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Aidan Kelly: Wikis


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Aidan Kelly is a poet and co-founder of the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn, a form of Wicca, or Neopagan Witchcraft invented in San Francisco in 1968. Kelly and college classmates recreated a Witches' sabbat for a class project, drawing on various sources, including Robert Graves' The White Goddess.

The group that resulted was humorously named after the famous Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, although it has no other connection to that group. While in his Ph.D. program in the mid-1970s, Kelly was a co-founder of the Covenant of the Goddess. At that time he was given publicly available documents written by Gerald Gardner, and believed he could reconstruct from them a history of how Gardner founded modern Wicca.

In the mid-1970s, in a battle against alcoholism[1] Kelly turned to the Roman Catholic Church, his childhood religion. However, appalled by findings of his historical research into the Inquisition, Kelly returned to paganism and, in 1987, was initiated into Gardnerian Wicca by Lady Brighit in California.

In 1991, Kelly published a book based on his earlier research, Crafting the Art of Magic, which has since been republished in a revised 2007 edition titled Inventing Witchcraft.


The thesis of Kelly's book Crafting the Art of Magic is that Wicca was entirely a creation of Gerald Gardner. He has been criticised by Donald H. Frew of having extensively misquoted source texts to support his hypotheses. For instance, Kelly cites Gardner's Ye Booke of ye Art Magical as containing the text:

"The Knights of the Temple, who used mutually to scourge each other in an octagon, did better still; but they apparently did not know the virtue of bonds and did evil, man to man. But perhaps some did know? What of the Church's charge that they wore girdles or cords?"

According to Frew[2] the actual text reads as follows (with spelling errors):

"[...] The Knights of the Temple, who used to mutualy scurg each-other in an octagan did better still, but they aparantly did not know the virtue of bonds"

The text ends there, and there is no mention of doing 'evil, man to man', a phrase which Kelly uses to accuse Gardner of homophobia. Frew believes there is a strong agenda in Kelly's work, and points out that several claims of Kelly's are unsupported by any evidence, such as his claim that Gardner was addicted to flagellation.[2]

It is advisable to note here that "Ye Bok of Ye Art Magical," aka "The Gardnerian Book of Shadows" had many editions, edited by both Gardner and Doreen Valiente.[3]

Partial bibliography

  • Crafting the Art of Magic, Book I: A History of Modern Witchcraft, 1939-1964 (Llewellyn's Modern Witchcraft Series), 1991 ISBN 0-8754-2370-1
  • Inventing Witchcraft, 2007 ISBN 1-8704-5058-2


  1. ^ Harris, L. Lisa (2006). "Look Back in Controversy: A Samhain Interview with Aidan Kelly". Widdershins. Retrieved 2008-07-20.  
  2. ^ a b Frew, Donald H. (1998) "Methodological Flaws in Recent Studies of Historical and Modern Witchcraft", in Ethnologies 20-1. Canadian Folklore Association.
  3. ^



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