Aradia: Gospel of the Witches
Its accuracy is disputed by some, while others consider it a vital resource for studying and understanding Italian witch folklore of the 19th century. What is certain is that this 1899 classic has become a foundational document of modern Wicca and neopaganism. Leland claimed his "witch informant," a fortune-teller named Maddalena, supplied him with the secret writings that he translated and combined with his research on Italian pagan tradition to create a gospel of pagan belief and practice. Here, in the story of the goddess Aradia, who came to Earth to champion oppressed peasants in their fight against their feudal overlords and the Catholic Church, are the chants, prayers, spells, and rituals that have become the centerpieces of contemporary pagan faiths. American journalist and folklorist CHARLES GODFREY LELAND (1824-1903) was editor of Continental Monthly during the Civil War and coined the term emancipation as an alternative to abolition, but he is best remembered for his books on ethnography, folklore, and language, including The Gypsies (1882), The Hundred Riddles of the Fairy Bellaria (1892), and Unpublished Legends of Virgil (1899).
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Page 8 - For brief explanation I may say that witchcraft is known to its votaries as la vecchia religione, or the old religion, of which Diana is the Goddess, her daughter Aradia (or Herodias) the female Messiah, and that this little work sets forth how the latter was born, came down to earth, established witches and witchcraft, and then returned to heaven. With it are given the ceremonies and invocations or incantations to be addressed to Diana and Aradia, the exorcism of Cain, and the spells of the holystone,...
Page 7 - THE MAGIC OF ITALY As showing how ancient myth may be embedded in modern folklore, the discoveries of the late Charles Godfrey Leland have an importance it would be difficult to overestimate. In his preface to his Aradia, the Gospel of the Witches of Italy, he says : "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...
Page 7 - ... the old Roman time, and who can astonish even the learned by their legends of Latin gods, mingled with lore which may be found in Cato or Theocritus. With one of these I became intimately acquainted in 1886, and have ever since employed her specially to collect among her sisters of the hidden spell in many places all the traditions of the olden time known to them. It is true that I have drawn from other sources, but this woman by long practice has perfectly learned what few understand, or just...