Reflections on “The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft,” Ronald Hutton

ImageThis is a book I’ve often seen on “essential reading” lists  for aspiring Wiccans. It is a long and extraordinarily detailed examination on the development of systems of ritual magick from early anthropological writings to the modern-day occultists and other practitioners. It’s evidently well-researched (probably the most well-researched work I’ve read on the subject of Paganism or Wicca) and all the essential details about the history of Wicca and related systems are in there.

However, I would say that those new to Wicca and Paganism should beware of starting their investigations into magick with this book, for a number of reasons:

1. It’s written in an academic manner focussing on detail rather than clarity, which makes it heavy-going and difficult to extract specific details. I found it hard to retain much of the densely-packed information written here. Those completely new to Wicca and Paganism will probably find it somewhat confusing and overwhelming.

2. Some may find the title slightly confusing as well. The inclusion of the word “pagan” in there might make you think that the book will focus on the broader aspects of paganism, but in actuality, this book really concerns Wicca and other magickal practises.

3. However, the title is certainly right about the “history” aspect; the book follows a largely chronological structure. What’s more, as is typical in historical studies, it looks at the key individuals and their works that have shaped Wicca and witchcraft, including Gardner, Valiente, Graves, Starhawk, and Crowley, as well as the earlier academics who wrote on the related subjects of anthropology and folklore. Which is fascinating, but less useful if you are looking for practical information on Wicca, as this is a book is about the who’s who in Wicca, rather than the what’s what. And the actual Gods and Goddesses of the Earth-based religions upon which witchcraft is founded very much take the back seat.

Having said this, if you are looking for neutral, factual information on the people and writings that have made witchcraft what it is today, you can’t really go wrong with this book. The main message I took away from The Triumph of the Moon is that, although Paganism and witchcraft may be based on the collective rituals and folklore held by the common man throughout the ages, without those individuals who carefully documented and interpreted these practises and beliefs, Wicca and neopaganism would certainly not be what it is today.

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One response to “Reflections on “The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft,” Ronald Hutton

  1. Pingback: Paganism and Nationalism | Trellia's Mirror Book

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