5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Bit of a Let Down...,
This review is from: Modern Wicca: A History from Gardner to the Present (Paperback)
Michael Howard is quite a big name in the Wiccan & Witch community - as an initiate into the Gardnerian tradition, the Cultus Sabbati, and Madeline Montalban's Ceremonial Magic group, he has had many experiences with the Craft since the 1970s. He has published numerous books on the subject (including those on luciferian gnosis, which I found rather interesting), an has been the editor of The Cauldron magazine for several decades. Because of this, I had high hopes for this work, Howard's own take on Wiccan history.
I think it best if I divide the strengths and weaknesses of the work and describe them both separately. Firstly, the strengths:
1) - Howard actually encountered and communicated with many of the historical figures that he describes, giving the work a first hand account.
2) - Howard has done much first hand research by reading through the letters and notes contained within the Cornish Museum of Witchcraft. This had unearthed many important pieces of information, such as that Doreen Valiente knew that Robert Cochrane was a Gardnerian initiate.
Then again, there are a series of weaknesses that seem (in my opinion at least), to unfortunately outway the good.
1) - Howard does not delve into the sources of the modern Witchcraft movement as do other works on this topic such as Ronald Hutton's Triumph of the Moon. Instead he seems to take for granted the hugely controversial view that modern Wicca is at least partially based upon an earlier group of pagan witches, an idea that comes close to Margaret Murray's discounted theories on the pseudo-historical Witch-Cult.
2) - Howard uses the claims of Bill Liddell and Cecil Williamson, two of the most controversial and unreliable sources within the entire Witchcraft movement, to back up his claims. No other historian or academic who has written on this subject (Ronald Hutton, Aidan Kelly, Sabina Magliocci etc) has ever supported Liddell's claims, which revolve around a 19th century cunning man named George Pickingill, whilst Williamson was noted for his untrustworthy statements, particularly regarding his nemesis Gerald Gardner.
3) - There are various spelling mistakes in peoples' names, far too many in fact; indeed, how hard is it to spell Adolf Hitler wrong ?
4) - Howard has a habit of accepting rumours and unsubstantiated claims as fact, nothing any respected academic historian would ever dare do.
In general, whilst this is an interesting book, Howard is no historian and this is in many respects a rather poor historical work - no surprise then that it is published by Llewellyn, more notable for their books by the likes of Silver Ravenwolf than by historians.
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Initial post: 12 Apr 2010 10:43:09 BDT
Daniel Griffith says:
It is barely credible than anyone still regards the Liddell material as genuine. It is also quite amazing that a writer of Howard's standing within the Pagan community would wish to associate himself with Llewellyn. Excellent review.
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