Lighting-Up Time

Wendy Doniger

  • The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain by Ronald Hutton
    Oxford, 542 pp, £19.99, June 1996, ISBN 0 19 820570 8

By what witchcraft did I receive this book about so-called pagan festivals on the same day that the Times ran an article on an organisation that calls itself the Pagan Hospice and Funeral Trust? The article, alluding to ‘Neolithic practices still followed by some today’, spoke of ‘priestesses, witches and druids’ who ‘regard themselves as the oldest religious group in the British Isles’. One such priestess, Anne Wildwood, who ‘hopes to return as a wild horse’, deplored ‘the usual “Witch eats baby under oak tree at full moon” type of thing’, and insisted that ‘the Christian Church took over all the major pagan feast days,’ and that ‘the choice of a date to mark Christ’s birthday at Christmas ... was influenced by the ancient Roman celebration of the birth of the sun on December 21.’

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