Published originally in 1899 (50+ years before Gardner, Valiente, et. al.) Aradia contains the essence of "The Charge of the Goddess" conjurations in both Italian and English (later reworked in Gardner's Book of Shadows by Doreen Valiente). According to Leland (as recorded in the appendix to this book), the majority of the text of Aradia was collected for him by an Italian woman named Maddalena who he paid to collect folklore for him. He says he first heard of the work in 1886 and she was finally able to provide him with a copy in 1897. This means the true origin of the work is unknown. While Maddalena could have obtained it from Italian witches, she could have had it written to please Leland or the like. (Some even say Leland may have written it himself as a Marxist screed.) This is why Aradia is considered unreliable by modern scholars. Despite the lack of reliable or not, Aradia has played a sizeable role in modern Wicca and it well worth reading by anyone interested in Wicca (a few traditions are even based primarily on this text).

A.J. Drew's introduction and commentary basically add nothing to the work. There is no attempt to place this work into historical context or to explain the possible origins of the work. Drew does not clarify or expand on the original, but instead provides a place for him to expound his personal beliefs and present his personal interpretations of selected points in the book.

If you are looking for a nicely printed and bound copy of Leland's Aradia, or the Gospel of Witches, this book will easily fulfill your needs, but don’t be fooled into thinking the commentary will add value.

~review by Lisa Mc Sherry

Author: Charles Godfrey Leland, Introduction and Commentary by A. J. Drew
New Page Books, 2003
pp. 160 pages, $10.99
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