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Author Topic: Cunningham?  (Read 23854 times)
Aster Breo
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« Reply #15: April 24, 2007, 02:12:49 pm »

Murray had been critiqued for *years* among scholars, but the final nail in the Murray thesis's coffin was Cohn's Europe's Inner Demons, in 1975.  Even then, it took a while to reach the general public.  And archaelogists, and folklorists like Jacqueline Simpson, were critiquing the Matriarchy thesis in the 60s and 70s, as part of the general overturning of the cultural evolution theory.  But even in folklore, which is a big field, the matriarchy thesis  was still kicking around in some quarters -- as I said, Jack Zipes references it in passing in some of his fairy tale work in the 80s.  As for critiques of Wiccan versions of history, like Aiden Kelly's stuff, they hadn't really reached saturation point at the time Cunningham was writing.  Cunningham wasn't a scholar, so I don't find his spouting of the Wiccan version of history, complete with Murray and Matriarchy, to be all that outrageous *for the time he was writing*.  Still wrong though, and he should have done more careful work, as more accurate versions of history were starting to become accessible.  And I wish that the reissued versions of his stuff being published today had been updated to correct the history. 

Catja,

Just to make sure I'm understanding correctly...

The "great matriarchy" theory was debunked in the 1980s?  So people writing in the 1980s would not necessarily have been "debugged" yet?

I'm asking because I just read a book last night called Mythic Ireland by Michael Dames, who is described on the back as "a graduate in geography and British archeology, and a former senior lecturer in the History of Art.  His previous publications include The Silbury Treasure:  The Great Goddess Rediscovered and The Avebury Cycle."  This book was published in 1992, so I assume it was being researched and written in the 1980s.

It brought me up short with some quotes from Gimbutas in the intro.  That was my first clue.  Then, as I got further into it, I realized that part of his premise seemed to be based on some variation of the "all goddesses are one goddess" idea -- which seemed downright weird for a book about the myth and folk traditions of Ireland.

But, given the time period of when it was written, maybe it's not so weird?
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« Reply #16: April 24, 2007, 02:20:39 pm »

Well... to be fair, when Cunningham was writing in the 80s, the Murray thesis had been debunked among academics, but it hadn't necessarily trickled down to the general public yet -- hell, it *still* hasn't, but the debnking has been around long enough there's far less excuse for spouting Murray uncritically.

I have to disagree here. Murray's witchcraft ideas had been set aside by most academics within 10 to 15 years of their publication. In fact, as I recall, she could not get her second book on the subject published by an academic press. Yes, this had not filtered down to popular press books yet, but a little bit of research turned up the fact that Murray's witchcraft thesis was long out of favor when I did some research on it in the early 1970s -- when I was in high school and first encountered in it pagan books. So, IMHO, there is really no excuse for all the popular press Wicca books in the 80s and 90s continuing to claim that it was true.


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« Reply #17: April 24, 2007, 02:27:56 pm »

Murray had been critiqued for *years* among scholars, but the final nail in the Murray thesis's coffin was Cohn's Europe's Inner Demons, in 1975.

That may have been the final nail, but that coffin had already had a large number of nails in its lid from well before that.

Quote
Cunningham wasn't a scholar, so I don't find his spouting of the Wiccan version of history, complete with Murray and Matriarchy, to be all that outrageous *for the time he was writing*.

Perhaps not, but it shows me that he wasn't really doing any historical research, but was just spouting the story he had been told by others who had done no real research.

Quote
And I wish that the reissued versions of his stuff being published today had been updated to correct the history.

Given Scott is long dead, I can forgive this. What I can't forgive are authors who still spout this stuff as fact today. I really get annoyed at authors who revise their older books but not the bad history in them.
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« Reply #18: April 24, 2007, 03:06:07 pm »

Namaste,

I have to agree, I suppose there really is no excuse for false history being taught in a day and age where anyone can do a lil research to find out the truth. I guess I just don't like to condemn others, especially when I find their work of personal value.

I also agree and did state that we should point out the errors about history and bring the facts to light. But for good or worse that bad history is out there.

Sometimes people are blinded by their religion, as had been shown time and time again, and Pagans are not immune to that either. So I don't belive it does anyone any good to get their breeches all in a knot over the issue of bad false history. All we can do is patiently correct the errors as they come to light, teach the truth and learn from the past mistakes of others.

Blessed Be,

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« Reply #19: April 24, 2007, 03:21:52 pm »

Namaste,

Sometimes people are blinded by their religion, as had been shown time and time again, and Pagans are not immune to that either. So I don't belive it does anyone any good to get their breeches all in a knot over the issue of bad false history. All we can do is patiently correct the errors as they come to light, teach the truth and learn from the past mistakes of others.

Blessed Be,

Ravyn

I suspect that attitude will depend on where you are. TC members tend to look very, very unfavorably on bad history. In some cases, that bad history is something that is met with very little patience because most of us have grown weary of countering it.

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« Reply #20: April 24, 2007, 08:41:01 pm »

I'll be happy to refer future posts on history to you.

I recently bought and read "Earth Power". It's a book of Folk magic. The basics in each chapter are very basic but the spells are interesting material for further thought and adaptation to personal practice. It doesn't include any history which is probably an advantage.

I'm looking forward to reading the sequel "Earth, Air, Fire, Water".
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« Reply #21: April 27, 2007, 10:52:29 am »

Hello,  I agree with everyone on SRW, but what about Scott Cunningham?  How do you tell who is full of it and who isnt?

A few of my very first books were from Cunningham- dreamwork and study is a fascination of mine and his book Sacred Sleep- Dreams and the Divine (I think the original was reprinted also under Dreaming the Divine: Techniques for Sacred Sleep) I still think is a really good bare-bones starting point for any person on any path who's interested in the links between dreams and spirituality.

Not being Wiccan, there's not much more I can say about his other works (and I'm not even touching the historical accuracy/research angle), but for those just starting out, I don't think he's a bad author. I found his writing style pretty easy to understand, and the general ideas set up in a very non-overwhelming way.
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« Reply #22: April 29, 2007, 01:21:14 pm »

I have to disagree here. Murray's witchcraft ideas had been set aside by most academics within 10 to 15 years of their publication. In fact, as I recall, she could not get her second book on the subject published by an academic press. Yes, this had not filtered down to popular press books yet, but a little bit of research turned up the fact that Murray's witchcraft thesis was long out of favor when I did some research on it in the early 1970s -- when I was in high school and first encountered in it pagan books. So, IMHO, there is really no excuse for all the popular press Wicca books in the 80s and 90s continuing to claim that it was true.


True -- Murray was criticized heavily pretty much from the moment her book came out.  What i was trying to express -- not very clearly! -- is that even if something is published and available, it's often a *long* time before that information is, like, an automatic, common-knowledge thing, even among scholars:  "the sky is blue, 2+2=4, and Murray's thesis is WRONG," sort of thing.  Historians of the witch hunts critiqued her immediately, but it took  time for that critique to ripple out and become common knowledge.  You were specifically *looking* for accurate scholarly info on the witch hunts, so it's not surprising you found it.   Smiley  But from a general-knowledge standpoint, it was still clinging on, and I think folks like Cunningham were getting their historical info strictly from that general-knowledge base, rather than doing up-to-date scholarly research.  Which makes my teeth hurt, but, as I said, Cunningham doesn't bug me the way someone writing today would -- today, we're in the "2+2=4, Murray's thesis is wrong" stage in a way people weren't when Cunningham was writing.  If that makes sense?  It doesn't excuse him from crappy research, but to me, it's a bit more excusable than it would be for someone writing today.

Incidentally, I'm interested in why things like "the Murray thesis is wrong" and "there's no evidence for a universal matriarchal Mother goddess cult" are common knowledge today, but a huge number of the underlying assumptions of people like Frazer go unquestioned (among the Pagan community in general, not among scholars).  I think it may have something to do with the fact that Murray and Gimbjutas were more recent scholars whose theories are strongly connected with *their names* (Murray's witch thesis, Gimbjutas's version of the GUM), while Frazer's stuff penetrated so far into the zeitgeist, so long ago, that his theories kind of... became divorced from *him*, if that makes sense.  There's also the fact that the organizing mythos of Wicca is, like, Frazer in action, which keeps reinforcing his stuff. 
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« Reply #23: April 29, 2007, 01:39:05 pm »

Catja,

Just to make sure I'm understanding correctly...

The "great matriarchy" theory was debunked in the 1980s?  So people writing in the 1980s would not necessarily have been "debugged" yet?

I'm asking because I just read a book last night called Mythic Ireland by Michael Dames, who is described on the back as "a graduate in geography and British archeology, and a former senior lecturer in the History of Art.  His previous publications include The Silbury Treasure:  The Great Goddess Rediscovered and The Avebury Cycle."  This book was published in 1992, so I assume it was being researched and written in the 1980s.

It brought me up short with some quotes from Gimbutas in the intro.  That was my first clue.  Then, as I got further into it, I realized that part of his premise seemed to be based on some variation of the "all goddesses are one goddess" idea -- which seemed downright weird for a book about the myth and folk traditions of Ireland.

But, given the time period of when it was written, maybe it's not so weird?

It kinda depends on what you mean by "debugged."   Smiley  As I was saying to Randall above, there's so often a HUGE time lag between "info being made available" and "info becoming common knowledge."  The Gimbjutas  Great Universal Mother theory had been heavily critiqued and modified in the 70s, by people like Jacqueline Simpson, but if you weren't moving in those specific circles, you might not have picked up on it -- it's hard enough for scholars to keep up on stuff in their *specific* area of expertise, and you won't necessarily be up-to-date on stuff that's of interest but tangential.  This is why people like Jack Zipes -- who is *the* authority on the European fairy tale canon -- were referencing the Great Universal Mother theory as true well into the 80s.  (Zipes is concerned with the 17-19th century continental fairy tale collectors/writers, so it's not surprising he wouldn't necessarily be fully up on intersections of archaeology and folk tradition, etc.)  If you weren't subscribed to the journals in which those critiques were appearing, you'd be operating from the "general scholarly knowledge" base, if that makes sense, and that base was in the process of updating -- I'd guess it was updated by about mid-to-late 80s.  (Publication is a very, very slooooooow process.  *g*)  The specialists *in those areas* had known for years, but it was still rippling out to scholars in other areas, and then to the general public.         
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« Reply #24: April 29, 2007, 01:46:04 pm »

If you weren't subscribed to the journals in which those critiques were appearing, you'd be operating from the "general scholarly knowledge" base, if that makes sense, and that base was in the process of updating -- I'd guess it was updated by about mid-to-late 80s.  (Publication is a very, very slooooooow process.  *g*)  The specialists *in those areas* had known for years, but it was still rippling out to scholars in other areas, and then to the general public.         

OK.  I guess I'll cut him some slack, then.   Wink  This time...
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« Reply #25: April 29, 2007, 01:51:16 pm »

Scott was an amazing, gentle loving soul.  His books cut deeply into the at-that-time rather rigid "rules and recipes" books - mainly in terms of making ritual personally satisfying.

Some of his ideas were colored by his mild and pacifistic outlook.  Yes, graveyard dirt is, actually, graveyard dirt.

Besides Scott's astounding knowledge of herbs & woods, etc, his main contributions were the documenting of "folk magic" from all over the world, and the giving to practitioners a sense of "permission" to be creative, and "color outside" the lines.

Another good thing Scott's writings do is to include, most equally, honor to The God ... the "male" aspect of Deity ... without apology, and without slamming the still-growing (thus, sometimes almost militant) love of Goddess.  (Unfortunately, there are a few recent books about Wicca/Craft for men, that are childishly angry attempts to re-closet women and Goddess - something I find utterly absurd and damaging.)

His Wicca/Craft books are a good place to start ~ and I'd recommend them over nearly all other (more recipe-like) books on the shelves for anyone wanting to get a basic understanding of Wicca and Witchcraft "means & ways."

Everything you read should be treated with a constant touch of your own internal Truth-Sensing.  And tested by you for efficacy in your own life.
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« Reply #26: April 29, 2007, 02:00:48 pm »

OK.  I guess I'll cut him some slack, then.   Wink  This time...

 Cheesy  Too, Gimbutas was still getting published into the '90s.  And part of the reason that her work made such a huge impact is that she already had serious, serious cred as an archaeologist long before she started with the GUM stuff; your guy sounds like a bit of a late holdout in his field, but it's not too whacked out for the time he was writing.
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« Reply #27: April 29, 2007, 05:14:11 pm »

what about Scott Cunningham?

Cunningham is essential for me.  Although Uncle Bucky's Big Blue Book was my first forray into the religious side of witchcraft, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner became my foundation.  And now after 20 years of study and growth, Its still a main resource for me.  Its the one book I will not recycle.
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« Reply #28: April 29, 2007, 06:10:16 pm »

You were specifically *looking* for accurate scholarly info on the witch hunts, so it's not surprising you found it.   Smiley

What I find surprising is that others who getting paid for writing books were still quoting it as gospel truth 15 or so years later. It did not take me a lot of time to find that scholars had major problems with her theory in the early 70s. I think I spent one afternoon working on it at Trinity University's library in San Antonio. We aren't talking major university library here, but a fairly small private university who were kind enough to let high school students use the their library for research free.

Quote
Incidentally, I'm interested in why things like "the Murray thesis is wrong" and "there's no evidence for a universal matriarchal Mother goddess cult" are common knowledge today, but a huge number of the underlying assumptions of people like Frazer go unquestioned (among the Pagan community in general, not among scholars).

Heck, I had problems with Frazier's assumptions when I read the one-volume version of his work when I was in high school.  I looked through the multi-volume version in the reference section of the library, but what I saw did not make me thing more words would make it better.

Quote
There's also the fact that the organizing mythos of Wicca is, like, Frazer in action, which keeps reinforcing his stuff.

Frazier and Murray -- at least for Traditional Wicca. But Frazier's stuff is, as you say, often not directly associated with him. People get it indirectly any more from people who wrote in the mid-20th century and may not even mention Frazier except for a reference to his works in the bibliography.
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« Reply #29: April 29, 2007, 06:58:28 pm »

What I find surprising is that others who getting paid for writing books were still quoting it as gospel truth 15 or so years later. It did not take me a lot of time to find that scholars had major problems with her theory in the early 70s. I think I spent one afternoon working on it at Trinity University's library in San Antonio. We aren't talking major university library here, but a fairly small private university who were kind enough to let high school students use the their library for research free.

If the people writing, editing and reviewing the books weren't plugged into the circles that were doing the critiques, I'm not surprised much.   Smiley  I'm going through something a little like this myself -- I'm writing an article on Potter fandom for a children's literature journal, and it's really interesting to see what the readers are accepting and questioning, depending on whether they come from fandom studies, kid lit, or queer theory, and the assumptions that are made regarding fields that aren't one's own.  It's generally a safe bet that your knowledge of a field not your own is at least a few years out of date, which means that you know just enough to be dangerous; I'm biting my nails on the queer theory stuff, because while I know the basics that I picked up in grad school, and have read a number of articles, I am SO not up on the latest developments in the field.  But queer theory is pretty tangential to my argument, so I didn't feel the need to go out and do in-depth research.  And that, there, is why stuff like the Murray and GUM theses hung on for so long after being debunked -- people who weren't specialists in the area, and who weren't writing about those theories directly enough to seek out the recent research, making throwaway, tangential references to them.  It's the nature of scholarly theory -- and a logical consequence of the publication process -- to change gradually, and for debunked theories to slowly peter out, rather than stop abruptly.   
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