Reviews & Interviews

Book Review – A Modern Guide to Charles Godfrey Leland’s Gospel of the Witches-Aradia by Craig Spencer

Book Review

A Modern Guide to

Charles Godfrey Leland’s

Gospel of the Witches-Aradia

by Craig Spencer

240 Pages

 

 

A Modern Guide to Charles Godfrey Leland’s Gospel of the Witches-Aradia by Craig Spencer is a fresh version of timeless material first published in 1899. Mr. Spencer had his work cut out for him in updating this classic by Charles Godfrey Leland that gives the view of Italian Folk magic as told to him by hereditary Italian witches. The book is separated into two parts. Part One: The Gospel and the Revelations, contains the sections of Leland’s original work with the “Revelations” offered by the author as commentary. Part Two: Craig, or the Gospel According to This Witch is the author’s condensing of the material into a useable format that reveals the deeper meanings of this original grimoire.

The Introduction addresses the controversy around the authenticity of the “Gospel”, with some believing that Leland fabricated it all, others that there was indeed an authentic Strega (Italian Witch) named Maddelena that gave Leland authentic material; and yet a third that Maddelena herself, fabricated and embellished the material. Most believe the truth lay somewhere between the three. The take-away is that there is always some truth to be found in the stories and workings of the craft from a time period that none of us have experienced. This is one of the reasons I feel the work is very important for this century.

Mr. Spencer has taken on the work of translating text that had gone unused and placed each in the body of text where it allowed for deeper meaning and relevancy to the passages added to. Additionally, many of the sections that were originally translated into English, had been done so with a slant toward more poetic speech. These passages have been retranslated by the author, which lends the material to having more relevance in use in a modern era.

I especially appreciated the way in which the author parceled out the original sections of The Gospel of the Witch’s-Aradia and follows up with the Revelations commentary that puts into modern language what has been written, as well as the historical perspective.

…The Gospel has had such an influential and far-reaching impact on the shape of contemporary witchcraft, in all of its forms, that it becomes difficult to not consider this collection of texts to be relevant to every Craft practitioner today. Though the stories of the Gospels are set in times gone by, the Mysteries that they represent are truly eternal. For the contemporary witch, this collection of stories acts as our common myth cycles, and through the Revelations we are better able to understand the significance and the messages that these teachings have for all of us. 1.

Part Two: Craig, or the Gospel According to this Witch provides the reader with practical application and extracts of text that can be used to create a personal practice. The encouragement here is to not over embellish what is offered with modern overlays that do not enhance the workings and material. The intention is one of experience of what is given in its unique style and essence.

The first topic of this section is “Attending the Sabbats”. Gatherings of witches and the particulars of the rites held has long been a mystery of witchcraft and the stuff of misinformation and over dramatization. The author provides a framework to be used that is simple and versatile in its outline. He then takes each of these elements and spends some time in weaving the Gospels and their application to this framework.

These themes are:

  1. Preparation of self

  2. Preparation of space

  3. Acts of worship

  4. acts of magic

  5. Works of inspiration

  6. Works of the heart

Revealed Cosmology: Beliefs Revealed From the Gospel Texts” provides the reader with the theology of the witch, origins, Divine connections, a code of ethics and more. The philosophical and practical nature of witchcraft in its simplest forms and those Deities who are prominent in devotion and honoring in the works of the witch.

 

Would I Recommend:

A Modern Guide to Charles Godfrey Leland’s Gospel of the Witches-Aradia by Craig Spencer is definitely a book that will either be of interest or not to the modern practitioner of witchcraft and witch. This is not because of any failing of this interpretation; but more a bias of preference that has long surrounded the original work by Leland. Preference in pantheon, tradition, beliefs that to be a witch one must be of hereditary lineage, cosmology and cultural bias have all factored into these biases.

I would recommend this book to those who wish to enhance their practice and using it as a text with the intention of open-mindedness in seeing from another time and history what has formed the basis of so much that we use in modern paganism. I appreciate the effort, thought and care Mr. Spencer put into A Modern Guide to Charles Godfrey Leland’s Gospel of the Witches-Aradia. Using this text in tandem with the original offering should be a required reading for any who are drawn to the path of the witch.

 

About Author Craig Spencer:

Craig Spencer is a Lancashire-born Anglo-Italian witch who practices Traditional Lancashire Witchcraft. In addition to practicing witchcraft and writing books, he is an integrated therapist and Reiki teacher. He earned a bachelor of science degree with honors from the University of Salford and a postgraduate certificate in education from the University of Central Lancashire. Craig can be found on Instagram @WitchcraftUnchained and Twitter @CraigSpencer90.

 

Footnotes:

  1. Conclusion, Part One p. 186

Aradia: A Modern Guide to Charles Godfrey Leland’s Gospel of the Witches on Amazon

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About the Author:

Robin Fennelly is a Third Degree Initiate within The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel Tradition and serves as High Priestess of Coven of the Mystic Path, the 12th Coven within the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel Tradition. She teaches and facilitates classes for the Pagan Experience Study Group that serves as foundation for membership within Coven of the Mystic Path.  

Her spiritual journey is strongly rooted in both Eastern philosophy and the Western Magickal systems from which she has formed a core foundation that is diverse in knowledge and rich in spiritual practice.  A life-long learner, her practice has evolved from the classical and philosophical teachings of books, practical experience and enrichment of this knowledge base by attending workshops of various spiritual traditions presented by master teachers.

Robin formally came to the Wiccan path in 1994. Following practice as a solitary for 2 years, she dedicated to Oak and Willow Coven of The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel Tradition in November of 1996. She received her 1st, 2nd and finally 3rd degrees within the Assembly Tradition and has served as High Priestess of Oak and Willow since Samhain of 2001.

As a teacher of esoteric and magickal studies she has used Energetic Anatomy, Tarot, Astrology, Hermetic Qabala, Eastern Philosophy, and Numerology as the foundations of her diverse selection of workshops and writings for more than 25 years. Exploration of varied energetic protocol has been the focus of her work for some time now and the information gained through direct experience informs all of her magickal and spiritual work.

Robin’s writings have been featured online, and in print Internationally.  She has authored several books incorporating her unique style of writing making use of poetry, prose and pathworking to enhance the concepts presented.  She has taught extensively throughout the Pagan community, including Sacred Space Conference, Spring Magick, Between the Worlds Interfaith Conference and Free Spirit Gathering Festival this Summer. Her most recent project is hosting an online blogging community entitled The Pagan Experience.

Robin is the owner of Holistic Embrace providing services for mind, body and spirit such as Tarot readings, Astrology reports, Spiritual Guidance and other related offerings.  She lives in Eastern Pennsylvania and her life is blessed by a 40+- year marriage, five children and the opportunity to work in the field of public education.

Robin’s Books

The Inner Chamber, Vol. 1 It’s Written in the Stars-Astrology

The Inner Chamber, Vol. 2 Poetry of the Spheres-Qabalah

The Inner Chamber, Vol. 3 Awakening the Paths-Qabalah

The Light of SELF: Consciousness, Spiritual Practice and Learning to Breathe

Magickal Verse: A Collection of Poetry and Prose

A Year of Gaia: The Eternal Cord

The Elemental Year: Aligning the Elements of SELF

Temple of the Sun and Moon: Luminous Devotions

Sleeping with the Goddess: Nights of Devotion

A Weekly Reflection: Musings for the Year

The Magickal Pen: A Collection of Esoteric Writings

The Enchanted Gate: Musings on the Magick of the Natural World

For more info: http://www.robinfennelly.com/books.html

Robin’s Website: www.robinfennelly.com

Coven of the Mystic Path, ASW: www.covenofthemysticpath.org