These three lines from Charles Godfrey Leland’s book, Aradia: Gospel of the Witches, have been quoted and misquoted for over one hundred years:
In the original Italian:
61. Sarete tutti nudi, per fino.
62. Che non sara morto l'ultimo
63. Degli oppressori e morto,
Leland’s translation of those lines:
61. Ye shall be naked in your rites,
62. this shall last until the last
63. of your oppressors shall be dead;
The actual translation of those lines is different:
61. Will be hidden completely, also
62. As the last isn’t yet dead
63. Of the oppressors is dead.
The actual translation of line #61 does not state that worshipers should be “naked in their rites”, nor does it specifically discuss whether the nakedness is one of physicality or of spirituality. My translation of this line does not appear to be correct, but when taken in context with the following two lines, will make sense, since the nakedness spoken of here seems to be related to a condition the witches should maintain until all of their oppressors are deceased. Being uncovered while the oppressors are alive is not logical. Afterward, covering one’s self because there were no more oppressors, makes even less sense. No where in the Italian wordage is any word relating to “rites” in that passage. “Rites” would be, in Italian, riti or cerimoni, and neither of these words appear in the original text.
[The word nudi has been translated as nude or naked, which is certainly ONE of its meanings, but I do not believe that this was the intention. The word can also be translated to mean 'bare, uncovered, unadorned, simple, plain, barren' or even 'natural'. I am struck, however, by the lines after this mention, which don’t make sense when applied to Leland’s translation. Apparently, the material is saying that the witches shall remain naked until the last of their oppressors is dead, when the opposite would be the more logical state of events. It would make more sense if it were to say that they should be covered or hidden or even disguised until such time as the oppressors were dead, and then their nakedness, their freedom, would be encouraged.]
Leland added that, perhaps for readability, or to satisfy some other agenda. There is much in his translation which appears to have been added for whatever reasons he had at the time, but aren’t borne out by the Italian words he supposedly was translating. If he added certain words or passages for the poetic value of the work, that would be, in my mind, unforgivable. One must never “play” with a manuscript to cause it to rhyme or to say what we think it should say.
Erica Jong, in her book, Witches, states, “Clearly, the nakedness of modern witches makes it even easier for the puritanically inclined to associate witchcraft with orgies and wild, antisocial acts.” She adds, “The figure of the witch seems to gather to her person all that is considered immoral, titillating, satanic - and therefore irresistible - by straight society.”
Leland is writing at the end of the Victorian era, when such things as nudity were secretly relished, although regarded openly as obscene. For instance, it was quite proper to have artwork of fairies who were naked, but pictures of naked people were not at all proper. Drawings or paintings of nudes were acceptable to Victorian society, but photographs of nudes were considered prurient. He may just have included this passage to satisfy the lust of his readers.
During a time period in Europe and Italy when anyone practicing magic in any form had to do so secretly, so as to avoid the church’s punishment (which could be fatal), it isn’t logical that magical practitioners cavorted anywhere without clothing, at any time of the day or night.
Italian witchery is a family-oriented craft, with secrets passed along from parent or grandparent to child or grandchild, from a very young age, at the appropriate times when the recipient is ready to receive such knowledge. Everything the Italian witch does must be permissible to be accomplished in front of the child. For this reason, I simply do not believe that the Italian witches whom Leland contacted told him that they practiced in the nude, or that Leland practiced with them in the nude.
Scott Cunningham, in his Guide for the Solitary Practitioner tells us: “Among many Wiccans today (particularly those influenced by the writings and ideals of Gerald Gardner, or one of his students), nudity is a preferable state in which to invoke the deities of nature. It is certainly true that this is the most natural condition in which the human body can be, but ... the church did much to instill shameful feelings regarding the undraped human figure. These distorted unnatural emotions survive today.
“Many reasons are given for (the) insistence on ritual nudity. Some Wiccans state that the clothed body can't emit personal energy as effectively as can a nude body, but then go on to say that when necessary, clothed rituals performed indoors are effective as nude outdoor rites. If clothed, Wiccans produce magic just as effective as that produced by naked Wiccans. Clothing is no barrier to the transference of power.”
From Hecate’s Cauldron, an online grimoire: Many Wiccans perform ritual skyclad. Many Witches wish not to participate in ritual nudity. Not because they are ashamed of anything, but feel that it is not necessary. Nudity in ritual stems from Leland's Aradia, Gospel of the Witches wherein in the "Charge" it says "and ye shall go naked in your own right." It was never proven that the material Leland said to have received from a gypsy who claimed to be a witch and in which he created Aradia, Gospel of the Witches in 1890 was authentic. Leland was a writer whom published over seventy-three books. Most of those books were not on Witchcraft. No artifacts can be found, no written material other than what Leland wrote of a Goddess originating from Tuscany in the form of Aradia. In fact, there are no mythology books on any Goddess known as Aradia or of Diana giving birth to Aradia or even having a brother named Lucifer, unlike her cousin, Artemis, in the Greek Mythology whose brother was Apollo. I have a feeling that Leland's material is no more authentic than Gardner's Wicca which has been proven that Gardner's Book of Shadows of Laws, rituals and initiations came from various sources including Key of Solomon, The Golden Dawn, and Free Masonry, to name a few, and not from some ancient tradition to which he claimed he was initiated into. Gardner was initiated into ceremonial magick traditions but not Witchcraft. [http://silvermoon691.tripod.com/index.html
The Witches’ Sabbath was supposed to be a weekly midnight convention of witches, warlocks and demons, a combination of a cannibalistic feast, sexual orgy and blasphemous Satan worship. It was believed that Lucifer appeared in the form of a black goat to preside over the hellish proceedings and coupled with all of some of those present. According to witchcraft confessions (most extracted
by torture), the Sabbath started with the lighting of a fire from which the witches lit torches or black candles. Lucifer would then appear, and one by one the participants would make some form of obeisance to their master. Usually this took the form of “osculum obscenum” or “osculum infame”, kissing the Devil’s anus. The pleasure of these occasions, therefore, appears rather dubious. In confessions the food and wine are often described as vile smelling and tasting, and sex with demons icy and painful. If such occasions ever took place, it probably was only in the form of fantasies of the demonologists and witch hunters themselves. [Pickering, Dictionary of Witchcraft, 406; Dictionary of the Occult, 196.]
Early in the 20th century, Edward Carpenter (1844-1929) was influential in the Pagan movement. In his Civilisation: Its Cause and Cure he wrote:
“The meanings of the old religion will come back... On the high tops once more gathering he will celebrate with naked dances the glory of the human form and the great processions of the stars, or greet the bright horn of the young moon which now after a hundred centuries comes back laden with such wondrous associations all the yearnings and the dreams and the wonderment of the generations of mankind the worship of Astarte and of Diana, of Isis and the Virgin Mary; once more in sacred groves will he reunite the passion and the delight of human love with his deepest feelings of the sanctity and beauty of Nature; or in the open, standing uncovered to the Sun, will adore the emblem of the everlasting splendour which shines within.”
Raymond Buckland gives a biblical reference for nakedness in prophecy, but his reference is slightly in error. The reference is in I Samuel, chapter 19 (not 20, as Buckland states), verses 23 and 24:
“23: And he went thither to Naioth in Ramah: and the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in Ramah.
24: And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?”
The European witches of these modern times seem to prefer being “naked in (their) rites” as seemingly proscribed in Leland’s first chapter, and the majority of witches in the US prefer to be robed. Some factions of the craft insist upon nudity in ritual, and others leave it up to each witch to decide. Buckland’s “proof” of historical ritual nudity is to mention the many paintings, etchings and drawings that exist of witches, in which most of them are unclothed. For that matter, so are the Gods and Goddesses, but that doesn’t mean that all Gods, Goddesses, or witches were naked in their ritualistic doings. Many of the art works we seem to think point to nudity for witches are simply works in which a talented artist painted a model disrobed in order to show his or her understanding of the human body.
This argument can be found, in a slightly shorter version, in my latest book, Aradia: Gospel of the Witches, Retold. That book and others of mine are available through my storefront, at http://stores.lulu.com/deliathecrone
. There I hope you will preview the book(s), perhaps purchase one or more, and leave your comments there for me so that I may respond. I welcome all constructive criticism. Should you choose to purchase a book from my storefront in the month of January, 2010, you will receive a 10% discount on your purchase, if you will enter the following code upon checkout - READMORE2010. This offer expires on January 31, 2010.