ROBERT W. BROCKWAYTHE ROOTS OF NEW AGE
and subjugated the peaceful mother-goddess worshippers there, and enslaved them to build their great monument, Stonehenge.
Diffusionism and the Mother-Goddess Religion challenged
During the 1970s, Glynn Daniels and several other British archaeologists dated the monuments which were alleged to have been shrines of the mother goddess and discovered that they were erected at least two thousand years earlier than the rise of Aegean Civilization. What is more, they challenged the interpretation that dots in circles or circular designs were the face of a mother goddess or symbols of the womb. The conclusion of these studies was disastrous to diffusionist theory, which collapsed. Today, the view is generally held by archaeologists that there was never a general culture of any kind in prehistoric Europe. Instead, there were hundreds of cultures, which produced the monuments found today. We know little or nothing about the religions of these ancient people, although it is highly probable that they were local cults, and that they chiefly enhanced local chieftains. Recent archaeological studies indicate that these prehistoric communities were very warlike, and that the status of women in them was probably fairly low, as, indeed, it has been in virtually all cultures throughout the world until very recent times.
Today, however, although the diffusionist theory has been completely rejected by archaeologists, it is still held by many educated esotericists. Indeed, it plays a significant role in thinking about goddess worship, especially among feminist esotericists. The leading exponent of this view is still Marija Gimbutas, who shattered her archaeological reputation in her attempt to prove the diffusion of mother-goddess worship. Critics of her theories maintain that the evidence she cites for female deities is highly speculative at best, and, in more cases than not, spurious, and that the evidence also suggests that Neolithic and Bronze Age religious cults were very localized and anything but universal religions. What is more, there is fully as much evidence for male deities as for female in the sites which Gimbutas talks about. Therefore, while Gimbutas’ The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe: Myths and Cult Images (1982) has some validity in the eyes of archaeologists specializing in the Balkans, her later books do not.
Diffusionist theory has had much impact on Wicca, the most prevalent form of Neo-Paganism. This will be discussed in greater detail later. Suffice it to say here that the Wicca position is based on Childe, Bibby, and other archaeologists who published prior to the revisionism of the 1970s. It is also, as we shall see, based on the work of Margaret Murray, an Egyptologist who became interested in witchcraft. Her The Witch Cult of Western Europe (1921) was based on the thesis that a pre-Christian religion persisted underground in Western Europe until violently stamped out by Christians during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. While, as we shall see, there is no question about the existance of what is sometimes called the Great Witch Hunt of the era between the late fifteenth and late seventeenth centuries, there is much argument concerning the identity of the victims of the persecutions. Murray’s theory was demolished among scholars during the early 1960s, and is no longer considered valid. However, most Wiccans argue that she was right in her allegations, and