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The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft [Kindle Edition]

Ronald Hutton
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Ronald Hutton is known for his colourful and provocative writings on original subjects. This work is no exception: for the first full-scale scholarly study of the only religion England has ever given the world; that of modern pagan witchcraft, which has now spread from English shores across four continents. Hutton examines the nature of that religion and its development, and offers a microhistory of attitudes to paganism, witchcraft, and magic in British society since 1800. Its
pages reveal village cunning folk, Victorian ritual magicians, classicists and archaeologists, leaders of woodcraft and scouting movements, Freemasons, and members of rural secret societies. We also find some of the leading of figures of English literature, from the Romantic poets to W.B. Yeats, D.H.
Lawrence, and Robert Graves, as well as the main personalities who have represented pagan witchcraft to the world since 1950. Densely researched, Triumph of the Moon presents an authoritative insight into a hitherto little-known aspect of modern social history.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This spirited, amusing and immensely informative history of paganism in 19th- and 20th-century Britain centers on Wicca, the system of witchcraft Gerald B. Gardner introduced to a startled public in the 1950s. The book's first half takes the reader on a breakneck tour of Victorian and Edwardian culture, demonstrating that Wiccan belief and practice owe much to the scholars, novelists and poets who resurrected Pan and the Goddess, crafting romantic visions of a pre-Christian past. The second half proceeds at a more leisurely pace, detailing the development of British witchcraft over the past 50 years among Gardner's followers, critics and rivals. In this meticulously researched book, Hutton modestly demolishes myths perpetuated by both pagans and their hostile critics and maintains an attitude that is at once skeptical and ultimately sympathetic. He displays astounding breadth, with literary references ranging from Keats to Mary Daly, and peppers his work with insightful portraits of characters such as Madam Blavatsky, Aleister Crowley, D.H. Lawrence, Dion Fortune, Alex Sanders, Starhawk and the obscure 19th-century wonder-worker and wart-healer known as Cunning Murrell. In a field generally characterized by polemical or apologetic historiography, Hutton's exceptional work is by far the most scholarly, comprehensive and judicious analysis of the subject yet published. It will remain the standard for many years to come. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.


`This work ... makes for excellent reading. Hutton's extensive scholarship allows him to make and clarify connections between people and movements in recent centuries.' Northern Earth, No.83.

`Hutton uses his historical skills to tease apart some of the themes in this popular rural romanticism, and to locate their purely modern origin.' T. M. Luhrmann, TLS

`Fascinating' The Times

`Hutton's book is excellent ...' T. M. Luhrmann, TLS

`The Triumph of the Moon, which is densely argued and heavily annotated, leaves little doubt that the history which modern occultism has constructed for itself is bunk ... It all makes for riveting reading and, despite Hutton's demolition of the supposed lineage of witchcraft, I am tempted after reading his book to become a witch myself.' Robert Irwin, The Independent 11/12/99

`Hutton has synthesised a huge body of sources, and woven together a fascinating narrative with supreme skill. The reader is sure to be gripped by the wonderful cast of characters that he assembles... Hutton shows us that paganism is a matter of interest not only for the classicist and archaeologist, but for the modern historian as well. in doing so his Triumph of the Moon proves to be a triumph of cultural history.' Owen Davies, History Today Vol.50 No.3

`he shows a bracing and candid scepticism about the architects of pagan witchcraft belief in the past ... he shows energetic rigour when exposing the fallacies and fantasies suffusing paganism's canonical texts ... has a very interesting story to tell.' Marina Warner The Times

`A brilliant insight into the history of modern witchcraft by the author of the classic study of Paganism. Very readable and well researched.' Kindred Spirit, Issue 50, Spring 2000

Product Details

  • File Size: 1201 KB
  • Print Length: 514 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0192854496
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks (November 4, 1999)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006YT39GI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #249,870 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
175 of 182 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sympathetic and scholarly history of Wicca September 8, 2000
The world still awaits a truly comprehensive history of Neopaganism. Margo Adler's estimable DRAWING DOWN THE MOON is perhaps the closest approach to date. With THE TRIUMPH OF THE MOON, British historian Ronald Hutton has raised the bar for future efforts both in terms of depth of research and genuine insight. Though his book focuses on the antecedents and development of British Wicca, it contains a wealth of material to any reader interested in Neopaganism.
Hutton is something of a bête noire for many Wiccans and other Neopagans after his iconoclastic PAGAN RELIGIONS OF THE ANCIENT BRITISH ISLES, particularly for his corrosive attacks on Robert Graves and THE WHITE GODDESS (however deserved they may have been). Hutton's work is, nevertheless, grounded in substantial research (as befits a widely-published historian) and a generally non-judgmental tone. Hutton continues his no-stone-unturned approach in this new book, but departs from simple history to offer rationales for the viability of Neopaganism as a religious path, even given its apparent twentieth-century origins.
For many Neopagans outside of traditionalist Wicca, the book's focus on Neopagan Witchcraft (and in particular on Gerald Gardner and Alex Sanders) may render its iconoclasm old news. Hutton's research only buttresses the deconstruction of Wicca begun in the '70s. Hutton's gift, though, is to go beyond the first order deconstruction and find unexpected bits of information amidst an impressive array of personal papers and museum holdings. For example, most informed readers will already be aware that "Old" Dorothy Clutterbuck, Gardner's supposed initiatrix, was shown to be a real person, after years of argument to the contrary.
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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent historical perspective August 29, 2003
Hutton has written a book that truly needed to be written, unlike the vast majority of texts on the history of modern pagan witchcraft, for and against. In essence, Hutton isn't for or against; he's an historian. This approach may well annoy those looking for support for their beliefs, of course, but for those interested in a dispassionate account, this is the book to buy.

Hutton really starts with the eighteenth century, with Masonry, "cunning men", and other magic-workers of various kinds. He discusses these folks as sources for the later witchcraft revival, and gives his sources scrupulously. He then moves on to the nineteenth-century "occult revival", which is only rather sketchily handled, and to Gardner and the whole complex from which he arose.

Next, Hutton discusses Gardner in considerable detail, considering the whole "Dorothy Clutterbuck" problem and the whole complex of the first Wiccan covens. It seems not unlikely that this discussion will infuriate those who don't want to think of Gardner as a spiritual ancestor for their modern practices. At the same time, it's likely to tick off those would-be "debunkers" who want a lurid account of Gardner the evil sex-maniac. Overall, I found that Gardner came off rather sympathetically, which surprised me.

For me, the best thing about the book is the discussion of the extension of Wicca past Gardner's own influence. For example, I tend to associate the rise of Neopaganism with liberal politics, given the strong affiliations with the rise of feminism, ecological activism, and a kind of back-to-the-earth approach to collapsing the modern military-industrial dominance of (especially) American economics and politics.
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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hutton's latest April 5, 2000
Hutton, for those who haven't read his work, is a British historian whose previous major work has been several works on Charles II through the Glorious Revolution; as well as The pagan religions of the ancient British Isles (about the documentable religions and religious practices of pre-Christian Britain), The rise and fall of merry England: the ritual year, 1400-1700 (a history of festivals and holidays in Britain), and Stations of the Sun (the ritual year in Britain and its history). Essentially the latter two look at the same overall field of evidence from two different angles, triangulating on the fact that the most ancient festivals and holidays that are claimed to stretch back to the ancient pagan past, can (virtually) all be documented to have developed in the late medieval and post-medieval world.
If you can't see the pattern here, his interest seems to have been trying to back-track elements of modern pagan tradition and mythology. It should be noted that at no time does he ever stray from his essential (and frequently stated) premise - that modern paganism is a perfectly valid modern religious format.
It is from this foundation that he finally takes the leap in his Triumph of the Moon, wherein he examines the history of modern paganism and places it into its place in a larger counter-cultural tradition stretching back at least to the Romantic period (if you've seen his article on the Great Neolithic Goddess Cult that appeared in Antiquity several years ago, you may have some idea of where the path this has taken).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A long, entertaining read, that gets no one anywhere.
While reading through this book, I was assured that I'd be giving it 5 stars on Amazon, but by the time I finished reading the last page I changed my mind. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Austin
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Some like it but I think it's too wordy. Didn't read it all.
Published 1 month ago by Valerie Kelley-Curtis
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 3 months ago by sandra hillard
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST read for anyone interested in Neo-Paganism & Wicca
If you want an honest, intellectually honest understanding of neo-Paganism or Wicca, this is a MUST read book. The book isn't like most books on Wicca, etc. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Karl L. Justice
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
amazing book, trully needed for pagans who wish to know the roots of their faith!
Published 5 months ago by Christina09
3.0 out of 5 stars Very informative, but really hard to read. His ...
Very informative, but really hard to read. His style is confusing, and his detail bogs down a lot. While it's got a lot of detail in it, this is one of the least enjoyable books... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
Ronald Hutton (born 1953) is an English historian who specializes in the study of Early Modern Britain, British folklore, pre-Christian religion and contemporary Paganism. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Steven H Propp
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a volume that has been well-reviewed for years ...
This is a volume that has been well-reviewed for years, and doesn't really need my five stars for validation, but I am giving them anyway. Read more
Published 9 months ago by flying squirrel girl
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Primer, if a little too Sympathetic
This was an interesting primer on the history of modern Paganism, with special emphasis on Wicca. It was a little light on analysis and heavy on narrative for me, hence the four... Read more
Published 11 months ago by David S. Wellhauser
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and Engaging
Hutton writes with an academic tone but is anything but dry. His research is extensive and he uses the facts to not simply spell out his claims, but support and uplift them. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Travis
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