Monday, January 01, 2007


As Morgaine notes on December 29, Robin Hood was a witch – or wizard (take your pick of terms):

Robin Hood, Wizard of the Greenwood, was a real person or persons leading Sherwood Forest covens in the early 14th century, with a wife or paramour taking the role of the Goddess Maerin, or Marian, or Mari-Anna, the Saxon wudu-maer, literally the Mary or the Mother of the Grove. Great sacramental feasts in honor of Robin and his lady were remembered in popular rhymes nearly three centuries later….” Barbara Walker, Woman’s Encyclopedia, who sources Lewis Spence, The History and Origins of Druidism. New York: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1971, p. 109


Robin “was supposed to right the wrongs inflicted on the peasants by the church. He stole the treasures of the rich clergy and nobles and bestowed them on the poor. By force of arms he maintained a [Pagan] preserve in the wildwood, a sanctuary for heretics [sic] and others persecuted by the church….”


“… Robin defended unspoiled land against the encroachment of towns. In country districts, each village set aside a plot of raw woodland, which was not to be disturbed, because it belonged to the Goodfellow, or the Good Man. Elders of the Scottish church in 1594 exerted their utmost influence to abolish this Goodfellow’s Croft….” Barbara Walker, Woman’s Encyclopedia, who sources W. Carew Hazlitt, Faiths and Folklore of the British Isles (2 vols.). New York: Benjamin Blom, Inc., 1965, p. 283.
Thnx to the Robin Hood Picture Gallery for the pic of N.C. Wyeth's Robin Hood and his Merry Men


Pignut said...

The word "Merry" has strong Pagan /fertility/sexual connotations. Merry olde England means England before the Puritans. The month of May is Merry, and most of the Robin Hood ballads seem to take place then. "A guide to the coast of Merryland", was a book of 18th Century Erotica. I think Morris men are merry men, although some people believe Morris dancing is Moorish. Mermaids are sexy as well as aquatic. Making Merry meant making love. So the name "Maid Marion" is an innuendo. In May day festivities, Marion was usually played by a young man in drag

There was a program on BBC radio a couple of years back saying that the stuff about Robin Hood, robbing the rich and giving to the poor was a Hollywood invention (specifically a backlash against Macarthyism). "The Lytle Gest of Robin Hood" does describe Robin lending money to a knight, Sir Richard of the Lees, who is heavily in debt, but Sir Richard is hardly a starving serf.

To me, Robin does not have to be robbing the rich to give to the poor, (and he is certainly not saving up to pay King Richard's ransom - later propaganda - Prince John was quite a good ruler, he signed Magna Carta, while Dick was wasting loads of taxpayers money on wars in the ME to dodge his responsibilities back home - sound familiar? I digress), but Robin is pagan (check out,
and subversive: The peasants would have been happy enough to believe that Robin made a bishop dance for his supper, whatever Robin did with his loot afterwards.

I have only ever heard of "The Guidman's Croft" in Scotland. Was there any evidence of it in England?

One last thing, if you want to find Robin Hood's hideout, it's most likely on the site of a truckstop on the AI near Doncaster (it's marked on the OS maps as Robin Hood's Well's+Well&st=3&tl=Robin+Hood's+Well,+Doncaster+&searchp=newsearch.srf&mapp=newmap.srf)
. The ballads always talk about "Robin Hood of Barnsleydale", but Nottingham unfairly gets all the tourists. Robin Hood's Well is where the old Roman Road (now the A1) crosses Barnsleydale. Sherwood Forest covered a vast area back then.

Anne Johnson said...

I like to think he was real because my great-grandma's maiden name was Lashley, which is a bastardization of Locksley, which is sometimes recorded as Robin Hood's last name.

Morgaine said...

The stories that have come down to us about Robin are probably amalgams of several renegade nobles of the times, and there was certainly an Earl of Locksley. I've always thought at least the part about him walking away from his lands was true, or that he might have been cheated out of them some way. Robin is also a symbol of Herne the Hunter, or the Green Man, which is why he's often depicted in green. There's a correspondence regarding Will Scarlett as well but I can't remember it just now. Robin's band of merry men is probably a coven, and some covens in England still call their High Priestess the "Maid Marian."

My theory about the origins of "covens" is that the local healers and mystics from a cluster of villages would meet at a crossroads or in a grove during the full moon to do ritual and share information. The sharing of cakes and such after is not only for grounding but for discussion and teaching. They chose the full moon for practical reasons - everyone knew when it was, and travel to the central location would be easier in the bright light. The Sabbats were more like seasonal festivals marked by the sun that would have involved the entire community. That community in the stories would have been comprised of victims of the power structure - possibly the Inquisitions or a corrupt local authority.

The modern stories have him defending the Saxons from the Normans, which would be waves of Germanic, patriarchal foreigners, which also fits nicely with the idea of Robin as defender of the Goddess and the Old Ways.

And of course, Robin is a traditional Witch name. I don't know if anyone knows which came first. Is Robin a Witch name because of Robin Hood, or is he called Robin because that's a traditional Witch name?

As with so much of our history, it's hard to know what is history, myth or dramatization. We have to feel our way. I've always had a strong vibration around the Robin Hood story - it feels authentic to me on a very deep level. And I like the image of an heroic young man walking away from privilege to defend the oppressed. If he wasn't real, he should have been.

pignut said...

I'm not sure about Robin being a nobleman, the ballads specifically call him a yeoman (i.e. commoner). I suspect this might be a later propaganda thing, along with making him a good Christian and loyal servant of either Edward III or Richard I. The site linked below details propaganda in the myth.

I see Robin as the Green Man/Herne the hunter, but some caution here: The Green Man in UK is mainly associated with Norman churches, it spread from Germany during the middle ages. I'm told that there is 1 greenman image in a pre-Norman church, and I've seen the image in ancient Etruscan art. The historian Ronald Hutton (who is seemingly worshipped by many Wiccans) wrote that the May Day Jack in the Green figure (a boy dressed in leaves in Mayday celebrations) was originally a milkmaid wearing plates and cutlery on her head, and then provides absolutely no evidence to support this bizarre claim (I think it's BS), but he's an "expert" so what do I know?

The Saxons and Normans were both Germanic (and fairly patriarchal), but the Normans spoke French and were generally regarded as French. Culture and language are far more important than genes here.
according to
(sorry, I was wrong, there is an early reference to Robin helping the poor).
The conflict between Normans and Saxons had cooled by the time of Richard I, but I would argue that it had turned into a class struggle. Commoners, whatever language they spoke were not permitted to hunt the Kings deer, a major theme in the stories.

I read a website once that said that there was a John Little, a Robert Hoode and a Guillaume Scarletti all in the Sherwood area at the same time (but it is a stretch to make Will Scarlet Italian, when his ballad clearly says that he is from the north of England). Friar Tuck/The Curtail Friar was also apparently a real person, but was added to the stories later, along with Alan a Dale. I think there probably were real people in the mix too, along with countless "Robhodes" (a name that appears a lot in Medieval court records probably to signify someone who refuses to give their name, rather like John Doe)

"And of course, Robin is a traditional Witch name. I don't know if anyone knows which came first. Is Robin a Witch name because of Robin Hood, or is he called Robin because that's a traditional Witch name?"

"Robin Goodfellow" was a name given to elves/devils etc. as well as Puck in a Midsummer nights dream (banned by the Puritans!). A robinet is a faucet in the shape of a rams head, and the word also means red. Robin appears at the ancient Abbots Bromley Horn Dance wearing antlers, so the connection with Herne makes sense. The Robin and the Wren traditionally fight for the greenwood crown at midwinter, which makes this very old ballad about Robin being killed by a small boy called Wrennoc (Bran?) very interesting

I'm not sure if these are Celtic, Roman, Saxon or Viking traditions (and I think more neo-pagans should distinguish between these traditions, they have all probably had an influence on modern paganism). The Normans also had some pagan stuff going on which might be relevant: William the bastard/conqueror's son Rufus, died while stag hunting on Llugnasad in what I think was a human sacrifice (Rufus, like Robin means red, he was a gay, red haired pagan whose friends were TV's).

pignut said...

Sorry, forgot to get to the point re. witch names. I think Robin Hood predates the Wiccan tradition of craft names by about 700 years :-) *bitchy pagan infighting*

sopka said...

I knew there was a reason I loved Robin Hood as a child. Strange how subversive pagan imagery falls into the right childs hands.