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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.
Kelly's hidden agendas
As Kelly so eloquently argues at the beginning and end of this book, it doesn't really matter whether or not Gardner made it all up. The Craft is a thriving, beautiful religion in its own right and does not require an appeal to the past for legitimacy.
As a founding member of the California Line of the Gardnerian Tradition, a progressive branch of the Tradition centered in Northern California, I cannot help but be pleased at the ever-changing diversity of ritual scripts that Kelly spreads before us. His book in many ways argues, however unintentionally, in favor of a position that I have been promoting for years: that the nature of the Gardnerian Tradition is to grow and change over time.
So why have I gone to all this trouble to rebut his arguments?
1) Bad scholarship is its own reason for criticism.
2) Kelly is using the arguments expressed in this book to further his own agendas within the Craft community, agendas about which he does not inform the reader.
Kelly's NROOGD agenda
As a NROOGD Elder, an elder of the Craft tradition that Kelly helped found, I have always been aware of the grudge that some older members of the tradition have against Gardnerians. Since my first initiation, I have been told how the founders of NROOGD were snubbed by the Gardnerians on the East Coast. Books by Gardnerians made it to the West Coast long before Gardnerians did, and it was from such books (and others) that NROOGD was created. When the first contacts between NROOGD initiates and Gardnerians occurred in the `70s, the Gardnerians were still holding on to the belief that they had an unbroken tradition tracing back to the Stone Age. They looked down on the NROOGD folk as "upstarts" and did not consider them "real" Witches.
In Crafting the Art of Magic, Aidan Kelly and other NROOGD Elders have their vindication. Gardner made his tradition up, just as Kelly did. Gardner and Kelly have equal places in history. Unfortunately, there are many people in the Craft, who have held such a grudge for a long time and will eagerly accept Kelly's conclusions without critically reading his analysis.
Kelly's Faery Tradition agenda
At the same time that Kelly feels he has taken Gardner down a peg, he has boosted Victor Anderson and the Faery Tradition up one. Kelly is a Faery initiate, a fact of which he does not apprise the reader. Thus, in Crafting the Art of Magic, Kelly not only places himself on equal footing with Gardner, he does him one better by being an initiate of a tradition that really does trace back into the mists of history, or so Kelly claims. No doubt there are Witches out there that will like this conclusion, and also not read the book critically.
Kelly's Gardnerian agenda
On page 27, Kelly brings up a theme to which he will return over and over again. Kelly gives us some details of the life of the young Gerald Gardner:
His education for the most part was in the hands of "Con", a governess to whom the "Bracelin" biography says he was devoted. He did not obtain a university education, but instead went to work for the commercial branch of the British Civil Service in the Far East.
Kelly goes on to say that:
... what is most important about Gardner's life for understanding his role in founding the modern Craft movement is the fact that he suffered from a sexual addiction. Specifically, he was addicted to being whipped.
Kelly softens our reaction to this provocative statement, and consequently our skepticism, by saying that:
To blame him or think ill of him for that would be bigotry, ignorance, or hypocrisy, because he had not chosen to acquire this addiction. Instead, it was forced upon him, as it was upon most Englishmen of his generation, by the English educational system.
A system through which, as Kelly has told us only a paragraph before, Gardner never passed! On page 28, Kelly tells us that "Gardner was certainly beaten by Con", but without any evidence or substantiation. In fact, nowhere in this book does Kelly offer any corroborative testimony to support this claim of sexual addiction. He asks us to accept it as a given because it is, as he admits above, essential to his argument. Kelly's recurrent use of Gibson's work, The English Vice: Beating, Sex, and Shame in Victorian England and After, to explain Gardner's psychological motivations is thus rendered irrelevant.
Kelly follows up his unfounded statement about Con beating Gardner by asserting that, as a result, "like Aleister Crowley, he did not settle for passively hating Christianity. Instead he set out to replace Christianity." This is pure speculation on Kelly's part. After all, did all beaten Englishmen set out to replace Christianity?
On page 54, Kelly notes that:
... the Charge was written in order to create a framework for the binding and scourging in the initiation that would -- for Gardner -- lead to sexual intercourse.
Nothing in the text of the Charge explicitly mentions scourging! Neither is it inextricably linked to the Great Rite, i.e. sexual intercourse. While it is true, as Kelly points out, that the rites of the youths of Sparta often involved ritual scourging, every coven I have been in or attended has used the Charge as an evocative piece of devotional prose. None of them made the connection that Kelly makes here.
On page 72, Kelly describes the directions for the Sabbats in 1949. Three of the four Sabbats contain a direction to perform the Great Rite "if possible". If Gardner were the sexual fetishist Kelly paints him to be, making up a tradition to satisfy his needs, would he be so weak in asking for his "fix"? Wouldn't such a person have been more likely to say that the Great Rite was required at every Sabbat?
On page 83, Kelly describes how, in the Craft Laws, "scourging [was used] as a means for enforcing discipline within the coven". If Gardner was the sole author of the Laws, trying to promote scourging as a ritual practice, why would he increase its negative associations and therefore diminish the frequency of its use in the group?
Later on that same page, Kelly claims that the traditional passage to the effect that "it is not meet to give less than 2 score strokes to the Lady" "means that Gardner needed at least forty strokes to become aroused." This assumes a) that there is no numerological reason for the number 40, as we will see there is, and b) that Gardner, in the throes of his "sexual addiction" kept count of the exact number of strokes needed. This stretches credulity!
A similar argument may be applied to Gardner's "Eightfold Path or Ways to the Center", described on page 89. The scourge is listed as one of eight different magical practices that "may" be used in ritual. Continuing with his discussion of the Eight Ways on page 121, Kelly quotes Gardner as saying that:
The great thing is to combine as many of these paths into the one operation. No. 1 [i.e. Meditation & Concentration] must be in all -- for if you have no clear picture of what you wish and no certainty you will not succeed -- `tis useless. No. 2 [i.e. Trance] can be combined with this easily. Nos. 3, 4, and 5 [i.e. Drugs, Dance, & Chants] are all good preliminaries -- also 6 and 7 [i.e. Blood control & the Scourge]...
If Gardner really wrote all of this as a sexually addicted flagellant, why wasn't the scourge the primary tool of magic, essential to every good ritual? Rather, it almost seems mentioned as an afterthought.
Further, on page 92, Kelly quotes Gardner as saying that scourging should be done "with light, steady, monotonous, slow strokes" (emphasis mine). This hardly sounds like the "beatings" to which Kelly keeps referring, and hardly what one might expect of a flagellation addict.
On page 64, having detailed what he believes to be material "lifted" from the Masons and the Golden Dawn, Kelly goes on to "consider Gardner's own additions":
1. The triangle binding of the arms behind the back is Gardner's own addition. It is simply the way he liked to be bound while being scourged.
As Kelly has not presented any evidence that Gardner was a flagellant, this is pure unsupported speculation on his part. He goes on:
2. The scourging of forty strokes is Gardner's addition. There is no reference to scourging in any Masonic or magical ritual that I have yet seen.
Perhaps not, but then Kelly has already demonstrated that he is not very well read in the literature of magic. In fact, his reading seems to be limited to The Greater Key of Solomon, as that is the only grimoire he ever cites, as on page 88:
As I have already said, there is certainly no mention of scourging in The Greater Key of Solomon, nor of the scourge as a magical tool.
Not in The Greater Key of Solomon, perhaps, but the grimoire tradition has many more texts in it than just Solomon's. Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy discusses both ritual scourging in Book III, Chapters LVI: "Of Penitency, and Almes." and LVII: "Of those things which being outwardly administred [sic] conduce to expiation." and the significance of the number forty in relation to same in Book II, Chapter XV: "Of the Numbers which are above twelve, and of their powers, and vertues [sic]."
Kelly suggests, on page 94, that Gardner rewrote the "New Forest group's" rituals to increase the amount of scourging after 1951, when he was "freed from Dorothy's domination". We know absolutely nothing about the relationship between Gerald Gardner and Dorothy Clutterbuck. No one could even prove that she ever existed until Valiente did in 1980 (Farrar, 1984, pp. 283-293). There is no way that Kelly can know that Dorothy "dominated" Gardner, but since he has tried very hard to get us to accept that Gardner was a flagellant, he seems to assume that we will just accept this claim uncritically.
The many instances of unsupported assertions that Gardner was a flagellant all seem aimed at proving one point, the point Kelly makes on page 65:
Hear a plain truth: the reason Gardner included all this scourging is that he could not "work the Great Rite" without it.... Now hear another: anyone who can have sex without being scourged has no reason to include scourging in the ritual. (emphasis Kelly's)
One might very well think that Kelly (or persons close to him) has a strong personal grudge against or psychological aversion to scourging. As the officiating Priest at Kelly's Gardnerian initiation, I am well aware of the opinions and feelings that Kelly has expressed on this subject; opinions which he himself has recently published in a letter printed in the Beltane 1991 issue of the Gardnerian journal, The Hidden Path:
The fact is that it is the ultraconservative [Gardnerians] who have introduced changes [into the ritual scripts], and who are attempting to force those changes on everyone else [including Kelly]. It is they who have decided that the specific way that they were initiated is the only correct way to be initiated as a Gardnerian... (emphasis Kelly's)
To what is Kelly objecting? Among other things, the use of the scourge:
At this point I have identified at least five different drafts of the initiation rituals: 1. As they were worked by the original New Forest coven, ca. 1940 -1944; these were something like what Rhiannon Ryall describes, and there WAS NO SCOURGE (emphasis and caps Kelly's).
2. As rewritten by Gardner to work in as much binding and scourging as possible, and used from 1946-1953; these were as in High Magic's Aid....
Kelly's wife, Julie O'Ryan, expands on this in a companion letter printed with another version of Kelly's letter in the March 1991 issue of another Craft newsletter, Protean Synthesis:
When Gardner created the rituals, he did just that. He created rituals to meet his own spiritual/ sexual needs, stealing/borrowing from anything that worked from whatever sources he could get access to. In order to do as Gardner did, we can not simply re-enact his rituals; we must meet our own spiritual/sexual needs,...
So Kelly, and others close to him, have a minor theological squabble with the rest of the Gardnerian community. Is it really such a big deal that I can call it a "hidden agenda"? Kelly's letter to The Hidden Path demonstrates just how important this issue is to him:
This is not just a matter of opinion; it is something that I could prove in a court of law if I had to -- and when you are discussing such matters as organizational membership and the legal rights thereof [?], ownership of the organization's intellectual property [?], and so on, which IS what we are discussing, then the court of law becomes a very real possibility. And you cannot claim that "Craft Law" forbids going to court when that "Law" was itself written only in 1957. (emphasis and caps Kelly's)
So, Kelly feels strongly enough about this that he would take closeted Witches into a public court, but apparently not so strongly that he feels he should inform the reader of his bias. Notice also, that he defends his action by pointing to his own arguments concerning the validity of the Craft Laws.
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