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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Sep. 8, 2002   This Page Viewed: 28,360,065  

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Question of the Week: 5 - 9/4/2000

Pagan books/web sites-dynamic or drivel?

Books written by, for and about Pagans and Pagan beliefs fill the shelves of bookstores and Pagan web sites abound on the Internet. But do they really do a good job of reflecting Pagan beliefs, training new seekers or educating the non-Pagan public? What are YOUR recommendations?

 Reponses:   There are 46 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

I Would Like To Respond To This On Two Levels: Professionally And... Sep 4th. at 9:04:45 am UTC

Trish Telesco (western, New York US) Age: 40 - Email

I would like to respond to this on two levels: professionally and personally. As a professional, there is a lot of pressure to "crank out" the 101 books, and every publisher in New Age wants the essential 101 list for all neo-pagan libraries with their logo on it. This has good and bad points. The bad being that a lot does get rehashed, and a lot gets done hastily without real knowledge of the magickal community (most neo-pagan publishers aren't PAGANS!). The good is that while some people might really "tune in" to one author's voice, they may not another. So, having a diversity of books also appeals to the diversity of human nature.

The hard part for the author is finding a fresh way to present ideas and educate the publisher in the process . The other hard part is pressing past the 101 material (and getting that material accepted by a publisher), and THEN presenting adept information in a responsible fashion (knowing full well that this information WILL get into the hands of inexperienced readers). This is a difficult balancing act from a culpability standpoint. How can I teach "adept" materials to people I do not know - who may not use it responsibly? This means often back-tracking into the 101 material and rebuilding from scratch with a very focused theme.

You must also bear in mind that some authors have contractual clauses to fulfill, and that the publisher has a very large voice in how those items get fulfilled. If an author cannot or chooses not to meet those obligations, they can be facing very real financial difficulties and legal issues. Remember: publishing is a business. 101 Books wouldn't be printed if there wasn't still a market buying them. And as much as we might wish otherwise, not all publishers (nor all writers, for that matter) have the community's best interests at heart. So when authors find an editor or a publisher who really listens we usually hold tight to that contact! And when YOU find a writer who seems to have it "together" and who really speaks to your heart - likewise support him or her.

From a personal level, I would love to see some seriously researched books hit the shelves. In fact, I'd like to write them. Alas, most large publishers go for the milk-toast that's highly consumable to the public. Smaller presses have more of a chance to do serious works, but they have to consider if that material will actually SELL. The reality is that only part of our community has matured to the point where they want to move on, and this part may not represent a large enough number to make such efforts financially feasible. The only real answer to this quandary is self publishing or subsidy work, which requires monetary resources from the writer, and is "looked down upon" by the professional writing community as vanity work.

So, if I had any suggestions it would be that writers should to take the given subject and try to put as much fresh information or ideas into it as possible. Give enough history and linguistical information to provide foundations. Nudge the reader to expand from that point and use the book only as a touchstone. Do something with your website that's unique and reflects who YOU are as a person (not just as a writer).

For readers: network, network, network! Ask people what books have really influened their path and practices. Share the ones that you found helpful with others. Put up reviews at barns and noble and amazon's website so everyone can hear the voice of the community. Write various publishers and tell them what you need... what you want to see. Get involved and make a difference.

Ok, getting off my soapbox now.

The Sad Thing Is That There Is A Colossal Amount Of Rubbish... Sep 4th. at 9:43:14 am UTC

Michael (Dublin, European Union) Age: 22

The sad thing is that there is a colossal amount of rubbish published.

They consist of the vague ranting on about nothing solid and baseless speculation, to those that were poorly researched and were simply released in order to generate a little money.

I actually spotted a book last week that boasted to teach you the following (I am not joking!!!):

* Make a $100 bill materialise in front of you
* Turn yourself invisible

and plenty of other laughable claims. I wish I noted the author and publisher so I could state it here.

Needless to say, I did NOT buy this book (even if only to have a good laugh), I would not waste the Ł15 on it.

This sort of thing discredits the whole realm of Pagan religions/ philosophies.

I myself am using minimal "commercial" material for my learning. I am more drawn to the Pagan philosophy as opposed to being traditionally religous.

Traditional religion relies heavily on doctrine, ie: written sources and strict rituals, and as a result many enter Paganism looking for leadership and guidence in this traditional form.

As there is no actual "Church" or "Clergy" in the traditional sence (when compared to most organised religions), many are dependent on these books for guidence.

Im my experience a large part of paganism is instinct, what your inner self/animal says to you. This must be tempered with some guidence, but it is not a dictated religion/philosophy which can be fully documented or learnt from a book.

This need for guidence is heavily abused by the authors of the poor quality books. They use the search for genuine knowledge as a tool to make money easily.

While conventional, organised religions suffer from the same problems, Paganism, which desperately needs increased credability, suffers heavily in comparison from these agents of greed and disinformation.

I certainly am no expert or even very experienced in this field, but if you ask me I think paganism is a very personal and individualistic form of spirituality, which is grown from within with aid from outside sources (ie: teachers and books), but does not dictated by external sources.

I am quite fortunate in that I live in Ireland, where there is a very apparent physical embodyment of Celtic paganism in the form of Rath's (bronze age forts on top of hills), tombs, fairy rings and such like. While these are for the most part very ancient monuments, one can draw insperation and soak up the athmosphere (as it were) when in the right places.

Yet Another Addition To My Last Comment: There Is Actually Some Great... Sep 4th. at 10:38:24 am UTC

Michael (Dublin, European Union) Age: 22

Yet another addition to my last comment:

There is actually some great reading material out there, (I don't want to disrespect any genuine authors), but if you ask me this is the manner to proceed. (by study I mean read up on)

1) study the concept of religion (from an independent non-religour factual source. ie: BBC, national geographic or suchlike)
2) Study the history of the pagan religion and culture (if possible get it from an independent source, one that focuses on the history as opposed to the religous implications).
2) Read as much possible background information from independent academic sources, this will give you a neutral and unbaised view into the pagan religions. This will also provide you with some ability to sift between the factual and useful information and the publications with no value whatsoever.

This is all common sence, it essentially means that you are not walking into anything with your eyes closed. Any mentor worth their salt (and there are some very good mentors/teachers out there) will already have urged you to "read, read and read" before entering into paganism, and in my opinion the objective material is the best place to start, then you can move on to the more spiritual material.

Well I've babbeled too much, at any rate best of luck and enjoy your reading!!

Lately, When I've Gone Book Shopping, So I Can Further My Studies... Sep 4th. at 11:17:22 am UTC

Sharon (Marquette, Michigan US) Age: 18

Lately, when I've gone book shopping, so I can further my studies, I've found more drivel than dynamic on the shelves. It has really started to make me mad. I am a firm believer in "do not manipulate" and "do not cast love spells", but it seems every other book is one on "Catching that special someone" or "Love spells for young pagans". I had a difficult time finding a book that would be beneficial to me last time I went to a bookstore. In a section that was five feet long, and about three shelves deep, I spent 45 minuteslooking for the right book, and not because I found so much good material to choose from.

Online, I have found a lot of helpful and what I believe to be true information, then again, I've gone to sites that have been recommended by other pagans, so that is no great surprise.

I Have Been Reading Many Pagan Books Over The Years, And Have... Sep 4th. at 12:23:23 pm UTC

Blackthorne (Walnut Creek, California US) Age: 35 - Email

I have been reading many pagan books over the years, and have stocked them in bookstores as a employee of a book chain. I have seen the amount of crappy books that only regurgitate what others have written abound since the mid 80's. I blame the publishers in the end. If you are to compare the genre to horror, when the horror sales increased, the publishers were hiring ANYONE who would submit, and alot of it was awful. Same for Pagan/Occult books . The Publishers (And when I say this I mean Llewellyn) Probably don't even look at the content. If a first time author turns in something, and it is not up to standards and it's printed anyway....why blame the author. Instead..send your cards and letters to the publisher telling them that until them publish something of are going to stop buying the product. We expect the product to have more esoteric consideration..but the publishers only see the dollar amount.

There are a few publishers out there who have tried to have integrity. Many of the Big Publishers have as well published paperback drivel..because they can, and it sells. I would not be surprised by this, These things go in waves. On the up-side..It keeps the good Pagan Books on the shelves.
Bookstores keep books on the shelves that sell, they don't care what is in it.

I noticed also that more pagan magazines started getting carried in bookstores when the market value increased. It's something to think about isn't it? It's all about money in the end.

It's Sad But True That Most Of The Books You Find Out... Sep 4th. at 3:20:45 pm UTC

Jaiyla (Punta Gorda, Florida US) Age: 19 - Email

It's sad but true that most of the books you find out there aren't what we'd like them to be. Especially the little "spellbooks" you find on the shelves at many of the large chains of bookstores, like "How to turn your ex-boyfriend into a toad". These books are not only useless, but they misrepresent the beliefs of the Pagan communiy as a whole. It's annoying that I have to wade through all that just to find the occasional good book, but I can't deny that i have bargain hunter in my blood, and though the search may be long and arduous, it makes finding the titles and authors I want that much more rewarding. I -am- the eternal optimist. Better than most of these new guides are the old books that make up th bibliographies of so many of them. I find I prefer searching through the shlves of used books stores to see if I can, just by chance, find something by Dion Fortune, or a copy of Robert Graves' "The White Goddess", or my most recent prize, the volume I abridged edition of "The Golden Bough".

I Have A Habit Of Buying 99% Of My Pagan Reading Material... Sep 4th. at 8:07:00 pm UTC

Harvestmoon (New Orleans, Louisiana US) Age: 45

I have a habit of buying 99% of my Pagan reading material and gifts from a locally owned Metaphysical book store. Recently I went to Barnes & Noble to get a gift certificate for my Aunt, and thought I'd peruse the Wiccan/Pagan section. As usual, I found Anton LeVay's books right alongside Wiccan, etc. books and promptly moved them to the Christian section where they belong, as Satanism is an offshoot of Christianity. Before moving them I came across a teen witch spell kit, that made me want to puke. I love the fact that the majority of books on Wicca/Witchcraft say that no one should "charge" a fee to teach a student, however the books themselves that say this cost a pretty penny. I know because I've been stocking a personal library since 1992, and have probably close to 125 books on Paganism. (The reason for this library, is I'm no spring chicken, as a child I was interested in Witchcraft, practiced my own intuitive form, finding books to learn from was nearly impossible). Funny thing is that for the most part I always resort to an old standby of about 8 as references.

Blast me if you want for my following opinions. Anyone who pumps out a book a year, (as in many books) check their earlier works. Their earlier works, (notably the first) is probably the best they have to offer. An author that you know has been around a long time, such as Starhawk or Z. Budapest, that's only put out 3-5 over the course of 20 years are probably well worth owning them all. We have lost quite a few of our Elders in the last 2 years, purchase their works while you can. Doreen Valiente's ABC of Witchcraft is excellent. Patricia Crowther is still with us, but her book "Lid off the Cauldron" is hard to find. Get it if you see it, it's excellent. A new book that is an excellent reference book on our "modern history" is Ronald Hutton's "Triumph of the Moon". This is a scholastic work and important for anyone concerned with accuracy, as I think we all should be.

I've seen alot of crap on the Internet concerning Wicca/Witchcraft/Paganism by those who claim to be Wiccans/Witches/Pagans. As with books, don't believe everthing you read or see. Glean what you can of value, be circumspect.

End of rant, for the time being. Blessed be...Stephanie/Harvestmoon

More Information Is Better Than No Information. Eventually, The Global Community Will... Sep 4th. at 8:34:10 pm UTC

Sephira (Eileen Biggerstaff) (Fremont, California US) Age: 40 - Email

More information is better than no information. Eventually, the global community will, as Mary Summer Rain stated in one of her books "a point of saturation" and will move on to educating themselves on another subject.

I get asked my advice a lot on these subjects and much of my own crusade is in "presentation" of witches as ordinary people with an extrodinary perception of the world.

I stopped shoving my religion in peoples faces, that includes wearing ritual clothing as my everyday wear. I found that even my star was hindering my own progress because I was challenging people to ask me and my beliefs are my own business, period.

I don't disguise who I am or what I believe. Likewise I don't push it on others. If I do that, I am no better than a Christian Fundamentalist, or door knocking Mormon or Jehovah's Witness...and that thought is abhorrant to me.

Besides, as with all else in this world, not everything is meant for everyone. The appropriate voice will find its intended target, whether to dissuade or encourage.

I Think That Pagan Books/websites Do, In Fact, Do A Great... Sep 4th. at 8:59:31 pm UTC

Weaver (Norfolk, Virginia US) Age: 27 - Email

I think that Pagan books/websites do, in fact, do a great job in training new seekers. This is how I came to know my heart's home as a Witch. I also believe that a great deal of good is done in representing Pagan beliefs.

AS for the education of non-Pagans, well, if they go about seeking on their own, they are sure to find what they are looking for. In that I mean that if they go looking for the hokey fictional dribble that they have been fed all along, that is what they will find. If they go looking for real answers, those answers are there for the finding. Will all non-Pagans come away with the "real deal" on Paganism? Not if they only read one book, or only look at one website.

The problem with many monotheistically raised people is that they look for the fast easy answer. They do this because they are taught that what the preacher says is God's word and to question it is to question God. They are taught to believe what they are told, and so they do. It's hard for these people to seek out the truth when they are trained that the only truth that they need is what they are given. This truth, as we have seen, comes from others like them who have simply accepted what they were told by others who either did the same, or hushed truths that were there, because those truths were contrary to their own beliefs.

I Think The Books And Sites Are Very Helpful. I Used The... Sep 4th. at 10:49:55 pm UTC

Mike Johnson (Canton, Ohio US) Age: 17 - Email

I think the books and sites are very helpful. I used The Witche's Voice to locate a store close to me I never knew existed, and get a lot of very useful books. An Encyclopedia to magical and religious symbols, and "A Witches Bible"... very useful and informative, IMO.

I Have A Very Nice Collection Of Pagan Books, But It Is... Sep 4th. at 11:41:54 pm UTC

Kerri galloway (Windsor, Ontario CA) Age: 18 - Email

I have a very nice collection of pagan books, but it is quite small. I find that alot of the books out there are absolute rubbash.

The Witchcraft/Occult/New Age sections of the large franchise bookstores seem to be stocked up to the ceiling with crap. And it's quite sad. My own personal collection consists mostly of Cunningham, Dunwich, and Stepanich. Stockboys at bookstores seem to be quite misinformed about what belongs in the Witchcraft section and what does not. I have seen, unfortunately, in many bookstores copies of the infamous "Malleus Malficarum" aka The Witch Hunter's Handbook.

Now, I'm all for history, but this book should have never been published in the first place not to mention now when pagans are trying their best to be accepted by the general populous. Believe me, I'll be writing a not so nice letter to the obviously demented publishers of this heinus book. I have also seen other books which have no right being on any bookshelf.

One such book had in it an entire section on curses and hexes, as if this is not bad enough some of these so called curses and hexes involved hiding dog dropping in someone's house and urinating on their porch.

These sort of book do not belong on bookstore shelves. It's absolutely dispicable what people will publish, buy and read. My advice is to get in touch with someone who has been practicing for a while and ask what their picks are for book. Experience is a wonderful tool.

Bright Blessings,

I Have Read Many Pagan Books And Websites And I Believe That... Sep 5th. at 5:55:41 am UTC

Erica (Layton, Utah US) Age: 21 - Email

I have read many pagan books and websites and I believe that they do help new pagans learn the way. Depending on who and what they are writing that is. Just like with anything else you have to be careful of what you read. Some of it is drivel but a lot of it is helpful.

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