Revisiting the "Moon": An Interview with Ben Whitmore
To really get to the bottom of things, you have to pierce through fashion. Don't rely on single sources, and especially look for opposing views. Try to challenge your own views just as much as others', and keep an open mind until you're pretty sure you've understood where all the evidence sits. There are remarkably few things in history that are fully agreed on, and you really need to understand the dance between different opinions and where the precise points of disagreement lie. A good historian will delve into these details; a poor one will brush over them.
If this sounds like a lot of work, it is! I wrote my book largely as a guide for the perplexed Pagan, to save you all some work, but of course you won't know if I'm correct until you check my sources, evaluate my critics, and so on. It all takes time and effort.
The Wilfred Isherwood quote has become dear to my heart. Was there anything you discovered in your research that particularly touched you?
Yes, hearing Mr. Isherwood speak in such heartfelt terms about the Hoodening tradition as his group's 'religion' really touched me. He also spoke with great pride about how far back the tradition went in his family. Apparently his great-great grandfather met an honorable death when he drank the 'Hoodening cup' and it killed him. It must have been a potent concoction!
The Guernsey 'werewolfery' was also a real eye-opener. I can really empathize with those kids struggling to retain some self-expression in a puritanical society, and the games they came up with sound hilarious. As a mischievous soul myself, a knitter, a Mummer, and a keen dresser-up, their 'esbats' pretty much tick all my boxes!
It was some time after I read Darryl Ogier's research on this before I thought of checking if there had been any witch-trials in the area. I was shocked to discover that during this same period, Guernsey was mutilating, banishing, and executing people for witchcraft, and not only that, but descriptions of this 'witchcraft' sounded virtually identical to the youths' games, other than that one involved witches and devils, the other young men and women. Paying a bit more attention to the names mentioned in these trials, it seemed that older relatives were arguing in defense of younger ones, and that different members of the same family could be prosecuted with very different fates: one for disturbing the peace, the other for communing with the Devil. I think this is the first time the horror of witch-hunts and what they must do to small communities really struck home, probably because I had in some ways identified with the victims. One of the most amazing things in all this is that these youths kept going with their games, despite the obvious risk. If that's not a test of faith, I don't know what is.
A hopeless movie junkie, Star Foster believes that good movies are the mythic narratives of our times.