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Author Topic: Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches  (Read 5342 times)

RandallS

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Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches
« on: July 06, 2011, 03:02:11 pm »
Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches
Author: Charles Leland
Published 2010 by The Witches Almanac, Ltd.  
ISBN-10: 0982432356
ISBN-13: 978-0982432358
Paperback, 178 Pages
List: $16.95 (U.S.)
View this Book on Amazon

Reviewer: Mike Gleason

The back cover of this book pretty much says it all: "If Gerald Brosseau Gardner is the father of the religion that calls itself Wicca, then Charles Godfrey Leland is the grandfather of Witchcraft as a religion in the English-speaking world, and his small book Aradia, is that religion's birth announcement. This 1899 classic has become a foundational document of modern Wicca and is the first work in English in which Witchcraft is portrayed as an underground old religion, surviving in secret from ancient Pagan times." That statement sums up the importance of Aradia, and that importance has not diminished during the past 112 years.

That importance has, unfortunately (in my opinion), become more theoretical since there are large numbers of modern practitioners who know OF this book, but who have never bothered to actually read it. This, in spite of the fact that have been several reprints of it throughout the past 50 years or so. Part of the problem may be that, to the modern reader, it is a somewhat difficult book. It was, after all, written in a time and a culture with a very different emphasis and perception of how things should be presented. That is compounded by the fact that most reprints were rendered from an incomplete copy of the original work (it was missing the final page).

This edition contains all of the original work which includes material not included by the original informant, as well as being followed by commentaries by some highly-respected members of the Witchcraft community. It is these modern, original, commentaries which add so much to the value of this edition.

It is important to realize several important facts about the author and the work itself. Most importantly, Leland was an American folklorist. His interest in Witchcraft was minimal, while his interest in collecting and recording folk-tales was primary. Secondly, there were questions raised about the authenticity of his informant (which have been somewhat settled over the intervening years), and her sources of information. Finally, this work was intended for a somewhat scholarly audience who had NO interest in Witchcraft, since there was no (known) Witch community in the United States, and thus was unlikely to stir up too much controversy.

I cannot speak to the accuracy of Leland's translations from the original Italian, but since Italian is not a dead (or unknown) language, I will assume that any inaccuracies would have been caught and commented upon, if not corrected, before this edition went to press.

Some of the instructions contained within this book have caused a certain amount of consternation among modern practitioners of the Old Religion, since they advocate behavior which is deemed unacceptable under the precept of "An it harm none..." Because of that, there are those individuals who feel that this seminal work should be disavowed by every "real" Wiccan. Such a decision must be reached by each person for themselves. Considering that this book was published half a century before Gardner's contributions to the Craft it is not unusual that there are disagreements with more modern thinking.

Because of the fact that this book was written well before the modern Craft revival, it should be viewed as a snapshot of the thinking prevalent at the time, not as a reflection of modern sensibilities. Much like the use of the "N" word in Mark Twain's works, it reflects how things were perceived and presented at the time of writing. It falls to the commentaries to reflect the changes which have become obvious between then and now.

Even if you have read Aradia before, take the time to re-read it, so that the commentaries which comprise the final 30 pages of this book will be more easily understood.
Randall
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Marilyn/Absentminded

Re: Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2011, 03:55:01 pm »
Quote from: RandallS;2026
.


Is this the same guy who writes reviews for the newsletter?  I've always found him very helpful.

I was wondering - we used to have a deal where if you ordered something from Amazon through The Cauldron, TC got a few cents from the order.  Is this still in effect and, if so, will the link in the blurb go to the right place?  I've always liked Aradia and am considering ordering a new copy (especially because of the commentaries) and would feel extra special virtuous if I used the TC link.

Absent
I smile when I\'m angry.  I cheat and I lie
I do what I have to do to get by
But I know what is wrong, and I know what is right
And I die for the truth in my secret life

   In My Secret Life, L. Cohen

RandallS

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Re: Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2011, 04:11:31 pm »
Quote from: Marilyn/Absentminded;2056
Is this the same guy who writes reviews for the newsletter?  I've always found him very helpful.

Yes, it's the same person.

Quote
I was wondering - we used to have a deal where if you ordered something from Amazon through The Cauldron, TC got a few cents from the order.  Is this still in effect and, if so, will the link in the blurb go to the right place?

Yes to both!
Randall
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Micheál

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Re: Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2011, 04:23:41 pm »
Quote from: RandallS;2026
Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches
Author: Charles Leland
Published 2010 by The Witches Almanac, Ltd.  
ISBN-10: 0982432356
ISBN-13: 978-0982432358
Paperback, 178 Pages
List: $16.95 (U.S.)
View this Book on Amazon

Reviewer: Mike Gleason

That importance has, unfortunately (in my opinion), become more theoretical since there are large numbers of modern practitioners who know OF this book, but who have never bothered to actually read it.

Well said. This should be a must read to every Wiccan, as it is essential in understanding some of its influences.
Semper Fidelis

Wrynn

Re: Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2011, 04:33:38 pm »
Quote from: RandallS;2026
Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches
Author: Charles Leland

 
RandallS, do you consider this book to be demonstrative of how much wicca/witchcraft has evolved to present day in the mindset of those who practice?
)o( Blessed be,
Wrynn Aethelraed

RandallS

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Re: Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2011, 04:46:20 pm »
Quote from: Wrynn;2076
RandallS, do you consider this book to be demonstrative of how much wicca/witchcraft has evolved to present day in the mindset of those who practice?

Note that I did not write this review. I only posted it. I have Mike's permission to use his reviews (which he posts on USENET when many people never see them) in our newsletters and web site

That said, I think it is pretty obvious that Leland's Aradia was one of books that had a major influence on Gardner and others involved in the early days of Wicca. I can't say much beyond that. Personally I have a lot of problems with Aradia just as I do with many other such books from that time period.
Randall
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SassyWitchin

Re: Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2013, 01:14:41 pm »
Quote from: RandallS;2087
Note that I did not write this review. I only posted it. I have Mike's permission to use his reviews (which he posts on USENET when many people never see them) in our newsletters and web site

That said, I think it is pretty obvious that Leland's Aradia was one of books that had a major influence on Gardner and others involved in the early days of Wicca. I can't say much beyond that. Personally I have a lot of problems with Aradia just as I do with many other such books from that time period.


It seems more relevant to strega than any other religion. doesn't it?

Micheál

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Re: Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2013, 01:40:21 pm »
Quote from: SassyWitchin;98326
It seems more relevant to strega than any other religion. doesn't it?

It definitely is to people like Grimassi&the like, but in Wicca as we know its' early days as well since many lines from the text were borrowed and inspired some other important Charges used in Wiccan rituals.
Semper Fidelis

Noctua

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Re: Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches
« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2017, 10:42:13 am »

I cannot speak to the accuracy of Leland's translations from the original Italian, but since Italian is not a dead (or unknown) language, I will assume that any inaccuracies would have been caught and commented upon, if not corrected, before this edition went to press.


Just speaking to this section, I can say that Leland's translation of the Italian passages in the book are fairly accurate. He does however tend to make them a lot more flowery and poetic than it is in its original language, Italian doesn't use thees and thous the way Leland does. The Italian passages read more like a straightforward conversation or statement, while Leland's translation is closer to prose.

For example, the first passage in "How Diana gave birth to Aradia" is given in Italian as:

E vero che tu uno spirito,
Ma tu set nata per essere ancora.
Mortale, e tu devi andare
Sulla terra e fare da maestra
A donne e a' uomini che avranno
Volenta di inparare la tua scuola
Che sara composta di stregonierie

I would translate this as:

It's true that you are a spirit,
But you were born yet to be.
Mortal, and you must go
To earth to be a teacher
To women and to men that have
willingness to learn(?) from your school (learn is imparare in Italian, one of the misspellings I mention below)
which will be composed of witchcraft

Leland translates as:

'Tis true indeed that thou a spirit art,
But thou wert born but to become again.
A mortal; thou must go to earth below
To be a teacher unto women and men
Who fain would study witchcraft in thy school

 I've had some issues with occasional words in the Italian passages (like the inparare/imparare above) that I can't translate accurately and have to rely on best guesses and Leland's translation; I can't say for sure whether that's because Leland misspelled them, or because they're of a different Italian dialect (what we know of as "Italian" is actually just a polished-up academic version of the Florentine dialect), or because in the 100+ years since Leland first wrote the work there's been some language drift. As you can see though, the translation that Leland gives certainly catches the gist of the original Italian, but makes it sound a lot fancier than it actually is.

ehbowen

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Re: Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches
« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2017, 01:12:40 pm »
Just speaking to this section, I can say that Leland's translation of the Italian passages in the book are fairly accurate. He does however tend to make them a lot more flowery and poetic than it is in its original language, Italian doesn't use thees and thous the way Leland does. The Italian passages read more like a straightforward conversation or statement, while Leland's translation is closer to prose.

I know nothing of Italian, save perhaps "pizza" and "lasagna". So, while I don't know whether Italian has drifted in this regard, I do know for certain that English has. The "thees and thous" used by the King James translators back in the 17th century were, at the time, the correct usage for personal and intimate pronouns, while our current "you" was considered more formal and plural. It's much the same distinction made in French between the singular and personal "tu" and the formal and plural "vous". Hence my French teacher's translation of "vous" as, "Y'all"...hey, it was Texas! But in KJV usage, "Wilt thou accompany me to town?" would be seen as singular and "Will you accompany me to town?" as properly addressed to a group. So my French teacher's construction of, "Will y'all come with me?" is...a little too Texan!

While "thee and thou" had perhaps fallen out of common usage in English when your translation was made, I feel confident that many, especially those well educated, retained a grasp of its proper usage. It may be that your translator had that in mind as he worked.
--------Eric H. Bowen
Where's the KABOOM? There was supposed to have been an Earth-shattering KABOOM!

CoyoteFeathers

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Re: Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches
« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2017, 10:15:22 pm »

While "thee and thou" had perhaps fallen out of common usage in English when your translation was made, I feel confident that many, especially those well educated, retained a grasp of its proper usage. It may be that your translator had that in mind as he worked.

This is true! I actually have a copy of a grammar book published in 1847 that my great-grandfather used in school even in the 1880s or 1890s. It goes into detail about "thee/thou" and "you/your" etc. Considering Leland was already an adult by the time this book was published and had attended Princeton University on top of that, he definitely would have learned those distinctions.

In fact, it denotes "thou/thee/thy" to be the second person singular "Solemn Style," and "you/your" is second person "Common Style." The plural for this "solemn style" is "ye (or you)/your/you."

However, it states, "The pronoun thou is employed when addressing the Deity, in the sacred Scriptures, and in poetry. It also occurs in other solemn or impassioned prosaic writings, and the Society of Friends still use it in common discourse." So it wasn't commonly used in speech unless addressing God, or if you were a Quaker, but was likely still common in writing. Heck, look into any hymnal and you'll see almost every instance where God or Jesus are addressed is with "Thee" and "Thine." Leland likely saw what he was translating as a "solemn" or as poetry, so it would have made sense for him to use "thou" instead of "you" at the time.

(On a side note, this book explicitly states the distinction between gender- being at the time a purely grammatical construct- and sex in a footnote, which is interesting considering somehow the two eventually got conflated and only now are we separating them again, albeit now we have the context of gender identity on top of grammatical gender).

Sefiru

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Re: Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches
« Reply #11 on: June 20, 2017, 08:01:44 pm »
However, it states, "The pronoun thou is employed when addressing the Deity, in the sacred Scriptures, and in poetry.

Fun fact: the German equivalent, Du, is also used to address God, rather than the formal Sie. This isn't a matter of casual vs formal, but rather intimate vs distant (Du is also used to address family members and close friends). I wonder if the rule you quoted is a survival of a similar idea.

I've always found it a bit strange that English lost its casual/formal pronoun distinction -- by getting rid of the casual set. What does that say about our culture, I wonder?

CoyoteFeathers

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Re: Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches
« Reply #12 on: June 20, 2017, 11:09:51 pm »
Fun fact: the German equivalent, Du, is also used to address God, rather than the formal Sie. This isn't a matter of casual vs formal, but rather intimate vs distant (Du is also used to address family members and close friends). I wonder if the rule you quoted is a survival of a similar idea.

I've always found it a bit strange that English lost its casual/formal pronoun distinction -- by getting rid of the casual set. What does that say about our culture, I wonder?

I'm not linguist, but I'd say it's definitely a survival of that kind of idea (especially after Ehbowen's notes on the matter). It's strange since it seems that all of the languages that would have had an huge influence on English- the Celtic languages, Germanic languages, French- seem to have a formal and informal version for second person pronouns. As far as I can tell, English is the odd man out of most of Europe! And even in Japan, while pronouns are used wildly differently than in English, they have certain pronouns and even polite forms of verbs that they'll use with people they aren't close with.

It's strange that thou fell out of use so suddenly, but according to Wikipedia (hardly an authority, but useful for quick info) it was due to the development of "polite society" in the emerging middle class around London. To me that says "fear of awkwardness or embarrassment" and "avoidance or fear of intimacy." Still very true, and I'd almost say more so here in America.

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