Spelling out history: transforming witchcraft past and present
Keywords:Contemporary British Witchcraft, History, Practice
AbstractHistory and heritage are often asserted as indicators of continuity. However, meaningful pasts are mobilized according to the needs of the present, and continually reinvented and transformed. This paper seeks to explore the dynamic and fluid ways that the past is continually under revision to meet such needs. Contemporary British witches are currently experiencing a radical shift in the ways they conceptualize, evidence and rationalize their history. Until recently, practitioners claimed that contemporary practices could be traced back to pre-Christian times: formal groups of witches (covens) had a continuous and unbroken religious tradition going back to antiquity. This position has recently been subjected to extensive critique which suggests a prevailing scepticism to the idea of continuity, and an alignment with recent interpretations from scholarly historians. However, while the ‘inventions’ of earlier writers are criticized, pagans continue to feel connected to the ancient past by privileging less specific ideas about rural traditions and the primacy of experience rather than explicitly historical arguments; the use of the past is a continually creative and ongoing process. Therefore, it is clear that dynamic ideas of what constitutes both the content and context of history are central concerns for practitioners today.
Bott, Adrian. “The Great Wicca Hoax—Part 1”. White Dragon 31 (Lughnasa 2001): 5-8.
Chapin-Bishop, Cat, and Peter Bishop. “Embarrassed by Our Origins.” The Pomegranate no. 12 (Spring 2000), 48-54.
Certeau, Michel de. The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.
———. The Writing of History. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.
Clifton, Chas S. “Leland’s Aradia and the Revival of Modern Witchcraft.” The Pomegranate no. 1 (Winter-Spring 1997): 2-27.
Connerton, Paul. How Societies Remember. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
Cornish, Helen. “Cunning Histories: Privileging Narratives in the Present.” History and Anthropology 16, no. 3 (2005): 363-376. doi:10.1080/02757200500219610
———. “Recreating Historical Knowledge and Witchcraft in Southern England.” PhD thesis, University of London, 2005.
Davies, Owen. Cunning-Folk: Popular Magic in English History. London: Hambledon and London, 2003.
Dilley, Roy, ed. The Problem of Context. Oxford: Berghahn Books, 1999.
Frazer, James. The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion. London: Macmillan Press Ltd., 1976 .
Gardner, Gerald B. The Meaning of Witchcraft. London: Aquarian, 1959.
———. Witchcraft Today. London: Rider, 1954.
Gibbons, Jenny. “Recent Developments in the Study of The Great European Witch Hunt.” The Pomegranate no. 5 (Summer 1998): 2-16.
Graves, Robert. The White Goddess. London: Faber & Faber, 1981 .
Greenwood, Susan. “The British Subculture: Beyond Good and Evil?” In Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft, edited by James R. Lewis, 277-296. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996.
———. Magic, Witchcraft and the Otherworld: An Anthropology. Oxford: Berg, 2000.
Heehs, Peter. “Myth, History and Theory.” History and Theory 33, no. 1 (1994): 1-19. doi:10.2307/2505649
Heselton, Philip. Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration: An Investigation into the Sources of Gardnerian Witchcraft. Milverton, Somerset: Capall Bann, 2003.
———. Wiccan Roots: Gerald Gardner and the Modern Witchcraft Revival. Chieveley, Berks.: Capall Bann, 2000.
Hodgkin, Katharine and Susannah Radstone. Contested Pasts: the politics of memory. London: Routledge, 2003.
Howard, Michael. “Cunning Men, Wise Women and Modern Witches.” The Cauldron 97 (2000): 9-14.
———. “Gerald Gardner: The Man and the Myth.” The Cauldron 51 (1988): 1-3.
Hutton, Ronald. “Modern Pagan Witchcraft.” In The History of Witchcraft and Magic in Europe. Volume 6: The Twentieth Century, edited by Bengt. Ankarloo and Stuart. Clark, 1-80. London: Athlone, 1999.
———. “Paganism and Polemic: The Debate over the Origins of Modern Pagan Witchcraft.” Folklore 111, no. 1 (2000): 103-17.
———. The Triumph of the Moon. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Ingold, Tim. “The Past is a Foreign Country.” In Key Debates in Anthropology, edited by Tim Ingold, 199-248. London: Routledge, 1996.
Jones, Prudence. “The Long View.” Pagan Dawn no. 120 (Lammas 1996): 17.
Jordanova, Ludmilla. History in Practice. London: Arnold, 2000.
Kelly, Aidan. Crafting the Art of Magic. Book 1: A History of Modern Witchcraft, 1939- 1964. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn, 1991.
Lambek, Michael. The Weight of the Past: Living with History in Mahajanga. New York: Palgrave, 2003.
Leland, Charles G. Aradia: The Gospel of the Witches. New York: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1974 .
Lewis, James R., ed. Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft: A Scholarly Study of Neopaganism in the 90s. Albany, New York: State University of New York, 1996.
Luhrmann, Tanya. Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft: Ritual Magic in Contemporary England. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989.
Meskell, Lynn. “Feminism, Paganism, Pluralism.” In Archeology and Folklore, edited by Amy Gasin-Schwarts and Cornelius Holtorf, 83-90. London: Routledge, 1999.
Murray, Margaret. The God of the Witches. Castle Headingham, Essex: The Daimon Press Limited, 1961 .
———. The Witch-Cult in Western Europe. London: Oxford University Press, 1921.
Pearson, Joanne. “Wicca, Paganism and History,” In The Lancashire Witches: Histories and Stories, edited by Robert Poole, 188-203. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002.
———. “Writing Witchcraft: the Historians’ History, the Practitioners’ Past.” In Witchcraft Historiography, edited by Jonathan Barry and Owen Davies, 225-241. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
Purkiss, Diane. The Witch in History: Early Modern and Twentieth Century Representations. London: Routledge, 1996.
Radstone, Susannah, and Katharine Hodgkin. Regimes of Memory. London: Routledge, 2003.
Rees, Kenneth. “The Tangled Skein: the Role of Myth in Paganism.” In Paganism Today, edited by Graham Harvey and Charlotte Hardman, 16-31. London: Thorsons, 1995.
Samuel, Raphael. Theatres of Memory: Volume 1: Past and Present in Contemporary Culture. London: Verso, 1994.
Samuel, Raphael, and Paul Thompson. “Introduction.” In The Myths We Live By, edited by Raphael Samuel and Paul Thompson, 1-22. London: Routledge, 1990.
Semmens, Jason. The Witch of the West. Plymouth: Printed for the author, 2004.
Tonkin, Elizabeth.“History and the Myth of Realism.” In The Myths We Live By, edited by Raphael Samuel and Paul Thompson, 25-35. London: Routledge, 1990.
Tonkin, Elizabeth, Maryon McDonald, and Malcolm Chapman, eds., History and Ethnicity. London: Routledge, 1989.
Valiente, Doreen. An ABC of Witchcraft. New York: St. Martin’s, 1973.
———. Natural Magic. New York: St. Martin’s, 1975.
———. Where Witchcraft Lives. London: Aquarian Press, 1962.
Vance, Phil. “The Old Religion.” White Dragon no. 34 (Beltane 2002).
Wallis, Kathy. Spirit in the Storm: The True Story of Joan Wytte, Fighting Fairy Woman of Bodmin. Wadebridge, Cornwall: Lyngham House, 2003.
Walsh, Brian M. “The Great Debate: Did Murray Meet her Brief?” The Cauldron no. 110 (2003): 35-36
Wilson, Steve. “Archaic Witchcraft.” The Witchtower no. 8 (2004): 10-12.
How to Cite
© Equinox Publishing Ltd.
For information regarding our Open Access policy, click here.