Archives For Ben Whitmore

I wanted to point out a couple of recent Pagan-themed interviews that I think are worth checking out. The first is with Ben Whitmore, author of the book “Trials of the Moon: Reopening the Case for Historical Witchcraft,” conducted by Star Foster at Patheos. This self-pubished study/critique of Ronald Hutton’s “Triumph of the Moon” has generated quite a bit of notice, and respectable amount of criticism from Pagan academics, so this opportunity for Whitmore to make his case seems very appropriate.

“At first, I hoped it would make Triumph a more useful resource for pagans and Wiccans. As I started talking with others about what I was doing, though, I discovered that Triumph had become something of a cult, and I risked getting a dressing-down for even questioning it. A fairly typical response was condescension followed by condemnation, and being told that I obviously hadn’t read Hutton very carefully, and only fluff-bunnies still cling to the old myths. Pointing out that I wasn’t clinging to the old myths didn’t seem to make any difference. In fact, “Wicca” seemed to be turning into some sort of derisive joke, with “Ronald Hutton” as the punch line. Some people were quite vicious about it. I started to feel that my critique might help restore some dignity to the Craft, and turn Triumph back into just a book; a book with no greater claim to infallibility than any other.”

Whitmore also notes recent criticisms of his work by Peg Aloi (who is currently working on a longer-form criticism for Pagan academic journal The Pomegranate) and Chas Clifton, saying they make “a big fuss about me not being an academic,” and accused him of “being too lazy to write a proper critique.” One academic in Whitmore’s corner is Max Dashu, who recently penned a lengthy and glowing review of “Trials.” Then again, one could argue that Dashu isn’t exactly a fan of Hutton’s work to begin with, making her positively predisposed to a Hutton critique. In any case, it seems that this renewed debate isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.

The second interview I wanted to bring your attention to is with musician Arthur Hinds, a member of the popular Celtic-American folk rock band Emerald Rose, and a longtime fixture on the Pagan festival circuit. Laura LaVoie from The Juggler interviews Arthur about being an “out” Pagan musician in honor of International Pagan Coming Out Day (May 2nd, 2011).

“The idea of a formalized pagan coming out day I think I has two edges. First of all, I hope that, for many people, it may give them strength or the moment to speak of who they are. I also hope that they have the wisdom not to speak it where it doesn’t belong. I do not believe in rubbing it in people’s faces anymore that I enjoy having another faith splashed in mine. I also hope that eventually the purpose for the day will simply fade away entirely and Pagans need not feel imprisoned by the secrecy they fear is necessary.”

Hinds is planning to release a new single “about the path of being Pagan” on May 2nd in honor of IPCOD. For more about Arthur Hinds’ work, check out his 2008 solo album “Poetry of Wonder”. Arthur is an extremely talented individual, and a friend, and I’m extremely pleased to see him throw his support behind this new effort. Be sure to read the entire interview!

  • Reminder: We are in the midst of our second annual Winter Pledge Drive! If you value this blog, its mission, and its content, please consider making a donation to keep The Wild Hunt open, ad-free, and updated daily. Spread the word, and thanks to all who have donated so far!

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, a series more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!

Women and the Changing Face of Paganism: Thorn Coyle’s Elemental Castings podcast has a new installment posted that brings us audio from a panel at the recent Florida Pagan Gathering. Entitled “Women and the Changing Face of Paganism”, the panel brought together Thorn, Margot Adler, Diana Paxson, and Grandmother Elspeth.

“Thorn Coyle hosts a panel on Women and the Changing Face of Paganism at Florida Pagan Gathering. Guests include Margot Adler, Diana Paxson, and Grandmother Elspeth. Topics include the evolution of the Feminist movement, the importance of preserving our history, activism and politics from a Pagan worldview, and gender roles.”

You can download the podcast, here. You can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or RSS. The panel is very much worth a listen, especially considering the concentration of wisdom and experience on hand. While you’re there, you may also want to check out the recording Thorn made of the Pagan Leadership Panel at this year’s Pagan Spirit Gathering (which I moderated).

A Discussion on Pagan Health: While I’m on the topic of Pagan podcasts, be sure to check out the Pagan Centered Podcast this Friday where their guest will be Dr. Kimberly Hedrick of the TriWinds Institute. Dr. Hedrick recently completed a Pagan health survey, the results of which were presented at the annual meeting of The American Public Health Association (APHA) in November.

“The results of the Pagan Health Survey indicated that there are significant differences between Pagan views of physical and mental health, health care treatment options, and health care practitioners and the tenets of biomedicine and treatments available. This is particularly apparent in mental health, where substantial discrepancies in views of mental wellness combined with non-mainstream spiritual practices can lead to patients feeing misunderstood. The overarching holistic worldview, which sees health as an integrative endeavor (both in unifying body, mind, and spirit and in unifying environmental and personal health), can cause dissatisfaction with standard health care options and public health policies and lead to seeking alternative treatments and practitioners.”

Listener interaction is encouraged for this program. You can find instructions on participation, here. You can also e-mail Dave at PCP directly with any questions you’d like to see asked during the show. This work by Dr. Hedrick could really provide data that helps our communities in the long-term, and I’m enthused to see PCP tackling this story.

Mount Franklin Milestone: While several American and UK-organized Pagan events have hit the milestone of operating for 30+ years, Pagan Spirit Gathering in 2010 for instance, Australia is also starting to see its gatherings grow up along with their community. In 2011 the Mount Franklin Annual Pagan Gathering (in central Victoria) hits its 30th anniversary, and they’ve put up a special blog to collect tributes and remembrances in honor of the upcoming occasion.

“For overseas readers Mt Franklin is a small but perfect dormant volcano, with a crater that is totally intact except for a small gap where the entrance road is sited. Inside the crater is a flat area of about five acres, planted out with a variety of native and northern hemisphere trees, including a couple of young but thriving California Redwoods. The whole area has been declared an Arboretum, and the combination of Australian natives and trees from Europe and America serve to make Western Pagans feel right at home.

October is Spring in this part of Australia, and because we enjoy a four season climate here many of our traditional northern plants are heralding the onset of Beltane. At the base of the mountain wild Eglantine Roses are blooming, planted by who knows which homesick settler. On the slopes of the mountain itself a huge and lovely Hawthorn is covered in its white blossom. The bush all around us is filled with blooming eucalypts and masses of brilliant yellow wattles (Acacia to you northern types). Mt Franklin itself is in central Victoria, the most Southerly mainland state in Australia. We have hot, dry summers, cold wet winters and glorious springs and autumns.”

Australia has a diverse and thriving Pagan community, and their role in hosting Pagans from around the world at the recent Parliament of the World’s Religions in 2009, helped remind Pagans that “down under” has a lot to teach and share with us in the Northern Hemisphere. While there are some efforts at outreach, I’d love to see more community-generated journalism from places like Australia and New Zealand in the years to come. Congratulations to Mount Franklin Annual Pagan Gathering on their upcoming milestone.

Reconsidering Hutton: At his Talking About Ritual Magick blog, Frater Barrabbas notes an ongoing debate over the issue of historian Ronald Hutton’s theories concerning historical veracity within modern Witchcraft and Paganism. In the process he discovers Ben Whitmore’s recently self-published critique of Hutton’s history of Wicca, “Triumph of the Moon”, entitled “Trials of the Moon: Reopening the Case for Historical Witchcraft”.

“The ‘creation myths’ of modern witchcraft and Paganism were decisively toppled at the turn of this century in Ronald Hutton’s celebrated book, Triumph of the Moon. But did Hutton topple more than just myths? Are some truths also hidden in the rubble? Did paganism really die out centuries ago? Was witchcraft really no more than a fantasy? Were the Gods of Wicca really born out of the Romantic movement? Did Gerald Gardner lie about his initiation into witchcraft? Ben Whitmore has retraced many of Hutton’s steps, critically evaluating the evidence, and he now suggests that the truth may be quite different and even more fascinating. Drawing on a wealth of scholarly material, Whitmore demonstrates that the field of Pagan history is anything but barren ground — it is rich and fertile, and we have barely begun to cultivate it.”

The result of reading Whitmore’s work has put Frater Barrabbas’ ideas on the matter “in flux”, and he seems convinced that “the case for a historical witchcraft and paganism is anything but closed.” You can read an extremely long excerpt, nearly the entire book, for free, as a pdf download. It should be very interesting to see what comes from this, and what Hutton’s response to Whitmore’s criticisms might be. Will a larger-scale reevaluation of Hutton’s works within modern Paganism happen?

Isaac’s Legacy: In a final note, William Seligman, with the blessings of the family, is engaging in a research project regarding the influence of the recently passed Pagan leader Isaac Bonewits.

“I am working on a research project and I could use your help. I’ve often read that Isaac Bonewits was an important influence on the Neopagan, Druid, and Wiccan communities. I agree with that statement, but exactly how did he affect them? In pursuit of that answer, I’d like to ask those who feel they were influenced by Isaac to send me their stories.”

If you have stories about Isaac and his influence, please share them with Seligman for this project. Contact and format information can be found at the link.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!