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The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy (1991)

door Ronald Hutton

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452656,218 (3.88)11
This is the first survey of religious beliefs in the British Isles from the Old Stone Age to the coming of Christianity, one of the least familiar periods in Britain's history. Ronald Hutton draws upon a wealth of new data, much of it archaeological, that has transformed interpretation over the past decade. Giving more or less equal weight to all periods, from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages, he examines a fascinating range of evidence for Celtic and Romano-British paganism, from burial sites, cairns, megaliths and causeways, to carvings, figurines, jewellery, weapons, votive objects, literary texts and folklore.… (meer)
  1. 00
    Celtic Heritage door Alwyn Rees (ed.pendragon)
    ed.pendragon: Contrasting studies examining ancient pagan traditions in Britain on the one hand and revived paganism on the other.
  2. 00
    The Oxford Illustrated Prehistory of Europe door Barry Cunliffe (aulsmith)
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I found this slow going at first. There are many problems surrounding the interpretations of prehistoric cultures in Europe, including the British Isles, so any careful study is going to leave you with more questions than it answers. However, I plowed through and, as usual, with Hutton, found much to think about, including how some of the Arthurian myths like the Lady of the Lake might have gotten started. ( )
  aulsmith | Feb 13, 2015 |
This is a sober yet detailed look at what little we really know about historical paganism which along the way highlights how neopaganism takes so much for granted. Neopaganism covers a wide spectrum of beliefs from Black Magic to ecopaganism, from Wicca to fuzzy New Age thinking, and on examination can often seem to be founded on outdated scholarship and speculative antiquarianism, both ancient and modern. Ronald Hutton is both a pagan and an academic and so is particularly well-placed to appreciate the nuances of both approaches, and this study should be required reading for all who lean towards being part of a revived religion. ( )
2 stem ed.pendragon | Nov 6, 2010 |
Hutton spends about 300 pages telling his readers that "we don't know much about paganism in the British Isles." However, he does point out some historical inaccuracies and presents his material in a decent way. Sometimes, one can get lost in all his examples and forget what conclusion he's leading up to. But overall, I learned a great deal about how paganism survived up until modern times, despite it being "ended" in the mid-6th century. I never realized how much early Christianity "borrowed" from paganism---Overall, very interesting book. ( )
  philae_02 | Mar 10, 2010 |
It is not often that I praise a book for leaving me assured that I know very little, but this is an exception. Hutton examines the physical and literary evidence that we have about prehistoric religion in the British Isles. He concludes that most of the literary evidence, while old, is too late to be a reliable guide to the period that it describes. He tells us that we frankly don't know the purpose of most of the physical remains, or the thought of the people who built them. In that sense, the subtitle is a bit misleading, for we have little knowledge of their nature, and they have left little in the way of a legacy.

This may sound discouraging, but it helps makes sense of the variety of things that one reads about these eras. The relevant experts used to be freer in interpreting the remains; now they are considerably more cautious. It so happens that the revolution in thinking occurred about the time that people interested in reviving old religions became interested in the soon-to-be-considered-obsolete material. This has led to a schism between those clinging to the older academic works, and the experts in the field who have newer theories.

Hutton later wrote a rather sympathetic book on modern pagans. He has no problem with imaginative reconstructions, and even finds them useful, so long as one understands when one is on shaky ground.

Excellent for understanding the present state of affairs in these fields. ( )
3 stem PuddinTame | Mar 3, 2009 |
Another good book from Prof.Ronald Hutton, this coveres a very wide subject but in a manner accessible to most readers (including those with very little prior aquaintance with the subject matter.) Not the most indepth or definitive study but one that should form a part of every library. ( )
  gercmbyrne | Apr 27, 2007 |
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This is the first survey of religious beliefs in the British Isles from the Old Stone Age to the coming of Christianity, one of the least familiar periods in Britain's history. Ronald Hutton draws upon a wealth of new data, much of it archaeological, that has transformed interpretation over the past decade. Giving more or less equal weight to all periods, from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages, he examines a fascinating range of evidence for Celtic and Romano-British paganism, from burial sites, cairns, megaliths and causeways, to carvings, figurines, jewellery, weapons, votive objects, literary texts and folklore.

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