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Chapter 6 notes

January 24, 2013

Intro to Pagan Studies by Barbara Jane Davy

Discusses the importance of written sources to Paganism…not only fictional works but also academic studies

  • The Golden Bough by James Frazer (I have not read)
    • Interestingly enough this book was written in order to expose Pagan “survivals” to rational analysis in order to refute them
    • instead he laid the basis for:   the Wiccan seasonal mythic cycle, cakes and ale, Goddess/Mother Earth as overarching deity, sacrificial God
  • Aradia by Charles Leland (I have not read)
    • Diana as Goddess of the Witches
    • Witchcraft as a pagan survival and form of peasant resistance to Catholic church and aristocrats
    • includes charms, invocations and spells
    • the teaching of Aradia became through Gardner and Valiente “The Charge of the Goddess”
    • full moon meetings, skyclad
  • The Witch-Cult in Western Europe by Margaret Murray (I have read)
    • argued that witchcraft was an organized religion
    • fertility cult of a horn god wrongly interpreted as the devil by the Inquisition
    • seen by some as ” part of sacred history or inspirational myth”
    • contributed to contemporary myths of:  witch hunts, indigenous religion, fertility religion
    • “deemphasizes the importance of the in her later writings on Witchcraft, but in some ways her God of the Witches can be seen as a culmination of the cult of Pan in the writings of modern Romantics in England.”  Rather than call  the horned god Pan, she calls him Cernunnos.
    • inspired:   the Wiccan idea of the Horned god; foliage headed carvings in churches came to be associated with the Green Man aka Frazer’s sacrificial God; false etymology of witch as meaning “to know”; circles for rituals; called witchcraft “Celtic”; coven of 13; sabbaths for religion and esbats for coven business; Wheel of the Year structure
  • “Wicca’s sense of tension and polarity between female and male is probably derived from [the work of scholars of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras]  since it bears little resemblence to functional pantheons of indigenous peoples as described by modern anthropologists.”
  • English Romantic poets tempered the influence of the scholars(I have read some)
    • John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Butler Yeats, Rudyard Kipling
    • Personified natural forces (especially Pan) which Pagans tend to understand them as real, imagined, images, metaphors or archetypes
    • Pan unimportant in Britian until this poetry; became personified as the English countryside and as its guardian
    • Horned God split to become Holly King and Oak King
  • The Book of Law by Aleister Crowley (I have not read)
    • influenced the Wiccan Rede, Gerald Gardner’s ritual texts
  • Dion Fortune’s books (I have not read)
    • her works together with Crowley’s form the basis of the the Western mystery tradition
    • Psychic Self-Defense often recommended 
  • The White Goddess by Robert Graves (I have not read)
    • never meant as academic history but poetic metaphor; apparently influenced by Murray and Frazer
    • source for the Wiccan seasonal mythic cycle and symbolism; triple goddess
  • Discusses sources important to various reconstruction traditions
  • contemporary novels (I have not read much if any of Pratchett or Le Guin but yes to the others)
    • by authors:  J.R.R. Tolkien, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Robert Heinlein, Terry Pratchett, J.K. Rowling, Ursula Le Guin
2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2013 8:56 PM

    Trust me, you don’t want to read The Golden Bough. I have it (the hefty abridged version; the original was several volumes), and it is like slogging through mud. I’ve had to read excerpts of it for my senior seminar in my degree (BA religious studies) last semester. Just stay away! 🙂


    • January 24, 2013 9:22 PM

      yeah…I haven’t read it because I do not have the time to read books that are known to be of poor scholarship. 🙂 Too many other things to read!


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