Charles Godfrey Leland was an American humorist and folklorist, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was educated at Princeton University and in Europe.
Leland worked in journalism, travelled extensively, and became interested in folklore and folk linguistics, publishing books and articles on American and European languages and folk traditions. Leland worked in a wide variety of trades, achieved recognition as the author of the comic Hans Breitmann’s Ballads, fought in two conflicts, and wrote what was to become a primary source text for Neopaganism half a century later, Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches.
Leland was born to Charles Leland, a commission merchant, and Charlotte Godfrey, on 15 August 1824 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Leland fabricated a story that shortly after his birth his nurse took him to the family attic and performed a ritual involving a Bible, a key, a knife, lighted candles, money and salt to ensure a long life as a "scholar and a wizard", a fact which his biographers have commented upon as foreshadowing his interest in folk traditions and magic.
Leland's early education was in the United States, and he attended college at Princeton University. During his schooling, Leland studied languages, wrote poetry, and pursued a variety of other interests, including hermeticism, Neo-Platonism, and the writings of Rabelais and Villon. After college, Leland went to Europe to continue his studies, first in Germany, at Heidelberg and Munich, and in 1848 at the Sorbonne in Paris. He got involved in the revolution that year, fighting at constructed barricades against the King's soldiers as a captain in the revolution.
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