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A 1st failing within Prof. Hutton's Polemic, "Pagan Britain"

ARGHHHHH!!!! Again, in his reductionist and revisionist zeal–in his polemic Pagan Britain, which is just as bad as his formerly flawed polemic, The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles–Prof. Hutton shows his fatally flawed weaknesses in trusting the disciplines of a Historian to the subject of pre-History since it ultimately short sights the evidence at hand by design. This is why this subject ought to be left to a History-Anthropologist, rather than a mere Historian since he is ill-equipped to handle the evidence at hand.

Between pages 20 and 21 of Hutton’s Pagan Britain (Yale Univ. Press, 2013), he attempts to prove that the famous Paleolithic rock carving of the “Sorcerer” from the cave (depicted above), Les Trois Freres (France), cannot be trusted nor assumed to be any sort of an animistic horned deity since the horns are not painted onto the wall with the rest of the image. In fact, as Hutton has been quick to point out since his earlier polemic, Witches, Druids, and King Arthur, the horns were added by the artist who originally sketched the cave art since the “horns” were actually a feature caused by cracks and other natural features in the wall of the cave itself. Therefore, Hutton infers that this image should not be employed as evidence for a Paleolithic horned deity.  It is also note-worthy that–showing how Prof. Hutton is, indeed, a “maverick historian”–he doesn’t cite a single scholars, let alone any pre-Historians, who share his conservative views in this case!

However, Prof. Hutton seems to totally forget, or else he does not even consider the view that it’s an established fact that Paleolithic peoples made a deliberate use of cracks and other features in their cave art.  This was demonstrated by David Lewis-Williams and David Pierce in their book, Inside the Neolithic Mind, which Prof. Hutton seems to go to pains to ignore. In fact, Hutton only mentions Lewis-Williams’ 1998 book (The Shamans of Prehistory), and ignores his much more recent work, which is based upon the science of neuro-biology. Furthermore, these cave images may well have been fully visible by low cave light caused by torches during the Paleolithic era. Indeed, as Lewis-Williams emphasizes, again and again, throughout his more recent studies, which Hutton fails to cite (but ignores!), there was NO distinction in the Paleolithic and Neolithic mind between the natural world and the Sacred! Lewis-Williams basis this off of neuro-biological research, which has been showing sustained results since its inception. Indeed, further supporting Lewis-Williams is their view that the walls of the caves were thought to have been a permeable entrance or membrane-like vortices to the Otherworld on which they drew (this is why so many of the animals appear to be hovering). Therefore, the horn-like cracks may have first stood out to the creators of this art, since they were intentionally incorporated into the pre-historic art.  It is not surprising that to find that Prof. Hutton writes very one-sided books.

PS–Prof. Hutton also refrains from citing their equally enthralling book, The Mind in the Cave.

Views: 128

Comment by cluthin drew on September 17, 2017 at 7:11am

I agree entirely with your view of cousins failings, the problem is that he is regarded as an "authority" in some circles, and I am continually having to point out the many errors in his works. However he does have one rather endearing"flaw" in my opinion, and that is the fact that it is often his"so-called strongest evidence" that proves  on the contrary to be the best evidence against his position! Three examples will illustrate my point in his previous book on" pagan Britain", in the context of discussing " survivals of pagan practice" he reproduces an ancient illustration of a figure knelling on one knee in the middle of a "ritual scene". What Hutton does not realize is that what is being depicted is a perfectly familiar "Masonic posture" that certainly was not invented in this artistic context by the  Grand Lodge of England.

In a second (equally funny) example he reproduces a drawing of an "imaginary" druid dating from the 17th century, who is clearly depicted as making a "Masonic footstep! Anyone interested in the wonderful summary of the iconographic evidence for the continuity of the Masonic ritual gestures and postures from pre-history up to the 19th century CE should consult "Sign Language of the Mysteries by Ward.

Finally, let me point out a huge oversight in his  book "The Triumph of the Moon", he argues that the "gravestone" of "Old Dorothy's" husband contains evidence that Dorothy was not a Witch. He notes correctly that the text is from Newman's "tracts for the times", and tries to argue that therefore Dorothy was a high Anglican!  However Hutton has failed to notice that the "tract" in question concerns the"survival of a tiny faithful remnant" against the oppression of a multitude! The sentiments  would be equally applicable to someone who saw themselves as " a faithful remnant"of the pagan tradition, and wished to leave an indication for fellow pagans that could easily be "interpreted in positive fashion" by the surrounding Christian community! and the final dedication to "Jesus Christ our Lord" which is not in Newman's original text, may be taken as a veiled reference to the gematria of the phrase in the original Greek which has to do with  the   New Jerusalem Diagram  rediscovered and explained by John Michelle in his book"City of Revelation". I say specifically" rediscovered" because Dr Joan Helm of Brisbane University in Australia gained her Ph.D. for a dissertation  demonstrating that this diagram  is utilized in the earliest mediaeval grail literature! It must be noted that this was no work of "alternative" or "maverick scholarship as it gained Dr Helm a Ph.D. from a perfectly respectable academic institution! For that reason (and for several others which it would take too long to document here there is evidence that Dorothy's coven utilised the " New Jerusalem Diagram"as part of their "ritual format", sao the "tombstone", rather than being proof that Dorothy was not a witch can equally plausibly be read as a "concealed statement"that she was one!

Although I have not yet read Hutton's book referred to in the blog, given his track record I am sure that somewhere the book he has "done it again"!

It is just a shame that Hutton's  work which is so valuable as far as the assembly of factors concerned should be flawed by his obvious bias is and  in some cases the superficiality of his conclusions! It is also a shame that some of us have to"waste time" defending our position dew to inadequate research on Dr Hutton's part!

Comment by Wade on September 18, 2017 at 9:06pm

HAHAHAHA!!!!   Where have you been all my life?!?!??!  :)  In fact, I think you may be my new best mate!  LOL!  I have been saying much of this for YEARS, but only to be told by my fellow Pagan kinsmen and women, who "fangirl" over Hutton, as though he is the Second Coming or the "last word" on a given subject.  In fact, I have been called a variety of offensive names merely for questioning Hutton's methods and conclusions because I care so deeply about accurate history!  Indeed, I have seen some Pagans actually declare, loudly, that, "What Prof. Hutton doesn't know about paganism isn't worth knowing!"  That is deeply disconcerting, since Hutton has a track record of bias!  But, it falls on deaf ears each time I tell them that Hutton engages in gross Logical Fallacies (some when is cherry picking an academic method?), and when he makes an umbrella statement he is almost ALWAYS wrong!  And, something else has occurred to me, that when Hutton reaches a conclusion he never cites a contemporary scholar that agrees with his conservative views!  In that sense, one might argue that he really is a "maverick historian."  I just wish my fellow Pagan kinsmen and women understood that Hutton provides only a vey narrow and one-sided portrayal of history.

I have often wondered why scholars refuse to censure Hutton, when he deserves it, when an academic friend of mine told me it's *probably* because they are being academically polite.  But, this sends Pagans the message that Hutton is infallible, since Pagan cult-fans of Hutton ask, "Well, where are the scholars who disagree with Hutton?"!  I just wish that my Pagan brothers and sisters would regard Hutton as one voice in an academic choir, rather than a soloist on his soap-box in his attempt to "give us a history" by depriving us of our roots.  Were you aware that Prof. Hutton, in his collection of essays, "Witches, Druids, and King Arthur" confessed that, as he was writing "Triumph," he found evidence for Wicca's antiquity but he intentionally chose to ignore it and behave as if he had found no such evidence?  I've mentioned it fellow Pagans, and they have accused me of being a "liar"!  It's also in the same book that Hutton engages in cherry picking of evidence, due to confirmation bias!  Hutton writes that, "it quickly became apparent"--without citing to whom it became apparent too--that paganism died quickly and easily after the introduction of Christianity.  However, within this book Hutton cites EVERY SINGLE chapter from Prof. Bowersock's "Hellenism in Late Antiquity," save for the first chapter.  It's in that first chapter that Prof. Bowersock proved that paganism survived far longer than Hutton would even allow for.  In fact, according to Bowersock, paganism had not yet even waned by the date given by Hutton.

Comment by cluthin drew on September 19, 2017 at 6:42am

For a great defense of the authenticity of the Gardnerian "tradition" I would recommend "Wiccan Roots" and "Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration" both by Philip Heselton, although I do not agree with all of Heseltons  conclusions, particularly those in which he has unfortunately in my opinion, relied too much on Hutton, his work is nevertheless probably the best "defense" of "tradition", currently available with an extensive bibliography and footnotes, I would highly recommend  his work to other pagans as an "antidote" to Hutton! I think it is Hutton's research that he is referring to in the passage you quote!

I myself have academic training, but unfortunately it is in philosophy and not history, however I could (and occasionally do)  make nasty remarks about his epistemology!

Unfortunately"cross disciplinary criticism" is frowned upon by the academic establishment!

Comment by Wade on September 19, 2017 at 12:34pm

Oh yes, I have read "Wiccan Roots," as well as "The Cauldron of Inspiration."  Sadly, when I mention them as worthy refutations to the conservative conclusions of Prof. Hutton, our Pagan kinsmen balk at his work because Hesselton does not have a Ph.D. in history!  I worry that they will ignore my own academic research for the same mistaken view as I attempt to prove a thesis that I have developed.  Proving it has been compounded by the fact that, to Pagans, it's now considered verboten to cite The Golden Bough for any reason--even though other scholars from other disciplines freely do so--and, I directly blame Hutton for this behavior!  But, back to Hesselton, in Hutton's documentary, "Britain's Wicca Man" when Hutton interviewed Hesselton he either never questioned him of the research within his first two books, or it was intentionally left on the cutting room floor to make as little impact as possible to Pagans watching it who are too lazy to read Hesselton's books.

Yes, I would be likewise concerned for anyone relying too heavily on Hutton concerning his track record.  When I mention Hutton's failings to Pagans, I dunno' why it doesn't seem to bother them in the least.  Hell, I have seen more and more pagans writing one-sided polemics and pulling the exact same stunts that Hutton has--all the while citing Hutton in their articles--which proves to me that Hutton is having an unfortunate effect upon the Pagan community in this regard.  They have convinced themselves that they are right--confirmation bias--and ignore all works that disprove their views even when the works they are citing disprove them, i.e. cherry picking, etc.  I have told Prof. Hutton of the negative reaction his work has had with Pagan researchers, but I don't believe that he cares, to be honest.

Which passage have I quoted from whom?

Gods, his "Pagan Britain" is filled with even MORE opinion that is put forth as fact than his previous book, "The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles"!  It's infuriating!  BTW, if you haven't read Daichi O'hOgain's "The Sacred Isle,"please do! 

Please, feel free to make nasty remarks about Hutton's epistemology to me!  Also, it's bullshit  that cross-disciplinary criticism is frowned upon, when Hutton does this again and again throughout his writings! Hell, one thing he has been doing a lot, recently, is invoking the research of European scholars whose collective work proves the survival of paganism, but Hutton insists they prove nothing!  In fact, he reacts as if specialist scholars have got it all wrong, but he in his intellectual superiority must be correct by default--Prof. Hutton is the Sheldon Cooper of academia!  Indeed, his book, "Witches, Druids, and King Arthur" was essentially an ass-covering move in which he basically said that (paraphrasing), "While at first it may seem as though I was grossly wrong when writing 'The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles'; I wasn't *really* wrong because I can find academic articles that question the academic articles that have been used against me!"  I'd have to re-read the section, but I believe that Hutton--in "Pagan Britain"--concludes that the Wild Hunt is a modern construct with no evidence in the ancient world!

And, dear gods, he practically falls over backwards dedicating his recent book "The Witch" to his hero, Norman Cohn!  Norman Cohn, it has been proven, lied about Margaret Murray to destroy her credibility!  In fact, in the preface to Carlo Ginzburg's "The Night Battles"--a work that Hutton is quick to dismiss as involving "unusually vivid dreams" when the Benandanti were catatonic!--Prof. Ginzburg charges that Cohn had attempted to destroy his reputation as he had Murray's before his work was even translated into English in an attempt to destroy his reputation through lies and misinformation!  Yet, Hutton still bows and scrapes to him?  Hutton goes on throughout this book to dismiss the work from European scholars as meaningless.

Comment by cluthin drew on September 20, 2017 at 7:10am

Hi I think that part of the news that Hutton has started writing for the New age journals!And some of them are publishing him! There is a self-serving article in the current edition of New Dawn a well-known  Australian  New Age Journal promoting his new book "The Which"! As far as his position goes I thought that Carlo Ginsburg had completely demolished it! It appears once again that Hutton is trying to "revive"  an "outdated theory".

"Carlo Ginsberg's two books are" The Night Battles", in which he conclusively demonstrates from the written sources that   a series of "shamanic"  folk Customs survived in Italy, and were part of the "witchcraft"beliefs.

In his second book "Ecstasies", he extended his research all over Europe and whas able to demonstrate that such "shamanic practices"  were well attested in the literature., Another good book on this subject is Dreamtime by Hanz Peter Durer  which again provide evidence for the "continuity of custom", and its relationship to the practice of witchcraft all over Europe.

The advantage of quoting  Ginsberg and Duerer , is that both of them most definitely do have Ph.D.s!  Of course since one is Italian and the other is German Prof Hutton I am sure, does not feel obliged to consider their research!

The difficulty as I see it  the whole "rationalist" and "materialist" paradigm, and the over verse "worship" of certain  "enlightenment" thinkers. This has led in my opinion to a complete distortion of historical fact for example for many years Isaac Newton was held up as a quote poster boy" for rationalism" until (Horror!) It was discovered that he had dedicated a large portion of his life to alchemy and peculiar biblical exegesis!But of course you  still won't find most of this inmost of this in "standard academic histories" , as most of the former "Newton worshippers" are thoroughly ashamed of themselves and want to cover up their distortion of history!

As far as Huttons epistemology is concerned starts out with a series of unprovable assumptions that he takes to be "common sense", such as  there is no such thing as witchcraft therefore, anyone who believed in witchcraft must be deluded!  This of course is a classical "19th century view" and is in the "rationalist" tradition of, some English philosophers, however it seems to be a "perversion" and indulged in by Anglo-Saxons! French, German and Italian scholars do not have such  presupposition is as a rule. Nowadays Kant  worship is (fortunately) in serious decline  and were except the Anglo-Saxon world!

I have  thought of a good "trick question"  for anybody who supports  Hutton's views on  folklore, considering the research that I mentioned last time, the question is this, "in exactly what way does the genetic make up of the European population preclude the Conservation of  folk Motifs, when we know that Sunderlandish  DNA and certain folklore motives are isomorphic, and we can prove statistically statistically the causal relationship when DNA and the folk motifs"! Would Prof Hutton like to suggest a mechanism in terms of specific aleal variation for this strange anomaly!

That should at least shut Hutton and his supporters up, unless they are racist geneticists!

Comment by Wade on September 20, 2017 at 11:53am

Oh yeah, Hutton has been writing for occult journals for years, which seems to show me that his agenda has nothing to do with being a Historian, but with directly affecting the perceptions of pagans and witches; by giving us a history by depriving us of our roots!  He wrote an article for The Cauldron (a British craft journal) attempting to discredit the work of Maire McNeill in her, "The Festival of Lughnasah" by claiming something like, if it doesn't adhere to his parameters, than her whole thesis fails!  I have told Pagans and Witches before that Hutton confessed to ignoring evidence that traced Wicca to antiquity in "Witches, Druids, and King Arthur," only to be treated like a liar or with obstinate condescension, after which I was dismissed as if I didn't know what I was talking about!

Now, just so I know while continuing to read "The Witch," what outdated theory of Hutton's is he attempting to revive?  Last I knew, Hutton wouldn't call the benandanti witches, nor their beliefs "shamanic"!  In fact, last I knew, he disregarded them and the texts--trying to mitigate what they say--as being Christians who were merely experiencing unusually vivid dreams--even though they were catatonic and couldn't be roused from "sleep"!  How Hutton could seriously dismiss them as sleeping and dreaming, is a mystery to me!  This was in an academic article he wrote several years ago in response, IIRC, to an article in which Donald Frew tried to use Ginzburg's books against his primary thesis.  In fact, because of Hutton, many Pagans now believe that Ginzburg's books "prove nothing," in which they parrot Hutton!  Hutton has even said, though I forget from where, that Ginzburg agrees with his appraisal of Ginzburg's books!

Thanks for the recommendation!  I'll definitely have to look for the book, "Dreamtime."

And, you are correct about Hutton being an Anglophile and refraining from citing European academic studies, unless he is dragged to do so, kicking and screaming!  I have often wondered why?  And, I am surprised that more people haven't noticed this behavior of his.

Yes, Hutton does indeed seem to "worship" Norman Cohn; and, Norman Cohn practically made a fetish out of rationality, in which anything he regarded as irrational was harmful for society.  Cohn, it must be pointed out, embarrassed Hutton as an undergrad.  Hutton's given two forms of this story: 1.) it was either during a debate in which Hutton defended Murray's thesis against Cohn (given in an interview); or, 2.) Hutton attempted to defend the pagan survival during the Witch Trials using the "Aradia" text, which Cohn demolished and proved was wrong to him.  Hutton mentions this in the Acknowledgements of "The Witch" where Hutton practically bows and scrapes before Cohn--and Cohn's work is largely considered obsolete these days, from what I hear.  But, neither does the Aradia text, nor does Leland appear at all in the index.

Speaking of a distortion of history, the Batholith Church has had a hand in directly editing the Encyclopedia Britanica by omitting certain facts, or softening details controversial to the Church!  A friend even told me that Hutton may have many of the views he does because British Universities are VERY Christian.  Though, a scholar I know suggested it's because Hutton painted himself into a corner so early on in his career!  Well, if the latter is so, than why has Hutton not tried to get out of that corner via all of his more recent writings by changing his opinions?  I am also shocked that every single book he's ever written is filled with Logical Fallacies such as cherry-picking evidence, ignoring what counters his confirmation bias, misrepresentation of sources, special pleading, umbrella statements that are ALWAS wrong when more closely examined, and on, and on, and on!  I had expected his books to get better, not worse!  BTW, is there a known Logical Fallacy for describing when one puts forth their personal opinion as though it's an established fact?!  If *I* would never do that, why does he?  Why hasn't he been professionally censured for doing so?  In fact, what hurts is this: I know damned well that if I wrote a book filled with these mistakes and more, I would have no credibility to speak of within the Pagan community, and deservedly so!  Why, then, does the Pagan community have one standard for him, but another standard for the rest of us?

Hmmmm....I'll have to take into account Hutton's "unprovable assumptions that he takes to be 'common sense'," while reading his two newer books.  Any others?

Your question just blew my mind!  I'd love to eventually use it in my book, but not without unintentionally plagiarizing you.  :P

Comment by cluthin drew on September 21, 2017 at 3:17am

On Hutton;s Epistemology I will comment that "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" as many historians know to their cost! One example will suffice. Elic Howe in his book Magicians of the golden Dawn claimed that Wescott "made up' a German Golden Dawn antecedent temple to bolster his authority because there was no evidence for the existence of such a group! As he was writing this the Jewish Kabbalistic scholar Gershon Scholem was publishing the rituals and history if the German group in Hebrew!

This is Hutton's folly his fallacy would quickly be spotted and dismissed in any law court where the absence of evidence fallacy has been recognized for over 1000 Years!

The outdated theory I was mentioning was the so called anti Murryan Hypothesis.

Comment by Wade on September 21, 2017 at 2:00pm

Yes, Hutton often seems to believe that "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," when he may not be looking into the appropriate locations and may not be aware of the applicable sources.  Hell, Hutton seems to intentionally ignore whole swaths of evidence in the hopes of creating the narrative that such a belief was never held, such as the Sovereignty-Goddess motif held by Celtic Studies scholars.

How did Hutton put his "anti-Murrayite hypothesis"?  Pagans still refrain from believing in it, due to Hutton, while American and British scholars are terrified to touch Murray's witch-cult thesis with a barge pole!  Some Pagans and Witches despise her so much, due to Hutton, that some have called her horrible names and even advocated burning her books. In fact, Hutton even declared, which is a total example of  "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," stating that Murray was so thoroughly disbelieved that Oxford had ceased publishing her books (they hadn't) and Rossell Hope Robbins had refrained from even mentioning her in his encyclopedia!  True, Robbins hadn't mentioned her throughout his encyclopedia, but that's hardly evidence of wide-scale disapproval, unless Hutton can get into Robbin's mind.

Comment by cluthin drew on September 21, 2017 at 11:28pm

Murray was not original in her thesis of a Dianic Cult underlying wiyckcraft there is a 18th Century CE Book that makes the same claim! The importance of this date is that there were still witchcraft trials within living memory when it was written. there were also scepters re the existence of witches from as early as the 17th century CE such as Reginald Scott. I regard Scott as an earlier Hutton in that in that in the course of his Debunking he reproduces a drawing of a witches or magicians knife with a perfectly intelligible Goddess name in Tiffnagh on the blade!

I don't see Kitterage's Excellent book Witchcraft in Old and new England Mentioned in this debate.This book is fundamental to understanding Gardners Writings and fas an excelent chapter on Operative witchcraft!

Ironically I have discovered evidence that Margret Murray was also a witch! Pagans wanting to burn books!!! U wonder what that says about their paganism reasoned debate yes but book burning NO!! I didnt even burn my coppy of Michelle Remembers!!!

I am afraid rge said pagans will definitely burn my book when it comes out! Not only do I support graves and even in some instances Fell But I have uncovered evidence that Austin Spare's Masturbatory magick was a genuine part of Medieval witchcraft Practice and I am Publishing the evidence!

It does occur to me that there is one contemporary person in the USA Who has a Phd and supports the authenticity of some of Gardner's Material Namely Stephen Flowers, He however is not currently involved in academia in the USA Although he has acted as visiting professor in europe where hid worj is highly respected!

Comment by cluthin drew on September 23, 2017 at 1:06am

 There Is at least one other American (USA) academic apart from Dr Stephen Flowers who accepts the existence of a real coven of witches at Salem! I will try to find the details!


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