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The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy Paperback – December 8, 1993

ISBN-13: 978-0631189466 ISBN-10: 0631189467 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 422 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; Reprint edition (December 8, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0631189467
  • ISBN-13: 978-0631189466
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #659,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Hutton (British history, Bristol Univ.) offers an excellent, up-to-date compendium on British pagan religions based primarily upon recent archaeological findings. Various pre-Christian religions in the British Isles throughout history are discussed beginning as far back as 30,000 B.C., when carvings on portable objects first seem to have appeared. Hutton continues coverage through the Roman influence and the eventual advance of Christianity, which coincided with the disappearance of the pagan religions from the British Isles. He closes with a discussion of the remaining influences and traces of the early pagan religions. Hutton has contributed a well-documented resource which has popular interest. Recommended for most libraries.
- Paula I. Nielson, Loyola Mary mount Univ. Lib., Los Angeles
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"An excellent, up-to-date compendium of British pagan religions based primarily upon recent archaeological findings. Hutton has contributed a well documented resource which has popular interest." Library Journal

"Brilliant ... Hutton's book gives us by far the best, most level-headed overview of this fascinating but contentious subject." Times Literary Supplement


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Customer Reviews

Containing numerous priceless diagrams and sketches, this book is a virtual treasure trove.
Amazon Customer
The book leaves the reader knowing less about British paganism, because Hutton's thesis is that most of what we've taken for fact has been fabricated.
C Towles (christ42@juno.com)
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Ronald Hutton, for clearing up all the murky waters surrounding the current Wicca craze.
Honest Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

98 of 101 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
As a practising pagan of several years now, I'm rather disappointed by the review that dashes this work and author out of hand with a curt, "he must be a Christian" followed by a stream of rhetoric. No, this book isn't the fuzzy little love-love story that pagandom has been inundated with, and the world is the greater for it.
Ronald Hutton IS actually well versed in pagan traditions as an academic, if not a practitioner, having attended numerous pagan celebrations in the U.K. and actually pursuing pagan history as a personal interest (over what the establishment might deem as more suitable research topics). His degree of scholarship is apparent throughout this work. Archaeologically and historically (or prehistorically, if you will), this work is comprehensive and current, quite an eye-opener to those who have been bombarded with outdated archaeology/anthropology on the one hand and romantic mythology dressed as fact on the other.
Although parts of this book are dry, that is more a comment on the material than on the author himself. Containing numerous priceless diagrams and sketches, this book is a virtual treasure trove. This is the Number One book on my ample bookshelves for its history and applicability to my understanding of my own religious tradition.
I would highly recommend it to both academics and to pagans seeking a better comprehension of what has gone before (without the fluff and filler). For a more modern history of current paganism, try the author's Triumph of the Moon. For more great history/prehistory, try Ellis' The Celtic Empire, Barry Raftery's Pagan Celtic Ireland, Dillon's and Chadwick's Celtic Realms, Harding's European Societies in the Bronze Age and Whittle's Europe in the Neolithic.
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64 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Gibbons on December 31, 1998
Format: Paperback
A fantastic, well-researched guide to the pre-Christian peoples of Britain, from Stone Age to Christian times. This book is especially good for Neo-Pagans, as it addresses many of the theories popular in Neo-Paganism (e.g., that the Green Man is an old Pagan deity, that Margaret Murray's Witch-Cult really existed, etc.) It's a wonderful antidote to much of the misinformation that gets promulgated in popular writings. The only drawback is that the book gets to be a bit depressing by the end. We know very little about Celtic religion and even less about the faith(s) of their Neolithic forebears. Hutton sticks scrupulously to the evidence, so he frequently ends up saying, "X is possible, but we don't really know for sure." More speculation would have spiced the book up -- but then again, more speculation would have made it a less reliable text, so maybe it's better the way it is!
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Paul Caton on December 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
Agreeing with D.P. Birkett's review below, the greatest strength of this book (and it has many) is that it can stand as a model of how a scholar with integrity can not only give you the facts about a subject but can also discuss - fairly and rigourously - what others (scholars and non-scholars) have said before. Hutton scrupulously gives credit where it is due, even to writers with whom (on other points) he utterly disagrees. This is scholarship at its best, and if only more books were written in this manner (ie. diligently finding out what IS known, and not distorting or going beyond the facts), we would all be intellectually better off.

Highly recommended.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is a subject that is new to me, and I discovered the book while browsing. What persuaded me to buy it was obvious intelligence, good sense, and high scholarship of the author--comfirming from the first pages that he is a worthy guide. Yes, Hutton is a thinker and no, he is not a believer; but does this disqualify him from studying and passing judgement on monuments and describing ancient ways of life? I would say certainly not. Where he disagrees with other scholars or believers, he disagrees respectfully but firmly, as is appropriate. His writing is lucid, well organized, and a pleasure to read. It's a joy to encounter a true scholar that can confront or explore the past--and the present.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Anne Rice on June 27, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a solid, substantive, and beautifully written book on the topic, which seeks to separate out what we can reliably infer about ancient times from archaeological evidence, as opposed to what we might learn from fanciful and speculative material written about ancient times. We are also asked to take a hard look at early literary source material about ancient religions, with a view to understanding the complex context in which many such sources developed, and the inevitable pressure of social bias on the writers or historians. --- Frankly, after years, of reading Sir James Fraser with great relish and drawing tremendous inspiration from The Golden Bough, I welcome this solid study that discusses what has and has not been "proved" about ancient religion and customs by solid archaeological findings. I welcome the careful critical evaluation of early Christian writings about pagan beliefs and customs. ---- This book doesn't diminish the value of The Golden Bough or speculative and intuitive writings about mythology and what mythology can teach us about ourselves. It underscores a different emphasis. I really want to know what can be known about ancient religion. And so for me this is a breath of fresh air. Will I throw out Robert Graves' The White Goddess or Frazer's The Golden Bough? Certainly not. I will continue to value them for the genius connections that can be made by the intuitive mind, and I will continue to weigh their conclusions and insights against meticulous scholarship like that of Ronald Hutton. ----- Lastly, I want to the praise the writing skills of this author. His text is organized, well reasoned and beautifully laid out, which makes this a scholarly approach that can be accessed and enjoyed by readers of all levels. And make no mistake, the book is enjoyable. Highly recommended.
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