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Author Topic: Witch Cult in Western Europe  (Read 4094 times)
Mannun
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« Topic Start: May 08, 2008, 08:25:55 am »

I have gotten my hands on this book by Margaret Murray written in 1921. To me it has a plethora of interesting information found within supposedly obtained from Witches throughout history and from many different countries. There are tons of quotes from witches being questioned by the authorities and each time a reference at the bottom of the page shows where to find this information yourself, which most everything you would have to go to a particular church/library of history in that particular country and have a translator available. Anyways, this book gives tons of confirmation of alot of the Wiccan practices of today, i.e. working in circles, a degree system, an entire chapter of The Man in Black or Summoner, The Sabbats celebrated and how, Initiations & Elevations etc etc. In the past Margaret Murray was discredited with her fidings, however I do believe that was because of the day and age she was discredited. What are some of you alls thoughts on her findings now?? For those who have never seen or heard of this old book just Google the title and you can read a PDF version of it.
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« Reply #1: May 08, 2008, 08:41:36 am »

In the past Margaret Murray was discredited with her fidings, however I do believe that was because of the day and age she was discredited.

Sorry, I don't understand what you mean here.  It looks like you're saying that if we look at her work again now, we might find it more reputable than the people who discredited her in the past did.  I don't understand why that would be.  Bad history is bad history.  Am I misreading you?
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« Reply #2: May 08, 2008, 09:19:24 am »


Just because it says what you want to see doesn't make it good history.  That's what Murray did - started with the answer she wanted and forced stuff to fit.  bad science, though.
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« Reply #3: May 08, 2008, 10:52:22 am »

In the past Margaret Murray was discredited with her fidings, however I do believe that was because of the day and age she was discredited. What are some of you alls thoughts on her findings now??

She's still discredited to anyone who takes scholarship seriously.

There are some current neo-Pagan authors who obviously pull from her stuff and, IMO, they're discredited too.
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« Reply #4: May 08, 2008, 10:59:52 am »

Sorry, I don't understand what you mean here.  It looks like you're saying that if we look at her work again now, we might find it more reputable than the people who discredited her in the past did.  I don't understand why that would be.  Bad history is bad history.  Am I misreading you?

Just because it says what you want to see doesn't make it good history.  That's what Murray did - started with the answer she wanted and forced stuff to fit.  bad science, though.

To add to what Shad and Star said, there is evidence that disproves what Murray said.  For example, we know that not all pre-Christian cultures were Matriarchal.  In much of Ancient Greece, women had the same rights as women in modern-day Saudi Arabia (the exception probably being Sparta and the Minoans).  And there were many cultures who looked down on witchcraft.  Murray is the same as Campbell in that she had a theory in mind and discounted everything that contradicted it.

And why should we discount her today?

Granted we know much more about ancient cultures today than they did back in Murray's time but the stuff we do know supports what her critics said.
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« Reply #5: May 08, 2008, 11:00:52 am »

She's still discredited to anyone who takes scholarship seriously.

There are some current neo-Pagan authors who obviously pull from her stuff and, IMO, they're discredited too.

Which is why I avoid most of the books with that cute crescent moon on the spine Cheesy
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« Reply #6: May 08, 2008, 02:26:00 pm »

In the past Margaret Murray was discredited with her fidings, however I do believe that was because of the day and age she was discredited. What are some of you alls thoughts on her findings now?? For those who have never seen or heard of this old book just Google the title and you can read a PDF version of it.

It's a bit more complicated than just discrediting her, in my opinion.

It's useful to remember that there's different kinds of content in books. Some of what Murray put together - things like the lists of witch trials and those convicted, documentation about folk and historical traditions in other places, etc- can be and *has* been confirmed by other sources. It's not like, say, she went and made up everything in the book wholesale.
Where the discrediting comes in in this case is the conclusions she drew from the information she found (and how she filled in some of the gaps.)

This doesn't mean the book is useless. It's actually quite useful for a number of specific kinds of learning and understanding - but it shouldn't be taken as gospel about historical practices, and you should look at the theories *really really really* carefully.

(Personally, I think there's a fair bit of historical evidence from a number of other, far more recent scholars - Carlo Ginzburg, for example - that suggests very scattered and partial survival of witch cults into the early modern era, but I think the evidence just isn't there for a pan-European witch cult or anything like that, which was part of Murray's argument. And reasonable people disagree with me about the history: it's not like it's a lock-stock-barrel argument)

But I can still think of lots of ways the book is useful: a understanding of how we've looked at this history (and why Murray's theories lingered in witchcraft books - well, up till now, really.) Looking at the actual *data* she collected can be fascinating and informative for personal practice (as long as you confirm it through more reliable historical sources or are using it purely for inspiration.) Looking what what patterns of particular customs seem to be more prevalent, and whether that's adaptable in various ways (for example, I've gotten more and more interested in ritual dance uses in historical context over the years).

But Our One True History? Nope. Read with critical analysis glasses firmly on your nose, and double check any factual stuff you actually want to cite as factual stuff later.
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« Reply #7: May 08, 2008, 04:44:18 pm »


This doesn't mean the book is useless. It's actually quite useful for a number of specific kinds of learning and understanding - but it shouldn't be taken as gospel about historical practices, and you should look at the theories *really really really* carefully.

I'll agree with that -  I'd like to have the book just for it's historical aspect with respect to Wicca and modern witchcraft, same with Fraser's "Golden Bough" or Leland's "Aradia". 
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« Reply #8: May 08, 2008, 05:21:25 pm »

I'll agree with that -  I'd like to have the book just for it's historical aspect with respect to Wicca and modern witchcraft, same with Fraser's "Golden Bough" or Leland's "Aradia". 
"Aradia" and "Witch Cult in Western Europe" are in the public domain and available online.  Go to  www.sacred-texts.com.  (And if you like it there, you might consider supporting the site.  They are a wonderful resource and strapped for cash.)

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« Reply #9: May 08, 2008, 06:46:12 pm »

"Aradia" and "Witch Cult in Western Europe" are in the public domain and available online. 

Aradia is even available on our site -- and was before Sacred Texts appeared on the Net. I'm not knocking Sacred Texts, just pointing out that there are many places to get some of the more popular texts that our on their site. It's the truly obscure that make Sacred Texts so useful.
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« Reply #10: May 08, 2008, 09:33:28 pm »

Aradia is even available on our site -- and was before Sacred Texts appeared on the Net. I'm not knocking Sacred Texts, just pointing out that there are many places to get some of the more popular texts that our on their site. It's the truly obscure that make Sacred Texts so useful.

*nods*  They are AWESOME for old-school folklore collections, that, before that, weren't really available outside of university libraries.
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« Reply #11: May 08, 2008, 10:10:31 pm »

They are AWESOME for old-school folklore collections, that, before that, weren't really available outside of university libraries.

Yes, they have old British folklore books that I had heard of back in the 70s but NEVER, EVER seen.
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« Reply #12: May 09, 2008, 12:08:11 am »

"Aradia" and "Witch Cult in Western Europe" are in the public domain and available online.  Go to  www.sacred-texts.com.  (And if you like it there, you might consider supporting the site.  They are a wonderful resource and strapped for cash.)



Thanks - I know about Sacred-texts, but I like good ol' fashioned paper'n'bindings.  Wink  eBooks are fantastic for their search capabilities, but I'm a bit old fashioned when it comes to settling down with a good long read. I really like reading in bed, helps me doze off and I think I retain the information better too. 

Here're a few other good online sources tho:
http://www.hermetics.org/ebooks.html
http://www.esotericarchives.com/esoteric.htm
http://grimoires.net  is another but seems to be having issues at the moment..
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