Editor: Charles G. Leland
Trade Paperback, 160 pages
Publisher: New Page Books
Publication date: August 2003
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Charles Leland's Aradia or the Gospel of Witches was published in 1899. Like Sir James Frazer, Leland was one of the nineteenth century's armchair folklorists. While much of their work is discounted today, Leland's Aradia was a major influence on early Wicca. For example, the traditional Charge of the Goddess was taken from it.
According to Leland (as recorded in the appendix to this book), the majority of the text of Aradia was collected for him by an Italian woman named Maddalena who he paid to collect folklore for him. He says he first heard of the work in 1886 and she was finally able to provide him with a copy in 1897. This means the true origin of the work is unknown. While Maddalena could have obtained it from Italian witches, she could have had it written to please Leland or the like. (Some even say Leland may have written it himself as a Marxist screed.) This is why Aradia is consider unreliable by scholars today.
Reliable or not, Aradia has played a sizeable role in modern Wicca and it well worth reading by anyone interested in Wicca. A few Wiccan traditions are even heavily based on the text. While the text is long out of copyright and is available many places on the Internet, a bok is much easier to read.
Unfortunately, A.J. Drew's introduction and commentary add nothing to the work. They make no attempt to place the work in the context of its time and place. They make no attempt to explain the possible origins of the work. They do not clarify or expand on the original. As far as I can tell, all they do is give Drew a place to expound his often unorthodox Wiccan beliefs and to present his personal interpretations of the actual meaning of selected points in the book. While Drew's notes to Aradia are not nearly as bad as the Scofield Notes to the Bible, they could have been left out of this book without any loss of value.
If you are looking for a nicely printed and bound copy of Leland's Aradia or the Gospel of Witches, this book will easily fulfill your needs. Just don't buy the book for the commentary.
Reviewed by Randall
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