Aradia or the Gospel of the Witches
By Charles G Leland; A Modern Introduction and Commentary by AJ Drew; New Page Books (Career Press) (Original text © 1899)
I’d read this book with a large grain of salt handy. I personally found the commentary to be far removed from my understanding of the text. I don’t know how Mr. Drew believes that his interpretation can really explain the seemingly more violent aspects of the text, but he does say he’s doing just that.
I found the text as hard to read and digest as the original writings of a Shakespeare play. However, I feel that the text of Aradia is just as an important classic to Pagan history as Shakespeare’s writings are to modern literature.
Mr. Leland’s writings, whether he received them as he claimed from a “hereditary witch” named Maddalena (and others) or made them up on his own as suggested by more recent investigators, is in the long run irrelevant. Many of our current Wiccan thoughts and beliefs can be traced back to this text. Most notably among them is the Wiccan Rede.
If we are to grow strong as a community we have to know where we came from. If in fact the beginnings of the current neo-pagan movement lead us back to The Gospel of the Witches, it is important to know what the text actually says.
In the course of my reading this book, it occurred to me that among the stories that Mr. Leland recorded are an assortment of myths that our community longs for. If this book has any value it is the mere fact that it contains the roots of what became Gardnerian Wicca.
I wouldn’t run out to buy the book, but I would recommend that if you have the chance you sit down and read through the text and commentary to gain a better understanding of our Pagan past.