This new article continues the debate regarding the antiquity of the roots of modern Paganism from the comments section of my previous article. I am replying to Peregrin with this new article as the issues raised by Peregrin require a somewhat lengthy reply.
Hello again,Sorry if I do not have the energy or time to really go into this. I have done all this before and do not wish to go over it too much. Some stuff is on MOTO, most was years back and not on-line. This is why I ask folk to do their own research.Just a few points then.As Pallas says (thank you) I am referring to some not all.Of course Pagan does not equal Wicca. However, there is no physical EVIDENCE to suggest paganism remained a viable RELIGIOUS path in Europe up to the 20th century.Of course there were and are pagan survivals; customs, deity prayers, conflation with Christian saints etc. No one disputes this. What I am saying is that there is no evidence that these survivals existed as a religious alternative to Christianity as a full religious tradition. Sadly Christianity subsumed or killed most of these traditions. Folk magical practices, awareness of deities at wells etc do not a religion make, especially when most of the folk doing this named themselves Christians and would attend Christian churches.Hutton never asserts beyond England and I speculate based on physical evidence.The leaders of most neo-pagan traditions that became visible in the 60s and 70s had some contact or training with Wicca. Whilst not Wiccan, many from that time drew from Wicca. It is only from the 80s and 90s that we see Pagan reconstructionism consciously forming itself apart from (and sometimes in opposition to) Wicca.As for your suggestion that unknown pagan activity may have been happening, it really matters little. We can only judge by the evidence. There may have been a secret cult of the Easter Bunny or the Intestine of Judas…if we cannot see evidence of it, we do not know.To assert or believe something without evidence requires a level of base faith. This I think is inappropriate in mature religion and certainly has no place, to my mind, in the esoteric traditions. We do not accept literal interpretations of scripture without evidence. I see no reason to accept interpretations of Europe’s pagan past without evidence also.And while my ego appreciates being described as a Christian apologetic, this is really beyond my field of expertise.Thanks :)
I frankly don't see how this discussion can continue with any seriousness as long as Peregrin merely ignores all presented evidence (like about Hutton's proclamations on Leland and Italy covered in my previous comments) and instead merely repeats his talking points over and over, propaganda style. Peregrin's new assertion that "Hutton never asserts beyond England" is so factually inaccurate as to beg the question whether Peregrin has actually even read Hutton himself.
Admittedly, Hutton's evidence is rather convincing that today’s Wicca is largely a reinvention. Numerous of Hutton’s subsidiary claims are not nearly as convincing, however. This may suit true Neopagans, who feel no strong ties to the past, but it disenfranchises many other Pagans who feel kinship and connection with antiquity.
"What I am saying is that there is no evidence that these survivals existed as a religious alternative to Christianity as a full religious tradition. Sadly Christianity subsumed or killed most of these traditions. Folk magical practices, awareness of deities at wells etc do not a religion make, especially when most of the folk doing this named themselves Christians and would attend Christian churches."
In this assertion, Peregrin yet once again parrots Hutton. For Hutton, "these people had signalled their conversion to Christianity by the adoption of Christian worship and customs, and Hutton maintains that in so doing, they necessarily abandoned the old gods: one cannot be both Christian and Pagan. Such an assumption of mutual exclusivity is a very important one, as it underpins many of Hutton's arguments and effectively circumvents whole areas of inquiry. It is also a simplistic idea locked in a monotheistic mindset: from a more polytheistic and syncretic paradigm such as that of our European ancestors it was quite feasible to accommodate the new Christian God into an existing pantheon without invalidating the older deities."
Peregrin follows Hutton as well here in defining "religion" in such a narrow manner as to render any possible evidence as moot, although neither Peregrin nor Hutton provide any real evidence to the contrary either. I am not claiming the existence of a massive, organized Pagan resistance movement like Margaret Murray suggested. But for Peregrin and Hutton to deny the existence of ANY evidence of the survival of pagan religious practice is a much bolder claim not born out by the relevant facts.
On the contrary:
"the survival of pre-Christian belief systems and their contribution to the diabolized stereotype of witchcraft in the Early Modern era has become widely accepted in the field of witchcraft history. It has been amply demonstrated by a whole school of well respected historians, including Éva Pócs, Gustav Henningsen, Carlo Ginzburg, Gábor Klaniczay, Wolfgang Behringer and Juhan Kahk (studying witchcraft in Hungary, Sicily, Italy, Eastern Europe, Bavaria and Estonia, respectively), and other luminaries. What these authors have established is that beliefs about magic followed remarkably consistent, well-developed patterns throughout Europe, and that while they operated within the social framework of Christianity they were anything but Christian in origin."
Moreover, Ethnologist João de Pina-Cabral has also examined the problem of Pagan religious survival in detail and concluded that certain ancient Pagan beliefs and practices have had an “uncanny capacity for survival.” The survival of ancient Pagan beliefs and practices are additionally substantiated in Carlo Ginzburg’s Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath.
In an earlier comment, I questioned what the underlying, personal motivations could possibly for Dr. Ronald Hutton to go to such extremes. Large sections of Triumph of the Moon — entire chapters, even — are one-sided, misleading, or plain wrong. Many of Hutton's sources are misrepresented, and for a surprising number of his claims he provides no evidence at all.
|Dr. Ronald Hutton|
Ronald Hutton was born at Ootacamund in India to a colonial family of Russian ancestry. His mother considered herself to be a "Pagan." Could it be that the vehemence with which Hutton approaches the roots of Paganism in antiquity arises from little more than Hutton's misplaced feelings about his Mother and her religion?
Peregrin next argues that occulted Pagan activity "does not matter," since we can only judge by evidence we can see. This argument betrays the inappropriateness of applying historical method to matters occult or esoteric, wherein the only admissible evidence is the extremely limited written information available to the profane historian - themselves not privy to the initiatic mysteries. By this narrow definition, no initiatic tradition nor secret mystery school may today even be said to exist, due to their very nature as rooted in secrecy!
According to such narrow standards, the esoteric teachings of the Cromlech temple, for example, could not have been said to exist as long as they remained occulted behind initiatic secrecy.
|Peregrin's Act of Desecration|
Peregrin himself changed this, however, by personally desecrating the Aura papers of the Golden Dawn spin-off, Cromlech Temple's Sun Order, by publishing them without the permission of the surviving Chiefs of that temple.
It is therefore unsurprising to witness Peregrin today apply this same "profanation standard" to initiatic mysteries of Pagan religion as well!
I am certainly not an advocate of blind faith, as Peregrin would like to paint me as. I do however, believe that neither Pagans nor Neo-Pagans should allow academic historians to define our faith for us, especially in light of the depth of lack of academic integrity we have already witnessed ...
... And certainly we should not desecrate initiatic mysteries, merely to satisfy demands for evidence in arenas in which the only evidence acceptable to the historical method is by its very nature precluded for the profane historian as well as for the desecrator of mysteries.
- David Griffin