An ancient religion derived from a twentieth-century club for boys and girls?
According to an article by Andy Steiner in the November/December 1998 issue of Utne Reader, “For many years, Wiccans [witches] have turned to scholars like anthropologist-historian Margaret Murray for proof that their religion’s roots are planted deeply in history.”
Steiner draws on an article by John Michael Greer and Gordon Cooper in the summer 1998 issue of Gnosis claiming that Murray’s research has largely been disproved and that what she called the “Old Religion” was no such thing. “The work of Carlo Ginzburg has shown that although scattered remnants of pagan religions do exist in Europe, the traditions described by Murray do not match existing archaeological remains or credible historical research. With these revelations, Gerald Gardner, whose [1950s] books rely heavily on Murray’s research, was also discredited.”
“Modern Wicca’s origins, Greer and Cooper theorize, are in the Woodcraft Tribe, a nature organization founded in 1902 by naturalist and writer Ernest Thompson Seton that in 1915 became known as the Woodcraft League of America. In an effort to placate the rowdy local boys who lived near his wooded estate in Cos Cob, Connecticut, Seton created a lodge called Woodcraft Indians, a nature club that by 1910 boasted some 200,000 American boys and girls as members.
“For adults interested in taking part in the rituals of the Woodcraft Indians, Seton established Red Lodges: spiritual, initiatory groups whose practices and principles, according to Greer and Cooper, closely resemble those of modern Wicca.”