Margaret Alice Murray (1863-1963)
and compiled by George Knowles.
Alice Murray was an eminent and respected Anthropologist, Archaeologist and
Egyptologist. In the 1920’s she
began writing about her theories on the origins and organization of witchcraft
predating Christianity. At the time
many of her colleagues ridiculed her work, yet today some of her books have
gained classical status. These
include: The Witch-Cult in Western Europe - published in 1921, The God of the Witches -
published in 1933 and The Divine
King in England – published 1954.
Murray was born in Calcutta, India, on the 13th July 1863, and was
the younger daughter of James Charles Murray and his wife, Margaret Carr. James,
whose family had been in India for several generations, was by then the managing
partner of a firm of Manchester merchants, while his wife came from a religious
Northumbrian family and initially had gone to India as a missionary and social
worker, working to better the circumstances of Indian women.
spent much of her early life flitting between India and England, with a brief
period 1873–5 spent in Bonn, Germany. She
was educated mainly by her mother in India, but when visiting family in England
she would often stay with her uncle John Murray, the Vicar of Lambourn in
Berkshire, and later the Rector of Rugby, who helped to flesh out her education.
Indeed it was from him she acquired an interest in ancient history and
back in India her first career choice was in nursing.
In 1883, she trained for three months—the most her father would
permit—at the Calcutta General Hospital as the first ‘lady probationer’ in
India, and acted briefly as ‘sister-in-charge’ during an epidemic.
On her return to England in 1886, she was forced to give up her hopes of
a nursing career due to her stature, being a mere 4 feet 10 inches tall, she was
considered too small to qualify. She
next tried a career in social work, first in Rugby and then in Bushey Heath,
Hertfordshire, where her parents finally settled in 1887 after their return from
was not until January 1894 that Margaret entered University College London and
started on the career for which she is best known.
However, because it was difficult in those days for a woman to receive
advanced degree’s in specialist subjects such as Archaeology, her main choice
of study, she had to approach it in a roundabout way and take a degree in
Linguistics instead. Perhaps
because of these difficulties, during her early days at college, she became one
of the early pioneering “Suffragette’s” speaking out for women’s rights.
study of Linguistics led her on to the study Egyptian hieroglyphics and
Egyptology, during which time she made the acquaintance of Sir William Matthew
Flinders Petrie, the world renowned Egyptologist.
In the late 1890's Petrie allowed her to join his excavations at Abydos
in Egypt, as well as others in South Palestine and England.
Under his guidance she able to specialise in Egyptology and Archaeology,
and was made a junior lecturer in 1899, assistant lecturer in 1909, lecturer in
1921, senior lecturer and a Fellow of University College London in 1922.
Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie
also the first female Egyptologists to be employed by the Manchester Museum at
the University of Manchester. In
1908, she undertook the unwrapping of “The Two Brothers”, mummies thought to
be from a Middle Kingdom non-royal burial excavated by Petrie in Egypt.
This was regarded as the first interdisciplinary study of mummies, and
pioneered the way for future scientific unwrappings.
one of the “The Two Brothers”.
interest in witchcraft began around 1915 after she became ill during work on an
excavation in Egypt. Returning home
to England she convalesced at Glastonbury.
In her autobiography: My
First Hundred Years (William Kimber, London, 1963) she states:
“I chose to convalesce in Glastonbury and one cannot stay in
Glastonbury without becoming interested in “Joseph of Arimathea and the Holy
Grail”. As soon as I got back to
London, I did some careful research. This
led to a paper on: Egyptian elements in
the Grail Romance.”
interest ignited, Margaret began a serious study of witchcraft.
She started working from contemporary records of witches and witchcraft
trials, then moved on to researching medieval and renaissance documents,
including those related to the trails of Joan of Arc and Gilles de Rias.
At the same time she conducted field studies throughout Europe.
Her findings led to the publication of her first book about witchcraft:
The Witch Cult in Western
Europe. (London: Oxford
University Press, 1921.). Her
theories concluded that witchcraft was widespread and rooted in European Pagan
fertility cults that extended back to the Palaeolithic era.
This caused a deal of controversy among her peers and her opinions were
Undaunted, Margaret continued to study witchcraft as a sideline to her main career in Archaeology and Egyptology. A shrewd and critical scholar, her work did not go unrecognised, in 1924 the University Collage London made her an Assistant Professor of Egyptology, a post she held until her retirement in 1935.
second book on witchcraft: The
God of the Witches (First published by Sampson Low, Marston and Co., Ltd.,
1931.), concerned the Horned God of Witchcraft and her theories on how this
figure dated back to Palaeolithic times as a fertility god.
The book was almost totally ignored until after the Second World War, and
the repeal of the witchcraft Laws in 1951.
At this time (Oxford University Press, New York, and Faber and Faber Ltd,
London.), reissued the book in 1952 whence it became a classic best seller.
her retirement from University College in 1935, Margaret continued to study
witchcraft and travelled about the country giving lectures on her theories.
Then in 1945 a mysterious murder incident occurred in the Cotswolds.
It had all the indications of being a witchcraft ritual slaying.
On the 14th February 1945, an old man called Charles Walton of
Lower Quinton was found dead under a tree on Meon Hill, a ritual meeting place
for witches. His body was pinned to
the ground with a pitchfork and his throat and chest had been slashed in the
form of a cross. (February 14th was also Candlemas by the Old
Calendar, and one of the Great Sabbats of the Witches.).
police investigating the murder came up against a wall of silence, and no arrest
was ever made. Margaret disguised
herself as a visiting artist and spent a week in the area with a sketchbook in
hand. She was actually conducting
her own investigation. Later she
publicly stated that she believed the murder victim had been killed because of
local fear and belief in witchcraft. Charles
Walton had been slain because someone feared his powers as a witch.
1953-1955, Margaret was made President of the Folklore Society, another
distinguished accolade and an incredible achievement at the age of 90.
She followed this in 1954 with her third and perhaps most controversial
book about witchcraft: The Divine King in
England (Faber and Faber, London.). In
this she advanced the theory that many early English sovereigns, those dating
back from William the Conqueror in the 11th century through to James
1 in the early 17th century, had died by ritual murder. This in keeping with the ancient sacrificial themes of the
“Slain God” and “Divine King’s” of old pagan religions. It caused a storm of protest from her colleagues who moved to
dismiss all her writings on the topic of witchcraft.
was a prolific writer and author, and published more than a hundred books and
articles on Anthropology, Archaeology and Egyptology. However, many scholars and historians today, still ridicule
and dismiss her books on Witchcraft as of little historical importance.
Yet these books, like the books of Sir James Frazer and Charles G.
Leland, were the guiding inspiration used by Gerald B. Gardner and others, when
shaping the reformation of the modern day Wicca/Witchcraft movement.
remained active well into her old age, and in her one-hundredth year published
not only her last academic work: The
Genesis of Religion (1963), but also her own autobiography entitled:
My First Hundred Years (William Kimber,
London, 1963.). In it she records
her belief in reincarnation, her faith in the human soul, and the soul’s
survival after bodily death. Two
days after her one-hundredth birthday, she was still able to attend a
celebration held in her honour University College London.
months later Margaret’s health failed and she was admitted into the Queen
Victoria Memorial Hospital, Welwyn, Hertfordshire.
There she died peacefully on the 13th November 1963.
Her funeral was held later on the 20th November 1963 and her
body cremated at the Golders Green crematorium in Middlesex.
Murray will no doubt first be remembered for her prolific academic contributions
to the science of Archaeology and Egyptology, then secondly for her
contributions to the early development of contemporary Witchcraft, but she also
had a humorous side to her character. On
occasion she was want to practice the Craft she studied, and more than once she
was reported by friends to have cast spells in a saucepan in her efforts to
reverse academic appointments for which she disapproved.
Such activities may not have been entirely serious, but her sense of
humour was well developed, as demonstrated by her remark to Leonard Cottrell in
a BBC broadcast she made at the age of ninety-six:
“I have been an archaeologist most of my life and now I'm a piece of
archaeology myself.” She was
without doubt one of the most remarkable and outstanding women of her
Saqqara Mastabas (1904)
Elementary Egyptian Grammar (1905)
Elementary Coptic Grammar (1911)
The Witch-cult in Western Europe (1921)
Excavations in Malta, vol. 1-3 (1923, 1925, 1929)
Egyptian Sculpture (1930)
Egyptian Temples (1931)
Cambridge Excavations in Minorca, vol. 1-3 (1932, 1934,
God of the Witches (1933)
Petra, the rock city of Edom (1939)
A Street in Petra (1940)
The Splendour That Was Egypt (1949)
The Divine King in England (1954)
The Genesis of Religion (1963)
My First Hundred Years (1963)
of Wicca &Witchcraft - by Raven
ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present - by Doreen Valiente.
published on the 25th May 2001, updated on the 12th July
2009 © George Knowles
Best wishes and Blessed Be
Site Contents - Links to all Pages
A Universal Message:
Let there be peace in the world - Where have all the flowers gone?
Wicca & Witchcraft
Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek
Mythology) / Esbats &
Full Moons / Links
to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft
Resources / What's a spell? /
Circle Casting and
Sacred Space / Pentagram
- Pentacle / Marks
of a Witch / The Witches
Power / The Witches Hat
esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism
Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1
/ Part 2 / Part
3 / A
history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope
Innocent VIII /
papal Bull /
Malleus Maleficarum /
An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum
/ The letter of approbation
Nider’s Formicarius /
Heinrich Kramer /
/ Montague Summers /
/ The Albigenses
The Hussites / The
/ Shielding (Occult
and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Rituals:
Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder. Also see: The Willow Tree (Folk Music)
Rocks and Stones:
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin: / Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murder by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders and Elders)
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A. Kelly / Albertus Magnus “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders "the King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Amber K / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Biddy Early / Bridget Cleary / Carl Llewellyn Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christina Oakley Harrington / Damh the Bard (Dave Smith) / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Dorothy Morrison / Doreen Valiente / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry / Fiona Horne / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gerald B. Gardner / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater "Horrible Herman" / Israel Regardie / James "Cunning" Murrell / Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone / Jessie Wicker Bell “Lady Sheba” / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave (the White Fox) / John Michael Greer / John Score / Johannes Junius the Burgomaster of Bamberg / Karl von Eckartshausen / Laurie Cabot "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Marie Laveau the " Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Matthew Hopkins “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the Desiderata / Monique Wilson the “Queen of the Witches” / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellers / Mrs. Grieve "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Philip Emmons Isaac Bonewits / Philip Heselton / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and "The White Goddess" /Rudolf Steiner / Rosaleen Norton “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Ross Nichols and The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids / Sabrina - The Ink Witch / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather, Cotton Mather / Thomas Ady / Vera Chapman / Victor Henry Anderson / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest
Many of the above biographies are brief and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with aditional information, please cantact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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