Monday, December 13, 2010

From Witch to Archaeology PhD

I was initiated as a Witch on the 19th of January 1985 and I'm doing my PhD Confirmation on the 19th of January 2011. I'm studying Tree Cult in the prehistoric Aegean, Cyprus and Israel (see the post below this one for details). One of the reasons I became interested in academia was the publication of Professor Ronald Hutton's book 'Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft' -- that and Robert Turcan's 'Cults of the Roman Empire' about Mystery Religions in the Roman world, both of which I read on the cusp of 1999/2000. Another factor in my becoming an academic was the Natrel email list run by Chas Clifton, (now called Pagan Studies) which alerted me to the fact that there was a vibrant international scholarly discussion going on about various aspects of Paganism and that in order to be part of it I had to "learn academia". I've been on that email list since 1999 and many times it has been the only thing maintaining my interest in modern Paganism which, since the late 90s, has seemed increaingly infiltrated by the New Age and consequently lite-weight. Initially I went back to university in 2004 in order to learn more about ancient Pagan religions and to see whether what academic experts in various ancient religions told me was the same as, or different to, what modern Pagan leaders claimed. You know: "Wicca goes back to the Neolithic", "the world used to be matriarchal", "casting the circle is an authentic ancient Pagan practice", "our lineage is derived directly from [fill in ancient celebrity here]"... that kind of thing. It didn't take long to discover that contemporary Paganism differed enormously from ancient pagan religions, both conceptually and structurally, and that's when I began to realise that contemporary Pagan leaders' claims were, in many cases wrong, deluded, or were a case of deliberate lying. This is one of the reasons why I like Hutton's work so much, as a professional historian he has done the historical leg-work that many Pagan insiders were simply unable (because they were not historians themselves) or unwilling (because it suited them to maintain a self-aggrandising, comforting and/or useful "history") to do and highlighted many instances of questionable historical claims that we now need to categorise as myth rather than fact. I guess this is why in some quarters of the practitioner spectrum, Hutton has become an object of hatred. This has raised its head again recently in the wake of the publication of a challenge to Hutton's 'Triumph of the Moon' called 'Trials of the Moon' by Ben Whitmore. While many of the anti-Hutton camp have lunged upon Whitmore's book, seeing it as a deserving slap to Hutton, as seen on the comments to a post on The Wild Hunt blog and on the Talking About Ritual Magic blog, academic researchers into Paganism have only just started to pay attention to it, as seen on The Witching Hour and Letters from Hardscrabble Creek. It is on the latter blog, in the response to the post about Peg Aloi's review of Whitmore's book, that comments about Hutton are actually getting quite nasty. (I could reply less nastily, but still snidely, that whatever the strengths and weaknesses of Whitmore's book prove to be, it doesn't really matter because one of the tricks of publicity is to attack a big target and attacking Hutton means that Whitmore can ride on Hutton's more famous coattails). Regarding some of the comments on Chas' blog, I'm still baffled as to why anyone would react so strongly toward Hutton's research. Have they even read his books? I look forward to an academic review of Whitmore's book, which I hear is in the making for Pomegranate: International Journal of Pagan Studies, where hopefully the reviewer can enlighten us all on the strengths and weaknesses of his challenge to Hutton (because they are likely to be qualified in the subjects they are discussing, not simply because they are an "evil academic" with the demise of Paganism as their goal). Many within academic Pagan Studies are actually Pagan themselves, which makes the accusation that they are somehow deluded conformists to the "academic machine" unlikely. The looming stoush between the anti- and pro-academic history camps that seems to be [re]generating as expressed on the above blogs will, I hope, provide another injection of fascinating dialogue into the continuing conversation that is the research into ancient and modern Paganism.

32 comments:

Pallas Renatus said...

This is what bothered me about the whole "let's bash Hutton" meme. Whether his conclusions were wrong or not, he was willing to actually go out and research and reach the best conclusions he could. Many of the people shouting loudest now couldn't be fucked to do research one way or the other, but rather wait for someone to confirm beliefs they'll never be talked out of anyway.

Needless to say, not everyone who disagrees with him is like this, but as an academic, it's... irritating to see how many people fit this trend.

Caroline Tully said...

That's right! I understand how it can be frustrating when academics do not recognise the research and knowledge of non-academics and only consider university generated knowledge to be worthy of recognition - when that is simply not the case - but Hutton is not like that. As someone over on the 'Academic Study of Magic' email list was saying, ToTM is a rich history of modern Witchcraft. Lot's of people seem to think it's some sort of malevolent de-bunking text.

Ben said...

Despite my unfortunate habit of taking the bait and responding to blog posts about my book, my intent is not self-promotion. I am interested in accurate scholarship, though. I have no grudge against Hutton, and I trust the reports I've heard of his likeable and generous character -- I consider him to be very sympathetic (not malevolent) to Paganism. It is his account of history (particularly pre-20th century history) that I question, not him.

And my book is not an attempt to reinstate the old Murray myth, nor to secure an ancient lineage for Wicca.

I say these things because so many respondents have assumed this is what my book is about, without bothering to find out what it's really about.
My three academic respondents so far have been fairly negative. But one of them turned out not to have even seen my book, another attributed to me a series of specious-sounding arguments which I never actually made, and only the third had a valid criticism (regarding my characterisation of Charles Leland's draft document for Aradia - thank-you, Mr. Mathiesen, point well taken).

Based on this track-record, I plead (!) that those of you who have commented on my book without having read it, please do me the service of actually spending a few minutes finding out if it really is what you have been led to believe. These second- and third-hand judgements are getting out of hand, and they seem to have little relationship to the book I actually wrote. The reason I made my text freely available online was to avoid exactly this kind of 'Chinese whispers'.

You're all academics, right? Please help restore my faith in professional scholarship, and give me an original opinion! If you find the recent couple of condemnations well founded, then by all means say so. I'm prepared to be found wrong, but to be judged for things I never actually wrote is a little hard.

Best wishes,
Ben Whitmore

Caroline Tully said...

Ben! I can't believe how much you are popping up on every blog that mentions you! Do you Google yourself to find out who is talking about you? My interest (and puzzlement) is in people hating Hutton who, in many cases, haven't even read his work and are jumping on your book as a kind of "saviour" (from Hutton's research and conclusions) - I'm interested in that. Yes, my suggestion that you might be doing a clever publicity technique (attacking a big target) is mischevious, but look at me, I'm doing it as well (although not so much attacking as discussing in this case, although I have recently launched an academic analysis of Aleister Crowley's reception of The Book of the Law that will no doubt be seen as an 'attack' by some, but might also work as a type of publicity stunt on my part - but all I really want is intelligent conversation!). It's not bad write with an eye to publicity, to trouble-making, just interesting that people do it (not saying you're doing it if you say you're not though).

Caroline Tully said...

Plus Ben, you're not "taking the bait" you're doing publicity - even unwittingly - by responding to blog posts, that's how your book gets publicised, among other ways.

Jake said...

Hutton's research is useful and well put together. It's not infallible but nor does it claim to be. Some of his comments about the Key of Solomon could have been tighter; and Greek pagans *do* appear to have worshipped within a circle with their gods. It was a little disappointing to see him jump on the bandwagon of portraying Huson's excellent manual as an 'Evu-ul' book on TV, simply because it isn't as fluffy as some post 70s McWiccans like to be. I still much prefer real history to bunkum, and wish more academic occultists would look back past the 19th century revival.

Caroline Tully said...

Are you saying that ancient Greeks worshipped their deities within a circle, or that they did magic within a circle? I'm just trying to think in what instance they worshipped within a circle? What period are we talking here? I can recall Greek instances of worshipping in a semi-circle, but that's just because they were gathered about the altar in a manner that was convenient for being able to see what was going on. It wasn't because the semi-circle was a vital part of the ritual structure.

Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn said...

The primary problems with Hutton's Triumph of the Moon lie not in that it some sort of "evil" attack on cherished Pagan myths, but rather that it is full of academic holes. Far too frequently, Hutton plays anthropologist, although he is not trained as an anthropologist nor does he even attempt to use the ethnographic method. In fact, he cherry picks his data. I am surprised that as a trained archeologist, you appear not to have noticed this yourself as you had to have a degree in anthropology prior to receiving your degree in archeology.
Next, as Whitmore has shown, Hutton misquotes and misrepresents his sources. Finally, Hutton makes sweeping speculative statements completely outside of his stated geographic region of study as, for example, in Hutton's completely unqualified remarks about Leland and Stregheria in Italy.

- David Griffin

Caroline Tully said...

Hi David, in Australia archaeology is not in the same department as anthropology, that is a US phenomenon. In Australia and the UK archaeology is usually in with classics. So I do not have any anthropology qualifications, although I do refer to some anthropolgical works and methodologies in my research. So no, I do not have anthropological qualifications, I have classics and archaeology qualifications.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Caroline, I suggest that Whitmore only appears to be soliciting meaningful critiques of his book.

Should you actually make a substantive suggestion for improving it, he will be full of reasons why he does not have to do so, because he is "not an academic."

Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn said...

@ Chas

I note that on your "Letter from Hardscrabble Creek" blog, you have attempted to dismiss Mr. Whitmore's research merely because it is self-published and because Mr. Whitmore does not have the correct academic pedigrees, rather than even bother to read the book, let alone critically examine the presented research.

In the above comment, you are trying to paint Mr. Whitmore as a lone nut desperate for attention for his work, merely because he defends his research against such "ad hominem" attacks. This is all the more serious considering that you have been cherry picking comments on your blog to only present one side of the discussion, with the noteworthy exception of Mr. Whitmore's post. My comments were among those you censored.

Sadly, another Pagan blog has even already resorted to name calling. Such behavior has led to several bloggers in recent days writing articles that it appears that a Witch War is brewing to discredit Mr. Whitmore and his research (as I have also argued on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn blog).

It is my sincere hope that cooler heads may yet prevail, and that a dispassionate examination of the actual evidence presented by Mr. Whitmore will be given the credit that it is actually due.

In any case, I humbly request that you refrain from further attempting to misrepresent that actual debate.

David Griffin
Imperator Ordinis
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
outer order of the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega®

Clare Slaney said...

How tedious all this is.

RH is a professor of history at a major UK university and that must count for something. This may not mean that all his work is impeccably accurate but it will have been peer reviewed *by non-Pagans*. The book caused a furore when it was published and some of us lapped it up, grateful that some sense was finally being written about Paganism. It certainly gave me stronger foundations for my own Paganism, and I’m still quite happily a Dianic witch.

Our relationship with myth and Deity is one thing; our relationship with the facts of history is another; both are important for theology. People feel personally threatened because the quite obvious rubbish they’ve swallowed about direct lineages from Atlantis makes them appear stupid. They are. And they make Paganism look stupid too.

Peregrin said...

I started an in-depth review of Ben’s very interesting book but have abandoned it after seeing some of the ridiculous bashing and name calling out there in cyberspace. Really, all such invective does is make me want to read only academic material as most academics have learnt to focus on the issues at hand and not overlay them with personal attacks and personal emotional needs. This is one of the purposes of peer review. So, yes, I too am looking forward to the Pomegranate with great interest.

The looming stoush may be fascinating to you, Caroline, but it is a wet Sunday afternoon for me…boring with a hope of light. Functionally, the same dynamics and posturing have been around since even before Aidan Kelly’s ‘Crafting the Art of Magic’. Let’s hope the sun comes out soon. :)

Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn said...

The sad thing about Witch War tactics being used to dismiss Pagan research without reflection, is that it invites outside agitators to to try to make our community look foolish. A fine case in point is self-proclaimed Christian apologist, Peregrin, who has a history of poking our community using a Pagan veneer.

Clearly, the case being reopened on the antiquity of Pagan faith outside Britain is not very popular in certain religious circles.

I sincerely hope that cooler heads may yet prevail so that the door will be closed on outside agitation

David Griffin
Imperator Ordinis
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
outer order of the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega®

Caroline Tully said...

Peregrin! I can't believe you find it boring! ;-) Yes, OK, I see what Clare means by tedious, and I understand that you, Peregrin, think this is boring... I guess _I_ am just *so bored* about other things in this world that I find the to-ing and fro-ing of the pro- and anti-Huttonists fascinating! Frankly, I find religious quarelling fascinating. With the general modern Witchcraft question, I find it interesting that people are so concerned about ownership of the topic that they'll be furious about unauthorised [by them] versions of its history.

Caroline Tully said...

Actually, what I'm really interested in, is how Late 19th and Early 20th Century scholars and scholarship - such as the new scholarly Egyptology, armchair anthropologist J.G. Frazer, creative Classicist Jane Ellen Harrison, Egyptologist turned Witch-finder Margaret Murray, and much of Folklore Studies - influenced, and in some cases created, what is the modern [generic] Paganism we are familiar with today. I can't remember exactly where Hutton said it, it may be somewhere in 'Witches, Druids and King Arthur', and I'm paraphrasing, but it was something like "anthrologists who moan over the historical innaccuracy of modern paganism should realise that it is almost entirely a creation of early anthropology" -by which I assume he meant Frazer. In other words, 19th/20th century scholarship [witch trials, anthropology, folklore] was adopted into the [re]formation of paganism within the mid-20th century, and while scholarship has moved on, the content of the aspects of scholarship used to formulate paganism has crystallised into fact. I remember reading Aleister Crowley who was claiming how great, important and foundational Frazer's Golden Bough was and so as a 19 year old, trusting Crowley, I assumed that if I read the Golden Bough I'd "know everything". So, I spent about a year reading one of the abridged versions and, while it was very interesting, I was puzzled to come out the other end not, in fact, knowing everything. Hmmm. But years (decades) later I now see where content from The Golden Bough has been incorporated both into the scholarship of the time, and then discarded, and into modern paganism and kept!

Caroline Tully said...

We can see the importance of academic scholarship within the construction of modern witchcraft right now, as Carlo Ginzburg's works - 'Ecstasies: deciphering the Witches' Sabbath' is cited as supporting the idea popular amongst Traditional and Sabbatic Crafters that witchcraft is a type of shamanism. As Sabina Magliocco says however - and I'm paraphrasing again as I can't find her post in The Academic Study of Magic email list archives - Ginzburg wasn't necessarily an expert on shamanism and she disputed the idea that what he cited as 'shamanic' examples was indeed shamanism.

Peregrin said...

Sorry, Caroline, to clarify: I too find reading and studying the history and (re)creation of modern paganism incredibly interesting. Particularly, how (in many parts of western society) in a couple of generations we have gone from witch=evil to witch = almost blasé part of youth culture, “something they have to go through” as one of my colleagues said to me. All this is wonderful! What I find boring is the same old tired, reactive defensive mechanisms from pagans who feel threatened by this material.

I have never understood this threat. Upon my Wiccan initiation back in the mid 80s (having already studied western ceremonial magic) I realised even the ‘secret’ Wiccan material was actually derived from a number of 19th-20th century sources (I too waded through the Golden Bough). I did not give up Wicca; my connection to Goddess and the mysteries were too real for that. History and mystery are different things. In a few days we will celebrate the ‘birth of Christ’ on a date chosen for mythological not historical reasons. But the mystery of the Incarnation will still be real for millions of Christians, and hopefully some will be moved to ever increasing acts of real space-time compassion by this celebration.

What is really fascinating to me is the continuation of constructed histories and theories years after they are shown as part of the very valid process of the formation of a new religious tradition. For example, only a couple of years back a guy on a Perth pagan forum borrowed the ‘God of the Witches’ from the library and reviewed it in glowing terms, describing it as a good historical text. This was a second degree Wiccan initiate whose training obviously did not include any history or who chose to ignore it. I was gobsmacked when I read his review. Of course, some Pagans are not the only ones like this – there are still websites devoted to Lobsang Rampa as a genuine Tibetan Buddhist master.

OK…thanks Caroline…I wonder if I have said enough here to get some abusive name calling responses as I got just a little while back on the same topic? Still, even that is boring, and certainly nothing compared to the glass of mead thrown in my face when explaining Hutton to one pagan a while back :)

Caroline Tully said...

Hi Peregrin! OK, now I understand what exactly it it that you think is boring and I'll have to agree with you. I wasn't offended at all, of course, just couldn't believe that you thought this topic was boring, which in fact you don't, you think what I and others think is boring - all the dufuss-ness - as you've just explained. Now, as for the mead-in-your-face-throwing, now I really find that weird. I haven't personally physically come across anyone who has that much of a problem with Hutton, only on the internet. I'm surprised that people really do have such a problem that they'd throw a drink in your face! Crazy... and weird...

Chas S. Clifton said...

To paraphrase the movie character Cool Hand Luke, what we have here is a failure of theology.

If certain of today's Pagans took the gods seriously, they could easily construct an intellectual explanation of how the gods manifested in literature and history.

Then they would not be so dependent on trying to concoct a satisfying mundane historical narrative.

Hmm, I think I'll blog about this ... tomorrow! (Which will be yesterday to Caroline.)

Peregrin said...

Well, Perth has always been a bit weird Pagan wise :) To be fair I was hammering my side of the argument fairly hard. The snapping point came when I related Hutton’s views on the possible influence of popular literature such as that of Rosemary Sutcliffe. How her books presented the world view of Frazer, Graves and Murray and how some pagans may have imbibed this as children and this may have affected their adult experience of modern Paganism (which is based on these views) as fitting them perfectly, without resorting to theories of reincarnation or spiritual currents etc. I think I hit a personal note there.

I look forward to your blog post, Chas. Without getting all interventionist and theistic, for me, it is clear that the Gods certainly DID manifest in literature and history to help create modern Paganism. Graves, Murray, Rosemary Sutcliffe et al are clear examples; inspired by something beyond themselves they created material which in turn inspired real space-time pagan traditions, even if their ‘history’ was not space-time history. In a tradition not based on sacred text, how else could new Paganism spread among the populace? The Gods were indeed involved and very compassionate. :)

Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn said...

Peregrin wrote:

"...my ego appreciates being described as a Christian apologetic..."

(http://hermetic-golden-dawn.blogspot.com/2010/11/urban-legends-neo-pagans-golden-dawn.html, Comment 10)

Peregrin also wrote:

"I no longer use the term ‘pagan’ as it would associate me with theologies, practices and dysfunction I do not wish to support."

(http://hermetic-golden-dawn.blogspot.com/2010/11/roots-of-modern-paganism-debate-ii.html, comment 5)

Peregrin said...

Oh boy. I guess I was right.

I find David’s half quoting all so weird, as obviously my comments on this blog stand or fall by their own merit.

I stand by my comments quoted in the context they were written in and with the clarifications made on David’s and Fr Barrabbas’ blog. David is aware of these and his choice to consciously ignore context and clarification is interesting. To recap:

Christian apologetics is beyond my skills. Historically, many of the early Christian apologetics wrote under intense persecution and were defining and refining their new faith. I find that inspiring.

The quote re self identification was in response to a comment which portrays some of the worse aspects of modern paganism (thankfully shared by only a few pagans). I also clarified that even though I only use the term ‘esoteric’, most Christians and all the pagans I know consider what I do as ‘pagan’.

Caroline, I hope this is not infecting your wonderful blog too much :)

Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn said...

@ Peregrin.

The above quotes are not taken out of context, as any interested reader can verify by following the references I gave.

Nonetheless, Peregrin, you are a highly intelligent individual. I even respect and admire you in certain Golden Dawn arenas.

You may well have valuable contributions to make to this discussion.

My objection is not to your arguments, but to your lack of transparency regarding your religious affiliation.

Please drop the smoke, mirrors, and misleading statements about how "others consider what you do as Pagan."

The fact is that you have converted to Buddhism.

Need I really document this?

No one forced you to abandon your (Neo)Pagan faith, so please live with that decision, and quit posing as Pagan whenever it suits your interests.

David Griffin

Frater.Barrabbas said...

Caroline - I read over your article and I must say that in response, I didn't write a blog article that bashed or took umbrage with Ronald Hutton's writings, which by the way, I have read and studied. I think that I was pretty even handed in my treatment of Ben Whitmore's new book and Hutton's work.

All I am interested in doing is making certain that others in my community do not make the mistake of perceiving Hutton as some kind of iconic authority in regards to the issues of possible pagan vestiges in modern society and the possibility of certain pagan beliefs and practices having survived the long period of Christian domination. It is my opinion that Hutton has closed the door on this kind of research, having made the blanket statement that nothing from pre-Christian times survived. In my opinion, that's closing the door.

I believe that the door shouldn't be closed and that Hutton's work, although remarkable, important and quite necessary, won't be the last word on this topic. That is the point that I made in my article, and also the point that Ben Whitmore has made in his book.

Caroline Tully said...

Hi Frater Barrabbas, I didn't say that _you_ said such things, I said "While many of the anti-Hutton camp have lunged upon Whitmore's book, seeing it as a deserving slap to Hutton, as seen on the comments to a post on The Wild Hunt blog and on the Talking About Ritual Magic blog, academic researchers into Paganism have only just started to pay attention to it, as seen on The Witching Hour and Letters from Hardscrabble Creek.".

So, you see that I said "as seen *on the comments* to a post on The Wild Hunt blog and on the Talking About Ritual Magic blog", not the posts themselves.

Frater.Barrabbas said...

Caroline - OK, I got your message. There were a few harsh comments posted to my article. I attempted to be more open minded about the whole issue. However, having read Whitmore's book, I do think that some of his points have merit, even though he is not an academic. But I found Chas Clifton's and also Peg Aloi's comments about "Trials of the Moon" to be quite harsh and unfair. I think his ideas deserve to be dispassionately examined, not aggressively dismissed. Anyway, thank you for your response - I do enjoy reading your blog.

Stuart Inman said...

I found Chas Clifton's remarks a bit of a cheek considering that he has published flimsy and inaccurate articles that, although not written as academic articles, are utterly lacking in real substance. This is not something one could say of Ben Whitmore's work, which is certainly cogent, even if eventually his arguments may be seen to fail. (Not established so far in my eyes as I have not read the entire book).

I am thinking rather specifically of an article written by Clifton on 1734 which was both very vague and ridiculously biased. I suppose that Clifton can be said not to have complained at my own critique of his article in the way he thinks Whitmore would, he simply ignored it.

So cheap shots against Whitmore that seem to be entirely on the basis that he is not an academic writer and not at all based on any facts, while failing to measure up to Whitmore's "academic" standard in his own work. How should we judge the opinions of such a man?

Trystn M Branwynn said...

Hi Caroline,

You've got a really interesting one going here. Good choice. You and I have similar appreciation for the role of the Devil's Advocate. Every "sacred cow" needs to be subjected to at *least* one. Better that this person not have a personal agenda and take as even-handed approach as possible.
What I think I would like to do is re-read TOTM and WDKA alongside Mr. Whitmore's book and cross reference through them.
This will take some time to accomplish, but I'll post my results in the journal once I get through.

FFF&F,
Trystn

Caroline Tully said...

Hi Trystn, yes, that's what I'd like to do as well, I don't have time to do it right now however, as I'm working hard on my upcoming PhD Confirmation, but I hope to get around to it at some stage as well. Speaking of [possible] witchcraft history, I have *at last* received my book orders mentioned in a blog post below, Stephen J Yeates' "The Tribe of Witches" and "A Dreaming of Witches"... don't have time to look at them either right now, but will write a review asap when I have.

Jonathan Carfax said...

An observation or three,

there is a trend growing that gets on my sabbatic goat - the "You are not academically qualified to examine/critique/answer (+in this field)" position.

I may have no qualifications in anthropology, history, ethnography etc but I do have multiple degrees in science/health related fields that gives me the skills in critical appraisal of evidence and evaluation of the rationale for theory. In similar vein, I imagine there are many out there with similar academically derived skills, who choose not to work as academics per se, do have the ability to critique evidence and coherency of logical argument to a scientific method (within certain bounds given that evidence may be collated and presented quite differently in different disciplines).

I hearkened to a point Caroline raised about disappointment when academics don't recognise the research efforts of non-academics. True, there are huge traps for the novice in that there are certain accepted methods in each discipline that should be adhered to.

Sound critique however, I think is something open to all and is not only about academic standing 'in situ' or your credibility to publish. If the lay pagan, occultist or allied academic has no right to intelligently critique, and to have those justified (emphasised) critiques taken seriously by those who publish, then we have no more than an ivory tower of self-appointed New High Priest/esses.

Pagan academics, or academics specialising in paganism, may have a captive audience amongst their collegial peers. But the demands of the digital age dictates that unless they understand a need exists to also constructively engage with the 'lay pagan', critic and supporter alike, who are keen to understand how these academic works arrived at their conclusions and how this may affect them, their very articles of faith, by explanation and engagement (not pseudo-doctrine) - they will inevitably lose the confidence of part of this critical audience in a debased PR battle in the court of pagan opinion.

At the end of all this, Ben has simply initiated a desire on behalf of himself, and by proxy others, a want for dialogue with opinion leaders - and listed by essay his reasons for wanting this dialogue. Whether this request is reciprocated is largely up to those with a higher level of academic rigour and training - there is no obligation, but to demand that he either put up alternative theories or shut up misses the whole point.

It is my hope that our valued pagan academics are in part there to illuminate the community through guidance and mentorship on good research methodology, not chastisement.