Annotated Bibliography of Histories and

Ethnographies of Interest to Contemporary Pagans

Christine Hoff Kraemer, Boston University, Sept. 2005

(a work in progress)


Designed especially for the smart and skeptical contemporary Pagan practitioner who is frustrated with the bad history that is rampant in so many contemporary Pagan books.


* - highly recommended; a must-read



history and "history" (modern)


Albanese, Catherine - Nature Religion in America: From the Algonquin Indians to the New Age (1990). Extremely readable academic text. Particularly useful for tracing the American religious traditions that ultimately shaped American feminist witchcraft and especially the theology of Starhawk.


Greer, Mary K. - Women of the Golden Dawn (1994). History by a well-known Tarot specialist.


Heselton, Philip - Wiccan Roots: Gerald Gardner and the Modern Witchcraft Revival (2001). History of British traditional Wicca by a non-academic, initiated practitioner. Written as a counter to Hutton.


Howe, Ellie - The Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary History of a Magical Order, 1887-1923 (1978).


Hutton, Ronald - Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain (1996). Dense, academic, and thorough. Demonstrates that though some Neo-Pagan seasonal customs are ancient, others are only a few hundred years old, often the accidental creations of folklorists.


*Hutton, Ronald - The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft (2000). Definitive book on the origins of British Traditional Wicca by a respected historian. Particularly useful in the way it shows literary and scholarly origins for many of Wicca's distinctive features and connects Wicca with the late 19th- and early 20th-century British occult movement. Despite debunking much of Wicca's mythological history, manages to be respectful and even admiring of its subjects.


Kuntz, Darcy and Greer, Mary - Chronology of the Golden Dawn: Being the Chronological History of a Magical Order (2000).


Purkiss, Diane - The Witch in History: Early Modern and Twentieth-century Representations (1996).


Reis, Elizabeth - Spellbound: Women and Witchcraft in America (1998). Academic collection of essays. Mostly not about neopaganism, but rather about how and why women were constructed as witches at various points in American history. Contains an essay by Starhawk and two essays on the contemporary Goddess movement.




history and "history" (medieval and renaissance)


Barstow, Anne L. - Witchcraze : New History of the European Witch Hunts (1994). Feminist account of the witchhunts. Easy reading, but sloppy scholarship.


Briggs, Robin - Witches & Neighbors: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft (1996).


Cohn, Norman - Europe's Inner Demons: The Demonization of Christians in Medieval Christendom (1975, 2001). A well-regarded text that demonstrates that some of the important sources on European witch trials were forgeries.


Gibbons, Jenny - “The Great European Witch-Hunt” in Accord (Spring 2000), pp.16-25. Back issues may be available from Also appeared in Pangaia #21 ( A shorter version without the full bibliography can be found at A concise and scholarly explanation of why the witch persecutions were both less severe and less religiously driven than you’ve probably been told. Written by a Pagan with an MA in medieval history.


*Levack, Brian - The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (1987, 1995). One of the definitive academic texts on witch persecution in Europe, by a scholar who has focused his career on its study. Sometimes considered insensitive to gender.


*Murray, Margaret - The Witch Cult in Western Europe: A Study in Anthropology (1921). Murray's scholarship was likely an important source of information for her friend and colleague Gerald Gardner, and thus for Wicca. Murray's work is now considered so sloppy as to border on fabrication, particularly the way in which she uses sources materials without considering their context.


Murray, Margaret - The God of the Witches (1933). Made Murray's thesis that persecuted medieval witches were actually participants in an organized pre-Christian religion popular. See above remarks on historical reliability.


Russell, Jeffrey B. - A History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics, and Pagans (1982). Charming, heavily illustrated, readable text by a history professor. Does a particularly good job in distinguishing the "witchcraft" of which medieval heretics were accused and contemporary Neo-Paganism, while showing the ways in which contemporary Pagans have used that history.


Seligmann, Kurt - The History of Magic and the Occult (1948). Encyclopedic history by an artist and magician. Properly considered a mix of legend and history.




history and "history" (ancient)


Eisler, Riane - The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future (1987). Advocates for a return to a more egalitarian social model as represented by a matriarchal past, which Eisler refers to as a "partnership" model. Admirable aims, but full of outright historical errors, as well as relying on long-debunked scholarship.


*Eller, Cynthia - The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Won't Give Women a Future (2000). Academic work debunking the myth of matriarchal prehistory, which it does thoroughly and convincingly. Less convincing in its argument that this narrative is also destructive even just as a sacred story.


Frymer-Kensky, Tikva - In the Wake of the Goddesses: Women, Culture and the Biblical Transformation of Pagan Myth (1992).


Gadon, Elinor - The Once and Future Goddess : A Sweeping Visual Chronicle of the Sacred Female and Her Reemergence in the Cultural Mythology of Our Time (1989). Lavishly illustrated summary of the narrative of matriarchal prehistory by an art historian. Highly ideological and reliant on debunked scholarship.


*Gimbutas, Marija - Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, 6500-3500 B.C.: Myths, and Cult Images (1974). Last truly reliable work of a once highly admired archaeologist. Much of the mythology of a prehistoric matriarchy is based on her work. Later books of hers tend to be highly ideological and prone to historical errors. Fantastic illustrations and photographs,


Goodison, Lucy & Morris, Christine, eds. - Ancient Goddesses: The Myths and the Evidence (1998). Wonderful collections of essays by feminist archaeologists addressing Gimbutas’ work, Çatalhöyük, ancient Near East, Israelite, and Egyptian goddesses, Minoan Crete, and much more.


Hutton, Ronald - The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy (1991). Hutton is ultimately sympathetic to modern Neo-Pagans, but he is nevertheless merciless in his debunking of bad scholarship.


*Stone, Merlin - When God Was a Woman (1976). Focuses on the ancient Near East. Perhaps the best of the books of Goddess history written by a non-specialist (Stone is an art historian rather than an archaeologist). Smart, especially about the Bible in the context of ancient Near East history, but is best read next to an archaeological study of ancient Goddess worship like Goodison & Morris's.




biography, autobiography, and hearsay


Bracelin, J.L. - Gerald Gardner: Witch (1960).


Carter, John & Wilson, Robert Anton - Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons (2000).


Crowley, Aleister; John Symonds & Kenneth Grant, eds. - The Confessions of Aleister Crowley: An Autobiography (1929).


Crowther, Patricia - High Priestess (1999).


Curott, Phyllis - Book of Shadows: A Modern Woman's Journey into the Wisdom of Witchcraft and the Magic of the Goddess (1998).


Deutch, Richard - The Ecstatic Mother: Portrait of Maxine Sanders, Witch Queen (1977).


Duquette, Lon Milo - My Life With the Spirits: The Adventures of a Modern Magician (1999). Funny, matter-of-fact, and down-to-earth memoir by a well-known member of the OTO.


Farrell-Roberts, Jani - The Seven Days of My Creation: Tales of Magic, Sex and Gender (2002).


Johns, June - King of the Witches: The World of Alex Sanders (1970). Homophobic, racist, sexist, sensationalistic, and highly mythologized account of Alex Sanders' life. Nevertheless, provides insight into the development of British Traditional Witchcraft in the 1960's, and contains an excellent interview with Sanders in the back.


Kaczynski, Richard - Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley (2002).


Sutin, Lawrence - Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley (2000).




ethnography, journalism, and descriptive accounts


*Adler, Margot - Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today (1979, 1997). Definitive overview of contemporary Paganism by a journalist and practitioner. Perhaps the best first book one could read on the movement.


Berger, Helen A. - A Community of Witches: Contemporary Neo-Paganism and Witchcraft in the United States (1999).


Berger, Helen, Evan Leach, & Leigh Shaffer - Voices from the Pagan Census: A National Survey of Witches and Neo-Pagans in the United States (2003).


Clifton, Chas, ed. - Witchcraft Today Vols. 1-4. Topics: The Modern Craft Movement, Modern Rites of Passage, Shamanism and Witchcraft, Challenges of the Modern Witch (1992-1996).


Evans, A. - Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture (1981).


Harvey, Graham - Contemporary Paganism: Listening People, Speaking Earth (1997). Introduction to contemporary Paganism in its exceedingly diverse forms by a religious studies scholar. Topics: Celebrating the Seasons, Druidry, The Craft of Witches, Heathens, Goddess Spirituality, Magic, Shamanism, Ecology, Earth Mysteries, The Greenwood, History, Rites of Passages, Paganism and Other Religions.


Hopman, Ellen, Lawrence Bond, & Destiny Books - People of the Earth: The New Pagans Speak Out (1995). Interviews with practitioners.


Hume, Lynne - Witchcraft and Paganism in Australia (1997).


Larner, Christina - Witchcraft and Religion: The Politics of Popular Belief (1984).


Lewis, James R., ed. - Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft (1996). Collection of essays by academics and practitioners of Neopaganism. Sections on worldview, ritual, history and "history," ethics, Christianity and Paganism, and literature reviews. Articles by several significant figures in Pagan studies. Detailed literature reviews could be very helpful for academic study.


Luhrmann, T.M. - Persuasions of the Witch's Craft: Ritual Magic in Contemporary England (1989).


Orion, Loretta - Never Again the Burning Times: Paganism Revived (1994). A solid ethnography, perhaps insufficiently skeptical about the "official" history of British Traditional Witchcraft. Field work is American and mostly from the 1980s. Explores both festival and coven culture, and emphasizes models of witchcraft as art, counterculture, and religious basis for alternative healing.


Pike, Sarah M. - Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community (2001).


Salomonsen, Jone - Enchanted Feminism: Ritual Constructions of Gender, Agency and Divinity among the Reclaiming Witches of San Francisco (2001). Theologically sophisticated ethnography of Reclaiming witchcraft. Makes some interesting points about Reclaiming's connections to radical Protestant pietist groups, but ultimately overstates her thesis by seeing Reclaiming as part of a politically radical Judeo-Christian tradition. Extremely worth reading, especially to argue with.


Scarboro, Campbell, & Stave - Living Witchcraft: A Contemporary American Coven (1994). First published ethnography of an active American coven, Ravenwood, located in Atlanta.


York, Michael - The Emerging Network: A Sociology of the New Age and Neo-pagan Movements (1995).