Unleash the Hounds! (Link Roundup)

Unleash the Hounds! (Link Roundup) February 16, 2012

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

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66 responses to “Unleash the Hounds! (Link Roundup)”

  1. Might be of interest to know that here in the UK council prayers have been ruled unlawful: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-16980025 this bans council from forcing councilors from attending prayers. In response Lord Carey claims that “Christianity is being marginalised” and communities secretary Eric Pickles says that he will try to bring forward the Localism Act giving local authorities that power to reverse the ban http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-16995239. Baroness Warsi claims Britain is under threat from “militant secularism” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17021831. This all comes in the wake of PM David Cameron declaring that the UK is a Christian country http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-16224394.

  2. This is one of those weird and interesting cases we have every now and again. Unlike the USA, Britain does not have separation of Church and State. So legally, we *are* a Christian country (so long as that’s CoE, of course). In practical fact, however, we’re extremely secular in public life – and then there’s the possible conflict with laws concerning religious discrimination that have not yet been fully tested.

    In another contrast with America, quite a bit of the movement towards separating Church and State seems to come from within the CoE itself. There were some unpleasant conflicts of interest in the early 20th century, you see, and a lot of Anglicans would rather like to cut themselves free from being seen as part of the Establishment (insofar as that’s possible). And that, for anyone who ever wondered, is what ‘Disestablishmentarianism’ and ‘Antidisestablishmentarianism’ refer to.

  3. When I was shaver I wondered why the latter word was ever coined, why the antonym of the former would not merely be “Establishmentarianism.”

  4. Well, it’s already been established, see? The Establishmentarian question was back in the 16th century, so we need a new name for this one. Heaven help us if the Church leaves the State and then wants back in again….

  5. Ronald Hutton is simply wrong about the word “Witch”. The standard dictionary for Anglo-Saxon (Bosworth and Toller) equates “wicce” with “pythonyssa”, that is, “Pythoness”, an appellation famously associated with the “Witch of Endor” found in the First Book of Samuel. But the Witch of Endor was not a worker of harmful magic at all, but rather a diviner and a medium.

    Hutton goes completely off the rails when he insists that the “popular” meaning of “Witch” remained stubbornly and unequivocally “pejorative” (that is, referring only to an individual who “uses magic to harm others”) at the time of the English “Reformation” (so-called), when English Protestants, according to Hutton, took it upon themselves to apply the label of “Witch” to those who were “benevolent magicians, people known by many names but most commonly as ‘cunning’ or ‘wise’ folk.”

    Is Hutton really unaware of the fact that among the “many names” that these “benevolent magicians” were known by was, already, the word “Witch”. The primary sources, those very Protestants that Hutton is referring to, bear witness to the fact that healers and soothsayers were knows as “good witches”, “white witches”, “healing witches” and “blessing witches”, and that these were all popular appellations applied to people who were also know as “charmers” and “cunning” men and women (and/or “folk”).

    Hutton doesn’t get his facts backwards so much as he turns them inside out. The Protestant witch-craze-mongers argued against the popular conception that there were both good and bad Witches. It was these good Christian “reformers” who insisted, against the well established popular usage of the day, that all Witches are inherently evil.

    In fact, words in various European languages that refer to those with magical abilities, such hexen, sorciere, strega, bruja, etc, are all ambiguous and can rever to those who do harm as well as to those who do good, and, most especially, those who can do both. The usual thing is for the “goodness” or the “badness” of the magic being done to be either made explicit (with such adjectives as “good”, “bad”, “black”, “white”, etc), or for it to be obvious from the context (healing versus cursing, for example). The English word “Witch” would be highly unusual if it were what Hutton keeps insisting it is. But it is not and never has been.

  6. Personally, I found this statement by Hutton to be a little puzzling:

    “Incidentally, it puzzles me that, whereas Paganism is supposed to be a complex of religions centred largely on the power of the feminine…”

    Is his knowledge of modern Paganism really so limited that he thinks that that is where our religions are ‘centered’. At best, that might describe a limited movement within Wicca, but not the rest of Wiccans nor the rising numbers of reconstructionist-type Pagans that have been on the scene for decades now, as well as other Pagans not so easily categorized. I said it in response to his original interview, and I’ll say it again, Hutton is far too uncritical in his usage of the the word Pagan, or Paganism, and far too often uses it as if it were synonymous with his limited view of Wicca.

  7. Well, Hutton is being intentionally vague since he is just blowing smoke about the supposed “Pagan fundamentalists” he has supposedly met around the world. bah. This is Hutton’s pathetic fallback position. All those who disagree with his unfounded revisionism are labeled, without ever being named, as “fundamentalists”.

    Ronald Hutton has been going on about “fundamentalists” at least since Triumph. Who are these fundamentalists? He can’t name them because they don’t exist except in his head.

  8. Oh, you know, Pagan fundamentalists are those people that believe that the Pagan Bible is the literal word of the gods which can only be interpreted literally. They are trying to set up a Pagan theocracy and ban all non-Pagan religions and they kill people with horrible acts of terrorism! There are, like, tons of those right?

  9. “raises hand”, though I don’t think I’ve ever met Ronald Hutton. I have received the appellation from “modern pagans” on numerous occasions.

  10. Actually it is not a British institution only the English have a State church. There is no established Church in Wales, we disestablished it in 1920 in a famous victory no-one now remembers, or in Northern Ireland and while the Church of Scotland is a national church it is not an established one. That is why only English Bishops sit in the House of Lords.

  11. In the dialect of the Dutch province of Overijssel there exist or existed the words wikker and wikster meaning wise-man, wise-woman. These words were used only for positive magicians or advisers, and are obviously related to “wicca”. Overijssel is a Saxon region, these words do not occur in the standard language.

  12. Hi Henry, Hutton claimed, in Triumph, that by 1990 (or thereabouts), Wicca “had broken out of the trap of fundamentalism”. Were you one of the fundamentalists who had previously succeeded in entrapping Wicca? How did you manage to do that, and how did you feel when you and your fellow fundamentalists lost control of Wicca? Was it devastating? What did you do to fill the void? Did you all get together and go entrap some other religion, or did you just move on with your lives?

  13. Does this word, “Fundamentalism” directed at Pagans and Wiccans refer to the aspects of Intiatory and Traditional practices? (Traditional Wicca, for instance) I am not sure what the exact context and uses of the word Fundementalism applies to some Pagans and Wiccans, in particular.

  14. For Ronald Hutton and his fans a “fundamentalist” Pagan is anyone who gives any credence whatsoever to the notion that modern Paganism is in any way shape or form related to ancient pre-Christian religious traditions.

    There are two problems with that position:

    1. Ronald Hutton himself has admitted that modern Paganism has “a distinguished and very long pedigree stretching back … to Hellenistic Egypt.” In fact, Hutton devoted about 1/3 of his book “Witches, Druids and King Arthur” to discussing the extensive relationship (which Hutton explicitly admitted that he had completely overlooked in his previous book, “Triumph of the Moon”) between modern and ancient Paganism.

    2. The other problem is that a great many very reasonable and very “mainstream” modern Pagans continue to assert that our modern Pagan religious traditions do indeed have ancient roots. These include such wild eyed fundamentalists as Guz diZerega, Christopher Penzack, Vivianne Crowley, Eileen Holland, Ellen Cannon Reed, Sorita d’Este, David Rankine, Denise Zimmerman, Katherine A. Gleason and many others.

  15. well, no. I never even knew of ‘Wicca’ until got on the net in the mid ’80’s. I was just a plain old witch, so the idea of the craft as a ‘religion’ in the modern usage appalled me. I’d hardly want to embrace a religion let alone entrap one lol.
    I think folks, like Hutton, confuse fundamentalism with zealotry. Even modern definitions of the word fudamentalism color it with religious overtones and zealotisms. So maybe he’s speaking about wiccan zealots.
    This whole business of scholarly investigation of the craft as to whether it is a “religion’ of any age is akin to a person who searches for a lost object under a street lamp, not because that is where it was lost but because that’s where a light is.

  16. I would really hate to see this thread devolve into yet another one of Apuleius’ lengthy and tiresome soapbox rants. if you’re going to use this space to trash Ronald Hutton AGAIN, please have the decency to at least read the article in question. Based on your comments so far, you’re misreading, misinterpreting, and misquoting it very badly.

  17. Peg, do you have anything to say about Hutton’s claims concerning the origins and meanings of the word “Witch”? Did you actually read what I wrote? If you did, you have chosen to completely ignore the content of my comment because you prefer to engage in personal insults. Well, that says a lot about you, but does not really contribute anything to the discussion about Pagan history. Then again, I guess it does contribute something, because it provides yet another data point telling us what kind of people ally themselves with Hutton, and what kind of “discussion” they are really interested in engaging in.

  18. Daniel,

    I think Hutton and many other people use the term Wiccan fundamentalist (or sometimes pagan fundamentalist) to refer to someone who believes the following:

    1. The people who were persecuted during the European witch hunts as witches were actually members of an organized underground pagan religion that had survived since the rise of Christianity. (Most modern historians would instead argue that the people persecuted during the witch hunts were Christians, Jews, atheists, and Christian heretics.)

    2. Modern Wiccans are members of this same organized underground religion which survived since the rise of Christianity. (Most modern historians would instead argue that Wicca was created by Gerald Gardner in the 20th century from many pre-existing sources like folklore, pagan myths, Masonic ritual and ceremonial magic. Some of these sources did contain pagan themes and ideas which had survived the rise of Christianity, although not as an actual organized religion.)

  19. The idea that the early modern Witch Hunts constituted (at least in part) a systematic effort to eradicate surviving elements of pre-Christian religions is not a “fundamentalist” position at all. In fact, that view has continued to find support among a significant number of experts.

    Here is a list of some of the scholars whose work tends to support this supposedly “fundamentalist” position:

    P.G. Maxwell-Stuart
    Ruth Martin
    Carlo Ginzburg
    Alan Macfarlane
    Eva Pocs
    George Luck
    Emma Wilby
    Richard Horsley
    Lizzie Henderson
    Dorothy Watts
    Keith Thomas
    Christina Larner (now deceased)
    Mary Douglas (now deceased)

  20. I’m not an Anglo-Saxon scholar, but are you certain you’re reading the evidence correctly? A simple Google search brought up the relevant datum that “wicce” is used as a gloss on pythonissa in Adhelm’s prose *De virginitate*, with the latter being defined in the Corpus Glossary as “spiritus inferni,” which scarcely suggests moral ambiguity in its usage. (Merrit, *Some of the Hardest Glosses in Old English*, Stanford Press, 1968, pp. 94-95)

    I’d like to believe that your other objections to Hutton’s argument are based on scholarly evidence that “witch” was popularly used for both beneficent as well as malevolent magic-workers during the period he mentions (1550-1950). That would be easier if you would produce some.

  21. “The idea that the early modern Witch Hunts constituted (at least in part) a systematic effort to eradicate *folk practices that arguably contained* surviving elements of pre-Christian religions *among self-identified Christian practitioners* is not a ‘fundamentalist’ position at all. In fact, that view has continued to find support among a significant number of experts.”


  22. Then, briefly, they belive in community continuity from the rise of Christianity to the present, including bad times during the Inquisition?

  23. The term “fundamentialist” is used in a precise way among theological scholars. I only recall bits, but iirc three characteristics are: belief in some prior Golden Age in which everything was fine, and could be again if people followed the right ways; a sense of being surrounded by hostile forces; and a tendency to withdraw from the world. (That last one doesn’t seem to currently describe the ones who call *themselves* funfamentalist, but this is an old recollection.)

    If this actually describes the Pagans Hutton refers to, and does *not* in the same degree describe Pagans generally, Hutton uses the term justifiably; if not, not.

  24. I inserted additional language into AP’s statement to reflect the actual positions of those authors, rather than what he’d like their positions to be. The posted interview contains this statement from Hutton about Ginzburg and Paolo Portone:

    “Neither of them champion the idea of a surviving medieval or early modern pagan religion, separate from Christianity and in opposition to it, let alone one which survived till modern times. Both emphasise instead the importance of ancient pagan elements absorbed into medieval and later Christian culture, carried on by people who assumed that they were themselves Christian even if other kinds of Christian did not always agree. I am completely in agreement with them in doing so, the main difference between us being that I have hitherto concentrated more on the way in which the pagan elements got filtered back out of the Christian in modern times to create a set of resurrected Pagan religions.”

    I’ve read Pocs and Wilby, and I would describe their views in the same way that Hutton describes Ginzburg’s. Hence my correction.

  25. It is quite common to encounter this attitude (expressed by Scott above) according to which certain sets of ideas and behaviors are privileged as “religion” while other sets of ideas and behaviors are classified as “folk beliefs and practices”.

    But the simple fact is that these distinctions are at best arbitrary, but are far from random. They reflect ethnic and other biases of those who make these distinctions. Almost without exception one finds that just about anything that can possibly be passed off as Christianity gets automatically classified as “religion”, no matter how ridiculous the ideas are or how monstrous the behavior, while non-Christian (and especially non-Abrahamic) beliefs and practices are routinely shunted off to the “folk” category.

    This kind of arbitrary and self-serving chauvinism is to be expected from missionaries and their ilk, but it really should be studiously avoided by anyone who wants to be taken seriously as a student of religion.

    Also, Scott’s simplistic approach to religious identity is dead on arrival. In any society where everyone is baptized at birth and the punishment for apostasy is death, relying on “self-identification” is well, naive is the nicest word I can think of.

  26. In his Introduction to the posthumously published collection of Christian Larner’s essays (“Witchcraft and Religion”), Alan Macfarlane explains that Larner had posited that “what is termed ‘the Christianization of the peasantry'” provided one of the key “proximate causes” of the witch-hunts. According to MacFarlane, this Christianization consisted of winning the peasants away from a “largely animistic” religiosity to one where “Christian belief became predominant.”

    In other words, the European peasantry in the 16th & 17th centuries, according to Larner, was still largely “animistic”, which is essentially the same thing as saying they were Pagan.

    Here is Larner in her own words, from Chapter Twelve of her book “Enemies of God” (the chapter is subtitled “The Christianization of the People”):

    “Europe was effectively Christianized for the first time by the twin movements of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation.”

    Larner turns the question on it’s head! She insists it is not a matter of good Christian Europeans with perhaps a bit of “folk” belief still hanging around to frighten children and inspire poets. Instead, Europe was never really Christianized in the first place except in the most superficial sense, until the dawn of the modern era!

    Talk about two different ways of framing the issue!

  27. Why the anger? This is the sort of thing you see on british sites, when someone dares question Hutton’s academic double-speak. I don’t find AP’s rants tiresome at all. I realize Hutton has many fans here, but not everyone genuflects at the Imperial College of Hutton.

  28. Scott, why can’t you quote from Wilby, Pocs, Ginzburg, etc? Why can you only quote from Hutton’s own contorted redaction of them?

    But as to the Hutton quote (which tells us nothing about what anyone thinks other than Hutton, it bears repeating) this does help to illustrate his complete inability to comprehend the complexities of religious identity, and especially his refusal to acknowledge the well known and incontrovertibly established fact of widespread religious dissimulation throughout the middle ages. Everyone who claimed to be and/or appeared to be a Christian was not a Christian, and everyone who was a Christian was not only a Christian.

  29. heh, that just reflects a poor vocabulary for theological scholars. More precise terms reflecting what you give above would be romanticism or idyllicism.

  30. On the first issue, “Pythoness” is incontestably associated with the so-called Witch of Endor (First Samuel 28:3-25) and more generally with the Priestesses of Apollo at Delphi (called Pythia, after Pytho, the ancient name of Delphi). Therefore there is no doubt about the association of “Pythoness” with the beneficial magical powers of divination and mediumship (the traditional powers associated with the Priestesses of Apollo at Delphi and specifically with the Witch of Endor).

    On the second issue, see the collected sermons of William Perkins (died 1602), where one finds, for example: “By the lawes of England the theife is executed for stealing, and we thinke it just and profitable; but it were a thousand times better for the land, if all witches, but especially the blessing Witch might suffer death.” Perkins also makes frequent use of the term “good Witch”. (For the full citation and much more extensive quote look here.)

    In Thomas Ady’s “Candle in the Dark” (1656), it is explicitly stated that the term “good Witch” was part of the popular vocabulary and was another name for those who were also referred to as “Cunning” folk:

    ” … those delusions and lying Wonders, by which men were so easily deluded in old times by Pharaoh’s Magicians, by Simon Magus, and Elimas the Sorcerer, and now adays by our professed Wizzards, or Witches, commonly called Cunning Men, or good Witches …”. (For full citation look here.)

  31. Kudos to Apuleius Platonicus for fighting the good fight about Hutton. I will not be reading the article, because it would just make me very angry to listen to yet more falsehoods, ignorance, prejudice, and weaselly words directed toward people who have tried to correct the inaccuracies in Hutton’s statements and book. Ho Hum; this has been going on since the 90’s. “Pagan Fundamentalist”, huh? Hutton used to try to marginalize his critics by calling them “feminist” but I guess he’s found some new rhetoric.

  32. I’ve not read the new Gardner book yet, so am reserving opinion… however, Mr. Hutton has made some serious mistakes in the past.

  33. Unfortunately Mr. Hutton seems to think that no modern Pagans or Witches have ANY roots whatsoever in the past, that they all died out… or perhaps he’s revised his opinions since I read his first two books.

  34. Using the terms “Folk beliefs and practices” are a way for certain academics to marginalize the common peoples’ faith.

  35. The word “witch” could’ve come from the Welsh word “Gwrach”. This originally meant what we now consider to be a witch… now is a term for “wife”.

  36. As opposed to coming from Old English ‘wicca’ (masc., pron. WITCH-a) and ‘wicce” (fem., pron. WITCH-eh)? I think the Anglo-Saxon origin is much more likely.

  37. There is little doubt among modern scholars today that a thorough Christianization in Europe occurred during the times of Reformation / Counter-Reformation. What occurred at the same time was the ‘modernizing’ of states with the view that ideally the ruler/absolutist monarch would know everything about his area, therefore would wish to have clear statistics, and – well, a homogenized state.

    The implementation of these ideas of what a state should be demanded that all sorts of independent practices be wiped out ( – and please don’t clobber me for the use of the term ‘practices’ here, I am indeed blatantly trying to sidestep the question of what constitutes a ‘religion’ and what doesn’t, letting alone if personally I’d even want to aspire to ‘religion’ …).

    There is also little doubt these days that the ‘practices’ were ancient, of course pre-dating Christian ideas. At the same time, evidence points to their having been adapted, even by the practitioners, to Christian practices. What remains open is if that was simply a cover, or if this constituted genuine attempts at combining two religions, or if both occurred. Possibly people at the time did not feel the need for this type of compartmentalization, while the Christian and secular powers did, and sought to stamp this out simply because it showed a certain independence of thought and belief.

    For example, some of the ‘curses’ or ‘incantations’ that have survived and that were used as evidence at some of the witch trials simply look like ordinary ‘prayers’ as in Christian prayers to present day readers – us. Yet at the time Christian prosecutors counted them as evidence to warrant burning. (Of the person in possession of these prayers, not the prayer alone.)

    Ages ago (20 years) I researched witch prosecutions at university, plodding through the photocopies of old cases (‘urgicht’), working through one that actually recorded the answers given by the ‘witch’ – a woman from Augsburg, sentenced to death aswitch (Hexe) in 1623. One example of course does not mean much, and ‘evidence’ achieved through torture is – well, I leave that to anyone’s guess. Yet, reading the direct recording on these pages, in the then handwriting and local dialect, is different from taking it from secondary sources, though that is bad enough. You can almost hear her screams, denying over and over again that she practiced witchcraft, insisting she was a good person, all along with her crying that she wanted to die. So, whatever the scholar and the intent, I’d like to see careful statements made about what people did and did not believe or practice during these times. I’m with Apuleius Platonicus in that their beliefs have been belittled and discounted (if I’m even reading AP right, if not apologies). Still – decency towards those who had torture applied to them, and execution, ought to call for a certain reticence in our deciding what they did or did not believe. (Not to collude in their being stamped out again.)

  38. I’m not trying to privilege “religion” over “folk beliefs” at all. I’m privileging the agency of the people who were describing themselves as “Christians” over your attempt to retroactively classify them as “pagans.”. I privilege the Mormon and Catholic self-identifications over those applied by fundamentalist evangelicals similarly.

    I’m not unmindful, as I’ve said before, about your observations regarding apostasy and the hegemony of medieval Christianity, but my feeling is that the strongest argument you can make on that basis is “we don’t know.”. Claiming that there were a bunch of cryptic pagans in medieval Europe simply goes beyond the evidence.

  39. I think you misread my argument. Hutton’s claim is that the equation of “wicce” with “pythonissa” is an attempt to bias the reading of the morally-neutral practices of the latter with the negative connotations of the former. Your counterargument, as I read it, is that their equation shows that both were regarded as morally neutral. The Corpus Glossary definition of “pythonissa” as “spiritus inferni” or “infernal spirit,” without reference to “wicce,” supports Hutton’s argument but not yours, unless you’re arguing that “spiritus inferni” was also a morally-neutral designation.

  40. Um, you just reminded me of something “AnonGuest”:
    Why so many ad hominem attacks whenever anyone questions Hutton?

  41. That was not an ad hominem attack. Anon’s remark was a brief statement that you don’t argue as if you were in possession of some essential facts. That’s about your argument, not about you — ad argumentum (valid) vs ad hominem (fallacy).

  42. Actually, it was ad hominem and rather blatantly so.

    And it is also true that there was already at least one ad hominem attack on me in this thread before I had even posted anything! The same thing also occurred in the comments section on Jason’s post concerning the new BBC Gardner documentary and Philip Heselton’s (excellent) new bio of Gardner.

    As I said in my response to Peg Aloi, I think these personally insulting comments by Hutton’s supporters are quite educational.

  43. Apuleius, you shock me. You don’t know the difference between argumentum ad argumentum and ad hominem.

  44. Baruch: “Anon’s remark was a brief statement that you don’t argue as if you were in possession of some essential facts.”

    Precisely. Anon’s remark was about Gene (even more precisely: a baseless surmise about Gene), not about what Gene had actually written.

    Anon did not state what it was about Gene’s statement that indicated that Gene had not read the article. Had anon attempted to show that what Gene had said was somehow inconsistent with or disconnected from the article, that would have been a response to Gene’s argument. But Anon simply asserted that it “sounds like”, Gene had not read the article. Therefore Anon was making a claim about Gene, not about the content of what Gene had said, which means that Anon was literally engaging in ad hominem argumentation.

  45. Being told you’re a quart low on facts is about your argument, not you.

    Perhaps the fact that the phrasing might sting emotionally blurs the distinction for you. No logical fallacy attaches to crafting one’s remarks that way; debaters in fact regard it as a skill. If people are so attached to their ideas that their contraction hurts, that burden is on the holder of the ideas, not the contradictor.

  46. I feel sad for you; considering interesting discussions about our roots and history as soapbox rants is indeed a sad thing.

    For me Apeulius’s remarks are one of the few reasons that encourage me to open the thread and read the comments. His comments are always thought provoking, knowledgeable and surprisingly grounded in all sorts of academic texts.

    I actually feel sometimes that he’s too soft on Hutton considering that the latter has managed to mesmerize many pagans into some sort of anti-critical thinking and self-denial cult.

  47. You don’t sound sad, you sound condescending.

    And the reason many of us who are long-time readers not only of The Wild Hunt and Hutton, but also of the authors Apuleius cites (Ginzburg, Bilby, Thomas, etc.) groan when we see Hutton’s name in print here is that we are indeed familiar with the sources that are being systematically (and perhaps disingenuously) misread by Apuleius Platonicus.

    A lot of bile gets spilled in this comment section, and a good deal of it by people who are content to get their history, not second-hand, but third-hand. Frankly, the authors Apuleius trots out in support of his position are largely either mischaracterized or antiquated. Hutton is correct when he states that there was a revolution in research and opinion in the world of historians on the topic of witchcraft, and that it occurred in the decades between, say, Keith Thomas’ work (for instance) and the present. What’s more, having read Keith Thomas (a very good author, and I recommend him) I can say that his work supports the very part of Hutton’s writing that is under attack here; he’s part of the post-Murray reevaluation of the theory of witchcraft as Pagan religious survival.

    I admit to being disappointed, as I read through the work of actual historians in the field, not to find the Pagan religions hypothesis supported. However, I had the intellectual honesty not to cherry-pick the data for only the quotes I could use to proof-text my own pet ideas. I let the historians’ work speak for themselves… and I actually read it.

    If that is anti-critical thinking and a self-denial cult, well, put me down as a member, I suppose. I’m not sure what it is you and others here do at the altar of Apuleius, but, well… carry on. I think Peg and I have simply learned that no words of ours, no words or evidence of anyone that we’ve cited thus far, are likely to dissuade you.

  48. It should hardly matter to you that whatever you were told in your tradition was different than was learned by Hutton. Stick to whatever story makes you happy.
    But saying you won’t read his article because it might upset you, when none of should be read as a personal attack against yourself, seems rather prejudicial. And the idea that you can’t read a book or an article because it might disagree with pre-established viewpoints or what your HP/S said makes you look unwilling to think for yourself, not like a learned person or established themselves in the free mentality of a witch. Sorry.

  49. Critical thinking is awesome. G0ds bless it.
    Following blindly in thought anybody is not what She , He, or They want IMNSHO. Anywhoo

  50. Yet even Thomas still ‘searched under the streetlight’ of ‘religion’, and the modern concept of that term.
    My only beef if it can be said to be that, is both sides are still looking under ‘religion’ for proofs and disproofs, focusing on popular belief rather than what actual practitioners of the craft, and it is termed craft for a reason, knew. Que, Arthur C. Clark, 😉
    As a personal anecdote, being a Millwright by ‘Craft’ and having the designation MW, which jokingly was said to stand for ‘miracle worker’, due to our ability to move 30 tons of machinery into the most impossible locations with primative means, seeming to violate the ‘possible’.

  51. This is rich. A Hutton fan accusing me of drinking kool-aid. But I must not have expressed myself clearly. I am a relatively well-read person, and therefore I noticed a slew of substantive inaccuracies in “Triumph,” which is on my bookshelf. At some point you have to stop listening to someone you completely distrust and disrespect, especially when they use inflammatory words like “pagan fundamentalist.”

  52. Hearth Moon Rising: “At some point you have to stop listening to someone you completely distrust and disrespect, especially when they use inflammatory words like ‘pagan fundamentalist.’

    Absolutely right. In the first place we are all highly selective concerning what we choose to read in the first place.

    In the second place, there is so much out there written by people who actually know something about ancient Pagan religious traditions, whereas Hutton’s knowledge of that subject is based solely on his own highly selective reading of secondary and tertiary literature.

    Hutton himself admits that it never occurred to him to study the Pagan religious traditions of late antiquity until after he had published Triumph of the Moon!!! And the same thing is true concerning the continuous tradition of Hermeticism that runs throughout the Middle Ages. When he did bother to make a superficial survey of those two subjects (which he recounts in Chapters 4 and 5 of Witches, Druids and King Arthur), he further admits, in a very defensive and roundabout way, that yes, in fact, late antique Paganism (from the 1st and 2nd centuries AD) closely resembles modern Paganism, and yes, in fact, Hermeticism provides us with a continuous spiritual tradition that links late antique Paganism with modern Paganism.

  53. AP is correct, Baruch. The comment implies either I did not read the article, or I am not capable of understanding it. Call me thin-skinned, but that’s personal.

    So much of the argument surrounding Hutton’s supporters reminds me of the absolutism dominating atheist blogs.

  54. “”No words or evidence of anyone that we’ve cited thus far, are likely to dissuade you””.

    That phrase sums it up; Huttonians never think that their hypothesis might need revision, even when Hutton himself revises it, therefore for you it’s always about dissuading others like me as if merely implying a connection between ancient and modern paganism puts one in an intellectual Lala land.

    You assume that those who disagree with Hutton’s hypothesis are not well read and this is far from truth.
    I’ve read Hutton very well, i never read in his books an argument questioning any supposition made by the discourse of Chrisitian Triumphalism, he practically built most of his early hypothesis on the assumption that what the traditional Christian discourse says about history is historically accurate (which is not).

    Religion survives in many ways other than organized clergy; for example even in the Near East, the ground-zero of exclisivist monotheism, Paganism have survived in texts, in rituals, in folk culture and magic, and in rare cases it survived in actual individuals or groups of people (for example, Izidis, Sabaeans, some Kurdish sects, some Sufi ways, some Hermetic/Platonic groups, Druze sects, minor Alawite and Ismalaite sects, are either quasi-pagan, crypto-pagans or transmit pagan teachings in an Islamic format – most of them are the result of the ancient Mystery schools going underground in times of Christian and Islamic persecutions). So i can only imaging how the case would be in other areas.

    The existence of a historical lineage is not the right criterion to assess the survival of organic pagan religions. And even if no trace of paganism survived at all, today’s paganism have more in common with 3rd century’s paganism than today’s Christianity have in common with 3rd century’s Christianity. Even Hutton ackonledges that, but the difference is that he didn’t make a book to state that Christianity is a completely modern invention.


  55. Gene, AP is wrong. If you are thin-skinned, that is no fault of the person who criticizes your argument. And the fact that it reminds you of something else is a whole ‘nother bag of snakes, the Analogic Fallacy.

  56. The remarkable similarities between Hutton’s view of Pagan history and the viewpoint of Christian Triumphalism bears repeating. In particular, Hutton’s work is in lockstep with Alan Cameron, Stephen Mitchell and other modern academics who continue to peddle Christian apologetics under the guise of “scholarship”.

    Cameron’s latest book, The Last Pagans of Rome, has been mentioned twice recently at the Wild Hunt (here and here — and Mithcell’s latest book, One God, is also mentioned in the second link). Cameron’s Christian Triumphalist agenda is obvious to many Pagans, but what is harder for many Pagans to see, for some reason, is that Hutton and Cameron are birds of a feather ideologically speaking.

    Mitchell’s agenda, centering on the idea of Pagan Monotheism (an idea lifted bodily from the apologetic literature of late antiquity), has for some reason fooled many more Pagans than Cameron’s, but hopefully more people are starting to catch on (optimism springs eternal).

  57. If the phrase “pagan fundamentalist” makes you lose your composure, you must not read from a lot of people.

  58. Scott: the issue is very simple. Is there evidence that the word “Witch” had a “first, original” meaning that was unambiguously pejorative, referring only to practitioners of harmful magic, or not? If “Witch” is derived from “wicce” and “wicce” is associated with people sought after for their skill in divination and mediumship, then the case is closed.

  59. Baruch, oh good grief. I don’t need a lecture in Logic to tell if someone is being a jerk or not. It’s as if you were the one who wrote the comment! To quote Sgt Howie, how’bout some plain speaking then: Anon’s comment was directed at me, not you. The person flippantly commented that I had not read the article: he or she is wrong–I read the article. Instead of addressing anything I said, all this person cared to do was respond flippantly. Now, if you feel the need to continue tying this up in epistemological knots, please be my guest.