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Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches by…
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Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches (original 1890; edition 2020)

by Charles Godfrey Leland (Author)

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550744,732 (3.57)3
The text is a composite. Some of it is Leland's translation into English of an original Italian manuscript, the Vangelo (gospel). Leland reported receiving the manuscript from his primary informant on Italian witchcraft beliefs, a woman Leland referred to as "Maddalena" and whom he called his "witch informant" in Italy. The rest of the material comes from Leland's research on Italian folklore and traditions, including other related material from Maddalena. Leland had been informed of the Vangelo's existence in 1886, but it took Maddalena eleven years to provide him with a copy. After translating and editing the material, it took another two years for the book to be published. Its fifteen chapters portray the origins, beliefs, rituals and spells of an Italian pagan witchcraft tradition. The central figure of that religion is the goddess Aradia, who came to Earth to teach the practice of witchcraft to peasants in order for them to oppose their feudal oppressors and the Catholic Church.… (more)
Member:LDBrand
Title:Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches
Authors:Charles Godfrey Leland (Author)
Info:Llewellyn Publications (2020), 168 pages
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Aradia by Charles Godfrey Leland (1890)

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» See also 3 mentions

English (6)  Italian (1)  All languages (7)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
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
  goosecap | Jan 21, 2024 |
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 | 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 | Apr 15, 2021 |
The story of Aradia and the information that she supposedly passed on to Charles Leland. I think that this has since been discredited, but it is a good book to read for refernce to the origins of modern witchcraft both from the Wiccan and Stregheria perspective. ( )
1 vote lkrough2 | Feb 10, 2007 |
An important source for wiccan history. ( )
  lizw | Jan 7, 2006 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Godfrey Lelandprimary authorall editionscalculated
Buckland, RaymondIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Drew, A.J.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Farrar, StewartIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giovannini, FabioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kylmäluoma, MinnaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laakso, Päivi S.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Menegoni, LorenzaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morgan, KeithEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
White, AnneContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
White, NelsonContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"It is Diana! Lo!
She rises crescented."
~ Keats
  Endymion

"Make more bright
The Star Queen's crescent
on her marriage night."
~ Keats
  Endymion
Dedication
First words
Preface:  If the reader has ever met with the works of the learned folk-lorist G. Pitre, or the articles contributed by "Lady Vere De Vere" to the Italia Rivista, or that of J . Andrews to Folklore, he will be aware that there are in Italy great numbers of strege, fortune-tellers or witches, who divine by cards, perform strange ceremonies in which spirits are supposed to be invoked, make and sell amulets, and, in fact, comport themselves generally as their reputed kind are wont to do, be they Black Voodoos in America or sorceresses anywhere.
This is the Gospel (Vangelo) of the Witches:
Diana greatly loved her brother Lucifer, the God of the Sun and of the Moon, the God of Light (Splendor),
Who was so proud of his beauty, and who for his pride was driven from Paradise.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The text is a composite. Some of it is Leland's translation into English of an original Italian manuscript, the Vangelo (gospel). Leland reported receiving the manuscript from his primary informant on Italian witchcraft beliefs, a woman Leland referred to as "Maddalena" and whom he called his "witch informant" in Italy. The rest of the material comes from Leland's research on Italian folklore and traditions, including other related material from Maddalena. Leland had been informed of the Vangelo's existence in 1886, but it took Maddalena eleven years to provide him with a copy. After translating and editing the material, it took another two years for the book to be published. Its fifteen chapters portray the origins, beliefs, rituals and spells of an Italian pagan witchcraft tradition. The central figure of that religion is the goddess Aradia, who came to Earth to teach the practice of witchcraft to peasants in order for them to oppose their feudal oppressors and the Catholic Church.

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Book description
Aradia, Gospel of the Witches, a most influential and remarkable book, is the forerunner and one of the key sources of the modern Witchcraft revival ...
This work, written during the late 1800s (1890), was the result of a 10-year friendship between Leland and Madeliana, a semi-literate peasant woman born of an Italian witch family. By presenting a strange and intersting mixture of Italian Witchcraft Doctrine, Aradia opened the door to a hidden world.
In the words of author Doreen Valiente, " ... a picture emerges from it of an ancient and secret cult, La Vecchia Religione - 'The Old Religion' - with its distinctive beliefs and practices, time-worn until it has become like some ruined building of olden days with the last remaining stoned gilded by the setting sun."
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