Ronald Hutton Responds to His Critics

Even before his interview with Australian scholar/blogger Caroline Tully, Ronald Hutton had written a lengthy article for The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies titled “Writing the History of Witchcraft: A Personal View.”

It is now available as a free download from Equinox Publishing.

In it, Professor Hutton discusses the trajectory of his own work as well as responding to Ben Whitmore’s Trials of the Moon.

In the same issue, Peg Aloi reviews Trials of the Moon as well as Douglas Cowan’s Sacred Terror.

And I review yet another “grandmother story.”

The other articles in the latest issue (listed below) are behind a pay wall, although if you have access to a university library or to a good public library, they should be available through inter-library loan.

The Idol and the Numinous: the Pagan Quest for the Holy
Dominique Beth Wilson

Shamanisms and the Authenticity of Religious Experience
Susannah Crockford

Negotiating Gender Essentialism in Contemporary Paganism
Regina Smith Oboler

The Meaning of ‘Wicca’: A Study in Etymology, History, and Pagan Politics
Ethan Doyle White

The Magical Cosmology of Rosaleen Norton
Nevill Stuart Drury

5 thoughts on “Ronald Hutton Responds to His Critics

  1. Rombald

    I’ve noticed the stuff about Hutton going round in circles of late.

    I think the debate could do with some definitions and criteria. In particular, I wonder what would constitute pagan survival?

    Even with a credal religion, the criteria for survival are not all that clear; e.g. are the few remaining Japanese Hidden Christians, who now seem to follow a non-Shinto paganism, with some Christian imagery, Christian? With a non-credal religion, it is much less certain – at what point does a Christian following some pagan customs become a pagan mouthing un-heartfelt Christian dogma to avoid persecution?

    Hutton seems to me to buy into a Christian view, defining religion as being that which one claims to believe. However, I don’t think paganism works like that. In Japan, most people, if asked, say they are nonreligious, or even atheist, yet clearly practise Shinto – deep in prayer, singing religious songs, buying amulets, visiting pilgrimage shrines, etc.

  2. Rombald

    On a slightly different issue, I have noticed that discussion of possible paganism in Christian Europe tendsw to focus on (i) nonliterate survival among the peasantry, and (ii) influence of Mediterranean-classical texts, and possibly even continuity of groups based on those texts, among the literate elite. The assumption tends to be that throughout mediaeval times Europe was entirely surrounded by Islam, so the only access to paganism was from Europe’s own past, via either books or hidden traditions.

    I have never seen an exploration of the influence on mediaeval and early-modern Europeans by surviving pagans with whom they were in contact, such as Balts (until 1400), Siberians, Russian tribal peoples, Saami, Guanches, and Black Africans. To give one example of which I am aware; the Saami were not converted to Christianity until the 18th century, and Scandinavians associated the Saami with witchcraft. The “Sea Lapps” used to visit even the Northern Isles of Scotland, where they were regarded as sorcerers.

  3. Rombald, re. your first comment, be sure to read Hutton’s footnotes. 😉

    Re. your second, there is plenty of exploration of Eastern European and Scandinavian Paganism going on. The Pomegranate has published a little, and I expect to see an anthology on the topic in the near future from Equinox’ Pagan studies book series.

    The issue for us Anglosphere Pagans is that such explorations often have a nationalistic cast that is not common (anymore) in the United Kingdom, North America, Australia, etc.

  4. Pingback: The Wild Hunt » Pagan Community Notes: Isaac Bonewits Memorial DVD Controversy, Temple of the River Closes Down, and more!

  5. Rombald, if you are interested in scholarship on the issue of religious dissembling, then check out Anthondy Kaldellis’ work on Procopius, John Lydos, and Michael Psellos. A good place to start is this list of his publications, many of which are linked to downloadable copies: In addition Perez Zagorin’s monograph “Ways of Lying: Dissimulation, Persecution and Conformity in Early Modern Europe” is indispensible:

Comments are closed.