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Book Spotlight



Kristin Madden



Exploring the Pagan Path







Exploring the Pagan Path
Edited by Kristin Madden

TWPT:  When last we spoke it was during your appearance in the Authorís Corner interview when your book Shamanic Healing was coming out which was way back in 2003. Would you be so kind as to bring our readers up to date with whatís been happening with you since last we spoke and what is it that has been keeping you busy these last couple of years.

KM:  Actually, that book came out in 2002.  Since then it has been picked up by book clubs in theUS and theUK and has been translated into Danish for distribution inDenmark.  

Oh my goodness, what's been keeping me busy?!  Well, other than loads of writing and teaching, I've been homeschooling, training raptors, rehabilitating mostly raptors, roadrunners, and hummingbirds, and caring for my mother, who has been incapacitated since last December.  I'm still the Dean of the Ardantane School of Shamanic Studies and a member of the faculty council for Ardantane.  I'm still a tutor for the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids.  I've been doing a great deal of traveling, though I try to keep it down to less than 4 months per year for my family and menagerie.

 But more of interest to readers are the book projects.  Since we last spoke, Pagan Parenting has been re-released through Spilled Candy Books.  Spilled Candy also published Pagan Homeschooling in 2002 and will be re-releasing Shamanic Guide to Death and Dying any day now.  The Ardantane fundraiser took over 2 years to get out.  I collaborated with several other Pagan authors and elders to create Exploring the Pagan Path, which is now one of New Page Books' bestsellers.  I've also been working on Magickal Crafts with Liz Roberts, to be released in October by New Page, and Dancing the Goddess Incarnate with Dorothy Morrison, to be released in May 2006 by Llewellyn.  Whew! 

TWPT:  Ok now on to something new, give me some background as to when it was that the concept of Exploring the Pagan Path first presented itself to you.

KM:  At that time, I was on the Ardantane Board of Directors (resigned due to caretaking responsibilities) and we were all trying to brainstorm ideas to help raise money to build the Dome, which will be the main building at this point for our growing campus.  We had lots of ideas and then it hit me that we also have a few respected authors that have some respected author friends.  It seemed silly not to do a book.  It took a while to get the concept down though.  We played with it and played with it because we didn't just want a fundraiser, we wanted something to reflect the educational vision and ethical standards of Ardantane.  We also wanted it to reflect the wide diversity that is the Pagan community. 

TWPT:  Tell me about the role of an editor when it comes to a collection of writings like this. How is it that you structure the material and put your stamp upon the final work that is released even though there are a number of authors involved? 

KM:  As the editor, I admittedly had to be a pain in the butt sometimes but mainly I was continually amazed at the breadth of knowledge and experience of these folks.  To be honest, I didn't really put "my stamp" on it except to format everything in a similar manner and clarify things that I felt might not be so obvious to the newcomer to Paganism.  I wanted to preserve the voice of each individual author.  I really wanted the book to read as if we had all gathered at a festival somewhere to discuss the Pagan path and act as mentors.  Because Paganism is so diverse, it was important that each tradition, experience, and personality shine through.

TWPT:  Was it you that decided who you would like to see contribute to the collection and if so how did you go about presenting your concepts of Exploring the Pagan Path to the various authors who ended up contributing to this volume?

KM:  I made the first offers to some of my friends and Amber K invited others that she knew.  M. Macha NightMare was wonderful in promoting the idea to several of her friends, who then came on board.  All we really did was explain what our intentions were: to raise funds and to provide a valuable resource.  Everyone that joined us did so graciously and enthusiastically, donating all royalties directly to Ardantane.  It was a true showing of just what Pagan community can be!

TWPT:  Did you give the authors direction as to what their contribution was going to be or was that left up to them with a general theme in mind?

KM:  I provided a table of contents and invited each author to choose a chapter.  How they handled the chapter was entirely up to them, as long as it was relevant to the general Pagan community.


Exploring the Pagan Path is a work of love and generosity by several Pagan authors, all elders and teachers in various branches of nature spirituality. Each author was allowed to choose what topic they would write on (except one or two were asked to cover a particular subject), so they were all writing to their strengths: to special fields of expertise, and/or to something that they had a especially keen interest in.

      All the authors were kind enough to do this without any financial reward or compensation; and all the royalties go to Ardantane, one of the fledgling Pagan schools/seminaries in the U.S., and the one I have the honor to serve as Executive Director.

     Yes, there are other books on Paganism that include the input of several authors; and I hope there will be more. Each book examines the vast, diverse, and changing world of Pagan spirituality from different perspectives. Each reveals more facets of the truth, of who we are and what we stand for. Because we have no central authority, no dogma or "One True Path," the ONLY way that we can understand Paganism is to look at many different paths, ideas and experiences within the greater path.

     I wrote the chapter on organizing groups with Azrael, and the one on ritual tools with Kristin, and the one on Pagan lifestyle with contributions from several Pagans. This kind of creative collaboration can only make the final product richer and deeper. I am so grateful to everyone who contributed, and I hope that this book provides a service to all the people out there who are seeking their spiritual path. May some of them find it in Paganism, and be welcomed into our community. -- Amber K

TWPT:  As you were structuring the material into a book format who was it that you envisioned as the reader who would benefit the most from the content?   

KM:  The primary reader we focused on was the newcomer to Paganism.  In addition, we wanted to speak to people that might have a friend or family member that was exploring Paganism - to offer them a way to understand the beauty of Paganism and hopefully be more accepting of a loved one's new path, and also to Pagan teachers and group leaders that might want additional resources for beginning classes.

TWPT:  Was it difficult to create a cohesive whole from the variety of styles that you most undoubtedly have received from the many authors that comprise this book?

KM:  Not really.  I sent out guidelines outlining the style and voice I wanted but kept the structure loose enough for the unique personality of each author to be perceived.  These are all professionals with a devotion to the community.  For the most part, they made it pretty easy on me!

I think that collaborative efforts such as Exploring the Pagan Path are valuable as they package various points of view in one book.  This makes it easier for the newcomer to get a feel for Pagan spirituality.   

I signed on to this project to get information out there surrounding the issue of being publicly Pagan.  Its getting easier in many places but there is still a lot of work to be done to combat hate crimes and misinformation.---   
Kerr Cuhulain


TWPT:  The authors are donating their proceeds from this book to benefit Ardantane. Tell me about Ardantane, what it does and your role within this organization.

KM:  Ardantane is a 501c3 non-profit based inNew Mexico that is dedicated to quality education for all Pagans.  Classes began in 1996 at various locations.  We are now on 25 acres in the magicalJemez Mountains ofNew Mexico and are actively building our campus.  This is where we hold the vast majority of our classes and our small summer solstice festival, although we will travel to teach in other locations.

Ardantane is made up of 7 schools: Shamanic Studies, Healing Arts, Witchcraft, Magickal Arts, Pagan Leadership, Environmental Sustainability, and Bardic Arts.  Of these, the first 5 are up and running.  The first 4 have accredited Deans and certificate programs in place.

I started out as a guest teacher in 2000 and was invited to join the Board of Directors later that year.  I formed theSchool ofShamanic Studies in 2001 and remain the Dean of that School.  I resigned from the Board last year because I couldn't devote the time necessary to that work with the addition of significant caretaking responsibilities.  And of course, I am a member of the Faculty Council.

TWPT:  What kinds of topics are covered in this book and how is the material arranged so that readers will be able to get the most benefit out of the articles?

KM:  We chose to organize it around three main themes: Exploring Paganism, Learning the path, and Living your spirituality.  

Within Part I: Explore, we cover What is Paganism, Making a Personal Connection with Divinity, Finding Your Path, Connecting with Nature, Magical Manifestations of Energy Work, The Basic of Magic, and Methodology of Study.   

Then we move on to Part II: Learn, which includes Ritual Tools, Crafting Ritual, Working with a Group, The Solitary Pagan, and Involving Children.  

And then we delve into Part III: Live, including How Pagans Live, Coming Out, Social Responsibility and Politics, Organizing Your Own Group, Community, and Magic and Political Action.

At the end of the book, we include a glossary of Pagan terms, our picks for best books by tradition and best festivals inNorth America, and a list of resources of various kinds.   

TWPT:  Do you see more of this kind of collection coming out in the future as a way of disseminating the wisdom of those who have been around the community for awhile and want to reach out as mentors to those who just starting out?

KM:  It's certainly possible, though other collollaboration projects have not done so well and publishers are wary of taking them on.  Frankly, I would love to see more of this.  There are so many relative newcomers that would benefit from the insights and experiences of those that have been around for decades and have pretty much seen it all.

TWPT:  What material did you personally contribute to this collection and what were your criteria for selecting what you wanted to write about and how you were going to approach it?

KM:  I wrote the preface and the chapters on Involving Children and Community.  I also wrote the Solitary Pagan chapter with lots of help from community contributors.  And I co-authored the Ritual Tools chapter with Amber K.  Oh, and then I wrote most of the appendices with plenty of help.  I decided to write in the manner I hoped we all would - to be comfortable and conversational, as if we really were mentoring the reader or having a friendly discussion.  I decided what to write based on what I get the most questions about and what I observe to be issues that need addresssing.  

TWPT:  During the process of compiling and editing this project what was it that you learned about the Pagan community and the authors who gave of their time and words to make this book happen?

KM:  To be honest, I don't know that really learned anything new.  But the true beauty of Paganism and our community was reinforced exponentially in the process.  Fifteen authors plus many contributors from widely varied paths all came together to benefit an educational project and the general community for free and to the best of their abilities!   These people generously gave of their already-overscheduled time because they believed in the idea and cared enough for the community to share their wisdom and experience.  It just doesn't get any better than this!  And even more than that, I was so impressed with the ethics, deep thought, insight, and knowledge that is  held within our community.  I was in awe just reading what these people had to share.

TWPT:  What would you like to see someone take away from this book after reading it?  What kind of feedback have you been getting so far? 

KM:  The feedback has been wonderful so far!  My great hope is that this book will aid people in understanding Paganism, even if they are not the ones interested in it, and that it will act as a guide for newcomers.  People in the early stages of exploring the Pagan path often encounter challenges in finding the right path or teacher, understanding the lingo, and knowing just how to go about practicing a living minority spirituality.  I want them to be able to walk into a festival and not feel like an outsider.  I want them to have a type of mentor as they search for the path and pantheon that is right for them.  And I want them to have the power of knowledge when they seek out a group or decide to include their children in their practice.  I guess in short, I want them to feel comfortable, safe, and connected.

TWPT:  Any final thoughts that you would like to share with the readers of TWPT in regards to Exploring the Pagan Path?

KM:  I would like to wish them a feeling of joy and family in their every encounter with Paganism.  I'd also like to thank them for their courage in exploring their hearts and souls and being strong enough to look beyond the mainstream for truth and Home.  As a Pagan mother, I would like to say that it is a great honor to be involved in such a community.  Thanks to all of you, I have great hope for a more tolerant, more balanced, and more spiritual future.

TWPT:  Thanks for bringing us up to date on what you have been up to and about your involvement with this new book Exploring the Pagan Path. I wish you lots of success with this project and with your own writing efforts as well.