The God of the Witches Paperback – 4 Jun 2012
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About the Author
Margaret Alice Murray (13 July 1863 - 13 November 1963) was a prominent British Egyptologist and anthropologist. Primarily known for her work in Egyptology, which was "the core of her academic career," she is also known for her propagation of the Witch-cult hypothesis, the theory that the witch trials in the Early Modern period of Christianized Europe and North America were an attempt to extinguish a surviving pre-Christian, pagan religion devoted to a Horned God. Whilst this theory is today widely disputed and discredited by historians like Norman Cohn, Keith Thomas and Ronald Hutton, it has had a significant effect in the origins of Neopagan religions, primarily Wicca, a faith she supported. Her work in Egyptology took place largely alongside her mentor and friend, the archaeologist Sir Flinders Petrie, whom she worked alongside at University College London. One of the earliest women to "make a serious impact upon the world of professional scholarship," she was also an ardent feminist, being actively involved in the Suffragette movement. From 1953 to 1955, she was the president of the Folklore Society, although since her death various members of the society have attempted to dissociate the organisation from her and the Murrayite theory of the Witch-Cult.
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Top Customer Reviews
So why am I recommending a book that has been shown to be wrong? Whether or not you accept her argument, Margaret Murray does give a fascinating overview of witchcraft, and of the belief in the Horned God, as a Lord of Nature and Animals, both in Europe and beyond. She also rightfully points out the extensive links between European witchcraft and the belief in fairies, which are not the twee beings we have to become used to since the 19th Century.
Her idea that fairies were a real, human people, and it is their cult of the Horned God and witchcraft that they passed on, is not in itself ridiculous. The Tuatha de Danann were seen as a people who later become supernatural beings after being defeated by the ancestors of the Irish. After Christianity, worship of them devolved into folk beliefs in fairies, beliefs which survived right up to the early 20th Century.
So, squint hard and you can almost accept her reasoning. However, surviving beliefs in fairies or witchcraft in Europe is not the same thing as a conscious survival of a cult dating back to the Stone Age, and certainly evidence from the witch trials shows that any witch cult that was practiced was heavily influenced by Christianity, and the evidence itself was often distorted by the Christian prejudices of the prosecutors themselves.
Despite all these reservations, it is still an essential read. Its influence on modern paganism and witchcraft can't be underestimated. And, surprsingly, she puts forward a good case that the life of Joan of Arc is not what it seems.Read more ›
As to the contents: My impression here is based upon the ca. 50 pages of the scarcely 200 page-long missive I have read thus far.
Within that scope, the bias towards heathens and paganism and against Christianity is hard to miss. She insists that ancient Christian clerics twisted facts to make pagans appear degenerate and Christians, who are evidently in her eyes the truly profane ones, look pious. Who is right? You decide!
Aside from the prejudice, the document is brimming with fascinating, otherwise hard-to-find information, some of which must be weighed in the balance due to the bias above-mentioned.
Indications that history has been spun to suit the needs of still-living heathens in high places will certainly jar some readers.
Moreover, she presents theories that will stun you, for example about certain cultural customs that we "moderns" would prefer not to think about. The question lingers as to whether these festivies never actually ceased but are rather still ongoing.
Sadly, the editing of the pages was somewhat sloppy, as the tome at hand is chock-full of typos and the print-layout muddled, but still quite easily read due to the flowing style of her writing.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I am sorry to say, that I've been unable to read this book as the print in the book is so small, it's unreadable.Published 7 months ago by Tahirah Ravoof