Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pagan Books

This grey afternoon, a dear old Pagan friend of mine came over and we hung out, chatted while we made organic Swiss Chard and barley (I love cooking with friends; I need to do more of this!), did some ecstatic dance, watched the birds at the bird feeder, and generally had (what passes in my own odd world for) a very good time. She asked me what good Pagan books I'd read lately and, I suddenly realized that the answer was: "Not Many." I'm working my way through (and, unlike a lot of Pagan bloggers, being rather impressed with) Trials of the Moon (maybe because I don't believe that where one gets one's degree is as important as the force of one's arguments. It's a lawyer thing.) but I can't say that I've found too many Pagan books this year that have made a deep impression on me.

Maybe this isn't too surprising; after all, Paganism is, IMHO, a religion of experience rather than of faith or authority. You can read about mystical experience forever or you can go outside, sit on a rock, breathe deeply, and . . . begin.

But, still, when I first discovered Paganism it was through books (The Politics of Women's Spirituality was "first," although I'd grown up reading "Pagan" books such as The Secret Garden, and The Wind in the Willows, Grimm's, etc.) that gave some context to those "on the rock" experiences that I'd been having all my life. And it's a bit sad that there's not quite as much (at least that I'm aware of) great Pagan writing out there as there once seemed to be.

This year I enjoyed, and agreed with some parts and disagreed with other parts of, Restall Orr's Kissing the Hag and had reason to re-read Sacred Circles. But the most important "Pagan" book (and the author would completely reject that characterization) that I read -- and the book that I gave to Son & DiL, DiL's wonderful 'rents, and the First ex-Mr. Hecate and his partner -- was Louv's Last Child in the Woods. I read Dark Green Religion and thought that it didn't say much that I didn't already know and that it was most likely a New Yorker-length article that fared less well as a book, almost painfully "pumped up," but I can see why it's an important book for people, who, for example, frequent Huffington Post, to read. I bought and regularly refer to Bearing Torches: A Devotional Anthology for Hecate, (not of much interest unless you're devoted to Hecate), which is published by a group doing some v interesting stuff these days (Are we entering a phase where the best writing and publishing is done by groups almost fanatically devoted to very minute bits of Paganism? Is that good or is it bad?) . But it's not a book you read cover to cover. And, as always, I've had regular reason to resort to Illes' Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells. I imagine that I will have until I'm too old to turn a page. I'm trying to work my way through a few of (and I don't think that she considers herself a Pagan) Ingerman's books and I'm still not sure if she's so advanced that I'm just not groking it or if she's not advanced enough to challenge me, but I too often find myself going, "Well, yeah, of course, and . . . " Likely, I'm not yet advanced enough.

Mostly, this year, I read a lot of good poetry and a lot of legal briefs, some so good they give me chills and some so bad I wind up raging to Young Lawyer Guy about them. I'm consistently mad for Theodora Goss' bits of stories and for most everything that Rima writes. I'm starting, more and more, to find more good poetry on YouTube than on the printed page and this, still, makes me sad. I'm a dying generation.

A lot of good Pagan writing is being done, these days, on the web, and that's v cool. I always check out (these are listed in my blog roll) African Alchemy, A Pagan's Blog, A Witch's Daily, Aquila ka Hecate, Know Thyself, Medusa Coils, The Archdruid Report, and The Gods Are Bored. There are a number of others that I check out at least once a week or so. Thorn Coyle rather irregularly posts podcasts that I'll often listen to several times while knitting, cleaning house, or walking on the treadmill.

What's the best Pagan book that you read this year? What's the worst? Where do you go for regular Pagan inspiration?

Picture found here.


Teacats said...

First let me state that my all-time favorite book is fiction: "Lammas Night" by Katherine Kurtz. Set during World War II -- it is the story of the great raising of Power by different Traditions that turned back (or turned off) Hitler's invasion. Fascinating on so many levels!

My favorite non-fiction:

"Home & Heart" by Beverly Pagram. Published in 1998 by Daybreak. Bought at Amazon -- and so good that I keep it by my chairside and then I carry it to my bedside.

And another oldie by goodie:

"Crabtreee & Evelyn: Fragrant Herbal" by Lesley Bremness. Published in 1998 by Bulfinch. Made my first potpourri this year for Yule gifts. Tried drying all sorts of fruits for it -- and hope to create my first batches of my own scent in the coming year. This is another tattered and torn and well-used book too.


Hecate said...


I've got to read Lammas Knight. Thanks for reminding me!

Thalia said...

I'm not sure I actually read 'Pagan' books. Mostly I read books on ancient religions or cultures, or monographs on particular Goddesses like Barbette Stanley Spaeth's Ceres or the one I got yesterday CMC Green's Roman Religion and the Cult of Diana at Aricia, which I've been lusting after for ages and which my bizarre blessing of a sister got me. I mean those are Pagan, just not Neo-Pagan. Though right now I'm working my way through Patrick Harpur's The Philosopher's Secret Fire, which is very VERY interesting.

As for Neo-Pagan stuff though? We all have to write our own, you know?

Anonymous said...

"Paganism is, IMHO, a religion of experience rather than of faith or authority. You can read about mystical experience forever or you can go outside, sit on a rock, breathe deeply, and . . . begin."

I couldn't agree more. When I first stumbled upon my path I gobbled up every book on Paganism and Witchcraft I could get my hands on. After completely stressing myself out about the "right way" to do things, I put those books on my nice little shelf, opened my heart and third-eye and never looked back.

The power of a Witch comes from within, not some how to book.

However, I still read books written by Witches telling of their own paths and how they stumbled upon them. I also enjoy books by Witches who are writing about their lives and incorporate that they are Witches in the books and how that affects their lives. Basically, I like the read about the Woman, not the "face the North and say blah blah blah".

Hecate said...


Thanks for a good clarification. I should have said, "modern Pagan" books. Your sister sounds like someone who knows how to give good gifts.

Hecate said...

Dark Mother,

books by Witches who are writing about their lives and incorporate that they are Witches in the books and how that affects their lives.

Me, too! It's one of the things that I like about Restall Orr's books; you get glimpses of how Druidry works in her day-to-day life.

Thalia said...

Actually my sister is a wicked narcissist with a history of giving really *bad* gifts, like the camera, or the telescope she got me on two separate occasions, neither of which I wanted, and which she got a more expensive version of the same for herself which she then told me all about after giving me mine, including the price for my version and hers (about three times as much). So maybe not so much, I'm afraid.

I, however, have been beating it into her head lately that that is NOT acceptable, and to for crissakes just follow my amazon wishlist already. Which she, incredibly, actually *did* this year.

Hence the 'bizarre blessing' appellation, ha.

Oy. That's a nerve hit, there. Dysfunctional families are SO FUN.