ADF Dedicant Path: Book Review #2

Clifton, Chas S. Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America. Lanham, MD: AltaMira, 2006. Print.

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Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America follows the rise of Wicca and other neopagan religions from their beginnings in the early 20th century to the present day, with especial focus on developments in the 1960s and 70s. While the story of Wicca itself is the driving force of the text, Author Chris Clifton could hardly ignore Wicca’s influence on and by other pagan religions, thus resulting in a well-researched comprehensive text chronicling the growth of many of the biggest Neopagan religions to take root in American soil during the 20th century.

This text takes a much needed comparative-studies approach to American pagan practices. Studies of pre-Christian, European pagan religions are necessarily comparative in nature, so too should be the studies of the neopagan religions inspired by them. There is an unfortunate tendency for followers of non-Wiccan pagan paths to distance themselves from Wicca as much as possible. It is this distance which Clifton successfully bridges by demonstrating how Wicca has touched, however indirectly, all American Pagans, from the “traditional” witches claiming a pre-Wiccan lineage to the reconstructionist Heathens who refuse to associate with the broader pagan umbrella, much less Wicca.

Although Clifton gives more attention to some (non-Wiccan) religions than others, with reconstructionist-based paths receiving the least of it, the over-all scope of the text is impressive for its size. Clifton, in fact, addresses this very issue in his introduction by means of a clever island analogy wherein he concludes that “to tell one story . . . is to tell many stories” (4). And hence, the story of Wicca becomes the story of American Paganism. Or rather, the story of a British mystery tradition which makes its way to American soil and evolves into the nature religion we recognize it as today.

I highly recommend this book to all Indo-European-based Neopagans, Wiccan and non-Wiccan alike. Don’t let preconceived notions or biases put you off. I, myself, came to this text with little enthusiasm. Had it not been recommended reading for my Dedicant Path studies, I may never have picked this book up on my own. I hope that my review can convince others not to pass this one by!

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Posted on April 10, 2017, in ADF Dedicant Path and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I might check it out, I am interested in the connections between the different branches of Paganism, especially those who claim the loudest to be separate. I recall I did Ronald Hutton’s Wicca-focused “The Triumph of the Moon” for that requirement in my DP for similar reasons.

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    • I picked up Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon first because it was recommended as a classic among classics in pagan literature. Clifton even refers to it several times. But I couldn’t suffer it. I made it about a third in and found a different book. I am glad it was this one lest I give up on this requirement entirely. Lol. I really didn’t want to read about Wicca. I was being uber stubborn.

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      • I haven’t read that one myself. I’m glad you found the right book to go for in the end. I didn’t much feel like reading about Wicca either, but being UK-based the other books on the list seemed less relevant, as they are more focused on Paganism in America than the Ronald Hutton one I ended up reading, but I’m glad I did because like it or not Wicca is a huge influence on so much that came after.

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