In Defense of “Just Things”

I’m unusual in the scope of Millennials and Young Gen-Xers in that I don’t fetishise the “Spartan” minimalist life.  While I don’t believe that I should acquire more than I need in this life, I recognize the spirits in that which many regard as “just things – you can replace things.”  Tell me, though — can you truly replace your child, or “at least” a beloved pet when they die?

My friend Cinamon and I are both long-time antique enthusiasts, and have discussed our animistic relationship with old things:  Antiques have spirits in them, wiser and oddly protective in ways that newer things aren’t yet capable of expressing.  Hell, pressboard furniture seems to understand that it was made to be disposable within a few years, and feels very helpless when I touch it — my computer desk is possibly the oldest surviving pressboard piece I’ve met, going on twenty-five years old, and inherited from an ex who knew I needed a desk in a pinch; he’s all but fallen apart, feel weary, practically begging me to find a new desk and “pull the plug” on him — though when I do, I intend to take him apart and give his larger panels to a friend who likes pressboard panels for her mixed-media art, it just feels like the least I can do to honour him for holding together long past his life expectancy.  Antiques, though, they have stories that you can feel, wen you touch them, and if you’re especially in tune with them, they can tell you parts of their lives.

I’ve seen many people of older generations than mine, especially Americans, lament how the younger generations have little to no interest in family histories, especially heirlooms, sometimes just after going on about how our belongings are “just things” and “things can be replaced.” Well, what do you expect young people to think of family heirlooms after raising them to believe everything is just disposable, replaceable things?

This is how we lose our family histories. When our histories become intangible abstract ideas, they become lost, and our things help tell our stories as much as our words do.

While I have no intentions of having children (in fact, since my hysterectomy and metoidioplasty going on two months ago, well, bearing any is now physically impossible), I do intend to assign an heir — if only to continue the teachings of Eros — and this heir will understand the importance of what American society likes to regard as “mere things” that as disposable, replaceable, and lacking any importance to our histories. These “mere things” give our histories a tangible element that we can not only see, but touch and feel and truly understand in ways that words on a screen, or even a page, simply cannot, and can never convey.

You may say that there’s “just things,” but I say that they’re a part of my history, they say something about who I am and where I came from.

I have a ninety-plus-years-old gown – vintage 1920s, black lace; I’ve only worn it twice, but I believe with everything in me, this dress has told me that it belonged to a former incarnation of my soul. She was a performer, and she died rather young, after losing her true love; the dress was sold “back” to me at a loss to my friend who owned the shop -she told me that she felt it rightfully belonged to me- and it’s told me that we need to find our soulmate again, in this lifetime, to right the heartbreak of nearly a century ago.

My couch has told me it used to host salons with its first owner. My chair was imported from France by a wealthy woman from the area. My floorlamp has no special stories, just that it was loved for a time, until it spent many years in storage until it was purchased by the friend who owns another store where I found it, and give it the love it had missed for several decades.

You may say that they’re “just things,” but they have lives older than my own, with stories to tell and a desire to shape my own history along with me, and let me pass that legacy to my heir who will understand that they’re more than mere things, but history, souls, and capable of loving us as much as we love them.

When Your “Traditional Polytheism” Isn’t

  • When you ignore the historical, archaeological, and even genetic evidence of not just trade, but intermarrying between pre-Christian societies dominating Europe, and frankly everyone they traded with.
  • when you make shit up, and pretty transparently so. Like, what even is this shit? Especially when it’s so easily disproved, and, frankly, ludicrous. (See also this page from Viking Answer Lady, who has done a lot of research, for a more conversational tone.)
  • When you say shit like “white / European heritage” — there is literally no such thing. Even today, even with the European Union —a formalised political alliance, not unlike formalised alliances of ancient times— there is no such thing as this mythical “European culture” that is simply a code for white supremacists / separatists to identify eachother and attempt to veil their own racism. There is Greek heritage, French heritage, Welsh heritage, Albanian, Icelandic, Spanish, Basque, and so on. Frankly, even before WWII, most people of European nations were far kinder to those of the African diaspora, especially African Americans, than those in the US; singer, actress, and dancer Josephine Baker emigrated to France in the 1920s, and rather swiftly entered high society, marrying (white) Frenchmen. The idea of keeping “races” (which has a tellingly different definition to Americans than it does pretty much everywhere else in the world) separate is born of white supremacism.
  • When you make claims of wanting to emulate how things work with polytheists in European countries, but a modicum of research into even the reconstructionist groups in Germany (for example) show, no, you’re a LOT more racist, and so is your group.

Feel free to recommend me other items to this list. I’m sure there are other examples I haven’t thought of.

The Swastika -or- How Cultural Appropriation Hurts

I know I’m a little late to the party in addressing Tom Swiss’ claim that cultural Appropriation does not exist from a couple weeks ago. While I do still stand by my comments that dreadlocked hair is a poor example of “cultural appropriation” of African-Americans (a claim which allegedly instigated his post), as locked hair does occur naturally on the Indian subcontinent and certain Eastern Europen populations, in addition to the African diaspora (it’s even been suggested that locked hair is the real-life origin of the Gorgon mythology of Hellas), I wanted to blog about possibly the most widely-known symbol appropriated in a harmful way by white people that very few people even acknowledge as appropriation:

Artemis as Mistress of the Animals, Boeotian vase, circa 650BCE

Artemis as Mistress of the Animals, Boeotian vase, circa 650BCE

The symbol of the swastika is literally thousands of years old, with the oldest example on ancient artefacts going back to paleolithic Ukraine, about 15,000 years, in a maiandros (“Greek key”) pattern on the torso of a bird figure alongside phallic symbols, suggesting it as a fertility symbol (thus it’s clearest relevance to this blog). Most of the history of the symbol has been relatively benign: It’s apparently decorative or ornamental, showing little indication of strong meaning.

Most defenders of the symbol point to Hinduism, where the Sanskrit name “svastika”, is often translated as “Be Well”, and used as a symbol of austerity, peace, happiness, positive spiritual power (especially when associated with Ganesha). It’s also been given solar associations, and in the States is often acknowledged as a symbol used in some Native American tribes. It probably entered use in Hellenic art from the cultural descendents of the Vinca.

The swastika has also been associated with the triskelion and triskele, common symbols in Pagan circles, with the Triskelion especially prevalent in Sicilian and Manx communities, as it’s a feature on their flags.

Greek Boeotian Kylix

Greek Boeotian Kylix


While it’s been a long-established that the swastika is practically universal in its use, and one that has been established for having positive meanings and as a benign ornamental design for literally thousands of years, one thing that often gets ignored in defences of the symbol, is the fact that it’s only become so controversial in the West because of cultural appropriation. This fact is also often ignored in discussions of cultural appropriation and how it hurts.

While the symbol is practically universal to humankind, its use by the Third Reich was directly appropriated from its use in Hinduism. This is based largely on a bastardisation of linguistic connections between German and Sanskrit, and inherently racist misinterpretations of Sanskrit literature of the Arya. Hitler took the symbol most-directly from Indian culture as a symbol of political and military power, and with likely occult connotations that don’t actually exist in Hindu literature.

This is the very definition of cultural appropriation: Taking a symbol or cultural item from another culture, and inserting misunderstood, bastardised, or wholly invented meanings into it that the item did not possess, often while penalising the culture of origin.

In German, the Nazi symbol is referred to as the hakenkreuz, and I posit the use of this word to differentiate the Nazi symbol from the correct, traditional uses of the swastika, gammadion (“gamma cross” — a common name in the Anglosphere from the Victorian through 1920s, based on its resemblance to conjoined members of the letter Γ), and menandros symbols, and out of respect to Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain people, who successfully petitioned the EU to drop all plans to ban the swastika in its 25 nations — much like other polytheists have used the title “Daesh” to refer to the terrorist organisation out of respect to Kemetics, Graeco-Aegyptians, and others who honour the goddess Isis/Aset, Whose domains includes love and fertility, and Who is regarded as welcomming of all people, especially the persecuted. For the remainder of this blog, from this post onward, I will use this differentiating terminology.

The hakenkreuz was used less than thirty years as a symbol of Nazi power — less than thirty years! This is after centuries of use of the swastika by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains as a sacred religious symbol and good luck amulet. This is after centuries of use of the Whirling Log on Navajo blankets, and by other Indigenous tribes of the Americas for a wide variety of positive and benign meanings. This is after centuries of use of the gammadion and meandros borders in Hellenic and Graeco-Roman art. This is after centuries of use of the fylfot in heraldic European customs. In less than thirty years, Western people are willing to cave to cultural appropriation, take a symbol from its origins and meanings, and give it away to white Fascists.

This surrender to cultural appropriation is most glaring when the Navajo, Apache, Tohono O’odham, and Hopi tribes of the Americas issued this decree in the early days of WWII:

Because the above ornament which has been a symbol of friendship among our forefathers for many centuries has been desecrated recently by another nation of peoples.

Therefore it is resolved that henceforth from this date on and forever more our tribes renounce the use of the emblem commonly known today as the swastika or fylfot on our blankets, baskets, art objects, sandpainting, and clothing.

This was referenced to me, earlier today, as a decree of solidarity with the Jewish and Romani and others persecuted by the Nazis (and implicitly made by “all” Natives, though a basic websearch has revealed that only four tribes had representatives sign this decree, but you know, people with white privilege making “Native monolith” racist assumptions are nothing new, to me), but in reading this decree, the populations persecuted by the Nazis are not mentioned. All that is stated is that a few hand-picked representatives of a tiny handful of tribes were going to relinquish the symbol and surrender it to cultural appropriation.

This is how cultural appropriation is so insidious: Reading the background on this decree, it’s said that white tourists to Navajo and Hopi and other reservations became nervous and apprehensive at the symbol on blankets and other items for sale. This was financially penalising Native tribes for their use of a symbol that they had used for centuries, that they had joyfully sold to those same tourists only a few years before, because the symbol had been bastardised in just the wrong way by powerful white people! The tribes were left with little choice BUT to surrender the symbol for their livlihoods!

Surrenders of the symbol to cultural appropriation are not limited there; Wikipedia has a very lengthy section of their page on use of the swastika in the West specifically about efforts, largely in the United States, to remove the swastika from historical structures. A search for “Hindu Swastika news” turned up an article about privileged soccer moms of Orange County pressuring a museum to remove a Hindu tapestry, lent by a local family, even though there was a plaque explaining the history of the symbol and its meanings in Hindu culture.

This is EXACTLY the thing that many have talked about over the last two weeks about the definition of cultural appropriation — penalising members of the culture(s) or origin for use of the appropriated symbol.

While it would be disingenuous to not acknowledge that, yes, the hakenkreuz continues to be used by Neonazis and Fascists (and the meandros even appropriated by Greek nationalist fascists), it is equally disingenuous to ignore the fact that it is cultural appropriation when they do so. The fact remains that cultural appropriation is a tool often used by racists, and side-swiping or even ignoring the fact that the Nazi hakenkreuz has been appropriated from Hindu symbolism is, at best, ignorant “accidental racism”, in that it’s giving preference to the white appropriators to the symbol that they stole!

When people reach a point where they are flat-out committing racism to avoid criticism of their ignorant opinions of the swastika, which they’ve decided is the same thing as the Nazi hakenkreuz, the surrender to cultural appropriation has become so insideous that I just don’t have words.

And, to make matters worse, in the West, that surrender to appropriation is so prevalent, that people who should know better, like people in the Pagan community, will avoid calling it the cultural appropriation that it is, either out of ignorance, or out of a useless sense of “white guilt” and fear of being accused, themselves, of being racists, when anyone with any sense will acknowledge that it’s the exact opposite.

The push to acknowledge that cultural appropriation does cause real harm to the cultures stolen from is, at its heart, a movement to avoid this again, but it really cannot be usefully addressed without acknowledging the appropriation of the swastika to the Nazi hakenkreuz as the most glaring example of how cultural appropriation is a tool of institutionalised racism that hurts people on an individual level and entire cultures outside of mainsteam Western whites.

By failing to defend the proper use of the swastika, and by failing to differentiate it from the Nazi hakenkreuz, one continues to surrender the symbol to cultural appropriation, and thus continues an act of institutionalised racism so insideous that one will fight tooth and nail to defend that racism.


A story about the power of sacrifice

So, Wyrd Ways Radio just cut off for the fortnight, and there was a special treat on tonight’s show, if you missed it, live: I called in! I called in at about quarter before the end (in part cos i decided to take a day off from volunteering at WCBN, mainly from being tired, and I was sorting buttons, which, by the way, you should buy some from the Religion & Magic section, so i can buy a link on The Wild Hunt).

One of the things that Sannion and Galina brought up this fortnight was how secularised Protestantism has lousied up so much of Pagan culture, and that people will often (and I’ve seen many say as much, as well) practically wince at the idea of actually sacrificing to the gods in their personal practises. I called in to relate a story that my friend Jeff at PJ’s Used Records shared with me and one of the other customers this last Monday:

When Alexander was a child learning from the tutor at the palace, at one moment, he was being taught the proper method of sacrifice to the gods. His teacher showed several other boys, with Alexander at the end of the line (with the intent that Alexander would learn from the mistakes of others). The tutor and all other boys took a pinch of frankincense, a pinch of myrrh, and a pinch of storax, and sprinkled each into the sacrificial fire. When Alexander came up, he took huge handfuls of the frankincense, myrrh, and storax. The teacher was horrified, but held his tongue, but apparently still showed on his face.

Many years later, after several conquests, Alexander sent to that teacher huge cartfulls of frankincense, myrrh, and storax, and a note about how giving freely to the gods will mean the gods will freely give back.

This isn’t exactly as i gave it on Wyrd Ways, and it’s not exactly as Jeff gave it to me, but the important parts are all there and the lesson stays the same: When we give, not what seems appropriate to our sensibilities, but what we genuinely can, and give that freely and without reservation, the gods will give back.

The distinctly modern notion that ritual sacrifices are somehow “wasteful” is, indeed, a scurge on the pagan community and one of the distinctions I point to between the differences between the pagan and polytheist communities. While true that we carry with us a lot more cultural baggage into the religions we’ve converted to than we may realise, it’s only by shedding certain things, one at a time, that we truly open up our lives to the gods we honour.

One cannot be stingy with the gods. It’s not about giving beyond our means, it’s about giving freely of what we can; if all we can give at a time is a tablespoon or two of water, cos we’re just that impoverished, then we should give that, and give it freely. No-one has ever said that we should bankrupt ourselves for the gods in hopes of a greater return, but if we have it in our budgets to give more, then we should give proportionately to what we have, and give it freely.

A quick thought on trans spirituality

The most transphobic people I know are often other trans people. So distasteful do they find their own TS/TG reality that they idealise cisgender privilege to the point of other convincing themselves of an uncomplicated identity, in spite of their own personal histories often proving rather complicated gender relationships, to one extent or another. This is not merely cissexism, as their actions require the erasure of of their own trans histories, just as much reconstructed TS/TG history of pre-Twentieth Century transgender people had been erased, and so they turn the transphobia inward, on themselves, and maintain a status quo of projecting the cissexist ideal outward.

This becomes most unfortunate in pagan and polytheist circles, where the 20th and 21st Century “ideals” of uncomplicated TS/TG people is introduced into pagan and polytheist communities, and the self-hating TS/TG individual expects to be given the exact same options as the cisgender individual. To be fair, yes, often the denial of trans women, in specific, to various “women’s mysteries” is an act of cisgender people actively hating transgender women, but the fact still remains: Most women experience menarche, a mystery no trans woman will ever endure. A man who will never emit seed will, too, be unable to touch that particular mystery. The transgender individual, on the other hand, does have her and his own mysteries, and these can be offered in certain sorts of circles to shed additional light on a the mysteries of manhood and womanhood, because the TS/TG individual does live in that liminal space that, even if as socially uncomplicated as “man” or “woman” as possible, is physiologically in-between, and the physical and spiritual are so thouroughly interconnected that to deny the effects of one on the other is to practically invite spiritual sickness, which may very well manifest physically, in some.

For an overwhelming majority of trans pagans and polytheists, to present oneself as a uncomplictedly male or female is to present oneself as spiritually unwell, unstable.

[What’s That?] A Brief History of the Witch-Cult Hypothesis and Its Eventual Dismissal

I've also seen noting genuinely biographical stating she was anything but a supporter of Wicca, though not a Wiccan herself.

I’ve also seen noting genuinely biographical stating she was anything but a supporter of Wicca, though not a Wiccan herself.

Contrary to what you may have been told by Wicca’s critics (invariably the people I have seen make this claim) Margaret Murray did not invent the infamous Witch Cult Hypothesis, she’s just the writer of the most popular 20th Century book on the subject. In the possible (but likely improbable) event that you’re reading this and are completely unaware of what I mean when I say “witch cult hypothesis”, in short, the most popular version of the Witch Cult Hypothesis is the idea that, once upon a time, practically all of Europe was united through two things: A matriarchal society, and a cult of witches/witchcraft that goverened society. The hypothesis typically goes further to claim that the witch cult, in some form, survived not only the eventual patriarchal societies that were clearly in place by the dawn of recorded history, but the eventual dominance of Christianity and continued for at least a few hundred years after that. If you don’t know much about ancient history, it seems plausible –and certainly, the nature of secret societies makes it seem plausible that such a society can remain undetected for centuries without any evidence surfacing over the hundreds of years. tumblr_lfns8gyCT51qa6x5yo1_400 Unfortunately, a lot of what makes sense about an ongoing matriarchal witch cult surviving underground for centuries, if you really think enough about it, you realise how implausible it really is –and moreover, while there certainly were ancient matriarchal societies, including Crete, and sufficient evidence to suggest that there were certainly at least a few more prehistoric matriarchal societies than what survived to the age of history, there was hardly a single, politically unified matriarchy spread all over prehistoric Europe. Furthermore, the idea of a widespread and somehow unified secret society of witches that is or was allegedly “all over Europe” for centuries just seems preposterous, considering things like language barriers and cultural differences.
This was seriously one of the first twenty pictures in an image search for "dianic pagan" that I just did.  This is one of the reasons why Dianics are seldom taken very seriously.

This was seriously one of the first twenty pictures in an image search for “dianic pagan” that I just did. This is one of the reasons why Dianics are seldom taken very seriously.

This was seriously one of the first twenty pictures in an image search for “dianic pagan” that I just did. This is one of the reasons why Dianics are seldom taken very seriously.[/caption] Now, it seems pretty obvious to me why this apparent “bad archaeology” to recons and academic pagans is more a “sacred mythology” to, say, Dianics, but it’s also fair to keep in mind that fewer and fewer who do hold spiritual value in the witch cult hypothesis are taking it literally any-more, though in spite of this, as recently as 2010 (that I know of), during the annual “Pagan Mediatoberfest” every October on cable, at least one in the family of History Channels runs a “Witchcraft” episode of one of their signature documentary series (I forget which one) that presents the witch cult hypothesis as ostensibly historical. John_William_Waterhouse_-_Undine

As I said before, Margaret Murray was not the first to posit the witch cult hypothesis, her version is merely the most popular. The first to write something suggestent of a hypothesis that would lead to the “witch cult hypothesis” would be Karl Ernst Jarcke, a German professor of the early 1800s; though I haven’t read the original German, it seems what he actually hypothesised was that the victims of the witch hunts in Europe were largely part of some degree of pagan survival that the church decreed to be “satanic”. Now, this is something that others have suggested since, at least in some areas, and the idea of an extremely widespread survival of indigenous polytheism essentially all over Europe isn’t a sieve, it does hold some water, just perhaps not as much as some people might want it to. Bouguereau_Pandora-large

The witch hunts largely targeted women in most areas, which actually helps the hypothesis a bit. Especially amongst the lower and working classes, where working mothers have been common since ancient times, women still end up doing the majority of the child-rearing and homemaking. A friend of mine who is an archaeologist once explained to me a practically worldwide phenomenon that when one culture conquers another, marries the women of the conquered people and so on, food traditions remain, and the “conquering” culture ends up changing, in usually subtle ways that are directly related to childhood development –indeed, one of the ways that China ended up eventually “conquering” a culture that, militarily conquered them was by women preserving the culture, basically raising the younger generation with a Chinese cultural identity. If a pagan survival was to happen amongst people who put the child rearing largely, if not completely onto women, the women pose a genuine threat to the Christian status quo. Where the hypothesis of an especially widespread pagan survival loses water is in the fact that a large amount of surviving testimony from the accused is of basic Christian subversion, or of people who were clearly having something of a property dispute, or it was clearly class-based, and so on, with more cases where another explanation is clearly the best one, based on evidence —Occam’s razor, often misunderstood as “the simplest answer is the best / correct answer” is actually an assessment of probability and means nothing in the event that further evidence nullifies the “simplest answer”. gage

After Jarcke, Franz Josef Mone, a staunch Catholic, reworked Jarcke’s hypothesis as being both Satanic and Hellenic in origin, and was also the first writer I’ve found to claim the inclusion of human sacrifice and orgies, which is basically in line with the accusations during the witch trials. Next is the French writer, Jules Michelet, who first seriously entertained the notions of classism and sexism in the witch hysteria, and hypothesised that it was women of the lower classes who maintained a pagan survival, and this seemed to influence late 19th Century Native American activist, abolitionist, and feminist writer Matilda Joselyn Gage, who added the notion of widespread pre-historic matriarchy (as an aside, Gage was the mother-in-law of L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, amongst dozens of others, and Baum’s biographers generally believe that Gage’s interest in the witch cult hypothesis was an influence on his witches of Oz). Aradia-title-page Lastly, Charles Leland, an American folklorist, wrote Aradia, which he presented as a sacred text of the witch cult in Italy, but has since been determined to be a composite, including some material that’s likely of Leland’s invention.

Margaret Murray was a British Egyptologist who, at the time she basically consolidated the above ideas, was unable to do field work in Egypt. In spite of a clearly academic background, a lot of historians, including Ronald Hutton, consider her works on the witch cult hypothesis to be unprofessional and discredited. On the other hand, there are a handful of other historians who’ve basically taken out some of her more ridiculous claims (like certain individuals in history, including devout Christians, like Jean d’Arc, were willing human sacrifices of the witch cult), and refined the hypothesis into a hypothesis of incomplete Christian conversion in Europe, which the “witch trials” served a partial function in “correcting” –again, this is assisted by the fact that some of those put on trial were clearly herbalists practicing a craft passed down for generations, but again, this doesn’t amount for everything, and in many cases, the issue is clearly more an iron-fisted quashing of more subversive Christians or “folk Christianity” that, though indisputably “Christian” by modern standards, retained clearly “pagan” elements.

More Isadora Duncan --I can't get enough of this woman.

More Isadora Duncan –I can’t get enough of this woman.

Murray wasn’t completely talking from her arse, and as I recall, she was clearly a fan of Gage, and she certainly had the opportunity to be aware of the precursors to her own version of the hypothesis (though she denied previous familiarity with Jarcke’s and Michlet’s take on the hypothesis, in spite of the fact that her own version mirrors elements of both of theirs –but it’s also not all that uncommon for people, even in academia, to fail at giving credit where it’s due) but her more fantastic ideas seem more like something out of a tract by a conspiracy theorist and slipped behind the wiper on a car’s windscreen than history, by today’s standards, and this has certainly overshadowed the more realistic elements that her supporters in current academia prefer to stress and build from.

So what about “The Burning Times”? Well, later in the 20th Century, a Canadian documentarian, Donna Read (not to be confused with the funny and [actually quite subversive, for the 1950s] Donna Reed) made a film about the witch cult hypothesis and the witch trial hysteria. In spite of facts already established that suggest, overall, the hysteria was rooted in class and subversive takes on religion as much as sexism (though the main reason may have varied by location), in an spite of the fact that, in some parts of Europe, men were just as likely (and in one particularly peculiar town, far more likely) to be tried and executed as “witches”, the film concentrates on women as the ultimate victims and sexism the ultimate reason, with one interviewee going so far as to call the witch hysteria “the Women’s Holocaust”, and even made its own fantastical claims, like “nine million witches executed”, when the historical data suggests a minimum of 60,000 and a max of 100,000 were executed over the 200-300 year course of the witch hysteria. Just a basic look at world census estimates for the period (and of course adjusting to largely consider only Europe and also North American colonial populations) reveal that executing “nine million women” throughout Europe between approximately 1450 and 1750 would have been impossible —at some point, there would have literally been entire cities with absolutely no women left! Considering that there is no such record of even the tiniest villages rendered all-male by witch hysteria, the more conservative, academic estimates based on extant historical data and adjusted for potentially lost records is far more likely, and it’s fair to assume that, at the height of the witch hysteria, not even a quarter million people (much less a quarter-million of just women) were executed throughout the 300+years of mass hysteria.

Unfortunately, this “documentary” that is only loosely based on the actual history, still manages to be enduring through the pagan community, in part from featuring prominent Neopagan women at the time, including Margot Adlet and Starhawk, and also a soundtrack featuring Loreena McKennitt.

Damn, Ruadhán, you talk a lot. TL;DR version, pls? kthxbai!

* Contrary to the most common assumption I have personally seen in the pagan community, Margaret Murray WAS NOT the first person who suggested the witch cult hypothesis. The witch cult hypothesis pre-dates Murray’s work on witchcraft by about a hundred years in academia, and the idea may possibly have floated around earlier only to be formalised in the very early 19th Century.
* Murray wrote the most popular version of the witch cult hypothesis, and it incorporated elements of previous versions of the thesis. Some of these elements were more realistic than others. Murray also added some elements, possibly from her own imagination, that are easily regarded as, to use professional terminology, complete nonsense.
* Not everyone discredits the witch cult hypothesis, in its milder form, which is essentially a hypothesis of Europe incompletely “Christianised” prior the “witch trial hysteria” redubbed “The Burning Times” by a popular, though not completely factual, Canadian documentary of the same name circa 1990. There are reasons for and against this “extended pagan survival” hypothesis, and even if it is assumed to be that the hypothesis is a complete theory, considering the known politics of the witch trials, it’s highly unlikely to be a universal theory for every person accused of witchcraft during that time, just one that would be true for some instances and potentially more likely for some regions than others.
* That said, it should go without saying that there was never a Paneuropean matriarchy with an equally Paneuropean witchcraft religion in any historical sense; the closest hypothesis taken seriously in anthro-archaeology today is “PIE society”, which, being a hypothesis, is barely more than coincidence, and has no real evidence of being inherently matriarchal. On the other hand, some Dianics have refined the pre-historic matriarchy of Gage’s imagination into a mythos in its own right; this is no less valid a mythology than Hesiod’s ages of humankind (we’re in the Bronze age, by the way), or the Garden common to Abrahamic religions.