Sunday, November 26, 2006

Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America

by Chas S. Clifton

One of the newest entries to the world of scholarship about the history of Wicca in the United States, Her Hidden Children covers a great deal of territory, with a focus on the development of Wicca in Britain in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, its movement across the Atlantic to the United States, and the early days of American paganism. The Gardners are spotlighted in great detail, as are a variety of others, including Tim Zell and the Church of All Worlds, Aiden Kelly and the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn, Gleb Botkin and the Church of Aphrodite, and Z Budapest and the Susan B. Anthony Coven No. 1.

One of the book's strengths, and most interesting threads, is the manner in which it details how the people involved were influenced by particular literary works, which are quoted chapter and verse. Also, he discusses at length some of the issues that have long plagued neopaganism regarding the idea of an unbroken line of witches since the Middle Ages, how the words pagan and wicca were derived linguistically, “hereditary” witches, and so on. At the same time, in-depth coverage of certain people, groups, and topics leaves out many of influence in the development of American paganism (e.g., the Alexandrian tradition). Also, despite Clifton's mention of the importance of feminism in the spread of Wicca, I sensed some disdain on his part regarding that camp, which has no place in such a work as this. Regarding end matter: Though the book is well-footnoted and includes a lengthy bibliography, I found the index lacking. All in all, this book was a mixed bag but probably worth a read as a starting point for someone with little knowledge in this area. -Inanna

1 comment:

  1. But my production editor thought the index was grand! :-)

    As for feminist craft, others have done the job better, e.g., Jone Salomonsen, and I leave it them.

    Thanks for the review.