Talk:Witch-cult hypothesis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
          This article is of interest to the following WikiProjects:
WikiProject Neopaganism (Rated B-class, Mid-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Neopaganism, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Neopaganism on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
B-Class article B  This article has been rated as B-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Mid  This article has been rated as Mid-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Religion  
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Religion, a project to improve Wikipedia's articles on Religion-related subjects. Please participate by editing the article, and help us assess and improve articles to good and 1.0 standards, or visit the wikiproject page for more details.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Skepticism  
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Skepticism, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of science, pseudoscience, pseudohistory and skepticism related articles on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.

Tone v.s. other religion articles[edit]

I would like to see the tone of neopagan articles be given the same neutral tone (or even implied factual tone) as say the articles the xian's get. For example reading articles of jesus (biblical version not historical) or the like it's tone implies he was real and leans in that direction. However when a article of a pagan religion you not only get a tone of 'this is just make believe' but you get people trying to raise the bar of factual evidence needed to be 'proven'. Seem's the tone when talking about the bible or jesus is just 'its real' yet talk about another god or goddess say 'zeus' and it's tone is its just fictional mythology. I fail to see why a pagan who worships zeus or isis, their god(s) is fictional tone and the xian god however is a factual tone. I'd love to see the edit war that will ensue by the bible thumpers if you edited the xian god article with statements as used to describe in other 'mythological' gods. And for the record the rebuttal of 'well more people believe in the xian god' isn't a valid argument. During the dark ages most people believed the sun went around the earth. The number of people didn't make it true or fact. Just something to keep in mind and to avoid this obvious double standard here on wikipedia. -Rev. Peter White —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:30, 19 May 2010 (UTC)

The future of the page[edit]

Hey all. I recently started this page and I see already that dbachman has jumped on the bandwagon of trying to improve it. Great, thanks for you help. I think we need to discus some stuff about it here though, to make sure we have a clear vision of what we plan to accomplish. :) (Midnightblueowl (talk) 16:28, 14 November 2008 (UTC))

yes, I was trying to figure out whether the idea deserves a standalone article. It does look that way. However, note that I made Witch-Cult in Western Europe a redirect back here -- I don't think there is a room for both this article and a standalone article on the 1921 book, since this article essentially sums up the content of the book. dab (𒁳) 16:33, 14 November 2008 (UTC)

My concern is that The Witch-Cult In Western Europe does not summarise the Witch-Cult theory in any way. There are many different versions of the theory, from that of Jarcke and Mone, all through to Murray's extended theory (The Divine King of England), and this one book doesn't explain them all. It merely explains the most commonly held one. The redirect, as far as I am aware, can happily still redirect to here, but would it not be perhaps better to redirect it to Margaret Murray? (Midnightblueowl (talk) 16:37, 14 November 2008 (UTC))

I'm not sure, there may also be a standalone article on the book after all. Anyway, your own organization of the material puts the 1921 book in the center of things, what with the "pre-Murray" and "post-Murray" classification. I realize there were others, but Murray seems to be the main author behind Gardner's ideas and thus neopagan "Witchcraft". --dab (𒁳) 17:08, 14 November 2008 (UTC)

Hey, I think that Murray was the key, and most important, though most certainly not the only, proponent of the Witch Cult hypothesis, though I think it almost certain that she has been the most widely read. However, she wrote several books, and so I don't think that the Witch Cult is equivalent with The Witch-Cult of Western Europe in particular. The book is a key part of the theory, but is not the theory itself. (Midnightblueowl (talk) 17:37, 14 November 2008 (UTC))

I'm quite concerned that the organisation of this page will soon get out of hand. For instance, the creation of the seperate "Horned God" section really seems unecessary in my opinion. I think this needs discussion with more editors. (Midnightblueowl (talk) 17:41, 14 November 2008 (UTC))

May I suggest using the following system (which I had partially implemented when I started this page, before it was deleted and changed):
  • History of the theory
    • Pre-Murray > Jarcke, Mone, Michelet and Leland
    • Murray > The Witch Cult of Western Europe, God of the Witches and The Divine King of England
    • Post Murray > Gardner, Cochrane, Sanders, Luck
  • Beliefs of the Cult > Horned God, Diana/Goddess, Witchcraft, Sabbats, Esbats, Covens etc
  • Arguments
    • Arguments for > Murray, Gardner etc
    • Arguments against > Hutton etc
So what do you all think about this, what alterations would you like to make? (Midnightblueowl (talk) 18:19, 14 November 2008 (UTC))

no -- please, you keep trying to suggest that this is a theory with any credibility. It is not. It is a topic of Romanticism and Neopaganism. We need to distinguish (a) precedents (Early Modern conspiracy theories of a "witch cult" in the context of the witch trials), (b) pre-Neopagan Romanticism, and (c) Neopaganism (Gardner etc.) inspired by Murray. The "Horned God" section can just be removed because it isn't dealing with the topic of "witch-cult" directly. dab (𒁳) 19:23, 14 November 2008 (UTC)

I don't mean to be rude dabs, but your statement that the theory has no credibility is purely point of view - I myself do not agree with the theory, but if I went around saying that every theory that I disagreed with had no credibility, then Wikipedia would be in a right kerfuffle. Many people throughout history, and even to this day, believe that the witch-cult existed, and there is some evidence to back them up. I happen to agree entirely with your beliefs regarding the Witch-cult, but I have no intention of forcing my view onto this article. And I also don't see your need to seperate the Witch-cult into the three sections of the Satanic Conspiracy Theory, Early Neopagan Romanticism, and Neopaganism; surely it would be easier to label it all under "History" - this would be FAR EASIER for the majority of wikiusers to understand. As I have said to you before in other article talk pages, the layout and presentation, and not just the content, is crucial to making a better article. Now dabs, I know we have disagreed before, and I know that we may disagree here too, but I don't want this to happen; we're both active, and will most probably continue to be active, on pages about paganism, and I hope we don't clash in the future, so i'll leave on a good note, thanking you for the work that you have put into this article. (Midnightblueowl (talk) 20:46, 14 November 2008 (UTC))

See WP:FRINGE. If you want to suggest the theory has any credibility, the burden is on you to provide scholarly sources endorsing it. I do appreciate your goodwill to improve paganism articles, and this is in no way personal, but I am here to maintain WP:DUE, and you would do well to start considering the guidelines I link yourself. --dab (𒁳) 18:43, 15 November 2008 (UTC)

Fair enough, you're right, I don't think I can supply any scholarly sources, and I don't know if any recent sources exist. I was worried that the article could become biased, and I still think that we will have to be careful to makes ure that this article doesn't become biased against the theory, but I think we can keep it all in check. (Midnightblueowl (talk) 19:18, 15 November 2008 (UTC))

Midnightblueowl, it is very simple: the article should be biased against the hypothesis for the simple reason that mainstream academia is biased against it. This is what is explained in WP:DUE -- have you read this page? At all? We cannot approach things with bambi-eyed relativism that presumes we should treat any random opinion on the same footing. So 16th century witches perhaps were Satanists? Or again perhaps they were Wiccans? Or again perhaps aliens? Or from a parallel universe? Or maybe it was a mass hysteria triggered by the turmoils of the Reformation and bad harvests after all? Who can be sure, we'll just list the suggestions without passing judgement and let the reader decide .... not. We discuss academic mainstream first and any minority opinions later, with regard to their relative weights. That's how it's done all over Wikipedia, and the paganism topics aren't going to be an exception. I can't believe I have to spell this out to people on a face-to-face basis again and again. There is a reason we have shortcut links to policy pages: it's so people can be pointed to them so they can read things up on their own. --dab (𒁳) 19:29, 15 November 2008 (UTC)

Dabs, you misunderstand me. I did of course read the WP:DUE (it would have been rude of me not to), and I agree with the idea that undue weight should not be given to modern proponents of the theory considering that most historians are against it. In the terminology that I commonly use, and that is used by all those around me, "bias" and "appropriate weight" are not the same thing. By bias, I mean that this article could end up saying something like "the witch-cult never existed", whereas appropriate-weight would say "The majority of contemporary scholars agree that the witch-cult never existed". I apologise for the misunderstanding, I shall attempt to choose my words more carefully next time. (Midnightblueowl (talk) 09:41, 16 November 2008 (UTC))

BTW, will this page make use of the dozens of scholars from Continental Europe that have proved certain variants of the Murray thesis (eg. Eva Pocs, Claude Lecouteux, Prof. David Lederer [in an article in a book edited by Katheryn A. Edwards], Emma Wilby and many others)? Will it show that some of Murray's detractors have demonstrably lied about her, such as Norman Cohn's mendacious work "Europe's Inner Demons"? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:11, 16 October 2010 (UTC)

might be appropriate to include information from Secret Bird worshiping Cult at Saveock. Archeological findings and carbon dating from there would seem to be in direct contradiction to a blanket assertion "there was no 'witchcraft' taking part in Europe" even if the findings dont demonstrate a Europe wide continous tradition. (talk) 15:29, 28 April 2013 (UTC)
Unless there's evidence that crypto-pagans were being persecuted as witches, it provides little support for the main thesis of Murray's book. AnonMoos (talk) 00:26, 30 April 2013 (UTC)


I don't know if this is appropriate or not, but I think this article is great. I've been doing a lot of work editing/reading on related topics, and find this article has been the best one so far, well balanced, well cited, good prose. It is encouraging to see such a young article started so well. Well done to everyone involved. Davémon (talk) 22:48, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

Yeh, it's going really well, I think we could lengthen the "Opposition" section, to explain why many historians think that Murray was wrong, and also add a bit more about witches who believed that they found existing survivals of the cult. Well done everybody! (Midnightblueowl (talk) 17:41, 19 December 2008 (UTC))
Good idea, although I think "Reception" rather than "opposition" would be more neutral and we could include Ginzburg and perhaps Luck, and other historians who have stated they agree with her, but who may not have particually developed on the theory. I'd also like to see a "Summary" section that takes most of the information out of the "Murray" section of "History" and some of the lede, which just lays out the theory in an easy to digest manner, without any commentary or critique. I think that would give the average reader a good grasp of the subject before diving into the detail of how the theory came about and what others though of it. Keep up the good work.--Davémon (talk) 12:09, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

Dianic cult survival[edit]

Several items in the lede claim that "some people think" the witch-cult "may" have been a survival of a Dianic cult. However, the article does not elaborate this theme, so I can't really see what relevance this theory might have. Secondly it is not cited, and it seems rather spurious. Can someone explain what it is about? --Davémon (talk) 21:20, 30 December 2008 (UTC)

"some people think" should be replaced by "Murray thought". I don't suppose anyone still thinks so. But that this was Murray's opinion is in fact established in the article body. --dab (𒁳) 22:46, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
Thank you. It seems overly specific to elaborate one aspect of Murrays theory in the introduction, to the neglect of the many other equally entertaining ideas she had, so I've removed the statements as undue weight. --Davémon (talk) 09:28, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
(talk) you keep adding this back in without discussing. The text you put in uses weasley terms like "Various proponents" instead of saying its Murray. Further, it's clearly undue weight to put selective parts of Murrays "theory" into the lede, and --Davémon (talk) 19:30, 4 January 2009 (UTC)

Calling Mr. Godwin[edit]

Davemon, your "Nazification" of the article raises a couple of red flags wrt WP:SYN. It is true that the more fruity members of the Nazi elite (notably Himmler) imagined a "indigenous Völkisch Celto-Germanic (or Aryan) nature religion". This doesn't establish any relevance to the Murray hypothesis at all, or justifies calling the Nazis "Europe's first and only governmental supporter of witches". The fact that some Nazis had a weakness for occultism doesn't automatically extend to the regime as a whole. --dab (𒁳) 12:59, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

ok, I have reviewed the source: excellent find. However, the topic discussed doesn't belong here, it belongs on Early_Modern_witch_trials#In_Neopaganism_and_feminism: the reason being that the Nazis explicitly did not assume a "witch cult", but rather implied that "witchcraft" accusations were a pretext for exterminating "Aryan womanhood". I have inserted what I think is a proper summary of your source at the proper place. --dab (𒁳) 13:15, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

OK. So this article is not exclusively about Murrays theory. It is about the general "witch cult hypothesis", of which Murray is only the most recent propagator. If you will allow me to directly quote the source: "...there is no denying that the Nazi-leadership accepted and promoted the notion of historical witchcraft as a pagan religion..." It is directly relevant to the subject of this article. Your use oif terms like "Nazification" and checking sources after editing makes it a little difficult to assume Good Faith. The Nazis adopted and used for their own ends the "witch-cult hypothesis", and it belongs as much in this article as any other. --Davémon (talk) 11:51, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
BTW the summary at Early_Modern_witch_trials#In_Neopaganism_and_feminism is very good - although I'd make less of a deal about the number and more about the way feminist-neopagan and nazi-volkish-feminists expressed their ideologies with exactly the same myths. I had inadvertently not actually added both sources I was using. The other is Hans Sebold's "Nazi Ideology Redefining Witches" in New Perspectives on Witchcraft, Magic, and Demonology. [["], Which incidently cites Murray as being accepted as reliable anthropology by Himmler, if verification were needed. It may be useful for other related articles too. --Davémon (talk) 12:24, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Hey, i've tried to clean up this section; it does contain some information of note, but the assertation that "Europe's first and only governmental supporter of witches" is utter twaddle - the Nazi's did not want to ressurect paganism, a handful of them, who were in the elite ranks of the SS, were interested in occultic paganism, and saw it as an Aryan religion for the Aryan people. (Midnightblueowl (talk) 23:47, 3 January 2009 (UTC))
Have you actually read the sources provided? I ask because what you call "twaddle" is what they are explicitly saying. If you have valid sources that dispute those assertions, then we can add those to get balance. If you're disputing the reliability of those sources, then you'll need to provide evidence. If you're saying the text misrepresents those sources then I'd be happy to discuss how to get the wording right. --Davémon (talk) 00:05, 4 January 2009 (UTC))

Davemon, I'm really glad that you found this information, it's really interesting and will enhance this article. However some of the information you are presenting is wrong - just plain wrong - no matter the source. The Nazi government was not one unified force with one unified belief - they WERE NOT a pagan regime, most high ranking Nazis infact claimed to be Christian. A small minority of high ranking SS officers were interested in paganism and the occult, and your suggestion of "Europes first and only governmental supporter of witches", grammar mistakes aside, is twaddle, the Third Reich government DID NOT support witches, it is simply not true, elements of the government may have had an interest in the subject of Germanic paganism, which they may have thought the witch cult arose from, but they were not "supporters of withches", but not the government as a whole. Even if they were supporters of witchcraft as you have stated, they certainly WOULD NOT have been Europe's first and only; during the second world war, the British government's MI6 organised the construction of the Witchcraft Research Center led by Cecil Williamson in order to investigate Nazi occultism. You claim that they looked for a "Celto-Germanic nature religion", whereas typical racial beliefs of the time, as held by the Nazi regime, differenciated the Celts from the Germanic peoples. What you have stated sounds to me like the words of someone trying to discredite and insult neopagan witchcraft religions like Wicca, now this may not have been your intention, but it certainly comes across that way to me. (Midnightblueowl (talk) 17:13, 4 January 2009 (UTC))

In New Perspectives on Witchcraft, Magic and Demonology, which you cited Davemon, it even says "the German National Socialist ideologues of the Third Reich had a different interpretation of who the witches really were" - this is simply misinformation, there was no united Nazi ideologues, there was many different opinions and views within the Nazi government - I know its a published source, but its incorrect nevertheless. The evidence that you have collected shows that it was really more of a pet hobby of Himmler's than a widespread Nazi organised belief.(Midnightblueowl (talk) 17:27, 4 January 2009 (UTC)).
Also, in Magic and Superstition in Europe, your other reference, it states that "On the whole, the Nazi leadership remained suspicious of occultism and opposed to most occultist organisations and societies" - evidence enough that there was no united Nazi view on the subject, it was more a fringe hobby of Himmler. (Midnightblueowl (talk) 17:40, 4 January 2009 (UTC))
Well Occultism isn't the same thing as Paganism. At all. And especially not to the Nazis who saw most Occultism as based on Jewish mysticism, and would have seen volkish-groups as being far from occultic. Sensitivity to such distinctions is critical in an article such as this.
If you can cite the idea that interest within the Third Reich regards volkish nature-religions and witchcraft lay only with Himmler and some of the SS then please add it to the article. The sources I have provided claim the use and interest was wider than that and includes the use of 'witches' at rallys and the production of Nazi-feminist propaganda, neither of which were directed by Himmler.
The British secret service activities in no way "supported" witchcraft or the witch-cult hypothesis. We might as well claim that membership of the Society for Psychical Research by Gladstone or Queen Elizabeth's consultations with John Dee somehow constitutes "Governmental support of witches". It doesn't. "Witches" in this case has a very specific meaning - witches as pagan remnants - not spiritualists or occultists. Again, we're dealing with highly specific terminology and the sources reflect that, even in your quotations. I was careful to include that there was no direct relationship between Nazism and Wicca, in the hope of avoiding insulting anyone. --Davémon (talk) 19:10, 4 January 2009 (UTC)

Davemon, sorry if i'm sounding brutish or pushy, I don't mean to be rude, but I just really think that some of the information from these sources is downright wrong. It has to be remembered that whilst paganism and occultism are very different things, they were often mixed up together in the views of early 20th century, such as that of the Ariosophists who mixed pagan runes with occultic symbology. I agree with much of your information, and am really pleased that you brought it, but some of these writers' assertations are simply not right, in the same way that Murray was simply not right. BTW I think that this information on the survey performed by Himmler and his interests would make a good page on its own if your interested in helping to produce it. (Midnightblueowl (talk) 19:37, 4 January 2009 (UTC))

No problem. I knew this would be controversial, and was prepared to discuss the subject. I can't see what is being said that is specifically "wrong". I don't think the article reads like it's saying "Nazis were all neo-pagans" or supporting some ridiculous Nazi Occultism theory, but that they used the idea of the 'witch' for their own purposes ie: 'volkish', anti-Christian/anti-Semitic and Nazi-Feminist, and that this use has had an ongoing impact on the popular image of witches as a pre-christian pagan cult. An article on the Hexen-Sonderkommando (or 'H-Sonderkommando') survey could be a good article, but I'd be relying on a very few sources in English - there are more in German which deal with their methods and the results in more detail. --Davémon (talk) 21:12, 4 January 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for your understanding Davemon. What my primary problem with the passage is, is that I feel that it presents the fact that Himmler and a few other Nazis had an interest and belief in Germanic paganism, and, by extension the witch cult, as a belief held by the Nazi regime as a whole. Hitler, and other leading Nazis had nothing to do with the propagation of the belief, and I feel that the term "Europe's first and only governmental supporter of witches" is misleading. The Nazi government as a whole simply did not support witches, the fact is that some Nazis in a position of authority believed that the witches were a fine and noble historical group whom they admired. (Midnightblueowl (talk) 17:50, 5 January 2009 (UTC))

I'm not sure I understand the "whole/part" problem. Not all members of a regime have to agree on something for that regime to have supported something, a regime doesn't have to be unanimous in its ideology for someone to point at that ideology within the regime. Likewise, "America is a capitalist state", doesn't mean all Americans are capitalists, or even that all members of the American government are capitalists. I've changed the text to read "pro-witch" and added a cite which uses that phrase - the wording is marginally better than "supporter" which does have meanings which aren't applicable. --Davémon (talk) 20:02, 5 January 2009 (UTC)

The problem is not with mentioning the Nazis. The problem is that the views mentioned have very little to do with a Witch-cult hypothesis -- they are just cranky views on the witch-hunts. Also, we cannot state that "the Nazi regime was pro-witch", we can just say that "Bailey referred to the Nazis as 'pro-witch'", in a certain context, and somewhat tongue-in-cheek at that. Also, the "fact" isn't that "some Nazis in a position of authority believed that the witches were a fine and noble historical group whom they admired", but simply that these Nazis thought that evil churchmen were persecuting Aryan women by declaring them witches, no assumption that they actually were witches implied. --dab (𒁳) 20:51, 5 January 2009 (UTC)

  1. Bailey specifically mentions the Nazi idea of Witches being pagan remnants.
  2. Levack specifically mentions acceptance of Murrays ideas by Himmler.
Both of these are referring precisely to "The Witch-cult hypothesis", and identifying the nazi interest in them as 'witches as pagan remnants', Bailey goes on to describe 'aryan-women called witches by Christians'.
  1. Bailey says the Nazis were Pro-Witch.
  2. Monter says the Nazis were Pro-Witch.
Neither are being 'tongue in cheek'.

Feel free to use the sources (and any others) to completely rewrite the paragraph - if you think that contextual attribution of the individual historians will help achieve neutrality then do add them in. The 3 sources used are:

Bailey [1]
Levack [2]
Monter [3]

Cheers. --Davémon (talk) 22:37, 5 January 2009 (UTC)

Google books won't let me see the Bailey reference, but the Sebald (Levack) one is spot on, Heinrich Himmler accepted the theory that the witches were remnant groups still adhering to pre-Christian Celto-Germanic Nature Religion. This is, of course, perfectly relevant to this article. As long as we present it as Himmler's hobby-horse, and not as part and parcel of "Nazi ideology" or as policy of the Nazi Reich, I don't see a problem. We need to be clear that Himmler was raving mad even within the Nazi party. --dab (𒁳) 15:44, 16 January 2009 (UTC)

Glad we managed to reach an agreement. Thanks for your work on the paragraph, it has been improved muchly. Davémon (talk) 20:27, 16 January 2009 (UTC)

Witchcraft and Freemasonry[edit]

There is a fairly notable conspiracy theory which claims that European witchcraft is closely related to Freemasonry, and that both have practically the same occult/satanic origins within ancient Greco-Roman civilization. It might be a good idea if this could be incuded in the article somehow. [4][5][6][7] ADM (talk) 06:31, 31 October 2009 (UTC)

Please cease your POV pushing with unreliable sources.--Vidkun (talk) 18:32, 3 November 2009 (UTC)

An "Opposition" Quibble[edit]

Hey guys, I would like to add a bit more data for clarity under the Opposition section to give the reader a deeper insight into the varacity of the sources. At present it reads, "Historians Jeffrey B. Russell and Brooks Alexander concurred in their A New History of Witchcraft..." This leads the reader to assume that both authors in the second edn. of JB Russell's book are both University scholars; however, Brooks Alexander is not a scholar, but writes and works as an Evangelical Christian for an anti-Pagan/ anti-Wiccan group by the name of "Spiritual Counterfeits Project" whose mission statement is to: "...confronting the occult, the cults, and the New Age movement..." The SCP website is: Rather, I think that brief comment under opposition might read better (at the very least) as: "Historian Jeffrey B. Russell and Evangelical Christian Brooks Alexander concurred in their A New History of Witchcraft..." Here is Brooks Alexanders bio. page: —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:58, 16 October 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for the info. The article is only using the source to say "Murray's use of sources in general is appalling." - which is echoed by Hutton and infact any modern historian who has written on Murray. I do not think the authors religious persuasion or political affiliation has any bearing on this observation. I've also integrated the text from 'opposition' into the main body as there is no wide-held 'acceptance' of the theory, so critique doesn't need to be sidelined here. Davémon (talk) 20:52, 16 October 2010 (UTC)

Thanks! Albeit numerous scholars, particularly from Continental Europe do, in fact, prove many variances of Murray's hypothesis (whether or not many British and American scholars like that fact), my point in bringing this to your attention was that, as the phrase was stated, it implies to the reader that Alexander Brooks is a professional historian, when he is not! Although, I find it somewhat ironic that JB Russell can be a lot more objective (eg. his book on evil and the Devil) when he is also an Evangelical Christian; while Prof. Ronald Hutton cannot, and Hutton is an Initiated Gardnerian! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:19, 18 October 2010 (UTC)

There are some historians whose research has similar features to parts of Murrays theories, but the existence of the European wide witch-cult which Murray proposed is certainly not deemed to be proven by any historian I've read. I've removed the word "historian" from the sentence in question, so as not to give the author an undue status - I hope you see that as an improvement. You seem to be knowledgeable in this area - why not sign up for an account and help improve some witch/history related articles? Thanks! Davémon (talk) 22:17, 18 October 2010 (UTC)

/* Pagan influence on early-modern witchcraft */

The second paragraph stressed that "a small number" of witchcraft historians argue for "some limited non-Christian religious practices surviving into the early modern period and contributing to witchcraft stereotypes", and cited Darren Oldridge. Oldridge does not apply these stresses, and his wording is either ambiguous or actually implies that good evidence exists for this view: "[...] it is altogether less simple to discount the idea that non-Christian religious practices existed in the early modern period, and were sometimes implicated in accusations of witchcraft. Even Murray's idea of a pagan fertility cult has survived – in modified form – in the work of historians like Carlo Ginzburg and Gábor Klaniczay." The continued presence of pagan-originated practices and their contribution to the witchcraft stereotype is a consensus view among scholars in the field of early modern witchcraft, the only main disagreements being on three points: 1) whether such practices should be considered "religious"; 2) whether they should be termed 'survivals' (a controversial word!) or merely vestigial remnants; and 3) whether such practices ever involved group ritual, or were purely individual. I've corrected the statement and added a host of other citations to support it. You may want to trim some down, in which case I suggest Maxwell-Stuart as the most valuable to keep, since his book is a recent (and very good) summary of the literature in short, readable form, rather than a dense work focussing on a single author's original research. Looking through the rest of the reference list, I'm guessing that the misapplied stresses sneaked in from someone's reading of Ronald Hutton, a popular historian of neopaganism who has some ideosynchratic views on the earlier witch-hunts. If these are based on his views they should be clearly attributed to him. Fuzzypeg 14:05, 3 April 2011 (UTC)

As the page currently stands, it's likely to be confusing to readers, because it starts out by saying that "the theory" is widely regarded as pseudohistorical, but by the end of the article it's listed a whole load of modern reputable scholars who hold a view that sounds something like "the theory". The three points of controversy I mention in my post directly above might be worth fleshing out in the article, with citations, which would allow readers to better understand how these reputable scholars differ from Murray. She was particularly postulating a semi-organised, consciously religious, relatively direct survival of paganism. I'm not doing any more work tonight, so have a think about it, and leave a comment here or have a play yourself. Fuzzypeg 16:12, 3 April 2011 (UTC)
I don't think it's confusing that a specific theory has been discredited, whilst some of the evidence used to concoct that theory remains largely undisputed, or that parts of the theory still hold water for some researchers. You've added a large number of sources to a single statement, it would be better to choose one that explicitly reflects the article text (or vise versa!), to aid validation and remove synthesis issue. Meanwhile, the remaining sources could be expanded on and put to great use at European_witchcraft, which has a much wider scope for covering this material. Especially Oldridge who manages to steer a neutral path through the views of the likes of Ginzberg and also of those that claim "There is no reason to assume that any charges against Witches were based on folk traditions". --Davémon (talk) 19:25, 1 June 2011 (UTC)

Murray and Charlottes[edit]

There is a line in the section on M. A. Murray on the favourable review of "Charlotte Gomme", which is found in The triumph of the moon. I'm not aware of a folklorist of that name, perhaps a relation an Alice B. and G. L. Gomme, but I suspect the "immediate praise and worthies" of Murray's articles refers to Charlotte S. Burne's correspondence in a later issue. I'm hoping someone can clarify this. cygnis insignis 15:01, 2 June 2011 (UTC)

This could be Alice Gomme or her father, or Charlotte Burne, (all members of the Folklore Society of the day) or it could have been a reference to both of them truncated, as in Charlotte Burne, Alice Gomme with the middle bit erased to form Charlotte Gomme. It was added here, by Midnightblueowl, maybe they still have their original reference. This question has been unanswered for years. __ E L A Q U E A T E 16:57, 29 January 2014 (UTC)
Hello there! Looking at the quote in question, Professor Hutton relates that "Her ideas were first aired, however, to the Folk-Lore Society, and published in its journal in 1917 and 1920, encouraged by the immediate praise and worthies of the society such as Charlotte Gomme, who commented that they made perfect sense in the context apparently established in The Golden Bough." And that is referenced to Charlotte S. Burne, "Witchcraft in Great Britain", Folk-Lore 28 (1917), 453. So I guess that "Charlotte Gomme" was an error in the text, perhaps ? Midnightblueowl (talk) 19:41, 29 January 2014 (UTC)

After reading the article I still don't know why the hypothesis is to be rejected[edit]

Apparently (I'm no scholar) this hypothesis is rejected by scholars. Why? Can it be spelled out in black and white?.

"Hypothesis is rejected for the following reasons: A) B) C) D) E) etc."

It does me no good to just point out that it wasn't a popular hypothesis among contemporary or current scholars. Scholars can be wrong. I would like to see the arguments laid out, as they would be in a good encyclopedia article. The goal of the article should be to get the reader up to speed on the subject, putting all the points of view, with commentary on the table. (talk) 04:50, 27 June 2014 (UTC)

Because there's very little evidence that most people caught up in witch-hunts consciously thought of themselves as witches or pagans in the way that Murray suggested. Consider the medieval heresy of Catharism -- the results of the Albigensian crusade etc. left behind a large paper trail with much information about self-identified perfecti and their followers, and in some cases we have fairly detailed records of the beliefs of individuals (see Ladurie's Montaillou). By contrast, most of the witch trials took place two centuries later, in an era of greater literacy and the printing press, yet most of the witch-trial "confessions" sound much more like sordid accounts of petty village quarrels and/or inquisitorial fantasies than evidence of a Europe-wide pagan religious ideology. In any case, meaningful coherent survivals of pagan religious practices (as opposed to scattered fragments of folklore) would be expected to be found in the early middle ages, or in remote areas converted to Christianity very late (such as the Baltic), much more than in Renaissance Germany, etc... AnonMoos (talk) 00:34, 20 July 2014 (UTC)