This is just a wee post to highlight a good read for anyone interested in things like the history of witchcraft and religion/spirituality in Europe. In his 2016 article “Witches, Pagans and Historians. An Extended Review of Max Dashu, Witches and Pagans: Women in European Folk Religion, 700–1000” Hutton picks apart various common myths and assumptions that Dashu unfortunately puts forward in her book regarding witchcraft and religion in Europe such as folk magic practitioners being pagan, being part of Goddess cults etc etc. She also puts forward other common modern Neopagan/‘Goddess Movement’-type ideas such as “The Cailleach” being a single Celtic Goddess which Hutton of course challenges. (For more info see “The Cailleach” & Witchcraft topic tags.) It’s worth nothing though that this is a balanced, in-depth review so he does mention anything he thinks Dashu has done well too.
I remember coming across Dashu’s stuff when I was a teenager, following her FB page etc before I learned the version of the past she is putting forward is not an accurate one. As a feminist I do understand the appeal of the idea of a kind of matriarchal past where women were revered that we could perhaps then return to. However, the truth is that society – at least in much of Europe – has been patriarchal for a very long time, even before Christianity, and I strongly feel we do the women who came before us a severe injustice if we pretend it wasn’t. Like it really downplays or even outright ignores what they must have gone through in their lives. This isn’t to say they were all helpless, submissive etc – far from it – but it’s important to understand the societal background of women’s lives and their achievements in the past. Personally I agree with Hutton when he says Dashu’s assertions “derive from dogmatically held beliefs about how the past ought to have been.” Unfortunately these assertions do not appear to reflect reality…
📑 Link to paper: “Witches, Pagans and Historians. An Extended Review of Max Dashu, Witches and Pagans: Women in European Folk Religion, 700–1000” Hutton (2016)
📸 Featured Photo credit: Pexel
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[…] making her father think she was some kind of witch. Even pre-Christian belief systems had a concept of “witch” being someone who used magic for selfish, evil ends to harm their community. (The […]