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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.
West Country Wicca
If Kelly seem unreasonably critical of Gardner, he appears unusually credulous of others, as becomes obvious with his treatment of Rhiannon Ryall.
On pages 41-42, Kelly uncritically accepts the claims of Ryall regarding her membership in a rural coven, arguing that the ritual texts in her book are "the New Forest coven's rituals as they were worked before Gardner rewrote them to better meet his own sexual needs." Most reviewers (including Eran, Wolfe, and Clifton) have seen the obvious similarities between Ms. Ryall's rituals and Gardnerian ones and have assumed that Ms. Ryall "borrowed" hers from published Gardnerian sources, but it should also be noted that there are reasons to question the authenticity of Ryall's work independent of its "Gardnerian" texts.
On page 1 of her book, Ryall states she was taught the Craft in the 1940s in the West Country of Britain. She cannot produce any verifying documents because there aren't any "because most people in those days were illiterate". This is not only convenient, it is also untrue. The Cambridge Historical Encyclopedia of Great Britain & Ireland states that "by 1901 the vast majority of the United Kingdom was literate, including 99% of Scotland, 97% of England & Wales, and 88.5% of Ireland."
Ryall also cannot produce any corroborative testimony because "now all [her] teachers are dead and those who were [her] contemporaries have moved on". Apparently, no one in the West Country perpetuates this tradition that Ryall tells us thrived there as recently as the 1940s. Once again, as with Victor Anderson, Kelly accepts the undocumented and uncorroborated testimony of a single person as truth, seemingly for the sole reason that he can use it to support his argument.
Elsewhere, Kelly is fond of arguing that if Gardnerian material can be found in published texts, that proves that Gardner "lifted" said material from those texts, rather than obtaining it from the folk tradition first-hand. If Kelly is going to be consistent in his arguments (which he isn't), then he himself would have to argue that there is no reason to believe that Ryall's material comes from anywhere other than published books on Gardnerian Wicca.
Interestingly, on page 42 Kelly states that he believes that some of Ryall's material came from "local folk witches". So, apparently Kelly is willing to admit that there were folk witches about in England, but that Gardner alone was not in contact with them.
Kelly's not-so-puzzling ignorance of Book of Shadows construction
On page 45, Kelly notes with some puzzlement that:
...Gardner habitually copied rituals into his book piecemeal, on widely separated pages, often onto pages containing other material as well. What his reasons were for doing this one can only guess.
Anyone who has ever copied a Book of Shadows by hand will not find this puzzling at all. The problem with hand-written material is that, unlike the text I'm word-processing as I write, you can't easily change it later. As a result, a hand-copied Book of Shadows almost always contains elements of single rituals spread over a number of pages. You write material down as you receive it. If material received after attaining a higher degree, or even an elder covener's recollections, are pertinent to a ritual script already recorded in your Book... Tough. You just have to stick it in somewhere later. Even in this age of xerography, many of us have 3-ring binders as Books of Shadows, allowing us to reshuffle material at will and so avoid this limitation of the hand-copying process.
Kelly is apparently unaware of this as he himself was never required to copy a Book of Shadows by hand. The NROOGD Book of Shadows he wrote himself, and so he could organize it at his leisure and to his heart's content. The Book he passes to others as a Faery Tradition Book of Shadows he received as a xerox copy from Ed Fitch by way of Gwydion Pendderwen, and is actually a Mohsian Book of Shadows anyway (Pendderwen, 1971 & 1972). The Gardnerian Book he received on a computer disk, as confirmed by the officiating Priestess at Kelly's Gardnerian initiation (Harper, 1991).
That's right. Kelly is a Gardnerian priest, as well as an initiate of the Faery Tradition, neither of which does he tell the reader. His apparent reasons for not doing so will be addressed later.
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