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Book Spotlight


Barbara Ardinger

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Pagan Every Day







Pagan Every Day
by Barbara Ardinger

TWPT:  Most books have their start as a flash of inspiration or as a way to fill a gap where other books donít quite go. Tell me about what it was that motivated you to begin work on your latest book Pagan Every Day. 

BA:  The direct inspiration was a phone call from the publisher. "I like the way you write," she said. "Would you write a book for us? Call it 365 Pagan and put lots of goddesses in it?" I said yes, got in touch with my agent to negotiate a decent contract, and set to work. You'll notice, of course, that they changed the title--it's now Pagan Every Day--but the book is indeed full of goddesses, plus movies and TV, history, feasts and festivals, saints, and whatever else sleeted through my mind during the six months it took me to write the book. 

TWPT:  Seeing as how there are quite a number of day books or daily inspiration titles out there what can a pagan reader learn from Pagan Every Day that they could not find in other books? 

BA:  This is not your regular goddess-a-day book and it doesn't supply regular sabbat rituals or crafts for newbies. It's not Wicca 101.  Because I think it's useful for people to think about what they think and examine what they believe, I explore a few of our foundational myths and relate pagan ideas to history and culture. I try to give the real story--differences, for example, between the Greek and Roman pantheons--and show that what one religion sees as mythology another will see as history.  I also acknowledge authors and priestesses and zines and web sites and temples that have helped create our neopagan world.

TWPT:  Would this book be of any benefit to the non-pagan reader and what is it that they might take away from it? Do you expect the book to find its way into many non-pagan hands? 

BA:  I'm not sure that a book with "pagan" in the title will ever find its way into the hands of standard-brand fundamentalists, but my hope is that thoughtful people who don't know much about the Goddess and/or what pagans do and believe will find out that pagans are regular people. We live the same kinds of lives as other people. We have house payments, car payments, credit card payments. We're working at jobs and raising our kids. 

TWPT:  After you had decided to write Pagan Every Day what kind of writing schedule did you keep? Did you really write the book in six months?  

BA:  I pay my rent and utilities (and buy cat food) by editing books for people who intend to publish through on-demand presses. I couldn't stop earning my living to write a book, so I set up a schedule. I edited every morning (after my daily walk), wrote every afternoon, and did research (both in books and on the Web) at night. Yes, I wrote the whole book in six months. That's one month of essays every two weeks, or two a day. When I finished, I ran it through the spell-checker, sent it to the publisher, and just sort of collapsed. Well, actually, I picked up the books I had stacked on a little table next to my computer and put them all back on their proper shelves and I tidied up the living room. Then I flew to New York to see Michael Ball at the NYC Opera I'm a member of Michael's fan club. He's in the book. You can read "his page" at the end of this interview and see how I link anything to something pagans can do or think about and do a presentation on feminist spirituality and the Goddess to the pagan studentsí association at Drew University in Madison,New Jersey.

TWPT:  Tell me about the layout of each daily entry. Do each of the entries follow a certain kind of pattern in how the material is presented? 

BA:  As originally written, each day started with an epigraph--a quotation from a novel, a bit of poetry, a quotation from a famous pagan book. The first draft of the book was too long, though, so I had to edit every page down. (When a calendar book is too long, you can't just lop off the last 60 pages.) A few of the epigraphs stayed (my favorite is November 8, from a novel by feminist author Sheri S. Tepper) and some were worked into the essays. 

Most of the pages are essays, but I prefer to call them conversations. I talk directly to my readers in all of my books. I hope they'll talk back. Write in the book. Send me an email. There are also snatches of poetry (and one day's conversation is only a poem) and two days are quizzes with tricky answers. 

TWPT:  If someone were to pick up a copy of your book how would they use it in their daily routines to explore paganism as a spiritual practice? 

BA:  You can read the day's page in the morning and have something to ponder while you walk or meditate or eat breakfast. You can read a page at lunchtime to get your mind off your job or at night to seed a dream. Since everything partakes in divinity and the spiritual and the materials are essentially the same, the daily essays on the French calendar or whales or the Tanguska Event or Mozart or moon gods or veriditas or Louis XIV or the unintended consequences of damming rivers can tell us something we may not have known before and inspire a more grounded spiritual practice. We live on this planet and in this society and with this history. We might as well know what shoulders we're standing on. 

TWPT:  Was writing a book of daily entries harder than writing a book with a single theme that ran from beginning to end? Why would that be so? 

BA:  When I write novels or nonfiction books with a single theme, I have to pay attention to where I've been and where I'm going and stay on track. (That's why an outline is useful.) With this book, I could just look up who today's goddess is or what events happened on this day and take off from there.  One of my major resources was the online Roman Calendar created by AEGSA (the Architectural Engineering Graduate Students Association atPennsylvania State University) (which you can Google). The Roman Calendar gives feast days celebrated by the Romans, but not every single day has a god or goddess and nearly all the goddesses are really civic virtues (Pax, Concordia, Felicitas, etc.). I also sent emails to people and got replies about the Isis Oasis, Witchvox, Green Egg, SageWoman, Matrifocus, the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett, modern Chinese religion, the Australian and Glastonbury Goddess Temples.... You get the idea. And I did a lot of reading. With all these resources, I found something to write about every day and never got bored. 

TWPT:  Why does Pagan Every Day contain information about Christian saints, Sikh holidays and other non-pagan topics within its pages? 

BA:  Because we, all of us--human, feathered, finned, furry, leafy, and crystalline beings--are kin. We are all the children of the Goddess. We should all play nice together. 

Almost every pagan I've ever met was born into a standard-brand religion (mostly Christian and Jewish). It's good to know where we come from. (I found some wonderful stuff in The Jewish Catalog.)  It's also important to understand that "neopagan" and people who are Hindus or Sikhs or Buddhists or Native Americans or Rastaferians do NOT call themselves pagans. Nor can we call the medieval Christian mystics proto-pagans; Hildegard of Bingen and Dame Julian of Norwich would probably be horrified to to hear that some people  today think they were early pagans. 

If we expect the followers of other religions to understand and respect us, we need to understand and respect them. 

TWPT:  Why is it that you believe that Barbie and Miss Piggy are goddesses and that watching the movie Dirty Dancing is a spiritual experience? 

BA:  Can't we have some fun with our religion? Do we have to be serious all the time? (This is why I wrote Finding New Goddesses, which is a parody of the normal goddess encyclopedias.) We live in a world that is spiritual and material at the same time, so it's possible to find spiritual meaning in anything, even Muppets and the movies. Well, actually, Kermit is more spiritual than The Pig, but there can be no doubt that she is a goddess. Just ask her. 

TWPT:  Do you see this book being useful even after you have gone through it the first time? Does it have enough substance that a person could use it for the next few years and discover new information? 

BA:  My hope is that the conversations in the book will lead to further conversations, not only between me and my readers but also among readers and between readers and other people they know. There are a few original rituals in the book, like using the language of flowers to tell our covenmates what we think about them. In my imagination, someone reads the book, finds something interesting or appealing or inspiring, and makes a small change in his or her life and finds a new dimension of spirituality. 

If readers go to the web sites listed in the bibliography, they'll meet new people and find more than I could possibly include. And on the 367th day, I suggest that readers write their own book. Yes, the book can easily last for more than a year. 

TWPT:  Any final thoughts youíd like to share about the writing of Pagan Every Day or about how it could be used in a personís spiritual practices throughout the year? 

BA:  We can relate our spiritual practices to anything in our lives and connect any aspect of our lives to our spiritual practice. Here's an example: 

June 27
Fan Clubs 

Iím a member of a fan club. Michael Ball is a musical theater tenor and one of theU.K.ís most popular entertainers. His 1999 concert at the Royal Albert Hall was broadcast on PBS, and I was blessed to be present at his first concerts in theU.S., where he had 2,000 people standing up and screaming for him to keep singing encores. Today is his birthday. 

Being a member of a fan club is enormous fun. Fans become friends. We gather at Ballfests to watch Michaelís videos on big-screen TVs. In 2003, when members of the Michael Ball Fan Club flew toLos Angeles for a Ballfest, they brought a life-size cardboard Michael (who has curly hair, blue eyes, and dimples to go with his amazing voice) and took it everywhere, even to theHollywood theater with the footprints of the stars. 

It occurs to me that gods and goddesses might enjoy having fan clubs. A fan club would be different from a circle or a coven, whose main business is holding rituals. Most circles and covens that I know invoke different goddesses and gods at their various rituals. A fan club, however, would be faithful to one goddess or god. 

Some deities already have fan clubs. Dionysus and Bacchus, for example, seem to have a great many fan clubs that meet every weekend. These fan clubs also worship Terpsichore, the muse of dance, and (on bad nights) Cloacina, goddess of sewers. Are sports fans who attend track meets convening in honor of fleet-footed Mercury? Do quilters and weavers gather to honor Arachne? Are psychic fairs are held to honor the Sybils? 

Reader, if you were to establish a fan club for a god or goddess, how would you organize it? What would you do at your fan club meetings?

TWPT:  Thanks Barbara for taking the time out from your editing to talk to us here at TWPT and give us some insights into your new book Pagan Every Day. Good luck.