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Title: Origins of Modern Witchcraft: The Evolution of a World Religion
Author: Ann Moura
Format: Trade Paperback, 336 pages
Publication date: October 2000
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Given all the misinformation floating around the Neo-Pagan community about the origins of Wicca and other Neo-Pagan religions, I was pleased when the Origins of Modern Witchcraft arrived for review. Here was a book by the author one of the better recent series of "101" books (Green Witchcraft I, II, and III). A book by an author with a masters in history. Unfortunately, my high hopes for this book were quickly dashed.
Origins of Modern Witchcraft is a readable and enjoyable romp through historical speculation. I enjoyed reading this book even as I picked it apart. Ann Moura has an engaging style of writing and the historical theory she presents is interesting. She is exploring the theory that there were two major ancient civilizations in Eurasia, the Sind in the Indus Valley and the Aryan invaders. The Sind were peaceful and advanced with a life-affirming God and Goddess while the Aryans were warlike invaders with angry, hostile Gods.
My first major problem with this book is the lack of footnotes. The author makes grand, sweeping claims throughout this book without providing much -- if anything -- to support them. For example, the author states that "the people of Sind understood the concepts of light years and the equivalent of modern astronomy's 'island universes'...." This is a remarkable claim, yet no support for it is provided. This volume is full of such remarkable claims, most unsupported.
My second major problem with this book is that it is very hostile to religions, beliefs, and practices it claims come from the Aryans. I got the impression from reading this book that those Aryan invaders were directly or indirectly responsible for every ill in Western and Near Eastern societies. While I suppose this is possible, it sounds more like scapegoating to me, especially given the lack of references.
Origins of Modern Witchcraft is unusual in one respect, at least for a history book; it includes a number of rituals. Each chapter has at least one ritual related to the material in the chapter. The rituals are well-designed and described, but seem a bit out of place in a history book.
I enjoyed reading this book (in the same way I enjoyed reading those outrageous "ancient astronaut" books when I was a teen), but was not convinced by it. It presents alternative, personal theory of history that seems designed to appeal to many Pagans, especially those who do not know much about ancient history. Without references to support all the amazing claims and statements made, however, the reader has no way to tell if this theory is likely or unlikely. Given the grand and sweeping nature of many of the claims made in this book, I personally have strong doubts about almost every claim made in the book. The author is basically saying that the history we are all taught is wrong. That is an outrageous claim to make without providing lots of references and other evidence to back the claim. Readers who prefer their history well-supported instead of declaratory will probably want to pass on this book as will those who prefer not to attempt to blame all the ills of history and the modern western world on one ancient people.
(Don't mistake the mild words in this review for an endosement of this book in any way. I am simply treating this book as the joke it must be. This is one of the worst books on the history of Wicca ever written. Pure speculation that builds on the speculation of the previous chapter as if it were fact. It's a fun read, but as history it is little more than pure BS.)
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