This classic of neo-Paganism is one of the few books which purports to be an actual sacred text of traditional witchcraft, in particular that of the Tuscan region of Italy. Charles Leland was an American expatriate journalist, folklorist, and author. He based this book on material which he received from a woman named Maddelena, who had assisted him in collecting regional Italian folklore. On New Years day, 1897 she handed over to him a document in her own handwriting, the Vangel, which is the core of this book. Maddelena then reportedly went missing, and never contacted Leland again.
The authenticity of Aradia has always been in question. Ronald Hutton, in his scholarly study of the roots of neo-Paganism, The Triumph of the Moon (Oxford University Press, 1999), presents three divergent theories about Aradia: first, that is a genuine text of an underground Italian Goddess religion, second, that Maddelena wrote it based on her family tradition, or third, that Charles Leland forged it based on his extensive knowledge of folklore. Each of these theories has pros and cons: it may be that the second and third are closest to the truth.
Whatever the source of this material, it has had a profound impact on the emergence of neo-Paganism, and is required reading for anyone interested in the subject.
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