Diana (lt. "heavenly" or "divine") was the goddess of the hunt, being associated with wild animals and woodland, and also of the moon in Roman mythology. In literature she was the equivalent of the Greek goddess Artemis, though in cult beliefs she was Italic, not Greek, in origin. Diana was worshiped in ancient Roman religion and is currently revered in Roman Neopaganism and Stregheria. Dianic Wicca, a largely feminist form of the practice, is named for her. Diana was known to be the virgin goddess and looked after virgins and women. She was one of the three maiden goddesses, Artemis, Athena and Hestia, who swore never to marry.
Along with her main attributes, Diana was an emblem of chastity. Oak groves were especially sacred to her. According to mythology, Diana was born with her twin brother Apollo on the island of Delos, daughter of Jupiter and Latona. Diana made up a triad with two other Roman deities: Egeria the water nymph, her servant and assistant midwife; and Virbius, the woodland god
Diana (pronounced with long 'i' and a') is an adjectival form developed from an ancient *divios, corresponding to later 'divus', 'dius', as in Dius Fidius, Dea Dia and in the neuter form dium meaning the sky. It is rooted in Indoeuropean *d(e)y(e)w meaning bright sky or daylight, from which also derived the name of Vedic god Dyaus and the Latin deus (god), dies (day, daylight).
The image of Diana is complex and shows various archaic features. According to Dumezil it presents the character of a uranic god of a peculiar nature, referred to in history of religions as 'frame god'. Such gods, while keeping the original features of uranic gods, i.e. transcendent heavenly power and abstention from direct rule on worldly matters, did not face the fate of other uranic gods in Indoeuropean religions of becoming dei otiosi, as they did preserve a peculiar sort of influence over the world and mankind. Diana huntress, by Houdon. LouvreThe uranic character of Diana is well reflected in her connexion to light, inaccessibility, virginity, dwelling on high mountains and in sacred woods. Diana is thus the representation of the heavenly world (dium) in its character of sovereignty, supremacy, impassibility, indifference towards secular matters as the fate of men and states, while at the same time ensuring the succession of kings and the preservation of mankind through the protection of childbirth.
These functions are apparent in the traditional institutions and cults related to the goddess. 1) The institution of the rex Nemorensis, Diana's sacerdos in the Arician wood, who held its position til somebody else challenged and killed him in a duel, after breaking a branch from a certain tree of the wood. This ever totally open succession reveals the character and mission of the goddess as a guarantee of the continuity of the kingly status through successive generations. The same meaning implying her function of bestower of regality is testified by the story related by Livy of the prediction of empire to the land of origin of the person who would offer her a particularly beautiful cow. 2) Diana was also worshipped by women who sought pregnancy or asked for an easy delivery. This kind of worship is testified by archeological finds of votive statuettes in her sanctuary in the nemus Aricinum as well as by ancient sources, e.g. Ovid.
According to Dumezil the function of frame god is to be traced in an Indian epic hero who is the image of Vedic god Dyaus: having renounced the world, i.e. the role of father and king, he has attained the condititon of an immortal being, although he keeps the duty of ensuring that in his dynasty there are always children and one king for each generation. The Scandinavian god Heimdallr performs an analogous function: he is born first and will die last. He too gives origin to kingship and the first king, bestowing on him regal prerogatives. Diana is a female god but has exactly the same functions, preserving mankind through childbirth and king succession.
Dumezil's interpretation appears to ignore deliberately James G. Frazer's, who connects Diana in her regal function with male god Janus as a divine couple, whereas his description of the type of the frame god would fit his own interpretation of Italic god Janus equally well. Frazer, however, gives a very different interpretation of the couple Diana-Janus: he identifies it with the supreme heavenly couple Juppiter-Juno and connects these figures to the religious Indoeuropean complex tieing regality to the cult of trees, particularly oaks. In this interpretative line the institution of the Rex Nemorensis and his ritual should be related to the theme of the dying god and the kings of May.