Murray, Margaret

Murray, Margaret (1863–1963) – British Egyptologist who made an important contribution to that subject but is probably best known for her work The Witch-Cult in Western Europe (1921), which proposed a pan-European, pre-Christian religion extending from the Neolithic to the Medieval witch crazes, wherein groups of 13 witches worshipped a fertility god. Murray expanded her thesis in The God of the Witches (1931) with the “old religion” involving the worship of a horned god, and going back to shamans of the European Paleolithic (represented in the cave art of the period such as the antlered shaman or “sorcerer” of Les Trois Frères in France). Despite criticism from historians for misrepresenting evidence and drawing problematically on Sir James Frazer’s outmoded concept of “sacred kinship,” Murray’s work was taken seriously by many and extended into the public arena with an entry on witchcraft in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. While it was crucial in the development of modern Paganism and especially modern Pagan witchcraft or Wicca, Murray’s thesis has been deconstructed by such historians of witchcraft as Keith Thomas and especially Ronald Hutton’s recent work The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft (1999), which has been influential among Pagans themselves.

SOURCE:

Historical Dictionary of Shamanism by Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis 2007

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