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Crafting the Art of Magic, Book I: A History of Modern Witchcraft, 1939-1964 (Llewellyn's Modern Witchcraft Series) (Book 1) Paperback – May 1, 1991
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Part of the campaign to remove it from the public eye involves discrediting "reviews", such as the one by Frew, referenced by another reviewer on this listing. His self-important article is not so much a review as a prolonged collection of innuendo, misdirection, logical hair-splitting, and frantic micro-analytical fault finding designed to divert the reader from addressing the spine of Kelly's argument: that all of the material present in Gardner's Book of Shadows were derived from presently available literary sources, leaving essentially nothing for a secretive pre-Gardnerian tradition to contribute. In other words, even if Gardner did join a pre-exiting coven of Witches as was his claim, their existence proves irrelevant as they effectively contributed nothing to the formation of present day Wicca. It was all Gardner (and then Valiente, and so on, and so on ...). This aspect of Dr. Kelly's book is scholastically and analytically solid and worthy of study. Where Kelly falters are in his personal speculations on Gardner's supposed sexual obsessions and how they contributed to the craft (wholely gratuitous to his argument), and on the identity, role and character of Dorothy Clutterbuck (as Gardner was prone to misdirection, simply because a woman by that name existed proves very little). He also shows himself to be arrestingly opinionated on many sundry matters not immediately relevant to his thesis, but wherever Kelly sticks to the texts and his interviews, he is lucid and revelatory.
So for those interested in the actual historical foundations of Wicca, this is a must read. But you need not take my word for it. Raymond Buckland, himself a Gardnerian initiate and a respected author of fortyfive works on Wicca and Neopaganism, wrote of the text:
"At long last we have a book that is a thorough, deeply-researched, scholarly examination of the origins of Gardnerian Witchcraft ... In this work, Aidan Kelly (like a metaphysical sleuth par excellence) painstakingly peers down every little alleyway, pieces together minute details, and makes deductions in a Holmeslike manner, to arrive at what must assuredly be the true picture."
A: Wait while we go see what Gardner's Book of Shadows says.
In Wicca, many people have been exposed to "ancient" and "hereditary" traditions while the ink in the spellbook was still drying--often on materials that had been lifted from another craft or magical tradition. Much of the Craft today, in its diverse forms, owes its existence to the original work of Gerald Gardner.
Aidan Kelly takes a critical look at the source material for Gerald Gardner's teachings about the craft. This is an excellent textual criticism of the Gardnerian materials. I cannot fault him for his work with "original" documents. I doubt we will ever learn more about when things were written, and from where they were lifted, than Dr. Kelly has presented in his book.
One of the most interesting evolutions is that of the Charge of the Goddess. On p. 52 he presents Gardner's original, a redacted bit of Leland & Crowley. It reads like a hack. This was its state between 1949 & 1953. On p. 114 he presents the Charge, essentially as we know it today, after Doreen Valiente (see my review of her The Rebirth of Witchcraft) had helped him rewrite it. On p. 162 he presents a verse form of of the Charge from 1961, a quintain adaptation of Dorreen's quatrain form (not included).
Kelly argues that nothing in the Craft pre-existed Gardner. He attempts to explain the creation of the Craft as Gerald's way of manipulating strong women into spanking him for sexual gratification. While I find his critical analysis compelling, his theory about Gardner's sexuality seems to be a long reach.
This book is required reading for anybody interested in the history of the Craft. If nothing else it helps decrease the number of times Wannabe Witch utters "Yes, our traditions go back for =THOUSANDS= of years..." While the Goddess may have been worshipped since time immemorial, Kelly makes a good case that She has only been worshipped in this particular Wiccan way since the late 1930's at best.
(If you enjoyed this review please leave me positive feedback. You can see my other reviews by clicking on the link to "more about me." Thanks!)
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