The Entanglement of Esotericism and Scholarship in Charles Leland’s Work

When I was first dipping my toe in the waters of occult study, one of the first books I picked up was Charles Leland Aradia: Gospel of the Witches. Years later, I learned that the iconic Philadelphia Art Museum’s original core collection include Leland’s research materials. Here’s an interesting article about his involvement with the esoteric beyond simple academic research. The abstract reads:

“Magic and fortune-telling have been standard elements in stereotypes about Europe’s Romani minorities since the fifteenth century. These stereotypes produced two mutually contradictory images of the Roma: That they possess real occult powers, and that they are frauds. Both images were perpetuated by nineteenth-century ‘gypsylorist’ scholarship, which construed ‘the gypsies’ as Europe’s internal Orientals. This article demonstrates that the most influential gypsylorist author on magic, the folklorist Charles Godfrey Leland (1824–1903), sought to harmonize the two images through a new theory of magical efficacy – building on established work in folklore as well as his own life-long engagement with esotericism.

“Leland’s alignment with occultism is a textbook example of the entanglements of esotericism and scholarship in the period. Seeing occultism as a constitutive context for gypsylorist speculation on ‘gypsy magic’ sheds new light on the history of Romani studies and helps explain the perpetuation of anti-gypsy stereotypes in alternative spirituality.

Read the entire article:

Frater Lux Ad Mundi

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