I came to read the original book by Charles Godfrey Leland rather late, and when I did, I knew immediately that some of his ‘translation’ was wrong. In my mind, translation refers to simply telling what the words say in another language. What he seems to have done is to interpret rather than translate, in many instances. In others, he ignored the Italian passages that he’d included, and offered no translation (or interpretation) of any kind. In still others, his translation was simply wrong. He included English words that had no Italian word in the original to back up his inclusion. I was dismayed, to say the least.
For my own use, I began to re-translate each Italian passage he’d included in his book. Since I don’t actually speak Italian, but have a smattering of it in my history, and an understanding of how the language works, that was a rather daunting task. I collected (and still have) several different Italian-English dictionaries, and grammars. The work was slow and deliberate, but it was only for my personal use, so that didn’t matter at the time. But it caused me to wonder just how much else might have been mis-translated, in the passages that he presented only in English. We have only his word for what those passages actually said.
Over the years, friends who knew of my working translation urged me to offer it up for publication. But by the time I had it pretty much completed, Dr. Mario Pazzaglini and his mother, Dina, had just published their own new translation of the text. I quickly purchased a copy and read it from cover to cover. I found a few places where Dr. Pazzaglini was unable to decipher certain phrases, or didn’t notice particular oddities in the Leland work that I had already come to terms with. I drafted a letter to him immediately in the hope that he and I could collaborate on a new edition of his work. When I searched the internet for an address where I could send the letter, I discovered that he had just died. I was crushed.
I couldn’t see my way to publishing my work on the heels of his, even though I felt his to be incomplete, so I put mine away for a couple of years, and went on to other things. But I began to see that I continually returned to my own translation for truth rather than the Pazzaglinis’, which convinced me that mine needed to be offered to the public.
Leland published his original book in 1899, and 100 years later, in 1999, Pazzaglini published his new translation. I re-edited my version and self-published it in 2009.
I have received a glowing review of this book, which I am proud to share here:
“When Charles Godfrey Leland published Aradia or the Gospel of the Witches at the end of the nineteenth century as the crowning product of his Italian researches of the 1880s and 1890s, he believed he was preserving what remained of an ancient but dying tradition before it was too late.
Over the years, a number of authors, scholars and pagans alike, have gone back to Aradia and attempted to clarify or expand on the material Leland presented. Many of them (most?) were not Italian, or even versed in that language, making any translation or understanding by them immediately suspect.
Finally we have a new translation of this 120-year old book, one that ignores the question “Is the material factual?” in favor of cleaning up the inaccuracies in the text (likely from translation errors) and providing commentary that clarifies what might be meant in terms of the authors’ personal knowledge of Italian culture and superstitions in practice even today.
This is a very well-done, exhaustively annotated, scholarly work. Highly
~review by Lisa Mc Sherry, at http://www.facingnorth.net
I’ve also received some fan mail:
“Just wanted to thank you for Aradia: Gospel of the Witches, Retold! I was jangled by Leland’s version in some places, many of which you clarified and addressed. I am only just learning the particulars of The Old Religion, so it must be what I bring from other lifetimes that disallows the thought of threatening the Holy Mother or any other deity for that matter. It twisted in my gut, so reading your words released that, and for that I thank you. Oh, and the Italian grammar lesson was phenomenal! I’ve been wanting to study Italian, and researching it online, I haven’t encountered that level of detailed information on any site that claims to teach Italian!! Brilliant!”
“The book, Aradia: Gospel of the Witches, Retold arrived yesterday and I had to tell you that I think it’s wonderful! I am also of Italian descent, I am a first generation Italian American on my father’s side, and although I wasn’t able to study/learn magic in Italy, I have always felt close to my family and the traditions so far away. I read Raven Grimassi’s book and it just didn’t seem right to me. I have met him in person at PantheaCon, and he doesn’t feel like a ‘Paisano’ to me! I’m fascinated to see a new translation. So forgive me for rambling, but I had to tell you how much I am enjoying your book! Molte grazie!”