According to the 1997 edition of Drawing Down the Moon, Margot Adler's encyclopedic book on American Paganism and Neopaganism, there are two forms of Dianic Wicca/Witchcraft: the highly political, usually male-excluding feminist spirituality described in sleeping wolf's writeup, and a separate tradition founded by priestess Morgan McFarland of Dallas, Texas. This writeup is about McFarland's Dianic Witchcraft, mostly because it is far easier to describe. However, I will discuss the relationship between the two forms.
McFarland founded the Dianic Covenstead with her priest, Mark Roberts, to exalt the feminine aspects of deity and connect to ancient matriarchal traditions in terms of myth and power. Both men and women can be initiated, but only women can go through the "passage" rituals that allow them to form new covens. These groups gather in circles that are primarily celebratory, for the purpose of praise and worship of the Goddess, as well as sanctuary from the pressures of the modern world. Dianic Goddess-worship is almost monotheistic in its celebration of Her three archetypal aspects: Maiden-Creatrix, Great Mother, and Old Crone. Although the Dianic tradition recognizes the Great Mother's male partner, only She is immortal. As Adler puts it, "Dianics also see the Goddess symbolized in Nature as the Triple Creatrix: as the moon, the Queen of Mysteries; as the Sun, Sunna, the Queen of Stars, provider of warmth and care; and as Mother Earth, to whom all must return" (Adler 122). Adler's words reflect another facet that sets Dianic Witchcraft apart from other traditions: its emphasis on the Goddess in Nature, which gives it a strongly environmentalist sensibility.
Dianic priest Mark Roberts stresses the importance of Nature in Dianic Witchcraft, writing that Dianics are almost pantheistic in their beliefs. Similarly, he also claims that the distinction between "mortal" and "deity" is less than the gulf between "those who had lost touch with nature and those beings whose rhythms and pulse were attuned to the universe" (122). The following is an excerpt from Roberts' unpublished manuscript "An Introduction to Dianic Witchcraft" cited in Drawing Down the Moon:
The lifestyle of a Dianic is a composite of three values and ideals. First, an awareness of self. Second, an increasing and evergrowing kinship with Nature. And third, an open sensitivity to the pulsebeat of the cosmos. As we near the common goals of awareness, kinship, and sensitivity, we attain the level of attunement that outsiders call "magic". We are well aware that in our workings we have achieved and produced nothing supernatural: we have simply reached our natural capacity.
In a society obsessed with artificiality, our lifestyle seems strange, "unnatural," even revolutionary...
And we are revolutionary: in the sense that we whirl about the axis who is the Goddess and are completing the cycle that sees her worship returning in strength; and we are advocates of a drastic and radical change from the pell-mell, break-neck, destructive world in which we find ourselves; and in that, in a technological age where mechanical improvements take their increasing toll in human sensitivity, we train reawakening sense to a level of awareness that frees the human to once again be whole and independent and alert. In a patriarchal culture that becomes increasingly authoritarian, we find no choice but to stand as rebels against dehumanization...
Roberts, who after working with McFarland for years, went on to found a Dianic tradition of his own, was elected to the priesthood by his coven, and can be impeached. It is unclear from Adler's book whether such democratic, anti-authoritarian principles are applied to Dianic priestesses, but I imagine the more a Dianic group takes to heart radical politics such as those expressed in Roberts' writings, the more likely it is that is the case.
The cited excerpt from Roberts' writing makes it abundantly clear that his and McFarland's Dianic Wicca is a feminist religion in the most basic sense: it opposes patriarchy. In that sense, it can be said that their Craft is a subset of the Wiccan tradition of the feminist spirituality movement, which (as sleeping wolf's writeup said, and I mentioned above) is also called Dianic Witchcraft. However, the relationship, if any, between the two traditions is a difficult one to tease out, as there are almost as many varieties of feminist Witchcraft as there are feminists, and feminist Witches have been influenced by many traditions without hesitating to adapt rituals for their own purposes or abandon traditions altogether.
McFarland's Dianic Wicca recognizes and embraces efforts to incorporate Witchcraft into feminist spiritual life. In the following passage from Drawing Down the Moon, McFarland describes her reasons for coming out of the broom closet to her feminist friends:
I felt they were standing on a spiritual abyss and looking for something. And also, that I was looking for strong, self-defined, balanced women who were capable of perpetuating something that is beautiful and vital to the planet. Within my own tradition it is the women who preserve the lore and the knowledge and pass it on from one to another. I have begun to see a resurgence of women returning to the Goddess, seeing themselves as Her daughters, finding Paganism on their own within a very feminist context. Feminism implies equality, self-identification, and individual strength for women. Paganism has been, for all practical purposes, antiestablishment spirituality. Feminists and Pagans are both coming from the same source without realizing it, and heading toward the same goal without realizing it, and the two are now beginning to interlace.
If this passage is any indication of its direction, McFarland's Dianic Witchcraft can best be characterized as a feminist Neopagan religion of the sort sleeping wolf described above. But I thought it important to point out that the phrase "Dianic Wicca" could refer to a very specific creed as well as the larger, more general ideas shared by feminist Witches.
Source: Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today. New York: Penguin/Arkana, 1997.