This week’s book may be a little obscure. Professor Ronald Hutton of Oxford University takes an in-depth and objective look at the history and development of modern British Pagan Witchcraft in his 1999 work, Triumph of the Moon.
This book is packed with information not only of Wicca’s origins, but also of the evolution of modern Pagan thought in general. Hutton illustrates where the concept of an ancient singular great Goddess cult comes from, and examines the people behind the theories.
You will see who was the first to postulate that the post-modern witch hunts of the 15th-17th centuries killed nine million followers of the ‘old religion’. Also, we learn how Pagan Witchcraft came to have its public image tangled with that of the alleged Satanic ritual conspiracies of the 1970s and 1980s.
What I found truly fascinating is how different Wicca was in its infancy when compared to the thriving faith we know today. Many of Wicca’s founders were staunch conservatives who felt that a religion of magic and sexual freedom would stem the tide of the ‘Red Menace’ (who were rumored to hold all religion in contempt).
Most early Wiccans believed absolutely in the European class system, and many felt that country folk, from whom they borrowed many of their festivals and low magics, would never truly understand the spiritual significance of their actions. And while today you will find the vast majority of Pagans are avid readers, and often college educated, in the early days Wiccans were suspicious of the intellectual class, many finding them far too socialist for their tastes.
I adored this book, but I will warn you, that it can be very dry at times and is generally intellectually heavy. You may need some time to process what you have read after each chapter.
That said, the knowledge of the modern Pagan community and its roots that you will gain from this book, is well worth the effort. I heartily recommend that every Pagan (even if you aren’t Wiccan) add this volume to their collections.
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