Wednesday, April 28, 2004

50th Anniversary of Witchcraft Today

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Gerald Gardner's Witchcraft Today, a fascinating book, although flawed by the author's pretense that he is a sort of anthropologist reporting on "them," the witches, rather than in fact what he was--co-founder of the modern magical religion of Wicca.

An American edition was published later by Citadel, now part of Kensington Books. My old copy (4th paperback printing) is dated 1973.

Now Citadel has re-issued Witchcraft Today with the original text and illustrations plus additional annotation and four additional essays. Those new contributors are Judy Harrow, the project's editor, plus historian Ronald Hutton, Wren Walker of The Witches' Voice web site, and Tara Nelsen, a graduate student, bookstore owner, and Pagan activist from southern Illinois.

Harrow, in particular, has produced some fascinating work, tracking down nearly every one of the sources upon which Gardner drew (in his slapdash way), producing what amounts to an annotated bibliography of the original edition. In addition, she indexed the book--it always lacked an index--and wrote a second essay with reading lists, focused on all the themes, such as spellcraft, which Gardner touched upon.

Preparing annotated bibliographies may not seem as sexy as writing about spells or shamanism, but they provide a true service to future researchers. Like the centennial edition of Charles Leland's Aradia: or The Gospel of the Witches, which I was privileged to write an essay for in 1999, the appearance of this edition marks one more step in the maturation of contemporary Paganism.


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