Jump to content

Talk:Margaret Murray

Page contents not supported in other languages.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Featured articleMargaret Murray is a featured article; it (or a previous version of it) has been identified as one of the best articles produced by the Wikipedia community. Even so, if you can update or improve it, please do so.
Main Page trophyThis article appeared on Wikipedia's Main Page as Today's featured article on July 13, 2016, and on July 13, 2023.
On this day... Article milestones
June 5, 2015Good article nomineeListed
December 12, 2015Peer reviewNot reviewed
March 28, 2016Featured article candidatePromoted
On this day... Facts from this article were featured on Wikipedia's Main Page in the "On this day..." column on July 13, 2018, and July 13, 2022.
Current status: Featured article

The Mendacity of Norman Cohn


Why was no mention made throughout this article that Norman Cohn demonstrably lied about and misrepresented Murray's writings in order to destroy her credibility and reputation? In fact, Cohn had attempted to do the same to Carlo Ginzburg according to the English preface of, "The Night Battles"! This is a serious omission and goes to the character and reliability of Cohn as a scholar! He was not above misrepresenting the views of others if he disagreed with them. This is likely on account of Cohn being (or his family having been) a holocaust survivor since he mentally linked "the irrational" with Nazism. It also shows a pattern of behavior on Cohn's behalf! — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:01, 27 August 2018 (UTC)[reply]

I am a 100% novice here. I would love to find out more about Cohn. Doing a chapter in a book about the evolution of Wicca. He may be part of the explanation for why her reputation suddenly tanked in the 1970s. Who or how should I ask about this. I'm Aidan Kelly. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2601:603:1C81:6FA0:58BC:66F4:8A8C:9785 (talk) 23:33, 6 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]

Looking for dates


The article says that she taught Egyptian at University College, London. But it doesn't give the dates. Does anyone know the dates so they can be added? Dates for her other activites would be usefull too. Jpg1954 (talk) 16:21, 12 January 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Much more biographical information is needed in this article, presumably a lot of it can come from her autobiography ? (Midnightblueowl (talk) 00:28, 19 February 2011 (UTC))[reply]

Jani Farrell-Roberts article


I understand the need to keep the article balanced and so forth, but I really think getting rid of the Jani Farrell-Roberts reference (last sentence of the Reception section, footnote 22). I've read the debate, and it's Farrell-Roberts does such a poor job of making her case that I think another person to argue for Murray's accuracy needs to be found if she's to be given any defense at all. At any rate, the URL was dead, so I updated it. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:32, 24 September 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Agreed. Farrell-Roberts could perhaps be cited in a section on Wiccan and Pagan responses to Murray's witch-cult theory, but is too fringe to have her ideas cited alongside those of Norman Cohn, Jacqueline Simpson, and Ronald Hutton, as if her claims carry equal weight to theirs. Midnightblueowl (talk) 12:43, 16 March 2015 (UTC)[reply]

Unbalanced presentation of reception.

  • "As soon as Murray published her theory she received criticism from other historians who had studied the Early Modern witch trials.
  • "few experts in the witch trials actually bothered to counter her arguments"
  • "Ever since its first publication, Murray's theory has come under criticism for flaws in its use of evidence"
  • "In 1962,...provided one of the first popular history books to openly criticise Murray's interpretation."

The article currently gives the overall impression that Murray was only criticized, rarely criticized, criticized on publication, or criticism really began forty years later. Whether her theory had merit or not, this article has centered criticism in nearly every paragraph and gives no great indication of why it required decades upon decades of rebuttals. It mentions in passing "her staunchest supporters" but declines to name a single one or gives any indication of what one would be like. __ E L A Q U E A T E 15:34, 29 January 2014 (UTC)[reply]

The God of the Witches was published in 1931


Many of the wikipedia articles referring to this book say it was published in 1933, but if you do a search for "The God of the Witches" + Faber and Faber + 1931, you will see that it was published in 1931.Jimhoward72 (talk) 06:10, 8 May 2015 (UTC)[reply]

I recall that somewhere (either in his response to Jani Farrell-Roberts in The Cauldron, or to Ben Whitmore in The Pomegranate), Ronald Hutton defended the use of "1933", stating that a "1931" date was a misprint on later editions. It's worth looking into that to see if I recall correctly or whether my memory is playing tricks on me. Midnightblueowl (talk) 11:50, 31 May 2015 (UTC)[reply]

GA Review

This review is transcluded from Talk:Margaret Murray/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer: J Milburn (talk · contribs) 21:44, 3 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]

Happy to take on this review- someone I've heard of (and not just through reading your articles on Wikipedia!) but not someone I know much about. Josh Milburn (talk) 21:44, 3 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]

  • Lead: Early Modern, or early modern? Also, wikilink for Folklore Society?
    • With "Early Modern/early modern", both are technically correct, but the lower-casse tends to be favoured within history, and the upper-case in other disciplines like archaeology - in that case I can easily change it to the lower-case, but ultimately I don't think it matters too much. Regarding the issue of wikilinking "Folklore Society", I've checked and it is already wikilinked on the first time that it appears in the lede; it is on the second use of the term that it carries no link. Midnightblueowl (talk) 17:46, 4 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • "Her Indian childhood left an influence over the rest of her life, as with her continued affection for curry as a cuisine," This doesn't flow so well
    • I've changed this to " The historian Amara Thornton has suggested that Murray's Indian childhood continued to exert an influence over her throughout her life, expressing the view that Murray could be seen as having a "hybrid identity" that was both British and Indian." Midnightblueowl (talk) 17:46, 4 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • "Ancient Egyptian and Coptic languages" Links?
  • "Referring to her students as "the Gang", among some of her early individuals were Reginald Engelbach, Georgina Aitken, Guy Brunton, and Myrtle Broome," Could this be rephrased?
  • "Murray did not have legal permission to excavate the site, instead spending her time transcribing the inscriptions from ten of the tombs that had been excavated during the 1860s by Auguste Mariette." Tense shift- how about "and instead spent"?
  • "in the Folklore journal" How about just "in Folklore", with a Wikilink? Or "in Folklore, the journal of The Folklore Society"?
  • " From this publication, she cut out or toned down what she saw as the more unpleasant aspects of the witch-cult, such as animal and child sacrifice, and began describing the religion in more positive terms as "the Old Religion"." Do you mean "For this book", or perhaps just "In this book"?
  • "resulting in her publication, Corpus of the Bronze Age Pottery of Malta" This doesn't quite work- you could just remove the comma, or you could change it something like "another publication, Corpus..."
  • "The issue contained contributions from various scholars paying tribute to her, with papers dealing with archaeology, fairies, Near Eastern religious symbols, Greek folksongs, but notably not about witchcraft, potentially because no other folklorists were willing to defend her witch-cult theory." You could perhaps break up this sentence more easily using dashes?
  • "In May 1957, Murray had championed the archaeologist Thomas Charles Lethbridge's controversial claims that he had discovered three pre-Christian chalk hill figures on Wandlebury Hill in the Gog Magog Downs, Cambridgeshire. Privately however she expressed concern about the reality of the figures." I'm not really clear what this has to do with anything
    • It shines a light on Murray's relationship with one of the other noted mavericks of 20th century British archaeology, who was also one of her most public supporters. Given that, I think it relevent to this article. Midnightblueowl (talk) 20:27, 4 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]
      • I'm certainly happy to take your word for that, but if you're looking towards FAC, you may want to think on how to include that factoid in a more natural way. Perhaps you could use it make a more general point about her status in academia at the time. Josh Milburn (talk) 21:18, 4 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • Do we know if it was something in particular which caused her death? I appreciate that, especially at that age, there's not necessarily a particular cause!
    • I'd have thought that something would have been written down as "cause of death" on her death certificate, but if it was then Sheppard's biography doesn't state it so we can't include it in the article at this stage I'm afraid. Midnightblueowl (talk) 19:58, 4 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • "work as "hopelessly inadequate" and full of "numberless and appalling errors"" In context, "full of" and "numberless" mean the same thing' how about "work as "hopelessly inadequate", containing "numberless and appalling errors""
  • From the lead: "with the Folklore Society subsequently distancing itself from her." This doesn't really seem to be explicitly stated in the main article.
  • "Were there any 'Sunday newspaper' covens before 1921?"[162]" What does this mean?
    • It's a reference to the fact that in the 1950s and 60s, it was fairly common to have "exposes" and the like on Wiccan covens in the tabloid press; in doing so, Merrifield is suggesting that Wicca was developed off the back of Murray's books rather than being a centuries-old religion (and of course he has been shown to be right on that issue). Is there a way of conveying that in the prose or shall I remove this particular passage ? Midnightblueowl (talk) 20:43, 4 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]
      • That's actually really interesting- I suspect it should be kept in. Perhaps you could indirectly quote, allowing you to expand on what he's saying, or use a footnote to explain what is meant? Josh Milburn (talk) 21:18, 4 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • "In 2005, Noble suggested that "Murray's name might be all but forgotten today if it were not for Gerald Gardner".[184] Prominent Wiccan Doreen Valiente described Murray as "a remarkable woman".[185]" This feels a little like just a list of quotes.

A really great read- I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'll take a closer look at the images/sources in the next few days. Josh Milburn (talk) 23:08, 3 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]

Many thanks for your comments, Josh! Midnightblueowl (talk) 17:46, 4 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]


  • File:Margaret Murray.jpg: If we are certain that there are no free images of Murray, then a non-free one would be justified. That said, it'd be preferable if it was one with slightly clearer provenance. I'm not going to pick on this for GAC, but, and especially looking towards FAC, you may want to have another bash at finding a free one. There's at least one photograph of her at the mummy unwrapping- anything published prior to 1923 can be uploaded on enwp as per {{PD-US}} (anything uploaded on Commons would have to be PD in both the US and the "source country").
  • File:Osireion.jpg: More details, and especially in English, would be good. Not an issue for GAC, though.
  • File:Nuremberg chronicles - Devil and Woman on Horseback (CLXXXIXv).jpg: Could you provide some context in the image caption explaining the significance of this?
  • File:Bust of Margaret Murray, UCL.jpg: Per FOP, this should be fine (I'm assuming that this is "permanently situated in ... premises open to the public") but you should add a FOP tag and details about the sculptor and date of the work, if known.

The other images look fine. To be honest, I'd be happy promoting without any work being done on the images, but if you clarify this stuff now, it may save you a headache at FAC. Josh Milburn (talk) 22:04, 4 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]


  • Page numbers for the Merrifield source? And is that an academic journal? I can't find much mention of it on a very cursory Google search.
    • Folklore Society News is the newsletter of the Folklore Society, so it is not a journal itself, and is separate from the society's peer-reviewed journal, Folklore. Unfortunately, I added this Merrifield quote all the way back in July 2012, so I don't have the page numbers to hand. I shall try and hunt this down, and if I fail then I might have to remove this quote. Midnightblueowl (talk) 22:22, 5 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]
    • I've checked - the Merrifield note is found purely on page 10. I've added this to the article. Midnightblueowl (talk) 22:27, 5 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • Do you need to include journal subtitles? I'd personally not bother, unless there are multiple journals by that name.
    • I'm personally favourable to the inclusion of the sub-titles as they provide some extra context on what the journal in question offers; who would for instance know what The Pomegranate or Man were devoted to without those sub-titles ? Midnightblueowl (talk) 21:37, 5 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]

Other than that- impeccably sourced to up-to-date research. Josh Milburn (talk) 18:58, 5 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]



OK, I'm going to go ahead and promote. This has been one of my favourite reads at GAC for a while; only a very small amount of tweaking (some attention to the images, as I mentioned above, would be good), and I suspect that this will be FAC-ready. Josh Milburn (talk) 22:57, 5 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]

I've placed the article in Wikipedia:Good articles/History#Archaeology and archaeologists, but have no objection to you moving it if you'd prefer it elsewhere. Great work! Josh Milburn (talk) 23:08, 5 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Thank you very much Josh - I'll have a look at making some alterations to the images, as you suggested. I'm glad that you found the article to be of interest! All the best, Midnightblueowl (talk) 12:33, 6 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]

The Gang


Would it be appropriate to add Battiscombe Gunn to the list of members of "the Gang"?

I have 3 references that say he studied with Margaret Murray, though I have been unable to establish dates (see the very first comment on this talk page) -

Dawson, Warren R. "Battiscombe George Gunn 1883 – 1950". Proceedings of the British Academy (London: Geoffrey Cumberlege). XXXVI.

Griffith Institute Archive: Gunn MSS http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/gri/4gunn.html

Margaret S. Drower (2004). Getzel M. Cohen, Martha Joukowsky, ed. Breaking Ground: Pioneering Women Archaeologists. University of Michigan. ISBN 0-472-11372-0.

Jpg1954 (talk) 13:53, 19 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]

That's a very interesting point, Jpg1954. If I'm perfectly honest I'd be hesitant about adding him to "the Gang" if the sources about Murray to not specifically include him as a member of that group. For instance, on page 140 of Sheppard's The Life of Margaret Alice Murray Gunn is very fleetingly mentioned as "one of Murray's former students"; he certainly isn't listed along with the members of the Gang. It may be that Gunn studied under Murray at a different time to "the Gang" (Murray did teach at UCL for decades, after all), and thus was never included as part of that group. Midnightblueowl (talk) 21:54, 22 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]

Reference style


I'm looking at the reference section, and very many references that appear as one source, are in reality several sources; like the first one:

Williams 1961, p. 433; Drower 2004, p. 110; Sheppard 2013, p. 2.

Is this way of combining sources really appropriate? Why not separate them, so one can see that there are actually three sources to a claim? Also, if the purpose is to "economize" with the number of references, that's counteracted by the fact that the number of possible permutations instead increases the number of references. For instance, Williams 1961, p. 434 occurs no less than four times because it's combined with four different other sources. What the net effect is, is anyone's guess.

Additionally, it makes it harder for the reader, not only visually/optically, but also to "backlink" from a reference: what claims are verified by a certain source?

HandsomeFella (talk) 07:47, 13 July 2016 (UTC)[reply]

This is a fairly common style of referencing here at Wikipedia. Moreover, I would actively disagree with the claim that it makes it harder for the reader on a visual level; I actually think that it makes it easier. I guess it's a subjective thing. Midnightblueowl (talk) 09:20, 13 July 2016 (UTC)[reply]
It makes it very much harder for the reader, and spoils what could otherwise be an interesting article. DuncanHill (talk) 22:26, 13 July 2016 (UTC)[reply]
Duncan, could you expand on this a little? I find the current system both intuitive and aesthetically pleasing. Josh Milburn (talk) 12:26, 14 July 2016 (UTC)[reply]
Totally agree with Josh on this one. This is one of the cleanest and most efficient referencing styles on Wikipedia, in my opinion. Midnightblueowl (talk) 14:38, 14 July 2016 (UTC)[reply]
It takes too long at too much searching through the list of references after clicking on a ref number in the text to find what the reference is. It's bad enough when they are entered separately, but things like "Williams 1961, p. 433; Drower 2004, p. 110; Sheppard 2013, p. 2. seem if anything intended to discourage anyone from actually checking the refs. It may look nice to some people, but it makes it harder and more time-consuming to find out what the reference actually is. DuncanHill (talk) 14:42, 14 July 2016 (UTC)[reply]
A good example of its unhelpfulness is the subject of my question in the section below. The sentence I queried is "She became a nurse at the Calcutta General Hospital, which was run by the Sisters of the Anglican Sisterhood of Clower, and there was involved with the hospital's attempts to deal with a cholera outbreak.[12]" Now, reference 12 is "^ Drower 2004, pp. 110–111; Sheppard 2013, pp. 22–24." I then have to scroll down to the list below to find out what "Drower 2004" and "Sheppard 2013" are - and I'm still no wiser as to which of these works is used to justify the inclusion of a hospital that doesn't seem to be known by the name given, and an Anglican Order of Nuns which does not seem to have ever existed. DuncanHill (talk) 14:46, 14 July 2016 (UTC)[reply]
I have created a version of the article in my userspace, User:HandsomeFella/Margaret Murray, where I have converted all sfnm's into sfn's, and I think it looks much better visually in the reference section. In particular, there are hardly any linebreaks in the individual references. (With my screensize, the reflist is divided into six columns.)
HandsomeFella (talk) 13:06, 15 July 2016 (UTC)[reply]
Interesting, but I honestly find the pre-existing system far easier on the eye and a lot more user friendly. That's the trouble with something like this; it relies a lot on subjective opinion. Midnightblueowl (talk) 23:54, 15 July 2016 (UTC)[reply]
Moreover, the current referencing style is akin to hat found within many printed academic sources, if that counts for anything. Midnightblueowl (talk) 11:18, 16 July 2016 (UTC)[reply]
I honestly can't see how you can think that a reflist full of linebreaks, with bits and parts of the individual references within a multi-reference ending up on different rows, looks nicer than a straight forward, left-justified reflist with almost no linebreaks at all (depending on screen-width). It's one thing to think it's no big deal, but to think that it looks nicer, come on. HandsomeFella (talk) 14:59, 16 July 2016 (UTC)[reply]
It's my honest opinion! The left-justified reflist might provide a more 'standardised' view (if that's the right word), but I don't consider that an important virtue and there are more important issues at play surrounding readability. The citation system used at present is that employed in many academic sources and, well - they use that form of citation for a reason! Best, Midnightblueowl (talk) 20:09, 16 July 2016 (UTC)[reply]

Sisters of the Anglican Sisterhood of Clower?


In the section "Youth" we read "She became a nurse at the Calcutta General Hospital, which was run by the Sisters of the Anglican Sisterhood of Clower". Now, presumably Presidency General Hospital is meant, but who were the "Sisters of the Anglican Sisterhood of Clower" - I can only find them mentioned on Wikipedia mirror sites. DuncanHill (talk) 22:25, 13 July 2016 (UTC)[reply]

More on Egyptology?


While I realize this article is long as it is, it's a little surprising that it focuses mostly on her witch theories when it seems that her main career interest was Egyptology. Was this because the witch theories were so much more controversial? Did she break any ground in Egyptology? Brutannica (talk) 00:01, 15 July 2016 (UTC)[reply]



Seems to have been vandalised. (talk) 22:06, 13 July 2023 (UTC)[reply]

"Born to a wealthy middle-class English family"


Which is it? Wealthy or middle-class? :bloodofox: (talk) 23:19, 13 July 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Contributions to the Oxford English Dictionary


In order to be more properly encyclopedic, shouldn't we mention the fact that Margaret Murray contributed words to the Oxford English Dictionary? (talk) 04:14, 17 September 2023 (UTC)[reply]