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Madellana, Leland, and Aradia


Okay. I give up. Somewhere on our board I know I've touched on this subject's material before. But I can't find it. When Kat comes around, she who possesses the board's collective, institutional memory, maybe she'll point me to the post. Or maybe my treatment of the story was tangential to some other topic, which I suspect is likely the case. Doesn't matter. I want this story set in the electrons. One of those stories that could spawn a movie.

Charles Godfrey Leland, 1824 - 1903, born in Philadelphia, was noted as an American journalist, humorist, trained lawyer who never practiced, graduate of Princeton, also studied in Europe, something of an education reformer who involved himself in the, so-called, Arts and Crafts Movement, a veteran of Gettysburg, credited with coining the term emancipation to replace abolition, sometime ethnographer interested in gypsies, a prolific writer, and finally a folklorist. Ancient Etruscan Civilization a central interest of his, which interest took him to northern Italy.

In Tuscany he met a woman who he would refer to as his "witch informant." Her name was Madellana, described as a "semi-literate peasant woman born of an Italian witch family." Over the course of months, I suppose, she supplied Leland with material about and information on La Vecchia Religione, The Old Religion. For some reason she gave this gadjo everything she knew and everything she could find about the Old Religion. She gave him the story, central to the faith, of Aradia, a semi-mythical 14th Century woman, likely a high priestess, said to be the daughter of the Goddess Diana and her Consort, Lucifer, who had been sent by her mother to teach the last of the pagans, peasants and country folk, the magical means with which to protect themselves against the Church's soldiers and Inquisitional persecutors and judges. She taught folk how to cloak themselves in invisibility, how to fly from danger, and she taught charms, spells, and medecinals. Her sacred precinct was the shores of Lake Nemi, just south of Rome, and sacred to pre-Christians long before, long, long before the Latin tribes established their Rome. According to Madellana, Aradia never died. When her work was done her mother, Diana, simply took her back up into her arms.

So Leland got the story from Madellana. Sometime in the 1880s as best as I can figure. He not only got the story of Aradia, again he got the charms, spells, medecinals used by the strege. As mysteriously as she showed up she as mysteriously disappeared, left the scene. I imagine this. I imagine this young itinerant, gypsy woman showing up at his door one last time with a bundle of papers in her arms. Maybe she understood that the ways of the strega were bound to get lost. Maybe also she understood that by giving the information over to a gadjo she had broken a taboo. For whatever reason Leland never saw her again.

In 1899 Leland published his "Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches." Since then his findings have been disputed. Many, many times disputed actually, which, of course, is what intellectuals and scholars get paid to do. But Leland was no slackard when it came to textual interpretation. In writing about the material Madellana handed over to him, he said something damn incisive. Keep in mind that charms and spells are the property of poetry. Leland said this: "Reading them and feeling them subjectively, I am often struck by the fact that in these Witch traditions which I have gathered there is a wondrous poetry of thought, which far excels the efforts of many modern bards, and which only requires the aid of some clever workman in words to assume the highest rank." He then goes on to compare these simples, as it were, to the likes of Browning and James Lowell, two poets in his day known to treat with the subject matter of Diana, and who, in comparison, he found lacking in "poetry of thought."

Last word on the subject. Leland was one lucky fellow. I so envy him. Right man at the right place at the right time. Damn near forgot. Leland's book become a primer for certain witchy types.

To repeat. I can so see a movie in the story. Leland, a 19th C. scholar bent on his studies into ancient Etruscan Civ., for whatever reason interrupted by Madellana, at first importunely. With folk lore in hand, he realizes the wealth of it, throws himself into it. So many possibilities in the story. Meetings between the two, scholar and informant, Tuscany countryside, esbats maybe visited, the old wives tales, and, in my handling, flashbacks to the days of Aradia teaching Diana's lore to peasants, always a slight step ahead of the pope's soldiers, the shores of Lake Nemi, finally her apotheosis. Back to the present, that last fateful meeting between Madellana and Leland when she hands over a final batch of material before disappearing.

Leland wrote a book, by the way, still kept in print. "Aradia: Gospel of the Witches."

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Dec/18/2014, 4:06 pm
Aug/31/2014, 5:34 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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What a sweet story I just told. Just the bare bones and so much texture hinted at.

Tere
Aug/31/2014, 5:47 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Sep/1/2014, 4:29 pm Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 
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Thank you Libra.

Tere
Sep/5/2014, 7:55 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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"42 is categoriacly inversed by the integers of the divine fraction, thus making it a necesary key to the sub-complex division of life's true cause. This was proved by philosopher Charles Leland in the 19th Century."

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