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ANDREW COLLINS: The Roots and Reality of Magic and Witchcraft

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Author Topic: ANDREW COLLINS: The Roots and Reality of Magic and Witchcraft  (Read 1335 times)
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« Reply #15 on: October 31, 2007, 12:41:56 pm »


Pan, as a masculine symbol of nature, is rooted firmly in the neo-pagan revival of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He appeared in fictional works such as Arthur Machen’s THE GREAT GOD PAN (1894), Maurice Hewlett’s PAN AND THE YOUNG SHEPHARD (1899), Kenneth Graham’s THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS (1908) and Dion Fortune’s THE GOAT-FOOT GOD (1936).

Finding the roots of revivalist witchcraft is as difficult as trying to find the true nature of the Witches’ Sabbat of the middle ages. Despite claims that it is derived from existing traditions which stretch back into antiquity research conducted into the subject by Ronald Hutton, who holds the chair of history at Bristol University, shows this to be highly unlikely (see his excellent work THE TRIUMPH OF THE MOON, OUP, 1999).

Yet the bridge between the ancient and more modern traditions was unquestionably three books – THE GOLDEN BOUGH by folklorist Sir James Frazer (1890), THE WITCH CULT IN WESTERN EUROPE by respected Egyptologist Margaret Murray (1921) and THE WHITE GODDESS by Robert Graves (1948).

Each one justified the belief that folk customs preserved across Europe were the direct survival of a pagan past that stretched back thousands of years. In Murray’s case she attempted to prove, as with the case of Painswick, that these customs were the remnants of a fertility cult focused on the horned god as the generative power of nature and personified at the Witches’ Sabbat by a human being dressed as a goat. She believed in the former existence of witches covens involving 13 people controlled by a master, or magister, who presided over several such covens. Those who participated were either born into the service of the coven or initiated when they reached adulthood. She promoted the view that they met four times a year at sabbats and weekly at esbats.

Margaret Murray’s thesis was expounded in a scholarly way, and yet she received severe criticism from historians and folklorists alike who saw many of the folk customs she cited as creations of the neo-pagan and later folklore revival of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Her ideas were expounded in a sequel published in 1933 entitled GOD OF THE WITCHES and although this too was met with great scepticism there is no question that her views heavily influenced the rekindling of interest in witchcraft in the ensuing decades.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2007, 12:43:13 pm by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

Your mind understands what you have been taught; your heart what is true.
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