Origins of Modern Witchcraft Review

Reviewed by Daven

Origins of Modern Witchcraft    
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Title: Origins of Modern Witchcraft: The Evolution of a World Religion
Author: Ann Moura
Format: Trade Paperback, 336 pages
Publisher: Llewellyn
Publication date: October 2000
ISBN-10: 1567186483
ISBN-13: 978-1567186482
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I had hoped when I started this book that it would explain many things that have long puzzled me. I thought "here is a person who has a Bachelor's degree along with a Master's degree in History. Finally, we can get to the heart of the matter and stop a lot of pointless debate."

How wrong I was.

The first three chapters are interesting. There is little evidence to back what she claims up, however. There are no footnotes in this book to reference claims she makes, or even to guide the reader to finding the answers for themselves. While these are not necessary in most cases, they are critical to having a work taken seriously by the scholastic community.

Of some distraction (and unique to this work) there are rituals interspersed with the text, to encourage you to do the rituals with an open mind. Well, I had an open mind and I closed it quickly. The rituals, while nice and of use in another setting, are useless in this book. They only serve to distract you from the claims made by the author.

Of concern, this tome has many thoughts and "facts" that can't be proven by any of the references or points or theories that she cites. For instance, it is Ms. Moura's assertation that the current plethora of religions came from the Sind, in the area now known as the Mid-East or India, and the worship of Shiva and Shakti. She cites a gradual progression of beliefs and a metamorphosis of the politics and religion as being directly the "fault" of the Aryan beliefs as the Sind area grew and traded.

In brief, the Aryans had a religion based on a king class of people, with the Gods supporting their rule, while the Indus had a religion of all being equal before the Gods.

She does a good job of writing this all down. It is somewhat confusing the way she presents her arguments. Instead of putting all the information and happenings into a timeline, and walking the reader through it all, she breaks it into groupings and takes the reader from the beginning to now, then back to the beginning again, over and over.

All of this I could forgive, but then she starts into claiming that the current Wiccan religion is exactly how the ancients (meaning the Celts and Irish) of the time of the Tuatha de Danna and just after, worshiped. This spans the time of about 200 c.e. to approximately 500 c.e. She further cites all the troubles in the world being directly attributable to the Roman Empire and the religion of that Empire and their Aryan philosophies. She even claims that the current hierarchy in the Vatican is a leftover of the pre-Roman political structure. One passage in particular has many reviewers of this book up in arms, where she calls the Pope the current incarnation of the Roman Emperor.

Claims of passing knowledge from parent to child during the "Burning Times" and keeping it pure abound in some sections of this book. This is criminally negligent in my opinion. There is no way, to cite Isaac Bonewits, that an uneducated peasantry could keep the teachings pure for better than 500 years without writing it down.

But to state that modern Wicca is the reincarnation of Shiva/Shakti worship is ludicrous. To give you the scale she is taking in, she cites that the height of this Shiva/Shakti worship was approximately 14,000 b.c.e.

Oh, to give her credit, she may honestly believe these things. It is possible that she is correct in her thoughts and assertations, but it is highly unlikely. Her open hostility against the Christian churches, as well as anything considered "Aryan", meaning any non-Wiccan/Green Witchcraft, is distressing and it slants the entire book. Readers are advised to take this book with an entire salt-pan, rather than just a grain.

She does state that the Burning Times and the Witch Hysteria of the Middle Ages were for political gain, rather than for persecution of Witches. She does state that the Celts invaded Ireland in three waves, mostly from Iberia (Spain). She does give an accurate portrayal of the struggles on Ireland of the Celts, first with the Fir Bolg, then the Tuatha de Danna, then the Irish invaders, and she does give a somewhat accurate history of Christianity.

However, statements like "yes, they did elect a woman and a horse" in regards to the Papacy elections and the Catholic Church leave me wondering if she bothered to do any research of the Christian Churches at all. Because according to every scholar I consulted, that is a bunch of hogwash and they would be very interested in seeing her evidences.

It is my opinion that Ms. Moura does achieve a triumph in this book. Never, since the writing of The White Goddess have so many straws been clutched at, so many half baked theories and coincidences been strung together into one book and presented as fact.

I'm afraid that, all things considered and despite her good works in Green Witchcraft, her other series, that I must only give her one half star out of five. This is the worst rating ever, for me. Readers would be well advised to keep their money in their pockets, rather than encourage shoddy scholarship like this. In this case, I must also condemn Llewellyn books for publishing this tripe. It's books like this and the 21 Lessons of Merlyn that continue to give them a bad name.

Read another review of this book.

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