultaneously.  Inanna, my matron goddess, is a good
case in point.  She is the Sumerian goddess of love, war, wisdom
(which she won in a drinking bout!), adventure, the heavens, the
earth, and even of death (in the guise of her dark aspect,
Ereshkigal).  A very busy lady indeed is Inanna.  At this point it
becomes largely a matter of personal preference rather than of
polarity, whether one chooses a god or a goddess to occupy a
particular place in a ritual.
     No Dianic I know of denies the existence of the God.  Indeed, He
gets mentioned as the consort of the Goddess with some frequency in Z
Budapest's HOLY BOOK OF WOMEN'S MYSTERIES, which is close a thing as
there is to a Dianic version of the Gardnerian Book of Shadows.  He is
there, and sometimes we will invoke Him, when it is appropriate.  He
makes His own path, and we follow our own, and when they cross
naturally we honor Him and do not avoid Him.  We also do not force the
paths to cross simply to lend an artificial balance to a ritual where
none is really needed.
     Now that I have spilled a good deal of ink over what Dianism is
not, I should now say a few words about what it is: a movement of
feminist, eclectic, Goddess-oriented Witches.
     Feminism: This covers a vast multitude of virtues and sins.  I do
not think the stereotypical radical lesbian separatist is as common as
is believed.  Moderate to liberal feminism is probably far more
common, even among Dianics.  Certainly my own coven contains no
separatists!  There are too many nice men out there, even though
surveys have shown that 70% or more of all men are potential rapists.
The nice ones are found among those who are not in that repulsive
majority; you just have to look to find them.  One of the places you
might find such nice men is in Dianic covens!  Some are mixed groups,
at least some of those of the branch founded by Morgan McFarland.  My
own is something of a mixed up group, I suppose.  While we do not
currently have any men in the coven, two of the three of us were born
male and still have original-equipment plumbing.  The Goddess and our
HPS accept us unreservedly as women.
     Eclecticism: If there is one dictum of Z Budapest's that bears
repeating to everyone in the Craft, and which gets followed by many,
it is "When in doubt, invent."  Dianics tend toward creative ritual,
drawing from any and all possible sources.  I have yet to see a Dianic
equivalent of the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, nor do I ever hope to
see one.
     Goddess Orientation: I've discussed this at some length while
talking about polarity.  There are some wags who have said that
Dianics are nothing but matriarchal monotheists.  I tell you three
times: The Dianic Goddess is NOT Jehovah in drag!  The Dianic Goddess
is NOT Jehovah in drag!  The Dianic Goddess is NOT Jehovah in drag!  A
much closer analogy would be that Dianics have taken the Classical
pantheon and reclaimed most of the roles.  This, too, is
oversimplifying, but it is not nearly as wide of the mark as the usual
criticism.  At some point I may write up a long exegesis on the Dianic
Goddess, but not here.  My own personal involvement with Her comes
from a great feeling of comfort I do not find elsewhere.  She feels
right.  I have a great deal of difficulty accepting known rapists
(most of the Olympian males are this, especially Zeus, Hades, and
Pan!) into my personal pantheon.  I also feel a personal vocation from
the Mother; it is rather incongruous to me to embrace a male deity
wholeheartedly when the Goddess comes to me and calls me Her daughter.
This goes doubled, redoubled, in pentacles, and vulnerable for lovers
of women.
     I hope this little discussion of Dianism-in-a-Nuitshell has
proved enlightening to you.  It is not a path for everyone, but it is
a valid path for some, and in considering it I hope that you can now
ignore the garbage that has been put forth in the past as "data"
regarding it.

                              Inanna Seastar
                              Birdsnest Coven