Monday, 20 March 2017

Grim Goddess

Poul Anderson shows ancient Paganism in its period and also presents fantasies in which the Gods are real. He makes at least one disparaging comment on modern neopaganism. After we have been told that the slaves who wash the idol of a goddess are then drowned:

"'A pretty grim sort,' Everard said. The neopagans of his home milieu did not include her in their fairy tales of a prehistoric matriarchy when everybody was nice."
-Poul Anderson, "Star of the Sea" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), pp. 467-640 AT p. 565.

Sir Nigel Loring reflects:

"He'd known Witches before...two dozen had hidden out in the New Forest..."
-SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Eighteen, p. 507.

I think that Stirling is ironically referencing Gerald Gardner's claimed initiation:

According to Gardner's later account, one night in September 1939 they took him to a large house owned by "Old Dorothy" Clutterbuck, a wealthy local woman, where he was made to strip naked and taken through an initiation ceremony. Halfway through the ceremony, he heard the word "Wica", and he recognised it as an Old English word for "witch". He was already acquainted with Margaret Murray's theory of the Witch-cult, and that "I then knew then that which I had thought burnt out hundreds of years ago still survived."[96] This group, he claimed, were the New Forest coven, and he believed them to be one of the few surviving covens of the ancient, pre-Christian Witch-Cult religion. Subsequent research by the likes of Hutton and Heselton has shown that in fact the New Forest coven was probably only formed in the mid-1930s, based upon such sources as folk magic and the theories of Margaret Murray.[97
-copied from here.

(I met Philip Heselton when he visited Lancaster to address the Briganti Moot.)


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Given his personal experiences with the real paganism religions of the past, I think Manse Everard's impatience with the wistful speculations of the neo-pagans made sense. I also had in mind what PA said about the Eddaic relgion in his Foreword to HROLK KRACI'S SAGA about "heathen rites bloody or obscene." Poul Anderson was simply being realistic about the neo-pagans.

I'm not quite sure the comments you quoted about Heselton were correct. Another writer, Chas S. Clifton, has criticized Heselton for being too willing to accept Gerald Gardner's dubious tales about the origins of Wiccaism. Clifton even says Gardner invented Wicca as late as the 1950's. And that the New Forest coven was fictional.


Paul Shackley said...

There seem to be at least 2 questions: was the New Forest coven real or fictional? If the former, was it really a survival of an ancient tradtion or was it founded in the 20th century? Heselton seems to have thought that the coven might have been real but not that it was a survival. Even Gardner's own account as quoted does not sound very convincing. He heard a word during his initiation and realized that here was a surviving tradition.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

This matter of the New Forest coven may never be satisfactorily resolved, due to lack of trustworthy sources. Gardner may have come across some kind of esoteric sect in the 1930's, but the "coven" does not seem to have antedated the Thirties. And thus was NOT ancient. Or Gardner may have simply invented that story. As you said, DUBIOUS!


S.M. Stirling said...

Back-dating and made-up sources are the staples of esotericism! However, as Juniper notes, all traditions have to start -somewhere-. (She starts out swallowing the Gardnerian account and then later decides it just isn't important, except as myth.)

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

Thanks for commenting. I agree all religions or philosophies or traditions have to start SOMETIME. But I have to otherwise disagree with Juniper--because TRUTH and facts are important. I recall reading of how one reason, among many others, while Christianity what I have consider the real pagan religions was because Our Lord was HISTORICAL, not mythical. That is, He actually lived and taught during the reign of Tiberius. And St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15 discussed how he had sought out WITNESSES who had seen the Risen Lord. Christ was/is a real PERSON, not some vague, amorphously defined neo-pagan "Lord and Lady."

So, I have to disagree with Juniper MacKenzie.


Sean M. Brooks said...

I garbled the second sentence of my comment immediately above. I mean to write "I recall reading of how one reason, among many others, why Christianity supplanted what I have to consider the real pagan religions was because Our Lord was HISTORICAL."

Drat! Sean