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.

Update Continued

4. Paul Suliin asked me if it was true that all of the Gardnerian material was in published sources. I responded that this was definitely not true, but that it was the secrecy of those texts that had not been published that was guarded most jealously. Indeed, this was the reason for the oath required of Kelly at his initiation, as I described in the Acknowledgements. All Gardnerians are aware that there are many texts and sections of texts that have never been published. Ironically, the very oath that protects the secrecy of the traditional Gardnerian material also protects Kelly's arguments from contradiction. The fact that Kelly himself has reaffirmed his adherence to this oath at public gatherings is an admission that he is well aware that there are Gardnerian materials that are not found in any text.
 Paul also said that he felt that I was holding Kelly to an arbitrarily high standard of evidence. It was common in textual criticism, he said, to assume that text A was copied from text B if texts A and B are the same, and if A is later than B. This may be true, but it must be said in response that such a methodology can only determine which is the original text out of an assortment of texts. The approach of textual criticism cannot in any way determine whether or not the earliest text had oral or folkloric predecessors! Kelly's argument is akin to saying that since we can determine that the Gospel of Mark (circa 90 AD) is the earliest written version of the life of Jesus, and that the other Gospels are revisions of it, this is evidence that there was no such person as Jesus or any other Christians before 90 AD and that Mark made the whole thing up. This is nonsense! Once again, Kelly is applying the research tools of a scriptural, "revealed" religion to an oral, "natural" one. Not only is Kelly unfamiliar with the content of folklore scholarship, he is apparently unfamiliar with its techniques as well.

5. Leah Samul takes exception to Kelly's statement on page x where he says:

...I call all Neopagan Witches Gardnerian Witches, because, as far as I can tell (and I will be telling the tale here of how thoroughly I have looked), all the current activity derives from widespread imitating of Gardnerian practices, and from no other source. (emphasis mine)

As Samul points out, there is no way that Kelly can prove this claim without personally examining the Books of Shadows or other relevant material of all of the 200,000 Neopagans that he says are practicing in America. Not only that, but on pages 21 -26, Kelly describes the practices of several Neopagans who were:

...around in America (and probably in England, although I have no hard data on that) before 1939 who called themselves witches and practiced witchcraft, and who may have considered witchcraft to be their religion. Although there were very few of them, their existence is well-documented, and is not a problem in itself.

This group includes Victor Anderson and his still-thriving Fairy Tradition. So, Kelly is saying that Gerald Gardner, who made "all" of modern Craft up in 1939, is the sole source for the Witchcraft practiced by these people before 1939? This doesn't make any sense.
 Samul also pointed out that several of the views that Kelly attributes to the Craft as a whole, especially his explanation of the Wiccan view of reincarnation, appear to be completely idiosyncratic to Kelly and are views that are not held by any of the Witches of either her or my acquaintance. Additionally, Samul notes that Kelly's insulting remarks about Cardinal Ratzinger have no place in a scholarly work.

6. Carl Weschcke, owner of Llewellyn Publications, responded to my review by saying:

While it is true that I accept Aidan's analysis of my collection of the "Weschcke documents" as pure Gardner -- written on the same typewriter as letters I received directly from Gardner as described on page xv of the book -- even though I had received the Documents from a man to whom Gardner had referred me in the course of research into references to "the Witches Cradle" described in William Seabrook's WITCHCRAFT: ITS POWER IN THE WORLD TODAY (Harcourt, 1940) -- I have my own views on the matter of the origins of modern Wicca. ... Wicca works, and in that sense I don't care if Gardner invented it entirely. I don't think that is what Aidan claims, however.... Good wishes to your writing. My only correction to the rebuttal is that you have mis-spelled my name, dropping the "c" between "h" and "k". [This has been corrected.]

How can Weschcke say that Aidan is not claiming that Gardner "invented it entirely" when on page xix Kelly states that:

... nothing in the "Craft Laws", or in the entire Book of Shadows, makes sense as part of a tradition received from a pre-1939 coven... I am NOT saying "There is no evidence to support such claims." I am saying that there is now a great deal of evidence, all of which I have used to reconstruct the history set forth in this volume.

Additionally, Weshcke's support of Kelly's analysis of the "Weschcke Documents" sheds little light on the source of those documents.

. Chas Clifton, a contributor to Gnosis Magazine, responded by asking:

... as long as we're dealing with hidden agendas, shouldn't you simply say up front that while Kelly has abandoned the idea of a pre-1939 coven, you have not?

That I have not "abandoned" a possible explanation of the facts surrounding Gardnerian origins and have addressed my entire article to this question hardly strikes me as a "hidden agenda", whereas Kelly's Faery and Gardnerian agendas are hidden to the extent that he conceals his affiliation from the reader.



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.