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Bookviews Book Reviews

 

 6-16-2004
 

 

 

The Paganism Reader

edited by
Chas S. Clifton
and Graham Harvey 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes we do not need 'how to' books because our need is not 'how to' but 'why'.  Sometimes we need reminders of why we are, as opposed to who we are or what we do.  Sometimes we need books that inspire us, or give us a reason for our lives.

The Paganism Reader is a well put together volume that provides us with material that offers inspiration, gentle teachings and insights into the very nature of our spirituality.

Mr. Clifton and Mr. Harvey have put together various works, classified by the time of their writings (classical, proto-revival, revival and diversification) that touch the heart of what it is to be pagan.  The material is fresh for the most part, well chosen for content and it's appeal to the pagan reader in a variety of applications.  The material can be read as individual pieces, or taken as a whole.  It can be used for private meditation or as a group exercise for study.

The classical is represented by various excerpts; from the 'Book of Jeremiah' to 'Pliny the Elder' and material from the 'Irish Cycles' to Geoffrey of Monmouth.  The material covers a wide range of myths and mysticism. 

The proto-revival material is characterized by excerpts from "Aradia', Aleister Crowley's 'The Book of the Law', Margaret Murray on 'Witchcraft' and Rudyard Kipling's 'A Tree Song', to name a few.

Revival and diversification contains material selected from the writings of Doreen Valiente, Gerald  Gardner, Robert Heinlein, Marion Bradley, Mr. Clifton and others.  There is also a 'Further Reading' list that is quite in depth and a well thought out Index.

The material presented is as diverse as the many paths of paganism.  The book offers to the general pagan some wonderful material that will provoke discussion as well as contemplation. 

A must have book on your library shelf, it should be included in your 'must read' lists and is a very useful tool for any teacher, as well as a book I would consider a primer for anyone looking at the pagan path. 

 

The Recovery Spiral: A Pagan Path to Healing

by Cynthia Jane Collins, M.Div.

 

 

 

The most often used tool in the fight against addictions is the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step Program.  But as many pagans who have used this program know, it is very Christian oriented in it's beliefs and structure and only gives passing acknowledgement to other Spiritual Paths.

Ms. Collins has an M.S. in counseling and is a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and has been a practicing Wiccan for thirty years.   Her Masters work specialized in various abuses and abuse related issues. She offers in this book an option to the AA 12 Step Program.  She has re-written the 12 steps so they fall more into place with general pagan beliefs and practices and includes some Wiccan principals as well.

The Pagan 12 Steps included in this book are brilliant and should find their way into mainstream 12 Step programs for the assistance in pagan addiction recovery.  They are well thought out, right on the mark and place the responsibility of recovery on the individual with the assistance of Divine Presence. 

The book also presents five 'Principles' for recovery.  These principles  assist in  developing personal self worth, challenge each person to change, offer hope in recovery and foster balance, honesty, reality and success.

Ms. Collins offers an insightful personal process based on self examination through the use of Tarot Cards, and discusses various types of emotional and addictive abuses through the eyes of various persons who have gone through this self examination process, including herself.

There are small vignettes of people as they talk about their lives, their habits, their struggles with abuse, drugs, sex, family issues, relationships and other types of emotional stresses and issues in relationship to principles outlined by Ms. Collins.  She goes over some Tarot spreads which highlight these issues and their base causes and assists you in the readings.  She points out personal responsibilities which were missed, causes that may have contributed to their addictive issues, and solutions that are self initiated and Deity inspired. 

While the 12 Step program is not always successful, it has proven to be very effective with most people who dedicate themselves to healing and change.  The program as adapted for the pagan community in this book offers additional assistance focused on personal responsibility and beliefs.  

I would recommend this to any practicing pagan counselor looking for a fresh view at the addiction recovery systems, especially those using the current 12 Step program.  This book offers a very practical pagan addition to the program and can be used in conjunction with any program already in place.

 

 

A Voice in the Forest
by  Jimahl di Fiosa

 

 

 

In this book the author and his companions claim that via a talking board and automatic writings they have successfully channeled Alex Sanders between the years of 1998 and 2003.

What unfolds in this book is the recounting of the contact, some of the material that was passed on to them by the spirit of Alex Sanders and a heartfelt story of a Coven's love for the founder of their tradition, insight into the growth and development of this coven in the United States over this time period, and messages of warmth and encouragement for their path and personal growth.

I've never had the pleasure of knowing Alex Sanders.  I know him only through the small amounts of writings available about him as most people do.  I personally would not know either his personality or his manner of speaking his writings, or anything else that would enable me to say... yes, this is Mr. Sanders, or no, sorry. 

But there are testimonies presented in this book to the content of some private messages sent via this group to persons who did know him that indeed, they feel it was Alex.

I read the messages that were allowed to be made public.  There is nothing there that indicates, at least to me, that this is Alex Sanders.  And there is nothing here that says this is not.

What does come across in this book is a spirit which encourages belief and connection with the Goddess.  The spirit also speaks of dedication to the Craft and awareness of personal connections to spirituality.   The spirit also reminds this coven of personal commitment to continued teaching and growing our community in order to assure our continued success as a viable spiritual path.

The message is a good one, one that you will find repeated by many elders in our community, not just here in the United States, but also abroad.  The participants believe they have contacted Alex Sanders and continue to pass on encouraging messages to not just immediate family and friends of Mr. Sanders but also to the students and those students who are now teachers.  He talks from beyond the grave to assure his follows and others who follow the Craft that we are on the right track, to hold fast to our belief in the Goddess and that She is there for us all the time.

The book is a curiosity, one with a positive message.  While we may not be able to validate the experience of the participants, we can understand and relate to the messages.

Mr. diFiosa documents the events well, giving plausibility to the work.  The material is easy to read, well organized, and draws the reader into the deeper workings of mediums and channelers. 

But it is the message which will prevail in this work.  We all need positive messages of encouragement.  While we may not be able to relate to the specific path or to Mr. Sanders, we can easily understand the message, and draw from it some idea of self worth, validation and hope for the future.   And if you are an Alexandrian, or if you are walking the path of the Craft, you will find this book enjoyable, intriguing and insightful.

 

 

Handfasting and Wedding Ritual: Inviting Hera's Blessing
by Raven Kaldera & Tannin Schwartzstein

 

 

 

While there are a couple of rituals on line and scattered about in various books on Wicca or the Rites of Passage, there isn't much out there in the way of a single good book that would cover a variety of pagan 'wedding' rituals.  Or is there?

'Handfasting and Wedding Ritual' offers just what you might want to consider for the pagan handfasting.  This book offers a variety of rituals that you can take as they are or use as a starting place to develop your own. 

The book covers the history of 'handfastings' as well as discussing how it relates to being pagan.  There is discussion on preparations, the steps to plan in ritual, and how you might approach these various aspects of ritual as well as aesthetics.

This book does not focus on any particular person being in need of this material.  The book is a handbook for use by pagan clergy or it can be used by the couple to plan with their clergy.  It can be used for legal ceremonies as well as those that are not legally binding but are heart bound.

Also included in the book are the stories from myth of famous couples, such as Tam Lin and Shiva and Parvati.  The book covers male rituals, female rituals, polyamorous handfastings, various mixed faiths weddings, heathen handfastings, Faery Weddings, Warrior's Wedding and many more.  A very inclusive volume of different styles and beliefs is presented here.

Also included is a section on 'handparting' with rituals for bringing about closure as well as healing.

The book closes with some words to the pagan clergy about handfastings.  Here is shared some experiences, some insights and some discussion on ethics and your duty.  There is some wonderful material here for the new as well as experienced pagan clergy in regards to handfasting and should be considered required reading by anyone who is looking at or involved in this calling to community service.

Appendix's include astrological planning, symbols, flowers and very well laid out index.

Whether planning a handfasting, or looking at being pagan clergy or if you are pagan clergy, this book is probably the best investment you can make to help you along with plans, problems and performance.  Well thought out, well put together and easy to follow, it is a book that approaches the pagan bonding ritual with no boundaries but has plenty of common sense and good advice.

 

Invoke the Goddess Visualizations of Hindu, Greek and Egyptian Deities

by Kala Trobe

 

 

 

Kala Trobe chose five Goddesses from each of  the Hindu, Greek and Egyptian pantheons and creates in this book a visual journey of introduction of these Goddesses for those who seek to become familiar with them, work with them and associate in the most intimate way we can.

Chosen here are some of the best known Goddesses from each of these pantheons, and explored are the attributes, experiences and emotional connections we can have with these Deities in our spiritual lives.

The introduction of this book explains what the purpose of this book is, how to prepare to work with the visualizations, understanding Godforms and making personal preparations to meet and work with these Deities.  There is also a very well done index table of many other Goddesses and their functions. 

Each Goddess section starts off with an 'introduction' to the Goddess, as told in a visualization.  Each Goddess is then explored in her nature, her practical applications, preparation for approaching these Goddesses, specific visualizations calling upon each Deities specialities.  There are healing aids, transition and change discussions and the chapter ends with a summary of the Mundane Archetypes outlining the Goddess' personality and Her aspects as seen in modern Western society today.

Ms. Trobe offers some very interesting insights into the Goddess figures in this book.  Durga is seen as a Goddess of Strength, Kali assists in overcoming cycles of abuse, Isis lends us powers of intuition and assists us in finding an ideal long-term partner, Hathor is the nurturer, Artemis is focused on sporting abilities and fitness, while we look to Hecate to help us overcome prejudice. 

The focus is here is to offer support in our search to better ourselves, in the form of the Goddess who will assist us in our quests.  The book resounds with positive affirmations for those seeking self improvement.  It is a 'take charge of your life through spirituality' book that is well written, nicely developed and contains some very lovely visualizations to help you work with Deity.  If you are looking to touch Deity and don't know where to being, this is an ideal book for you. 

 

 

The Wicca Herbal:  Recipes, Magick, and Abundance
by Jamie Wood

 

 

 

First, let me say this book is a lovely presentation.  Though soft cover, the book is well bound, lovely, strong cover, nicely designed and attracts attention.  The inside of the book is just as inviting.  Lovely prints of the herbs covered, very detailed.  It is laid out very artistically, and also includes some lovely woodprints.  The typefaces, while very artistic, are not impossible to read.

Having said that, I was curious about the content.  The book appears to be well laid out, alphabetically according to common name.  The first chapter is about Wicca and it's connection to the earth, our Mother.  There is a very simplified explanation of Wicca, some information on spellcasting, ritual and Sabbats, making this a nice introduction.  Ms. Wood then goes into some history on Medieval Herbalogy, some basics on growing, using and 'experimenting' with herbs and some history as to how we came to using them as we do these days, and a discussion on natural gardening and preserving your herbs.  All of the material is basic, giving an overview of the topic and some ground for the beginner.

In reviewing the actual herbal references, she gives the common name or names, the Latin names, parts used, a brief description of the plant and some growing tips.  Some plants come with stories about the magical correspondences, or a little history of its use.  Some herbs have a medicinal use and remedy given.  Some herbs have recipes for their use. 

No where did I find a cautionary to the beginner about using these plants.  No where did I find advice on possible herbal allergies or side effects.  There are some recipes using these herbs and instructions for poultices to apply or herbs to use in spells.  There are also recipes for creams and soaps.  But the advice to see a doctor should a condition continue, or advice on possible allergic reactions to soaps or creams and side effects from using these herbs is missing.

Then there are instructions: "place in a blender or food processor. (If you do not own a blender or food processor, you can use a mortar and pestle.)"  Items are to be "stored in a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid".   We seem to have hit the modern age, with all traditional methods left behind for the sake of technology.  Yet, suggestions or instructions to sterile jars for the storage of food or medicinal items is not mentioned.

The properties of the herbs are clearly explained.  There is an index, list of societies and publications on herbs, resources and a bibliography.   There is a glossary in the back explaining the terms used. 

But possible risks and practical medicinal advice is missing and the book does not include the possible reactions to some of these herbs that you can find from time to time.  Nor does it discuss the legal aspect of 'prescribing' herbs for use or personal responsibility for recommending these herbs for medicinal use or what to do in case of adverse reactions to these herbs.

While the book is a lovely presentation there is critical material that should have been covered.  It may be attractive but it lacks the cautions that are usually given by professional herbalists.  It might make a nice coffee table book but should be used with the usual medical cautions.