Friday, May 20, 2011

Necropolis Now: Interview with Ronald Hutton

Ronald Hutton, the scholar and historian who has written significant volumes on Paganism, including Triumph of the Moon, has given an interview worth reading at Necropolis Now. Here's an excerpt:

Did you write The Triumph of the Moon to demolish the traditional history of Pagan witchcraft?

Absolutely not: I wrote Triumph to fill a vacuum created by the collapse, within Britain, of that traditional history: which is why I do not devote any space in the book to a sustained attack on that history itself. The concept of early modern witchcraft as a surviving pagan religion, which had been scholarly orthodoxy in the mid-twentieth century, began to disappear among professional historians around 1970, along with many other nineteenth-century beliefs. At the same time, many Pagan witches who had worked with founding figures of traditions, such as Gerald Gardner, Alex Sanders and Robert Cochrane, had always expressed doubts regarding the truth of what those founders had claimed about the history of those traditions. By 1990 these two developments had converged to produce a general disbelief in the origin story of modern Paganism among its British leaders. During that year (before I had published anything on Paganism myself) I attended a conference held at Kings College London at which a succession of them declared that its traditional historiography should be regarded as myth and metaphor rather than literal history. As I mention in Triumph of the Moon, this had already also begun to occur in the United States from the 1970s: Isaac Bonewits, Aidan Kelly and Margot Adler all alerted American Pagans, in different ways, to the fact that the traditional account of their historical origins was problematic.

For those interested in Pagan studies, especially the recent controversy in some quarters surrounding Hutton's Triumph of the Moon, this interview is worth a read. It can be read here.

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