Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Hwicce





I'm surprised that Stephen J. Yeates' books on the Hwicce aren't having more fuss made about them from within the Wiccan/Pagan scene - at least not so as I could notice. I would have thought that they'd be a wonderful source of potential evidence for the historical authenticity of British Wicca beyond the 1950s when Gerald Gardner claimed to have met some witches. Especially seeing as since the publication of Ronald Hutton's book, The Triumph of the Moon, many of the historical claims of Wicca have been shaken and stirred - to quite an extent (although, see an interesting new critique by an Alexandrian witch of Hutton's book here). One would think that Stephen Yeates' books might redress Hutton's historical destabilising of Wicca somewhat. At the least, he has specifically used the word 'witches' in his title, suggesting that he's wanting to point the books in that direction. I've searched quite a bit for reviews of his books and have only come across the Cambridge Archaeological Journal review on the first book, a review of both of them on The Twisted Tree, and apparently there's a forthcoming review of the second book coming out in British Archaeology Nov/Dec 2010 issue (which I don't have yet). There might be others that aren't showing up in my search, so I'd be interested to hear of more. There are some quite good reviews of the books on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. Apparently 'Hwicce' means, according some 'chest or trunk' and according to Yeates, 'vessel or cauldron'. Either way, it sounds like it means something to do with a container. Plus I've always been told that 'wicce' is the feminine form of the Anglo-Saxon word for 'witch' (and that 'wicca' was the masculine form). Why sure, the Hwicce might not have anything to do with Wiccans (as we know them today)... but then again they might - we all know how much part a sacred vessel plays in modern Witchcraft. Frankly, I need to read these books myself, which I am about to do. Then I'll post a review of them. The third book pictured here The Anglo-Saxon Landscape also covers the territory of the Hwicce, which is why it is included.

7 comments:

Caroline Tully said...

The question really... is whether I should align my pics to the left when posting them on this blog...

Aelwyn said...

I've never heard of these books. Where can I order them?

Caroline Tully said...

You can order them from Oxbow books, click the link in my post, or you can get them from amazon.com or amazon.co.uk. They are cheapest at present on Oxbow Books, which is also linked to David Brown books. But just click those links in my post. You can also see inside the first one - the table of contents - on amazon.

Caroline Tully said...

I am waiting and waiting for these books to arrive in the mail!!!!!!!!! Hurry up!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chas Clifton said...

I read the first book, Tribe of Witches, and was underwhelmed. The Hwicce do not even appear until close to the end. Mostly it is an attempt to describe the possible religious cults of ancient people in the West of England, using a mix of etymological and archaeological evidence, well larded with speculation.

Caroline Tully said...

It seems odd that the author would title the book using such a provocative word. The sequel actually looks better put together, in regards to ease of reading wise, however it may be just as unconvincing or irrellevent to the actual _title_ as the first one. I just wonder at the point of using the W-word in the title like that.

Caroline Tully said...

So... I have these two books now, but have only had time for the most cursory perusal.... They both seem good, the second one seems easier to read, as in the author seems to have written more clearly. Whether or not they can be used as evidence for or against 'Wicca', 'Wicce' and /or modern Pagan witchcraft however, I have not had time to really concentrate on. They are very interesting regarding ancient British religion and its relationship to landscape however.