Wild Ideas: an online exploration of the wild

The Calyx: Wild Sexuality The Commons: Wild Politics Return to Wild Ideas home page

In The Temple:

Book Reviews
Web Reviews

Stay informed — join WildNews, our announcement list:

E-mail Address:


You are here: Wild Ideas > Temple > Library >

Crafting The Art Of Magic:
A Critical Review

By D. Hudson Frew (Morgann)

Copyright 1991 by D. Hudson Frew.
Used by permission of the author.

The Craft Laws

Several of the problems with Kelly's analysis of the Craft Laws, relating to text reliability, have been pointed out above. The sole argument of Kelly's regarding the Craft Laws that has not yet been addressed is his insistence that earlier versions indicate fabrication. Specifically, on pages 77 to 80 Kelly reproduces a passage from "Ye Bok of ye Art Magical" titled "To Help the Sick". This passage contains, in prose form, many of the concepts of coven secrecy, even to particular phrasing, that later appear in the Craft Laws as traditional rules and regulations.
 Later, on pages 103-107, Kelly tells how when division arose between the first two "Gardnerian" covens, members of one group drafted a set of "Proposed Rules for the Craft" and sent them to Gardner. He responded by sending them:

... a long document, with a message saying that there was no need for the proposed rules, because these "Laws of the Craft" already existed.

The 2nd group, led by Valiente, rejected these Laws as Gardner's invention.
 I would suggest a slightly different interpretation. If "Ye Bok of ye Art Magical" represents Gardner's notes and recordings of primarily oral material received from earlier practitioners (a hypothesis which Kelly has not disproved), then the passage in "To Help the Sick" may represent genuine traditional material. Later, faced with a need for "Laws" to govern a burgeoning tradition that has expanded beyond a single group, Gardner may have remembered that passage and other sayings and such regarding how covens should ideally function, and written that information up as the "Laws". These are the kind of rules a person might write down if pressed to codify how their family functioned when they were a child.
 Did Gardner write the Craft Laws? Undoubtedly. Did he invent them out of whole cloth? That has not been proven, but I think it unlikely.


Much of the last chapter of Crafting the Art of Magic is given over to Kelly's observations of how skilled Gardner was at using "misdirection" to protect his claims. He presents for our consideration the theory of hoaxes put forward by Norman Moss in The Pleasures of Deception. Proceeding from the assumption that Gardner was a hoaxer, Kelly says on page 172:

The application of [Moss'] theory to the Gardnerian movement is this. Gardner, by writing his books, had created essentially a single channel of communication: the only possible source of information about "the Craft" was what he himself had devised.

This is not true. Both Dafo and Wilkinson, independent sources, were accessible to early joiners of the "Gardnerian" movement. But is not Kelly our "single channel" to such crucial sources as the Weschcke documents?
 On page 174, in reference to Gardner's claims about Crowley, Kelly says:

... we can see how very devious Gardner is being here: Crowley being dead, cannot deny any of this...

Isn't this just what Kelly is doing in this book? Further, as I have shown several times above, Kelly engages in speculation, then later uses those speculations as unquestioned assumptions on which to found further arguments. Kelly omits crucial sections of quotes that would undermine his arguments. Kelly engages in sloppy "scholarly writing" to imply that Gardner is a plagiarist, without proving it. Kelly withholds from the reader the relevant information that he is both a Gardnerian and a Faery initiate, with the consequent biases. And to top it all off, Kelly opens and closes the book by saying that the thesis he has written this entire book to prove, doesn't really matter anyway; the implied message being that there really is no reason to bother criticizing it.
 That Kelly would spend several pages accusing Gardner of misdirection is ironic to the point of absurdity.



All content copyright 1999-2006 by the individual authors, where cited, or by Lynna Landstreet where not specifically credited.

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, this site is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

Green Web Hosting by Dreamhost Site design: Spider Silk Design - Toronto web designers
This page last modified: January 29, 2006


Wild Ideas has just undergone a major redesign and restructuring, and may still be a little rough around the edges. Please bear with us as we get things sorted out.