Question of the Week
Philadelphian Charles Godfrey Leland was a journalist, editor, poet, and soldier during the Civil War. What is he most remembered for writing and researching?
Answer: Witchcraft, pagan traditions, and the occult.
Charles Godfrey Leland was a noted journalist, editor, and poet, well-known for his writings on craft, folklore, and occultism.
Born in Philadelphia in 1824 to merchant Charles Leland and Charlotte Godfrey, he graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in 1845, later studied in Munich, Germany, and traveled extensively throughout Europe. After his time abroad, Leland returned to Philadelphia and began working for magazines and newspapers. He edited publications such as the New York Times, Vanity Fair, the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, Knickerbocker Magazine, Continental Magazine, and the Philadelphia Press. During the Civil War, Leland enlisted in the army and fought for the Union at the Battle of Gettysburg.
After the war, Leland returned to Europe where he penned the majority of his work, particularly focused on handicrafts, pagan traditions, gypsy culture, and beliefs in witchcraft. Throughout his career, he produced more than 50 books including The English Gipsies (1873), Johnnykin and the Goblins (1879), Leather Work, A Practical Manual for Learners (1892), and Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches (1899). Leland declared his book, The Witchcraft of Dame Darrel of York, was a researched account of “Fairys, Elves, Goblins, Bargests, Ghostes, Gasters, Bendys, Pixys – Pillicockes Hobthrushes, Friar Rushes, Pictrees Dules, Night Hagges, Giantes Yethhounds, Devilkins, Spoornes, Robin Goodfelows, and all theyr kinde.” He died in Florence, Italy on March 20, 1903, and his ashes were interred in Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery.
Image: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s collection of Charles Godfrey Leland’s papers (#363) contains some of his published and unpublished manuscripts. It also contains poetry, records on his studies at Princeton, and travel diaries.
About the Author
Look for these history stories every Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The stories, called Memory Stream, are published in the Currents section of the newspaper.