Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Aradia - The Gospel of the Witches
Aradia, Or The Gospel Of The Witches
See also Witches, Witchcraft and Demonology - 120 Books on DVDrom
Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches is a book by the American folklorist Charles Godfrey Leland that was published in 1899. It contains the religious text of a group of pagan witches in Tuscany, Italy that documented their beliefs and rituals. Some historians and folklorists have disputed the existence of such a group. Since then the book was very influential in the development of the modern religion of Wicca.
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From An Encyclopædia of Occultism: In his Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches of Italy...Charles Godfrey Leland gives a valuable account of the life and practice of the modern Italian strega or witch. He says: "In most cases she comes of a family in which her calling or art has been practised for many generations. I have no doubt that there are instances in which the ancestry remounts to mediaeval, Roman, or it may be Etruscan times. The result has naturally been the accumulation in such families of much tradition. But in Northern Italy, as its literature indicates, though there has been some slight gathering of fairy tales and popular superstitions by scholars, there has never existed the least interest as regarded the strange lore of the witches, nor any suspicion that it embraced an incredible quantity of old Roman minor myths and legends, such as Ovid has recorded, but of which much escaped him and all other Latin writers....Even yet there are old people in the Romagna of the North who know the Etruscan names of the Twelve Gods, and invocations to Bacchus, Jupiter, and Venus, Mercury, and the Lares or ancestral spirits, and in the cities are women who prepare strange amulets, over which they mutter spells, all known in 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 times 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 what I want, and how to extract it from those of her kind.
"Among other strange relics, she succeeded, after many years, in obtaining the following 'Gospel,' which I have in her handwriting A full account of its nature with many details will be found in an Appendix. I do not know definitely whether my informant derived a part of these traditions from written sources or oral narration, but believe it was chiefly the latter....
"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, rue, and verbena, constituting, as the text declares, the regular church-service, so to speak, which is to be chanted or pronounced at the witch-meetings. There are also included the very curious incantations or benedictions of the honey, meal, and salt, or cakes of the witch-supper, which is curiously classical, and evidently a relic of the Roman Mysteries."
Briefly the ritual of the Italian witches is as follows: At the Sabbath they take meal and salt, honey and water, and say a conjuration over these, one to the meal, one to the salt, one to Cain, one to Diana, the moon-goddess. They then sit down naked to supper, men and women, and after the feast is over they dance, sing and make love in the darkness, quite in the manner of the mediaeval Sabbath of the sorcerers. Many charms are given connected with stones, especially if these have holes in them and are found by accident. A lemon stuck full of pins we are told is a good omen. Love-spells fill a large space in the little work, which for the rest recounts several myths of Diana and Endymion in corrupted form. ~ Lewis Spence 1920
From Folklore magazine:
In this book Mr. Leland has recorded a number of curious legends relating to Diana, as Queen of the Witches, and to her daughter Aradia (Herodias). It is indeed a kind of "Gospel"— we infer from Mr. Leland's words that his authority calls it the Vangelo—as it begins by describing the woes of mankind, to whose aid Diana sends Aradia, teaching them the use of witchcraft The second chapter describes how to consecrate the witch-supper, giving an invocation of Cain, Diana, and Aradia. The rest of the book contains cosmic myths about Diana, or incantations for winning love, good luck, or prosperity, with a few miscellaneous legends. Diana as queen of the witches is known to us from antiquity, but it would be impossible to produce classical authority for most of the lore of this book. Having regard to the wild nature of the incantations, we have no doubt that the substance of the book is ancient; and we see no reason why it should not be, as Mr. Leland claims, a genuine relic of ancient belief, part of that secret lore which existed side by side with the poetical or systematised mythology. Several other old names, such as Endamione (Endymion), appear in the book; and Tana, as Mr. Leland has pointed out in his Etrusco-Roman Remains, is the Etruscan form of Diana.
The question arises, how closely Mr. Leland has adhered to his authorities. A great part of the book is made up of charms, which are given in the Italian, and if the prose translation be as literal as the verse, we have no cause to complain. We wish, however, that the whole text of the Vangelo had been given in full; it would have been but a few pages added to the book. And we wish Mr. Leland would always tell us, when he departs from his text, in briefest words what the text is. It might be done, as in Wide-Awake Stories, by a summary of events. Enthusiasm Mr. Leland has in plenty, literary taste, and the art of interesting; but he lacks method. In spite of this drawback we heartily welcome his new book. Classical scholarship no less than our own folklore has reason to be grateful to him for his untiring efforts as a collector.
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