The Gospel of the Witches

When I was eight or so I was digging through an old trunk at my grandparents house that contained my great-grandmother’s things. There were quilts and trinket boxes, letters and framed pictures of people long past, and there were some curiosities that really captured my imagination. Two of those items I still possess.

One was an astrological chart that mapped out correspondences between the human body, planting cycles, and the treatment of various ailments through a combination of herbs and lunar phases.

The other was a pamphlet titled Unseen Forces by Manly Palmer Hall. I read and reread that book every time I stayed with my paternal grandparents. It unlocked a world of mysteries that I could not look away from. That tiny pamphlet sparked in me a lifelong obsession with the occult sciences and set me on a search to devour any material I could find related to the wonders of witchcraft, magic, and the supernatural.

That wasn’t always easy.

I grew up in a small rural community and the local library wasn’t exactly awash in esoterica, though its shelves did hold little treasures, such as  Diary of a Witch and the Book of Curses by Sybil Leek, Florence Hershman’s Witchcraft USA, and a dogeared copy of King of the Witches: The World of Alex Sanders by June Johns.

All that changed when I went off to college. I was a fresh faced student at Ball State University majoring in Anthropology and Ancient Studies when I met an Alexandrian High Priestess who gifted me several books, such as Stewart and Janet Farrar’s  The Witches’ Way and Eight Sabbats for Witches, as well as an annotated, all but worn out copy of Aradia: Gospel of the Witches by Charles Leland.

Aradia was captivating. I was, after all, an impressionable teenager and somewhat immature due to my isolated upbringing. While the other books I’d read presented the world of magic in a stylized fashion full of pomp and dramatic ritual, Aradia seemed to me to represent something closer to the hearth. This was folk magic, practiced on a daily basis and as much a part of their lives as was doing the wash or preparing a meal. I could readily see how this book influenced the modern witchcraft revival, how it fed men such as Gerald Gardner and Alex Sanders as they repackaged witchcraft for a new age of spiritual seekers.

Aradia: Gospel of the Witches has been reissued by Weiser Books and it is truly a remarkable edition. The book itself is a gorgeous work of art, lovingly crafted and typeset and would be an excellent addition to ones personal library.

As to the subject matter, Aradia has long been considered controversial at best, with questions raised as to the authenticity of the material within. Scholars have charged that it is a work of fiction or an out and out forgery perpetuated by Leland and/or Maddalena, the wise woman who reportedly shared this information with him. Regardless, Aradia is a fascinating and compelling work that is a must-read for any student of the history of witchcraft. As I revisited Aradia for the first time since the days of my youth, I was taken back and reminded of that fiery passion I had for examining the mysterious world, my mind wide open to all possibilities. It was a real treat to lose myself once more in this historic document.

Aradia: Gospel of the Witches is available wherever books are sold, or you can capture its magic online directly from Weiser Books or amazon.com.

5 Responses to “The Gospel of the Witches”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by brainwise, Bob Freeman. Bob Freeman said: My review of Aradia: Gospel of the Witches: http://t.co/2K7mJA5 @WeiserBooks […]

  2. […] Leland’s Aradia, Gospel of the Witches for research and review. Check out Bob Freeman’s review of Aradia and  Freeman Presson’s review as […]

  3. […] already know about my admiration for Charles Leland, particularly of his Aradia: The Gospel of the Witches,  but The Witchcraft of Dame Darrel of York is even more illuminating.  Leland’s complete […]

  4. prince williams Says:

    i want to know more about this

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