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.

Gardner's texts & "sources"

On page 46, Kelly finally presents Gardner's texts... or are they? As I noted above, Kelly is actually presenting an arrangement of texts from those sources which support his theory. It is already quite clear that we are dealing neither with original texts nor with Gardner's arrangement of them. Kelly states:

I am here placing materials in an arbitrary order in order to simplify my discussion of them.... I use italics within the text of the documents to flag passages that are word-for-word quotes from known sources. (emphasis mine)

Kelly has made a subtle assumption here. The correct and scholarly form would be to say that passages so flagged appear word-for-word in other sources, without implying the direction of flow. Kelly has not yet demonstrated whether Gardner borrowed from others, others borrowed from Gardner, or both borrowed from earlier sources, but by introducing the concept in this way, he predisposes the reader to see Gardner as a plagiarist.
 On page xvi, Kelly states that:

...the major published sources from which the [Gardnerian] rituals had been constructed included a) Mathers' edition of the Greater Key of Solomon; b) Aleister Crowley's Magick in Theory and Practice; c) Leland's Aradia; d) some Masonic rituals akin to those described by Duncan and those of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (aside from those transmitted by Crowley); and e) Margaret Murray's The Witch-Cult in Western Europe. There were also bits and pieces from other works by Leland, Jane E. Harrison, Gilbert Murray, James Frazer, and the other great classicists and mythologists of the 19th century. That accounted for EVERYTHING in the rituals. (emphasis Kelly's)

Aside from the observation made above that a text appearing in two places does not prove which was taken from which, or even if one was taken from the other, the problem with this statement is that it just isn't true! There are many other "sources" identifiable in the Gardnerian texts presented by Kelly (some of which will be addressed in my discussion of scourging). Kelly seems to limit himself to identifying "sources" of which copies existed in Gardner's library (page 38), but if Gardner did receive oral and/or written material from a folk tradition, one wouldn't necessarily expect to find copies in such a library.
 This does not stop Kelly from making statements like:

These [procedures] are terse and cryptic, and refer to data from The Greater Key of Solomon that Gardner had copied onto yet other pages (page 47). (emphasis mine)

This, of course, is pure speculation on Kelly's part. The Mathers edition of The Greater Key of Solomon (actually titled The Key of Solomon the King (Clavicula Salomonis)) was published in 1888. Materials from this text could have entered folk tradition long before Gardner received it. In fact, material from the Key of Solomon could have entered the English folk magic tradition much earlier than that. A manuscript of the Key in English, Sloane 3847, was in existence in England in the 16th Century (Butler, 1979, p. 49 & Thompson, 1972, pp. 230-238).
 On page 50, Kelly notes that "Gardner uses the Cable Tow in his initiation rituals quite differently from the way that it is used in Masonic ritual." This would seem to contradict his statement that "EVERYTHING" in the Gardnerian rituals can be found in published sources.
 On page 54, Kelly notes:

If Gardner had received anything comparable to this material [from Crowley & Leland] from an older coven, why would he need to lift material wholesale from published sources?

Kelly seems to be completely unaware of the extent to which published material, especially from the grimoire tradition, can enter folk magic practice. Prof. Glynn Custred, chronicler of Andean folk magic in Peru, has noted that he was unable to understand the spells of the Andean sorcerers he studied until he familiarized himself with the grimoire tradition of Medieval and Renaissance Spain. Ritual texts and practices from European grimoires had entered and permeated the Andean folk magic tradition, having been brought from Spain by conquistadors (Custred, 1983). Herbert Leventhal notes that German "magicians" and cunning folk in America in the 18th century regularly used the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses in their conjurations (Leventhal, 1974, pp. 107-109), while Will-Erich Peuckert has shown that this book was a conglomeration of material from many earlier grimoires (Peuckert, 1957).
 Indeed, Peuckert has demonstrated that material from the grimoires permeates the folk magic tradition across all of Europe, from Italy to Sweden (Peuckert, 1954), so it is no surprise that some such material might turn up in any folk magic tradition handed down to Gardner.
 On page 94, Kelly comments on a text of Gardner's on "gaining the Sight", observing:

Since we even have early drafts of it in the notebooks, we can be quite certain that this document was written all in one piece, and does not show any evidence of including quotations from earlier traditional documents.

Unless the "early drafts" were "quotations from earlier documents". It doesn't even matter which text Kelly is discussing. This kind of fallacious argument is repeated throughout the book.
 Kelly goes on to say:

The procedures described in this document, and all the comments about them... seem perfectly sensible as part of a basic shamanistic technique. But we need not suppose that Gardner had such information from any source other than books.

Faced with what even Kelly has to concede could be remnants of a genuine shamanistic tradition, Kelly has to dismiss it with a specious, non-falsifiable argument. His observation would be essentially the same as saying: Since all of the basic concepts and practices in Michael Harner's books can be found in the works of Carlos Castaneda, we have no reason to believe that Harner ever went to the Amazon. How could Gardner have been legitimately heir to a folk tradition and not have this "reasoning" apply? The folk and grimoire traditions have been so well documented that it would be suspicious if Gardner's material did not dove-tail into well-trodden and well-attested areas of folk study. Kelly's argument only bolsters Gardner's.



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.