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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great follow up for the Wiccan thinker
The other reviews on this item are very thorough but I felt it was important to point out that this is a very academic view of Wicca and, as such, is quite a 'hefty' read. There is a lot of (excellent) information to absorb. It would make a lot more sense if you've read work by the main Wiccan writers and could therefore appreciate Hutton's review of their...
Published on 13 April 2009 by Robert Simpson

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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but .....
Ronald huttons book is no doubt going to be of interest to anyone in the modern Neo-pagan Wiccan tradition or those interested in 'the rebirth' of Witchcraft. It is well researched, however oftentimes I felt the author was interjecting his own personal points of view upon some of the occultists on the fringe of the rebirth of Wicca. Personally I think all Neo-pagan...
Published on 22 Jan 2009 by Ogmios


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27 of 88 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Triumph of the Pagan Academic Mafia, 11 Nov 2004
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This review is from: The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft (Paperback)
Hutton begins by destroying the validity of his entire work. Witchcraft in its modern Pagan manifestation is, he tells us, a religion. He knows this because he has once read a definition of what a religion is. It does not matter to him that this definition is 130 years old and hotly debated within the discipline. Modern Pagan Witchcraft is a religion, but not for the inadequate reasons he gives. He brushes all this aside as if it were a trifling matter.
What we are left with is an assertion, not a demonstration of the validity of his reasoning. This sort of bombast and arrogance is typical.
In general, the work is dense, almost impenetrable. This is neither light nor easy reading. One can imagine the whole thing being written in minute, finicky handwriting. As it used to be said of such things, this one most definitely smells of the lamp.
It should also be noted that Hutton is not an unbiased source. He is not an historian striving for an objective viewpoint (in spite of the difficulties it is still worth striving for), but a committed Pagan. His work, then, is a monumental apologia for modern Paganism disguised as academic research. What academia desperately needs is a separation between religion and research: there is simply too much of this self-justifying navel-gazing.
But on the positive side, and, yes, surprisingly, there is one, there are many interesting details revealed here and a usable index makes them accessible. However, it has to be said that some of those details are wrong. On p. 223, for instance, he gets the date wrong of Gerald Gardner's novel - Gerald Gardner is only the 'father' of Wicca. He also gets the name wrong on p. 75 of one of the founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn - the most important magical society to have emerged in the UK. I could go on.
Overall, it is a book for students who have to read it, but not a good read for those who wish to be entertained or even enlightened. There are better books on the market: do a search on Amazon with the keywords 'witchcraft history' and you will find them.
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42 of 143 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars learned folly and wiccan delusion, 19 Nov 2004
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This review is from: The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft (Paperback)
This book has, for the last 5 years, been the focus of a markedly curious phenomenon - wiccan neopagans of a Gardnerian/Alexandrian hue, desperate for some face-saving ruse to back up their confused and incoherent belief-systems have been falling over themselves in their endorsement of this book, which effectively pulls the rug from under their feet and reveals their 'Old Religion' to be a romantic fabrication of the modern era. Frantic with desire for the whiff of academic 'respectability' they have fallen at the feet of their doyen Ronald Hutton whose work, whilst apparently debunking their fondest fantasies, at last confers some measure of intellectual dignity to their activities as a subject of socio-historical enquiry. In fact nowadays such born-again 'academic neopagans' are generally to be found attacking 'Murrayism' and other such heinous heresies which apparently they find so objectionable, even whilst meeting in 'covens' to practise their 'Old Religion'. This book provides grist for the mills of such perplexed souls. That such a contradictory balancing act between rationalistic scepticism and pseudo-religious incredulity might smack to some of schizoidal conflict seems lost on them. But then maybe academic rationalism and wiccan neopaganism are at root founded upon on the same modernist basis of secular atheism anyway, the former overtly , the latter unconsciously.
But the case is more complex yet: Ronald Hutton is himself a Wiccan Neopagan and this book is a rather cunning stratagem in that it seems to please all parties: its rationalistic debunking of Wicca's pretensions to antiquity are a nod to the predominant ethos of academia and are fair enough in their own somewhat limited way though hardly anything new: But in reality as one reads this book it seems that behind the seeming rigour of the research another agenda lurks - to provide a comprehensive and strongly biased justification of the whole modern subculture of Gardnerian Wicca, Crowleyism, the Golden Dawn and suchlike forms of occultism of the last century and a half. Whilst appearing to provide historical research into modern Witchcraft it in fact advances an apologist agenda firmly focussed on maintaining the primacy of these paradigms in the contemporary neopagan scene. factually, although much of interest can be found, all is not quite as reliable as first appears and there are certainly many questionable statements and factual errors to be located throughout.
More seriously this book, whilst playing it's disingenuous game of pleasing all parties actually buttresses and upholds the pseudo-orthodoxies of the modern occult scene to a degree which is dubious and counter-productive to say the least. Whilst assuming that these bunches of kooks busy jumping over their bonfires and declaiming bad poetry are so very significant Hutton does not include those contemporary practitioners, few enough to be sure, whose approach to the Mysteries of Witchcraft has been primarily along the lines that its true meaning should be apprehended as a reality within the crucible of the medieval mythic imagination rather than this literal-minded crankish subworld of 'covens' presided over by self-appointed suburban 'magisters'. And there are certainly those within the Witchcraft milieu in the last 30 years who instead of relying on Gardnerian Wicca or Crowleyan materials for inspiration have instead drawn upon authentic pre-modern folk-mythology and medieval magical material for the substance of their practises. There are practitioners whose emphasis has been upon medieval Witchcraft as an imaginal and interior mystery rather than the clumsy congregational literalism of the 20th century cults which Hutton exhaustively details ad nauseam.
In the final count this book whilst seeming to provide a valuable historical resume of the subject actually does little but uphold and formalise with its deceptive intellectual authentication an established subculture of modern Gardnerian Wicca and Crowleyism which is in truth stifling, fantasy-ridden, reactionary and obstructive. The crossover with the academic scene in the UK in a field of socio-historical studies constitutes what the previous reviewer very accurately defined as the 'pagan academic mafia' in the UK. Their ascendancy has in fact been characterized by a pervasive retrograde stagnation in the occult subculture, the entrenchment of orthodoxies which would best have been allowed to crumble.
The works of Carlo Ginzburg on the mythos of the medieval Sabbat are far more enlightening than Hutton's disingenuous apologia for modern pseudo-religions. Sadly this fact will be lost on the average Wiccan. Go elsewhere for the real historical data on Witchcraft, better still go to pre-modern primary sources and actually think for oneself - Hutton's duplicitous vindication of the never-never land of modern neo-paganism will only lead one into an arid cul-de-sac of rationalistic self-delusion. The book ultimately fails to provide much illumination regarding the enduring mythos of the Witch in the Western imagination into the modern era but instead provides a laboured apologia for the 'old guard' celebrities of the 'fan club' culture of 20th century occultism and their camp-followers in our day.
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