A fully updated new edition of Ronald Hutton's classic work on the history of modern pagan witchcraft.
This spirited, amusing and immensely informative history of paganism in 19th- and 20th-century Britain centers on Wicca, the system of witchcraft Gerald B. Gardner introduced to a startled public in the 1950s. The book's first half takes the reader on a breakneck tour of Victorian and Edwardian culture, demonstrating that Wiccan belief and practice owe much to the scholars, novelists and poets who resurrected Pan and the Goddess, crafting romantic visions of a pre-Christian past. The second half proceeds at a more leisurely pace, detailing the development of British witchcraft over the past 50 years among Gardner's followers, critics and rivals. In this meticulously researched book, Hutton modestly demolishes myths perpetuated by both pagans and their hostile critics and maintains an attitude that is at once skeptical and ultimately sympathetic. He displays astounding breadth, with literary references ranging from Keats to Mary Daly, and peppers his work with insightful portraits of characters such as Madam Blavatsky, Aleister Crowley, D.H. Lawrence, Dion Fortune, Alex Sanders, Starhawk and the obscure 19th-century wonder-worker and wart-healer known as Cunning Murrell. In a field generally characterized by polemical or apologetic historiography, Hutton's exceptional work is by far the most scholarly, comprehensive and judicious analysis of the subject yet published. It will remain the standard for many years to come.