Aidan Kelly, the oldest of four children, was born on the 22nd October 1940 in Colon, Panama, where his mother Marie Cecile Kelly was married to his father John Patrick Kelly, a Lieutenant in the US military. At the time of his birth, his father was on his first assignment in Panama after graduating from West Point (the famous US Military Academy established in 1802). Unknown to Kelly until the 1990’s, throughout the second World War and for the rest of his service, his father had worked as a high-ranking covert operative in military intelligence.
During his service John Patrick had led the family around the world before retiring from the military and settling in Mill Valley, California in 1955. Here and to finish his basic education, Kelly attended the Tamalpais High School graduating in 1957. Incidentally, a search through the schools records shows that this was the same school that Anton Szandor LaVey (Howard Stanton Levey), founder of Church of Satan, graduated from in 1947, although the two were never associated.
As the group developed Kelly wrote most of their rituals based on his earlier researches of Gerald Gardner; he also created their Book of Shadows. Today the NROOGD tradition is one of the oldest continuing Craft traditions in North America, and has active covens operating throughout the United States. Since their inception in 1969, members in the San Francisco Bay area have frequently hosted large public and semi-public rituals and festivals during the Sabbats.
In 1970 Kelly divorced his first wife Anne Devere Ralph, and a year later married his second wife Alta Picchi. Together they had a daughter Maeve Adair Kelly on the 12th January 1973. At the end of 1973 he resigned from his staff position at W. H. Freeman and Co, and started work freelance in order to fund his Ph.D. program at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley. Another year later in 1974, he and his wife Alta were initiated into the Feri Tradition of Witchcraft founded by Victor Anderson, Gwydion Pendderwen and Alison Harlow.
Kelly wrote a book based on his initial researches under contract with Llewellyn, but the finished manuscript was turned down as being too intellectual for the general mass market they were aiming at. Instead, Kelly used the book to satisfy his doctoral exam on the Sociology of Religion at the GTU in Berkeley. However before he could complete his studies, in 1976 Kelly reached a crisis in his life when he admitted to having a drink problem. As a result of this he started a twelve-step sobriety recovery program with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). As Kelly states it: “The Craft as he understood it at that time could not help him to maintain his sobriety, and a year later he became a practising Roman Catholic again in order to have an adequate spiritual path”.
In 1980 Kelly received his Ph.D. in Theology from the GTU in Berkeley and for the next eight years taught at various schools in the Bay area of San Francisco, including the University of San Francisco and the Holy Family College in Fremont, CA. In 1988 he divorced his second wife Alta Picchi, and having reconciled his beliefs in witchcraft, became an active member of the Craft again working with a number of Feri and eclectic circles in the Palo Alto area of San Francisco.
After marrying his third wife Julie O’Ryan, they both took initiation into a Protean coven, a branch of Gardnerian Wicca founded in 1980 by Judy Harrow in New York. In 1989 they relocated to Santa Barbara in Southern California, and there on the 21st March 1990 Julie gave birth to their son Aidan Edward O’Ryan-Kelly. After the birth of their son, they moved again this time to Los Angeles, where Kelly took employment working on the staff of publisher Jeremy Tarcher. He also worked as a freelance editor and set about founding his own publishing company. From 1990 to 1992 both he and Julie served as local officers for the Southern California Council of the Covenant of the Goddess, and at the same time in 1991 Kelly founded the Aradianic Faerie tradition, a path of sexual shamanism.
Also in 1991, Kelly’s long awaited History of Modern Witchcraft was finally published by Llewellyn publications entitled: Crafting the Art of Magic - Book 1 - A History of Modern Witchcraft, 1939-1964. The thesis of his book is that modern day Wicca was entirely the making of Gerald Gardner, who he credits with the inventive creative genius and ability to form a new religion in the twentieth century. Kelly’s book was one of the first serious academic studies into the origins of modern Wicca, and in it he challenged Gardner’s historical claims that Wicca was a surviving ancient religion, as such his book came under heavy criticism from hardcore Gardnerians.
While Kelly was criticised for this early edition of his book when it was published, over time it has effectively inspired new academic interest and research into the history of Modern Witchcraft. As Professor Ronald Hutton the UK’s leading historian on Witchcraft summarises in his own book: The Triumph of the Moon (1999): “The overall effect was to defend the notion of Wicca as a viable new religion while discrediting Gardner himself, by casting doubt both upon his historical claims and his personal tastes. In this, perhaps, he did another service to scholarship, by presenting Wiccan revisionism in such an intemperate and provocative guise that any subsequent scholar who tackled the matter was bound to appear moderate by comparison, and therefore to be the more welcome to Wiccans.”
Today in 2008 Kelly with his wife and family are located in an area of New Orleans, Louisiana, where he continues teaching while writing about witchcraft, adding to the growing store of academic knowledge as slowly more and more secrets about contemporary Witchcraft are revealed. He and Melinda continue to work with and develop their Witch Grass Coven, about which more information can be found here: http://members.tripod.com/witch_grass_coven-ivil/witchgrasscoven/ Kelly is also the host of an online email forum called Gardnerians All
Books in PDF format to read:Teresa Burns - John Dee And Edward Kelley Great Table
Aleister Crowley - Berashith An Essay In Ontology
Al Selden Leif - Pagan Spells Bath Spells