Books on the History of Wicca

Reviews for books dedicated to the history of Wicca (the real, 20th century history, not the ancient history long debunked as ludicrous) can be found below the Amazon links.

Ronald Hutton, Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft.

This is becoming a must read for Wiccans, especially for those with any interest whatsoever in our history. People today have this unfortunate impression that criticism automatically equates to disrespect, yet Hutton can paint Wicca in a honestly positive light while simultaneously decimating many of the myths surrounding it. He guides the reader through the real historical movements that influenced Wicca. As a professor of history at the University of Bristol in England, Hutton is an academic, and his writing reflects this. A far throw from pulp Wicca books, Triumph of the Moon gives detailed evidence and explanation behind every argument.

  Frederic Lamond, Fifty Years of Wicca

Frederic Lamond is an almost unique position to write this book, as he was a member of Gerald Gardner’s coven. He has first hand experience as to both what Gardner actually taught and what the other coven members thought of the teachings. He has watched Wicca evolve over the past 50 years, and he has more than enough experience to describe his own viewpoints of the subject, both good and bad.

Fifty Years of Wicca is, at its heart, a personal story, focused on Lamond’s own outlooks and experiences. Once a reader is past needing Wicca 101 reading materials, this is a very useful approach. After all, Wicca does not provide revelation from without. Rather it is a path for revelation from within. We learn from each person’s experiences, knowing we are not required to emulate them yet often can take notes from them.

Some Traditionalists have complained that this book “tells Eclectics what they want to hear.” The adjective “Huttonesque” has also been employed to describe it in reference to Wiccan historian Ronald Hutton. Lamond is very clear about the history of Wicca, stating that everyone in the coven knew the practices dated back no further than the late 19th century, and Gardner was awkward concerning this fact when he spoke about mythological ancient Wiccan times. I cannot for the life of me, however, imagine why the Traditionalist Lamond would lie to appeal to Eclectics, nor does it seem plausible to me that he would not know the opinions of those in his own coven.

I particularly value Lamond’s covering of various Traditional practices, how they have evolved over time and why some of them have disappeared or become less prominent. He spends a great amount of time on both the Great Rite and Drawing Down the Moon, covering information almost completely whitewashed from texts available today. It paints a very clear picture of how bastardized some versions of these practices have become and how, at least from Traditional viewpoints, some common practices are largely empty of original meaning and function.

Philip Heselton, Wiccan Roots: Gerald Gardner and the Modern Witchcraft Revival

I have severe reservations about this book, but I include it here in part because some traditionalists see it as a counterpoint to Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon. Heselton does address topics not often found elsewhere, so simply making the reader aware of them has value in and of itself.

That said, I find the book full of supposition masquerading as fact.  There is a clear agenda here in painting Gerald Gardner and his background in a certain light, and evidence is interpreted in ways that best suit that goal.

There is also the objection that if Helseton’s version of Gardner’s pre-Wiccan coven is true, then Heselton has outed members who clearly did not want their identities known.  And if it isn’t true, then the people named are being painted in a light to which they would certainly object.

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