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I recently read this fine post at Max Dashu’s Veleda blog on Reopening the Case for Historical Witchcraft
which is her book review of Ben Whitmore’s re-examination of some of Hutton’s theories called “Triumph of the Moon: Reopening the Case for Historical Witchcraft”. To quote from her blog post:
“This is a review of Ben Whitmore’s Trials of the Moon: Reopening the Case for Historical Witchcraft. A Critique of Ronald Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Auckland: Aotearoa / New Zealand, 2010 http://www.goodgame.org.nz/trialsofthemoonexcerpt.pdf
I am glad someone took on the task of providing a detailed critique of Hutton’s book. Ben Whitmore, a Pagan priest in New Zealand, does not hail from the school of Wicca-is-a-direct-transmission-of-ancient-Pagan-tradition. He is clear “that today’s witchcraft is largely a reinvention” and favors examining the foundational myths of modern neopaganism with a critical eye. At the same time, he feels a spiritual kinship with past traditions and holds out the possibility of recovering their authentic roots: “I feel it is high time that Wicca and Paganism be permitted to have not just myths, but a history as well.” Hear, hear.
Hutton, although himself a Pagan, has systematically attacked the idea of pagan survivals in medieval Europe, and not just in this book. He hews to an orthodox focus on literary sources as the font of culture, with a corresponding disregard for the testimony of folk tradition and its conservational power. We hear from Diane Purkiss about how the English school of witchcraft history had “hardened into an orthodoxy”since the 1970s. Whitmore points out that they ignore the rich documentation of folk paganism by continental historians (a disregard, paired with sputterings about “rigor,” that I have been protesting for years).”
I had read Ronald Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon years ago and found it of interest as a historical document as I like to read All sides of the various debates on the origins of Witchcraft and Paganism. The book she reviews to is available at the above title link or HERE as a free PDF download and is about 86 pages long and good reading too. Enjoy and Blessed Be!