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Charles Godfrey Leland (1824–1903)

Author of Aradia

47+ Works 1,198 Members 10 Reviews

About the Author

Charles Godfrey Leland was born in Philadelphia on August 15, 1824, the eldest child of commission merchant Charles Leland and his wife Charlotte. Leland loved reading and language. When he moved to Europe to study law, he became intrigued with German culture, gypsy lore, the language of Romany, show more and Shelta, an ancient dialect spoken by Irish and Welsh gypsies. After his law studies were completed, Leland became a journalist, working for such periodicals as P.T. Barnum's Illustrated News, Vanity Fair, and Graham's Magazine. The mid-to-late 1850s were very eventful for Leland; he published his first book, Meister Karl's Sketch-Book in 1855 and married Eliza Bella Fisher in 1856. What probably clinched his fame was "Hans Breitmann's Party" a German dialect poem that he wrote under the pen name Hans Breitmann and that captured the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect and humor. While he was best known for his essays, poetry, and humor, Leland also firmly believed that the industrial arts were the keys to a good education, and he wrote many textbooks on the subject. Leland spent most of the latter part of his life in Europe, writing a wealth of books. He died in Florence, Italy, on March 20, 1903. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Courtesy of the NYPL Digital Gallery (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

Works by Charles Godfrey Leland

Aradia (1890) 551 copies, 7 reviews
Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling (1891) 156 copies, 1 review
Algonquin Legends (1884) 77 copies
Etruscan Roman Remains (1999) 47 copies
The Mystic Will (1907) 32 copies
Witchcraft of Dame Darrel of York, The (2011) 21 copies, 1 review
The Gypsies (2015) 20 copies
Fusang (1973) 9 copies
Hans Breitmann's ballads (1966) 8 copies
Memoirs (2006) 6 copies
Legends of Florence (2008) 6 copies
The Egyptian Sketch Book (2017) 5 copies
Have You A Strong Will? (1902) 5 copies
Johnnykin and the Goblins (2008) 4 copies
A Manual of Wood Carving (2013) 3 copies, 1 review
Stregheria (2015) 2 copies
Wood Carving (1980) 1 copy

Associated Works

Life of a Good-for-Nothing (1826) — Translator, some editions — 852 copies, 9 reviews
The Children's Treasury: Best Loved Stories and Poems from Around the World (1987) — Contributor — 151 copies, 2 reviews
The Paganism Reader (2004) — Contributor — 66 copies, 1 review
A Skeleton At the Helm (2008) — Contributor — 30 copies, 1 review
Dark of the Moon: Poems of Fantasy and the Macabre (1947) — Contributor — 27 copies, 1 review
Poems of Magic and Spells (1960) — Contributor — 14 copies
Strange Tales from Many Lands (1975) — Contributor — 10 copies


(36) 1001 (12) 19th century (31) anthology (23) anthropology (15) Aradia (13) classic (27) classics (17) Diana (11) divination (13) fiction (79) folklore (58) German (51) German literature (63) gypsies (11) Halloween (12) history (36) horror (12) Italian Witchcraft (14) Italy (18) Kindle (16) literature (26) magic (43) magick (25) neopaganism (13) non-fiction (37) novel (14) novella (26) occult (54) pagan (25) paganism (46) poetry (79) read (14) religion (31) romantic (16) Romanticism (15) spirituality (17) to-read (91) wicca (51) witchcraft (137)

Common Knowledge



This isn’t quite what I would call general magical religion, or (world) shamanism, since it’s Italy; I call it oppositional witchcraft. At the risk of sounding like a trivializer, and bringing in pop and punk (and rap), there is in all emotion that interplay of the ‘dark’ and the ‘bright’, and though life is love, you cannot beat brightness into people, or ‘require’ it really, or deny the vigorous nature of the ‘dark’ that is found in a sort of love. And just as pop exists in a headspace where punk also exists, influential around the edges, Wicca, that most famous (contemporary) general magical religion, does know something of Aradia, who is kinda the queen of slaves and devils, you know—the rebel goddess. Gardner’s coven talked a lot about ‘Aradia and Cernunnos’, which I guess is ‘the tough bitch and the good boyfriend’, although there is the odd reference here and there (in Gardner) to ‘great’ gods and ‘gentle’ goddesses; and also ‘female’ beauty and ‘male’ wisdom are not unknown to the ‘craft of the wise’ people, although the priestess (often thought to be beautiful, it’s true) ruled the ‘traditional’ (traditional counter-culture) coven. The whole thing is the play between the brightness and the darkness, the pop and the punk. The whole thing is the whole thing. “Aradia” is specifically I guess you could say the red-blooded female rebellion.

About Charles himself, the editor, I spoke of in my review of his ‘Gypsy’ book; I won’t repeat myself. He was certainly a ‘useful’ person, generous in an intellectual way—or, almost, you know. He was an odd fellow, although aren’t we all. He certainly loved words, probably far more than he felt anything for that which they refer back to, you know.

…. People are talking on the phone, attacking the third person, gossiping, but if you were to ask them who the hell their Aradia is, who they’re attacking, it would be like, Stop taking an interest in my gossiping. I am allowed to gossip; THEY are not allowed to do things—so screw you.

…. (Two people want to make friends but don’t know how) (one notices a third person, and throws a rock at them) Gypsy! Jew! Witch!

…. And, granted, I don’t think you should pick the rock up and throw it back, you know; at least, I wouldn’t. But some people act like that’s the ~most/only important~ thing, right. We can have injustice; we need mercy in a crazy world. But I absolutely draw the line at revenge! We have to have limits if we don’t want to be like the monkeys from Muslim Africa, right! “We’re just gonna throw some rocks at you, now, but you go on ahead and accept those projectiles in a Christian spirit, bless your heart, turn your cheek.” WOW. It must be hot in here, because I think my respect for you just evaporated!

“I love you: but not really.”
What a co-in-ki-dink…. 🧐

…. Yeah, I mean: I do think, actually, that people should be ethical, and prudent, but I just don’t think that people should be conformist for conformity’s sake, and terrified of the forces of social control. Though I am probably very cautious, especially for a witch. I just don’t want that turned into some glib dictum, you know. They actually talked about that at the end of a racism book once. “Don’t say, ‘all we need to do is just….’ “ All we need to do is just make a glib statement. A glib prayer. “O god of glibness, I have mouthed a ten-second prayer; in return, I expect you to bring me back from the dead. Amen.”

That said, things can only happen at the proper time. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer naturally makes people restless to strike back, but I really believe that prudence is more productive than acting (out) at the improper time.

…. In one sense Charles isn’t the sort best suited to this work: you want a spell for shopping; I’ll give you a spell to find books at a good price. You want to buy other things? You want to buy something that’s not a book? 😟

But he does seem to subscribe to the idea of intent or whatever—I don’t like putting it into words—that that lady calls ‘the Secret’, or whatever; kinda witchcraft without the props, the seed of agency, you know.

The first time I read this book I thought the Italian was kinda fussy and showy; but after having read most of “Eat Pray Love”, I don’t mind it.

I’m not terribly interested in the demographics of witchcraft in the 1890s, and the question of ‘authenticity’, (of mythology? Whether it was imagined by one, or by a few, or by many?), and epistemology and all that crap. (First, I must prove that I exist!). It certainly wasn’t a very widespread movement, and it wasn’t safe to be an Aradia person, and the people involved were probably marked with no small bitterness about their persecution. It was probably a very small group of people/manuscripts, and obviously what is given doesn’t constitute a fully described or formed or whatever, religion, even a simple one, although it is true that religions do not have to produce philosophers and theologians and Aquinas fuckers to be valid, of course. It seems unlikely that some straight man guy from Philadelphia who seems extraordinarily strait-laced just, poof!, skeptico-correctio, toto meaningless-ico, poof!, just imagines it, you know. The existence of the text suggests that it came from somewhere; it’s mythology, and therefore demands a mythological mind to construct it. Nineteenth-century ‘straight man’ folklorists and intellectuals weren’t the sort to do that. They thought they were conducting a funeral for mythology, not a birthing, you know. There must have been someone in Italy who believed in an Aradia.

As for whether they’d make a good friend, well, I wouldn’t bet too much on it; but clearly they were going through a bad couple of centuries, (it does seem kinda plausible, it’s all reacted against the Christian environment; it’s not the sort of weird historical reenactment paganism which didn’t exist in the Middle Ages, or before very recent times), and it doesn’t do to judge, you know. Perhaps some aspect of the truth is preserved in oppositional witchcraft. Too ‘pure’ statements that ‘we are not like them’ are faintly Christian; faintly KKK, to be honest. (‘You must be a Christian. You can’t be a Jew; they’re a dirty race.’ Or a Gypsy, etc, etc. etc….)

But it’s an understandable mistake. They’re both understandable mistakes. Neither one is the accuser waking up and saying, Who shall I burn at the stake today?, you know. Although I suppose when it comes down to it they are compelled by their delusion, their illness.

…. Re: “black magic” and “white magic” I think that this division (that the Aradians of course care nothing for) can be greatly exaggerated, and is sometimes inappropriate. However, with regard to love magic, I think it is correct to say, as people often do, that it is white magic to focus upon yourself, to make yourself attractive, so that as many people as possible as are open to love are drawn to you, so that it becomes easy and not hard to choose a lover; and that it is black magic to focus upon the other, a specific person whose will you want to break, so that they must “love” you, whether they will or no. It is also quite needy, codependent, ultimately weak—whatever word you prefer—to focus on the other, in that way, so that you cannot abide life without their “love”, or whatever. (Or their help to crack the Top 40.) The love of the Self that is in you is the one great love that leads you to the love of the Self that is in the other; without this, there is no real love; “you can’t make someone love you, but you can increase the odds.” “Lord of War” (2005).

…. Charles is wrong that the Aradian sect is this beautiful pure antique museum preservation of ancient times; if not quite a Christian sect, of course, the Aradian sect is a sect in a Christian time, and the hostile influence and reaction against Christianity is usually felt—except when, in the words of that 1968 song, “The Tavern”, “the dreams are still the same”—beneath all the curses and the counter-curses of history there does lie that part of the soul which has nothing to do with history, of course.

…. Charles couldn’t have written it himself if he had a whole day of Brahma in which to work; he barely knew what he collected after it was done. To lament, perhaps, after a suitable amount of time spent on linguistic studies, the oppression of society, might be permissible: but to ~rebel~, why! One would almost have to ~feel~….!

It just isn’t done!

…. Some are slaves, who are made to do ‘good’;
Others are robbers, terrors, who do evil if they like
But Diana can do both evil and good
… (more)
goosecap | 6 other reviews | Jan 21, 2024 |
This will probably sound like a red flag to the bull, although I don’t intend it as so, but just as Charles comments that “we” (of those times) shouldn’t be surprised that there are still superstitions in the scientific 19th century, we also shouldn’t be surprised that there are still old hat American Christians in the new age 21st, you know. Some old hat American Christians are even ~young~ in the 21st century, although that does seem a little uncommon. And also people don’t die when they stop being cool, by a long shot, thanks to medical science…. But I know all that will just be a red flag to the Trumper, you know. “You’re saying things are bad for me!! Things will NEVER be bad for me!!!!….. I’m oppressed!!!!!!!!”

(shrugs) Anyway, it is a mistake to think that we are all the cool people, the graduating class of a medical school, basically; library stocked with expensive reference books and anti-Deepak Chopra screeds…. But equally, the two ARE related; it’s equally wrong to think that they’re ’just different’—the ‘lower’ culture is usually derivative to the same extent that the ‘higher’ is arrogant/isolationist…. The ‘best’ possible way usually draws from both, you know.

Of course, Charles doesn’t always get that. He’s a little arrogant, sometimes comically so. (Irish savages, etc…. 😸 Hey, they’re the conservative base now—don’t alienate the base! 😹)

…. It still surprises me how our wise modern intellectuals can lavish attention on such topics as they frankly confess or snidely insinuate to be unworthy, although I suppose they must, since everything is curious and nothing worthy. But then, there IS a sort of ‘cleverness’ in even the most ill-reputed and frankly non-intellectual pursuits, and then too, there’s fear at the bottom of history, you know….

…. Although obviously I have to add, as much as I don’t want to be an over-developed ACIM person; I mean, there is usually fear in superstitions, you know. We can only guess how much of these people’s magic was brutalized (made brutal, or at least very non-vegan! 😸) by their exclusion/suffering, etc, and how much of it was just hostile summary, you know. I had a very negative reaction to this book of folklore once about an African god in the Caribbean; I feel like I was overreacting probably now, although he was a trickster, more a “rambling man” or a “bad father” (though sometimes “good” fathers are not preferable, or even safe, you know), than a…. I mean, I knew it was ethnocentric, and it had to do with me, and the New England governess and her hostile summary, but…. I couldn’t do anything about it. And you know, it’s also true that a “rambling man” isn’t an art therapist at the Sheltered Children School of Whitesville, and sometimes that’s even not a good thing, necessarily; I don’t want to be naive, to pretend that he would always treat me the way that I prefer…. But both the hostile summary and the fact that he doesn’t practice shamanism or understand its core principles, means that he just indifferently chooses kinda coarse and gross things to talk about, quotes some Latin, German, and Romani (Gypsy), and then just kinda leaves it at that. Possibly technically true, but edited poorly and not explained—no ‘bridge’ of understanding between the two populations, very illusion-generating, really.

…. “The spell is mine—the cure is God’s.”

…. But I guess it’s fair to say that it’s marginally sympathetic at times, and the soon-there-will-be-no-magic narrative of the Victorians marginally less alienating than what came before…. And you can’t beat the price point, lol. ($1).

…. But maybe the attraction isn’t JUST the price tag; it’s fascinating reading about a lost world (even though it was cray). Because magic may not be dead, but all those 19th-century birth cohorts are!

…. I also think it’s curious how the Gypsies (Romani—‘husbands’, lol) admire Christianity and Christian magic, (if you will), the church-y notion of the ‘purity’ of one’s faith never having occurred to them. I suppose that although the conquest of the earth may largely consist of taking it away from peoples with slightly different noses from oneself, it still has a certain allure: or, more to the point, perhaps, when one, starting out in the East, goes in an ‘oriental’ direction over a certain portion of the face of the earth, eventually one winds up in the West, you know. For them, our ‘occidental’ ways are quite ‘oriental’, of course. And the idea of ‘purity’ having no place among them….

…. “Scary stories”, lol.

…. (Re: Leland) An intellectual is often a man who preens that he has frustrated his subconscious.

…. And of course he’s careful to see all the bad that they do—that is the rule of journalists and rationalists, right? If it bleeds, it leads, and the rest that’s bad, is the filler to shape out the rest—because he thinks that the principle good that they do is all lies, and of course ignores whatever other miscellaneous knick-knack work they must have tinkered at and done, from time to time…. But, yes, it would be interesting to know, what the “foreign element” does on a clannish continent, to survive, you know. Very base trickery, at times, I’m sure, but quite a trick—and the will to live.

…. Of course, if he had any sense he’d draw the link between burning a ‘gypsy witch’ in Tennessee and (other?) KKK killings—Blacks…. etc!—but he’s too busy saying that Americans outside of posh Philadelphia aren’t really white, but red (Indians)! Yes, I suppose that if white is posh, Americans aren’t white…. just white racists, though! We make apology for our lack of aboriginal whiteness, you know!…. Gosh, someone should make a show or something, The Clannish Continent (Europe), and then follow it up with, The Clannish Country, (America). But you’d need ‘the good white people’ to do most of the work of doing it, and, once done, the, quite frankly, ~bad white people~, would tear it apart! After all, the story isn’t over yet, is it!

…. Incidentally, the KKK has been largely written out of the folk memory of white America, you know. I remember my dad once going off about the IRA—and terrorism is bad, don’t get me wrong, but his performance basically meant, “I’m white, not Irish” (although we keep the Irish card to play long after we become white in substance). And he said that if General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate veterans had fought a “guerrilla” war after the surrender, then that would be like the IRA. And I suppose, from the perspective of a white northerner (and a Protestant, too, unlike my grandparents, but whatever), I guess my dad is right from a selfish-to-the-point-of-bigoted POV, you know. Southerners didn’t cross the Ohio River to continue the War Between the States via guerrilla raids or something. But what about the KKK? A lot of Black people died. But the average white person can read a racist book from 1891 and read racist/moralist points about Black youth or whatever, and not think, “They were being killed”, you know.

Of course, the ~book~ is useful since it’s at least almost about marginal folk groups, right. But Charles made it no secret that he did not consider these people to be his equals. He was the superior.

…. Anyway, maybe this is a dream and a fancy, but it sure would be nice to turn the clock back in a progressive way and have a non-‘white’ European culture, to not be locked and clocked into exclusion because of a pair of rosy cheeks, you know: and certainly for that, a great help might come from the culture of the gold-plated non-white Europeans, the dun-cheeked Gypsies, you know.

…. And sometimes, like when someone’s watching the news, or even occasionally when one listens to gangster rap, it seems a rather once-born and noisy sort of life, but there’s a lot more to the Black story than crime and punishment, and dare I say to the Romany one, too. It’s just that people can’t attune themselves to the precious things, so they listen to the noise, and walk away, thinking that they’ve heard….

…. But there is a little common humanity to it, you know. Re: torturing Gypsies and witches for Jesus, Oh that was just the one era, life is hard; “But if it was wrong ~then~ why did you do it if you were ~infallible~ inspired judges?” And plenty of people do still think that witches are crap because the infallible church says so, you know; and it’s still polite to smile and look the other way. (Which is in turn interpreted as an affront. I need more people to help me round up these witches, and if people don’t get brutal quick, there won’t be enough for me. “Enough what? Money?” No! Not money…. GOD…..). Even on TikTok or was it YouTube Shorts, it’s like, I notice you watch paganism videos. Would you be interested in this video of Brutal Christian Talk Church (BCTC) dissing pagans? It’s like…. Thanks for making me feel unwanted, idiot AI, but no, I’m not clicking the click, thanks….

…. And he’s right that there is social evolution, basically, even if he probably still believes in the whole obsolete stages thing which comes from Christianity. Really, it’s a wheel, a circle; there are no obsolete stages. Although it is true that sometimes the wheel gets stuck in a rut, you know, by the side of the road; he’s right that the conservatives of today are the kill-able heretics of the 16th century; and good boys look at that and say, Think of all we’ve lost! To think people used to be guaranteed to be right about everything by the fire of earthly hell! Why, I wouldn’t mind being burned in the fires of earthly hell, if only it were for the faith guarantee, you know, and—hey, did the price of ice cream go up again? That’s nine cents more than it was last Christmas? I’ll tell you what it is—it’s those Biden Democrats; this’ll lead to unrest—to murder! Now! What was I talking about?

But there will always be Christians. I can’t even imagine what they’ll be like, because in the future people will all have to be good so that we don’t destroy ourselves, and the Christians are all so wicked, even the ‘good’ ones…. But I suppose they’ll be around. Probably less impressed with themselves and their power, but there are some things, people, ideas, you never wholly forget, of course.

…. (end) And I’m very glad that Charles wrote this book—but it’s a terrible book.
… (more)
goosecap | Dec 20, 2023 |
There's a problem with 19th century religious studies texts is the blatant "my research is better, and oh by the way, read this other work I've written." Not only that, he admits that he's rewritten a lot of the translated texts, to keep with his "feeling" of what the "intent" of the Italian was. His bias is basically shoveled into the work.

I have to admit that there's some useful stuff in there, but I can't really recommend it.
dcrampton | 6 other reviews | Apr 20, 2022 |
Good read although I didn't like the format that much. Is a nice piece if you are interested in italian stregheria.
lubiedo | 6 other reviews | Apr 15, 2021 |


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