Modern Pagan Witchcraft

Ronald Button

In the history of European witchcraft and magic England traditionally occupies a marginal position. It features but seldom in studies of the subject during the ancient and medieval penods, and while it has abundant records for its share of the early modern witch trials, it remained both geographically and intellectually peripheral to them. It is therefore the more striking that when a historian considers the phenomenon of modern pagan witchcraft, the picture is exacdy reversed. It is England which is the heartland, exporting ideas and practices to the rest of the British Isles and of Europe, and (above all) to North America. Twentieth-century pagan witchcraft, known in its most strongly established form as Wicca, is in fact the only religion which the English can claim to have given to the world. This is the more remarkable in that it is rooted m cultural trends which were themselves pan-European. The purpose of what follows is to identify those trends, to explain how and why they produced such a result in Britain alone, and to trace its subsequent development up to the present day.

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