Professor Ronald Hutton

Ronald Hutton is the author of a number of books on historical and modern Paganism. Photo Credits: Oxford University Press, Patti Wigington

Ronald Hutton, born in 1953, is a professor of history at the University of Bristol. According to his staff biography he is also a leading authority on history of the British Isles in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, on ancient and medieval paganism and magic, and on the global context of witchcraft beliefs, as well as the leading historian of the ritual year in Britain and of modern paganism.

Interestingly, Hutton himself has never publicly acknowledged his own religious beliefs, although he has indicated that his mother was Pagan.

He is the author of a number of books on British history, as well as several titles on modern Paganism, including:

Hutton has often been quoted in disputes against “false history.” For instance, he has publicly questioned the scholarship of a number of authors well-known to the early NeoPagan movement, including folklorist Charles Godfrey Leland and researcher Margaret Murray’s theories about a pan-European “mother goddess” religion. Hutton has often questioned many of the common assumptions made about the development of Wicca (in particular, statements made that Wicca is an ancient fertility religion). However, he has also acknowledged that Wicca, as a newer religion created by Gerald Gardner, is perfectly valid – it’s simply that he’s arguing against the claims of ancient lineage.

In a 2014 interview with Ethan Doyle White, Hutton explained how his mother's influence led him to his studies of modern Pagan religions. He said, "I was brought up by my mother, after my father died when I was a small child. She was a delightful and admirable person, of whom I was very fond, but also rather unworldly, and in increasingly fragile health.

As a result, I spent most of my formative years trying to support and preserve her, a struggle which I finally lost as she died when I was a student. One of her most significant influences on me was that she was herself a Pagan, of a recognisable Victorian and Edwardian kind. She was deeply influenced by the Greek and Roman classics, regarded the Olympian deities as the natural divinities of the world, had a sense of a single archaic mother goddess as standing behind them, and felt an immanent divinity in nature. She never practised any acts of worship or other rites, and her attitudes were entirely literary; and indeed there was a large nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literature to support them. My affection for them, and for her, gave me a sympathy for Pagans of the mid and late twentieth century kind, such as Wiccans, when I encountered them from my teens onward."

Occasionally, Hutton is accused by members of the Pagan community of having some sort of secret anti-Pagan agenda because he is well known for questioning (and often debunking) claims that are outlandish or have no academic standing.

Gary Lachman, at the Religion News Blog, interviewed Hutton in 2010, shortly after The Druids was released.

Lachman says, "Predictably, Hutton finds himself defending his position on two fronts. Neo-pagans, clinging to the notion that their beliefs are part of an ancient nature religion, and radical feminists upholding the idea of a primeval matriarchal society (which Hutton finds "rather delightful"), scorn Hutton's refreshingly cheerful acceptance that there seems little evidence for either of these. And his less unbuttoned colleagues shake their heads at his optimism about Druidry and other 'alternative spiritualities' as valid contemporary religions."

For an excellent perspective, in Hutton’s own words, about what it is like to write about historical and contemporary witchcraft and religion today, read Writing the History of Witchcraft: A Personal View.

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Wigington, Patti. "Professor Ronald Hutton." ThoughtCo, Nov. 13, 2015, Wigington, Patti. (2015, November 13). Professor Ronald Hutton. Retrieved from Wigington, Patti. "Professor Ronald Hutton." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 18, 2017).