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“Taking Down” Ronald Hutton

December 8, 2010

The book in question

This guy, and his moronic view that people care about for some reason

The Wild Hunt post about it

I don’t care deeply about the case for witchcraft survivals, so I’ll be quick.

I’m completely, 100% sure that Ronald Hutton made some mistakes in Triumph of the Moon. The book came out over 10 years ago, and scholarship has moved forward since then.

But:

1. I don’t remember Hutton ever closing the book on witchcraft survivals as soundly as his Pagan detractors make him out to have done.

I remember Hutton investigating and discarding very specific claims about some Pagan religions (Wicca) and withholding conclusions on others (1734/Robert Cochrane).

Read the goddamn preface: “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…”

Seems like Hutton was more than willing to label TotM an “exploratory and tentative” work. Only an unsubtle reader would take it as gospel.

Commenters, please learn about how history is done. It’s not about black and white distinctions, it’s about research, argumentation, and debate.

2. Ben Whitmore seems like a good writer. I’m not going to read his book though, at least not immediately. Why? Because he is “an Alexandrian High Priest, Co-Freemason, Morris dancer, artist and software engineer,” and I’m sure all sorts of other things that don’t help me determine his academic credentials, experience, or qualifications.

I’m supposed to trust this guy WHY?

A Wiccan priest, a Mason, a Morris dancer…exactly the person I DON’T want teaching me Pagan history. Confirmation bias much?

3. Guys, what do you EXPECT Hutton to be wrong about exactly? That Wicca is the Old Religion? That there once existed a Pan-European Witch Cult? That everything Gerald Gardner said was true? That all civilization was once matriarchal? That well, maybe Gardner DID create Wicca, but OTHER witch traditions ARE unbroken magical traditions that go back to the Paleolithic?

All of these claims are stupid. They will always be wrong. They’re not wrong because Ronald Hutton’s secret agenda approves or disapproves of them.

They are wrong because they are absolutely nonsensical.

My head hurts.

TPH

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