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The God of the Witches by Margaret Murray

The God of the Witches (1931)

by Margaret Murray

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A classic of Craft history, though outdated by more recent research.
  ritaer | Sep 13, 2011 |
This book is one of the foundations of neopagan, new age-y feminism, but it is completely out of date (first published in 1931) and requires extensive suspension of disbelief. Murray herself seems to have sat too long in a room alone with The Golden Bough, another discredited anthropological examination of folklore.

Murray published The Witch-Cult in Western Europe ten years before she published The God of the Witches, which was intended as a more popular presentation of her basic thesis that witches were underground adherents of a nature religion that originated in the Paleolithic.

I've had this book since college and upon giving it a recent skim, I decided to place it on the discard pile. I've given it two stars, not because I think it has anything worthwhile to say, but because it's fun in its loopy way and is probably of value to people who are interested in the development of matriarchy theories and neopaganism.

There is at least one authentic survival of a repressed religion, and that took place among the Iberian crypto-Jews. These were Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity and continued to practice Judaism in secret. ( )
  IreneF | Feb 8, 2010 |
A seminal book in the understanding of modern paganism. ( )
  EvaElisabeth | Oct 1, 2006 |
Well, er... This is entertaining enough as the potential basis for a fantasy novel, but as far as actual scholarship goes, it's pretty lacking. Murray's theory that there was some kind of unified pagan religion in Europe prior to the advent of Christianity is iffy enough, but when she posits that Joan of Arc and Thomas a Beckett were pagan sacrifices, things get pretty whacky. ( )
  Crowyhead | Sep 20, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0195012704, Paperback)

This celebrated study of witchcraft in Europe traces the worship of the pre-Christian and prehistoric Horned God from paleolithic times to the medieval period. Murray, the first to turn a scholarly eye on the mysteries of witchcraft, enables us to see its existence in the Middle Ages not as an isolated and terrifying phenomenon, but as the survival of a religion nearly as old as humankind itself, whose devotees held passionately to a view of life threatened by an alien creed. The findings she sets forth, once thought of as provocative and implausible, are now regarded as irrefutable by folklorists and scholars in related fields. Exploring the rites and ceremonies associated with witchcraft, Murray establishes the concept of the "dying god"--the priest-king who was ritually killed to ensure the country and its people a continuity of fertility and strength. In this light, she considers such figures as Thomas a Becket, Joan of Arc, and Gilles de Rais as spiritual leaders whose deaths were ritually imposed.
Truly a classic work of anthropology, and written in a clear, accessible style that anyone can enjoy, The God of the Witches forces us to reevaluate our thoughts about an ancient and vital religion.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:30 -0400)

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