Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Wrath of Q & The Return of Ronald Hutton

by David Griffin

Readers of the Golden Dawn blog, may well remember the somewhat irreverent article I wrote here last year in response to an interview here by Caroline Tully with Professor Ronald Hutton, a British historian regarded by many Pagans as embodying nearly God-like stature.

Well, guess what?

Q is back ...

Pagan Luminary, Prof. Ronald "Q" Hutton
... and in a follow-up interview here addresses several of the issues I have raised here on the Golden Dawn blog as well as on The Great Rite blog in response to his initial interview.

Having called Prof. Hutton a "maverick historian" for years, when he made disparaging remarks about the "Wiccan" who called him that, I wrote:
"As a practitioner of the Sacred Forest of Nemi Italian Shamanic tradition, I am outraged at Hutton calling me a "Wiccan," much like James T. Kirk the time Korax the klingon called Kirk "an overbearing Tin Plated Dictator with delusions of Godhood and a Denibian Slime Devil."
In the new interview, Prof. Hutton now clarifies:
"The first [matter to clear up] is that the Wiccan whom I quoted as describing me as a ‘maverick historian’ was Ben Whitmore, and no other."
Well, I am glad we finally cleared that up!

In the initial interview on Necropolis Now, Prof. Hutton wrote:
"neither Carlo [Ginsburg] nor any other reputable historian since 1980 has argued that the people accused of witchcraft in early modern Europe were practitioners of a surviving pagan religion."
Challenging this statement, I  translated into English a wonderful article by Italian Ethnohistorian, Paolo Portone  on "Witches Flying Ointment and the Night Flight of Witches" here and also translated Professor Portone's, "Aradia and the Myth or Reality of Witchcraft" that I published here.

Professor Hutton now writes:
"A classic example of the former sort who has featured in the present debate is Carlo Ginzburg, and of the latter, Paolo Portone. They are very different sorts of author, Carlo being one of the world’s great research scholars and Paolo a polemical writer who draws mostly on existing publications. I have, however, a personal affection and respect for both: Carlo, as I have written before, is a friend, and I am trying to find Paolo a translator and publisher for his book in English." 
Under normal circumstances I would be pleased to translate Prof. Portone's book, as I did with his articles. With the tidal wave of new initiatic magical practices and teachings just released by the Secret Chiefs of the Golden Dawn, however, I am presently inundated with translation work  of  initiatic and spiritual, rather than merely historical value.

I do not rule out more translation for Prof. Portone as a future possibility, however, should the Tsunami of new magic ever abate.

Hutton continues:
"This might give some pause to those who see us as in opposition to each other. Neither of them champion the idea of a surviving medieval or early modern pagan religion, separate from Christianity and in opposition to it, let alone one which survived till modern times. Both emphasise instead the importance of ancient pagan elements absorbed into medieval and later Christian culture, carried on by people who assumed that they were themselves Christian even if other kinds of Christian did not always agree. I am completely in agreement with them in doing so, the main difference between us being that I have hitherto concentrated more on the way in which the pagan elements got filtered back out of the Christian in modern times to create a set of resurrected Pagan religions."
As a Hermetic and Shamanic-Pagan initate, I am not first and foremost interested in history. However, my academic beef with Hutton still remains with the sweeping judgements he makes in "Triumph of the Moon" about initiatic traditions of which he has no real knowledge, together with his tendency to play anthropologist due to his lack of proper training in the ethnographic method, as in Triumph, where he frequently cited personal anecdote as though it were historical data. If Hutton discounts oral tradition, why does he rely so heavily on it in chapter 20 of Triumph of the Moon?

Moreover, by dismissing the initiated, Hutton cuts himself off of any true understanding of the ancient faith, because non-initiates can't keep their mouths shut about ancient truths. Hutton will never find the ancient Pagan path, because he refuses to do what is necessary to gain the actual data. Instead, he is left analyzing only the dregs that the initiatic traditions have rejected.

Just because historians have not found evidence of Pagan survival does not mean that none exists. It only means that they are looking in the wrong places and are out of their depth in regard to initiatic traditions, better evaluated by the anthropologist trained in the ethnographic method.

In this regard, I recently translated a groubdbreaking article written by anthropological informant, Dianus del Bosco Sacro entitled "The Great Rite, Hermeticism, and the Shamanic Pagan Tradition of the Sacred Forest of Nemi". This article, that will appear at Beltane in The Fenris Wolf (Journal of Magical Anthropology), details for the first time how Hermetic alchemists, from a hidden Partenopean initiatic center, secretly preserved essential elements of ancient Paganism from the Inquisition during the dark age of Christianity. During the course of Dianus’ exposition, we shall witness how the sexual mysteries of The Geat Rite comprise an unexpected and omnipresent Ariadne’s thread, demonstrating the continuity of Pagan elements from the most ancient times until today.

Throughout history, we encounter the same, sublime sexual mysteries again and again, albeit clothed in ever changing symbols: from the rites of Dionysos, Diana, and Janus to sexual mysteries depicted in the frescoes the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii and their impact on Gerald Gardner and the Great Rite of Wicca – from the rich symbolism of Hermetic alchemy to the sexual mysteries encoded in Charles Godfrey Leland’s “Aradia, the Gospel of the Witches.”

According to the lore of the Shamanic-Pagan tradition of the Sacred Forest of Nemi, The Great Rite first arose with the ancient shamanism and sacerdotal lineages of the Great Mother Goddess in Continental Europe. While these primordial sexual mysteries were preserved along Matriarchal lines in Europe, they also spread to Sumeria, Babylon, and Egypt, where over time they evolved into the Royal Art of Alchemy.

Following the conquest of Egypt, the sexual mysteries of alchemy were carried to Rome by Priests of Isis. Arriving along the Partenopean coast in Naples, Cuma, and Pompei, this masculine Priesthood encountered the great Pagan Matriarchs. These Patriarchal/alchemical and Matriarchal/sacerdotal/shamanic lineages immediately recognized their sexual mysteries to be so similar, they could only have arisen from a common source.

Thus began the intimate collaboration between Pagan Matriarchs and Hermetic Masters, which would endure occulted for many Centuries. So it came to pass that, when the Pagan Matriarchs faced eradication at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church, they found sanctuary in the Parthenopean initiatic school of Hermetic Masters.

Most historians and anthropologists, it turns out, have been looking in the wrong places for evidence of Pagan survival since antiquity. For the real evidence lies not amongst folk magic and cunning folk, but masked in the symbols of Hermetic alchemy.

So, my parting words for Professor Hutton?

"If you want to catch dear, hunt in the forest, not in the city.
 If you want to find initiatic survival, then search among initiates."
And if you want to hunt Klingons, the bridge of the Enterprise is a good place to be.


  1. But what makes you think that Hutton is _not_ an initiate of British Wicca? I believe that, in fact, he is.

  2. That is fine if Hutton is an initiate of British Wicca. Even so, with the exception of in the British Isles, Hutton has no authority. He even says so in the preface of his book, that it only applies to the southern British isles.

    But then Hutton turns around and makes sweeping judgements about Pagan survival on the continent, where he is definitely NOT an initiate, and thus is not privy to oath bound data.

    Hutton not only inappropriately cites anecdotal information as though it were historical data and although he is not properly trained in the ethnographic method to properly analyze such data, but he also makes sweeping and unsubstantiated generalizations about Pagan survival in regions like Italy where Hutton is completely out of his field of expertise and explodes the scope of his study.

    1. A couple of thoughts on your post and reply to Caroline Tully:

      First, you seem to be assuming that Hutton's scholarly purpose is to "find initiatic survival" of ancient paganism in modern times. As far as I can tell, that wasn't the point of Triumph at all - it was intended to document the popular climate of ideas in Britain that led up to the emergence of British Wicca in the '50s, and its subsequent career. "Survivals" only come into the question insofar as Murray's ideas loomed large in the popular imagination during that period, and were ignored or discredited by scholars but remained influential outside the academy.

      Second, if the information on initiatic survivals is oathbound, then even if Hutton were to be initiated in a tradition that could substantiate survivals, he couldn't publish the information in an academic work.

      Third, Hutton is working as an academic historian, and the academic study of history has rules for what evidence is allowable. If a given initiatory tradition claims an unbroken lineage from antiquity, but cannot substantiate that claim with any evidence other than the oral tradition among its own initiates, then that claim cannot support an academic argument *regardless of its truth*. Anecdotal information is only acceptable in a historical argument if the informants were directly involved in the activities on which they are informing, so unless an initiatic tradition has undying Secret Chiefs willing to testify on-record and substantiate their centuries-long existence, a tradition's oral testimony is useless to support a historical argument. (It would, however, be very useful for an anthropological study of occult beliefs, but that is a profoundly different enterprise.)