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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.

Pre-1939 Witch groups & Kelly's research

On page 20, Kelly says that he has "heard indirectly from Gavin Frost" that a group imitating Margaret Murray's version of Witch practice may have been operating "at Cambridge in the 1930s". I can only assume that Kelly is mistakenly referring to a group to which Pennethorne Hughes belonged at Oxford in 1928. On page 1 of his book Witchcraft, Hughes describes how he was part of a short-lived group inspired by Murray's work. It is puzzling that Kelly seems to be unaware of this group, or at least neither mentions it nor cites Hughes' pro-Murrayite research, as Hughes' book is referenced in the bibliography of Gardner's The Meaning of Witchcraft (on page 287). Was Kelly so intent on discovering Gardner's "hidden" sources that he didn't check his published ones?

The antiquity of other, non-Gardnerian Craft traditions

On page 21, Kelly says that he does believe that there were pre-1939 Witch covens whose "existence is well-documented", just not "proto-Gardnerian" ones. As an example, he gives us the Faery Tradition and its modern proponent, Victor Anderson:

According to the researches of Valerie Voigt... Victor relates that he was initiated into the Harpy coven in Ashland, Oregon, in 1932...

I'm not saying that Anderson made the Faery Tradition up, nor do I consider Voigt unreliable, but I do have to wonder why in Kelly's eyes the uncorroborated word of one man is definitive evidence while the corroborative testimony of several individuals is a conspiracy of deceit. This evidence is especially weak as it is a 2nd hand uncorroborated claim. Why didn't Kelly ask Anderson himself about his alleged initiation and print his response for the readers to evaluate?
 The same argument applies to Kelly's use of Rhea W. as an example of a pre-1939 non-Gardnerian Witch on page 23. It starts to look like Kelly just has it in for Gardner. I shall address this possibility in greater detail further on in my essay.

Mysterious & unsupported statements of "fact"

On page 35, Kelly quotes Murray regarding the chief festivals of the Witch-cult:

The dates of the two chief festivals, May Eve and November Eve, indicate the use of a calendar which is... preagricultural and earlier than the solstitial divisions of the year... The cross-quarter days, February 2 and August 1... also kept as festivals, were probably of later date.

Kelly's response to this claim of Murray's is:

Murray's speculations here are, in fact, completely wrong, but that merely proves that the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, which in 1953 had rituals for only the four Celtic festivals, none for the solstices and equinoxes [sic], was based on Murray, rather than a more accurate source.

Kelly is arguing that the fact that the Gardnerians originally had only four non-solar Sabbats is "proof" that they were lifted from Murray rather than deriving independently from a genuine folk tradition. Why? What is "completely wrong" with Murray's speculation? Kelly neither says nor cites a source. He just expects us to believe.
 When I asked noted folklorist Holly Tannen about this passage, she was unable to see what Kelly was claiming to be "completely wrong". Indeed, the section on "Festivals and Ritual Gatherings" in Anne Ross' Everyday Life of the Pagan Celts (pages 197-201) also delineates these same four festivals as basic to the Celtic ritual calendar. And Caoimhin O Danachair writes in "The Quarter Days in Irish Tradition" that:

...in the Irish folk calendar there occur four festival days which are separated, each from the next, by regular intervals of three months, and thus divide the year into four quarters. These festivals are Lá Fheile Brighde (Saint Brighid's Day, 1st February), Lá Bealtaine (May Day, 1st May), Lá Lunasa (1st August), and Lá Samhna (All Saints, 1st November). (O Danachair, 1959)

It would appear that, contrary to Kelly's unsupported assertions, the Gardnerian Sabbats are very much in keeping with authentic folk tradition.



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