The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft

The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft

The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft

The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft

Synopsis

Ronald Hutton is known for his colourful, provocative, and always exhaustively researched, studies on original subjects. This work is no exception: the first full-scale scholarly study of the only religion England has ever given the world, that of modern pagan witchcraft, which has now spreadfrom English shores across four continents. Hutton examines the nature of that religion and its development, and offers a microhistory of attitudes to paganism, witchcraft, and magic in British society since 1800. Village cunning folk and Victorian ritual magicians, classicists and archaeologists,leaders of woodcraft and scouting movements, Freemasons and members of rural secret societies, all appear in the pages of this book. Also included are some of the leading figures of English literature, from the Romantic poets to W B Yeats, D H Lawrence, and Robert Graves, as well as the mainpersonalities who have represented pagan witchcraft to the world since 1950.

Excerpt

The subtitle of this book should really be 'a history of modern pagan witchcraft in South Britain (England, Wales, Cornwall, and Man), with some reference to it in the rest of the British Isles, Continental Europe, and North America'. The fact that it claims to be a history and not the history is in itself significant, for this book represents the first systematic attempt by a professional historian to characterize and account for this aspect of modern Western culture. As such it is an exploratory and tentative work, intended as an initial mapping out of an area which badly needs and deserves serious treatment by more scholars in a number of different disciplines; although—as will be indicated— it is likely to present special difficulties for them.

The geographical emphasis is also important, because the unique significance of pagan witchcraft to history is that it is the only religion which England has ever given the world. The English have always developed their own distinctive versions of other religious systems ever since their state acquired an identity, but this is the first which has ever originated in it, and spread from there to many other parts of the world. That a nation so often associated in stereotype with phlegmatic and restrained qualities should have produced such a spectacularly counter-cultural religion is one of the apparent enigmas which this work is designed to address. As a result, it concentrates upon the homeland of this witchcraft, and only considers other nations or regions where they have made a significant subsequent impact upon its further development in that homeland. Probably the greatest disservice of this concentration is done to Australia, where pagan witchcraft has flourished ever since the 1950s and which is mentioned only in connection with two writers, who both live there but have written on England.

I undertook this research to answer two questions which had arisen naturally from that which I had published before. In The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles (1991), I took notice of the fact that pagan religions existed in the modern British Isles which sometimes claimed to represent an unbroken continuity of those which were my principal subject. Virtually all academic scholars of ancient paganism until that time had either ignored them or (in the case of Druids) cursorily dismissed them. My own book came down heavily against the claim of continuity and, indeed, the notion that modern paganisms had very much in common with those of the ancient world. On the other hand, I also formed the opinion that they were perfectly viable modern religions in their own right. My book presented the obvious puzzle of where, when, and why they had in fact arisen, if they had not survived continuously. The present one is intended to suggest answers to those questions, in the case of the first of those . . .

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