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The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  324 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Ronald Hutton takes us on a fascinating journey through the ritual year in Britain. His comprehensive study covers all the British Isles and the whole sweep of history from the earliest written records to the present day.
Paperback, 542 pages
Published February 1st 2001 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published August 22nd 1996)
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Titus L
Sep 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
As a dozen good reviews could not begin to provide a fair account of this book, I shall offer a few key points which caught my attention as introduction only.

At the outset I had hoped for a more 'traditionally' pagan account of the ancient seasonal festivals, their origins and meanings.
I was initially surprised and eventually delighted to find however that although this work is more of an Academic compote of facts and dates and included ongoing assessment of earlier authors often unfounded but s
May 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those who loathe conventional wisdom
The book is a scholarly survey of holidays in Britain, going in order from winter to spring. This may sound incredibly dull, but it's not: it's a fascinating study of customs we take for granted, exploding myths on practically every page. There are some chapters where the "exclamation-of-'holy-shit!'-to-paragraph" ratio is dangerously close to 1:1, like the chapter on Christmas.

Hutton, a professor of history at the University of Bristol in the UK who specializes in the English Civil War, has a s
Nov 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Even today, the idea that many folk traditions and festivals are the remnants of some pagan pre-Christian Celtic religion, transmogrified and surviving furtively in the countryside, has a peculiar potency. What few people realise is how recent a notion that is and how much it relies on a particular handful of archaeologists, folklorists and historians writing at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, influenced by the growing 'cult of the countryside' that began in t ...more
Derek James Baldwin
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Marvellous. A proper historical study of the age-old folk traditions of Britain, most of which aren't actually all that old after all. Useful ammunition for shutting up hippies and neo pagans who want to try and fool you into thinking that morris dancing goes all the way back to the stone age, or some other claptrap like what hippies and pagans tend to drone on about. And if they still mither on make them read his book on wicca too. ...more
Becca Lusher
I really love this book. I bought it in the hopes that it would cover pagan and pre-Christian religious rituals, but was sadly disappointed. However, what I found instead was a well-written, excellently researched treasure trove of information about the social festivals of Britain (mainly England, but there are some Scottish and Welsh celebrations too) dating from around the thirteenth century right into the twentieth.

Largely using parish records, Hutton does an excellent job of dating and locat
H.E. Bulstrode
Jul 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Dim and ill-remembered shades of blood-soaked pagan fertility rites suppressed by the Church, sanitised and repackaged for a Christian age; attenuated echoes of a timeless, agrarian traditionalism surviving into the urban and rapidly industrialising present. This was the vision of the folk customs and festivals of the British Isles as refracted through the prism of late Victorian and early twentieth-century folklore and anthropology, disseminated and popularised by writers such as J.G. Frazer an ...more
Sandy D.
Mar 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Subtitled "A History of the Ritual Year in Britain", this is a rather long and rambling yet scholarly look at popular and religious seasonal folk traditions in Great Britain. Christmas, mummers, morris dancing, Lords of Misrule, Whitsun ales, Beltane, maypoles, gathering rushes, Robin Hood, Guy Fawkes, and much, much more are examined as seen in all kinds of historical records from the late 1200's to modern times. It is an exhaustive and sometimes dry recital of weird customs (full of sentences ...more
Asani Brewton
Jan 20, 2011 is currently reading it
This man makes me squee spastically. How I would love to pick his brain over drinks one day! I've barely cracked the book, and know it will take me delightful ages to get through, but he's so thorough and he backs everything up with proper documentation! Oh I so wish that other authors in the vein of religious (Wicca, pagan, especially) would learn the value of honest research and FOOTNOTES!!! ...more
Avonlea Rose
A pretty ripping account of holidays and their customs throughout Britain's history. Hutton provides a lot of detail and he also takes the time to review many common misperceptions. I sometimes wondered that it wouldn't be more straightforward to have moved along by time period; but he also makes clear why he didn't and it's still incredibly readable as it is. To the point, Hutton is a lively writer and makes interesting even what might be otherwise dull. I had initially hoped to read another of ...more
Wendy Leveret
Jul 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A great book from an authority in his field, which explores the traditional rites and customs of the British year. Although Professor Hutton is a controversial figure in neo-pagan circles, and clearly possesses a passionate fascination for the history of paganism and Wicca, he doesn't let this cloud his objective judgement. He takes issue with the long held view that many of these traditions have deep roots in pre-Christian paganism and highlights the lack of evidence for such a position, for ex ...more
This covers the mediaeval-Early Modern ritual year in Britain, breaking down each celebration into its historical parts. If you want to know the origins of Easter, Candlmas, Rogationtide and suchlike, this is the book for you.
Aug 12, 2007 marked it as to-read
Recommended for those who hate conventional wisdom. That's a good enough rec for me. . ...more
Gabriel Clarke
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Marvellous. Huge, mind. But marvellous.
Rachel Bonaccorso Lindsay
Oct 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The most reference-heavy and therefore the most useful of Hutton's books, at least to me. Very helpful insights into the nature of folklore and the speed with which it changes. ...more
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Dry, but fascinating.
Mar 13, 2018 rated it liked it
This was very interesting, and extremely dense. It's definitely an academic book rather than a popularization. I was a little disappointed because I was expecting more about the pagan/Celtic traditions in Britain, rather than the history from the late Middle Ages through modern times. Still, it was incredibly interesting and detailed. The writing is a little dry at times. ...more
Joe Vess
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A great, really fascinating book with all kinds of neat details. It's not super academic, but it's also not quite a "popular" book. It really had way more detail than I needed and so took me forever to finish. Really interesting all the same. ...more
F. Beers
Jun 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, action packed read!
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
It took me a while to read this as it is so packed with information, but it is a fascinating look at the ritual customs of the British Isles.
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
The author has been incredibly thorough. As a result, the book provides extremely detailed information about rites and customs. A bit too elaborate for me, but still admirable. An interesting read.
Nicholas Whyte
Dec 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: twitter, non-fiction, 2012, 1212, xc[return][return]A brilliant book which has been on my reading list for far too long. Hutton looks thoroughly and critically at the records of ritual celebrations in England, Scotland and Wales over the centuries, and comes out with some very revisionist conclusions. I had always assumed, for instance, that the Bonfire Night celebrations of 5 November were direct descendants of ancient Celtic Samhain ritual, shifted by a few days; Hutton shows that in fac ...more
Bart Everson
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: partially-read
I read some parts of this carefully, skimming some and skipping parts. It's very well done and fascinating stuff. The scholarship seems impeccable to me. (I'm not a scholar per se, but on the other hand I do work in academia; I value careful scholarship, and this seems like the genuine article.) A required reference for anyone interested in the ancient origins of certain holidays and customs. You'll learn what is known and what is unknown, according to the current research, and the author also d ...more
This is such a dense text that I still haven't made my way through it after several months, not for lack of trying. The information is interesting, but the book has no "pull" to it beyond the facts themselves; I feel like a Bill Bryson could have taken the same information and made it engaging and readable. Instead this is the literary equivalent of baklava: sweet, heavy, and you can't finish your whole slice. (Mind you, I'm sure plenty of people LOVE baklava and force down every last bite, whic ...more
Aug 21, 2012 added it
Oct 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Informative and fascinating.
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Ronald Hutton (born 1953) is an English historian who specializes in the study of Early Modern Britain, British folklore, pre-Christian religion and contemporary Paganism. A professor of history at the University of Bristol, Hutton has published fourteen books and has appeared on British television and radio.

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