Leland, Charles Godfrey (1824–1903)
Versatile American writer and folklorist who researched traditional
witchcraft lore. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
on August 15, 1824. He graduated from Princeton University
and also studied at Heidelberg and Munich, after which
he lived in Europe for a number of years. Leland became well
known for his humorous dialect verse The Breitmann Ballads
(1871) and for his research in gypsy lore and language. He first
discovered and elucidated Shelta Thari, the secret language of
the tinkers.
From 1886 onward, Leland was friendly with Maddalena, a
Florentine fortune-teller and hereditary witch from Tuscany.
She communicated to him the traditional witchcraft lore, which
he published in Aradia; or, The Gospel of the Witches (1899;
Weiser, 1974). The book played a prominent part as a source
book in the modern revival of Wicca, or witchcraft, since the
1960s. Leland, a genial giant of a man, seemed fascinated by
anything occult or mysterious. He died in Florence, Italy,
March 20, 1903.
Sources
Leland, Charles Godfrey. The Alternate Sex; or, The Female Intellect
in Man, and the Masculine in Woman. London P. Wellby,
1904.
———. Aradia; or, The Gospel of the Witches. 1899. Reprint,
New York Samuel Weiser, 1974.
———. A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon, and Cant. London Ballantyne
Press, 1889. Reprint, Detroit Gale Research, 1967.
———. The English Gipsies and their Language. New York
Hurd and Houghton, 1872. Reprint, Detroit Gale Research,
1968.
———. The Gypsies. Boston Houghton, Mifflin, 1882.
Leland, Charles Godfrey, and Albert Barrére. Gypsy Sorcery
and Fortune-Telling. London T. Fisher Unwin, 1891. Reprint,
New Hyde Park, N.Y. University Books, 1963. Reprint, New
York Dover Publications, 1971.
———. Memoirs. 1893. Reprint, Detroit Gale Research,
1968.
———. The Mystic Will. New York Hero Publishers, 1972.
Pennell, Elizabeth. Charles Godfrey Leland. Boston Houghton,
Mifflin, 1906.

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