The opinions posted on the Pagan Perspective pages are those of individuals and are not neccessarily shared or endorsed by the Witches' Voice inc.
Posted: Sep. 8, 2002
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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.
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| When I Started Down My Path Of Pagan Studies 28 Years Ago... ||Sep 5th. at 1:23:50 pm UTC|
|Sunfell (unknown) ||Age: 39 |
When I started down my path of Pagan studies 28 years ago, most of the books available were badly printed facsimilies of old occult tomes, complete with blurry type, poorly reproduced artwork, and vaporous references. Sadly, today's books are hardly better- just hashed over for today's eager teen consumers. And I guess that's my biggest gripe. Paganism and Wicca are a Teen Fad, and Adult Pagans and grizzled old vets like me are pretty much left to fend for ourselves, or special order palatable books like "Zelator" and "People of the Earth". Everything else is "Pagan 101"- meant for starry-eyed beginners or faddish teens, or worse, poorly researched and presented. Fluff like "how to turn a person into a toad" is shelved beside Crowley's stuff, which, in the hands of beginners is asking for trouble. I look at it as being Pagan Darwinism. The ones who get stuck in the fluff usually give up and drop out. If they cannot see beyond the obvious nonsense in the pages of their $19.95 magickal whoopie cushion, what does that say about their common sense and insight? Or willingness to find out the facts? Harsh? Perhaps. Now, don't think I'm down on teens because their 'fads' control the output of the 'bigger' publishers. I started down my path as a teen. But unlike today's beginners, I had to work hard to sift the nuggets of fact from the vast pile of chaff presented to me as 'truth' and "ancient lore". That process created in me a very powerful BS detector and deep trust in my own research capabilities, which have served me well. Today's teens have an even larger pile of fluff to sort through. If they win through, they can go beyond the fluff-bunny 101 stuff to the real reward of living a fulfilling Pagan life free of the mythical nonsense which plagues us.
I really cannot comment on most Pagan sites on the Web, because I tend to run screaming from those who have the bad manners to run music on startup, or have to many huge graphics or multiple animations. Lose the music, make your graphics smaller, and use the spell checker. And limit animations to ONE per page. BB MYSNC Sunfell"
| Hummmmmm, Oy Gevauld! What A Couldron Of Worms! i Really Get... ||Sep 5th. at 1:35:56 pm UTC|
|Silver MayKitten (Springfield, Missouri US) ||Age: 55 - Email |
Hummmmmm, Oy Gevauld! What a couldron of worms! I really get upset at some of the _*CRAP*_ that pretends to be responsible and useful pagan literature. But there are a lot of good books out there too. Perhaps Lluellen in trying in their mission to expose _every_ pagan viewpoint has caused us to suffer a torrent of Goddessless drivel, but they are also providing a soapbox from which the nuttiest witches can expoud their theories. Thank goddess we havn't found a witch Rush Limbaugh yet.
I guess whatever the subject, there is junk books on the subject and trustworthy as well as opportunist authors. I know I am kinda angry at computer book publishers who print three junk titles for every book that can be used as a good source of information. *(Did you attend my last yard sale?)* Giving the devil his due, Tim O'Reilly has done a marvelous job of publishing only quality computer books; now if only we could get a craft publishing house to set up sinilar quality guidelines . . .
| I Think There Are Some "wiccan" Or "pagan" Books That Are Completely... ||Sep 5th. at 4:24:28 pm UTC|
|Fiana (Janesville, Wisconsin US) ||Age: 24 |
I think there are some "wiccan" or "pagan" books that are completely absurd, like one I recently saw in a bookshop titled something like "How to turn your ex into a toad and etc." . I would however definitly reccomend books by Starhawk, and Scott Cunningham, these are the ones I think people can learn the most from
| I Love To Read. Ever Since I Was Five Years Old, I... ||Sep 5th. at 4:44:08 pm UTC|
|Jessica (Denver, Colorado US) ||Age: 18 - Email |
I love to read. Ever since I was five years old, I would read anything that came my way. And in all that time I've read more trash then treasure. But the treasure has stuck with me. The same thing applys to pagan books. There are countless sorces of information, some good, some bad, and some down-right weird. A few lines into the book, or even a glance at the table of contents will give you a good indication of what catagory the book would fall in. I've found that the truth that good pagan books hold will come out much more stongly to a true seeker then the sensational lies the the weird books have in them. When you come across new material, give them the Rede Test (is it harmful to yourself or others?) and the ever-true Golden Rule (would you like it if someone did it to you?). A little common sense is needed when you are looking into something new. And if you are compleatly unsure about whether what you have discovered is useful to you, pray. The Lord and Lady won't let you down.
| Boy This Is A Rough One. For Those New Who Are Confused... ||Sep 5th. at 5:31:44 pm UTC|
|fey (hubbard, Ohio US) ||Age: 38 - Email |
Boy this is a rough one. For those new who are confused or need a general area to start their are many good books out there to help build a basic foundation.
Silver Ravenwolfs ( except teen witch...but that is another story..)
These are a few authors that could grant insight as well as: Starhawk, Margot Adler, Amber K. So the wealth of literature is well...but there is always gonna be crap along side it because the ones out to make a buck have to have there paws in too.
But I do not beleive books are the be all know all. I think they can give you ideas, lend creativity or spark it but ultimately the magick lies within yourself. The path may be littered with books, but you still have to take that final leg of it with in to know your true self.
And on line I would say the ratio of good sites versus bad sites is pretty equal. Because there are so many children out there with sites.
But there are very many great ones you just have to be patient.
| The Books That I Have Been Fortunate Enough To Get A Hold... ||Sep 5th. at 10:26:37 pm UTC|
|Kaicielia BlueDragon (Madison, Wisconsin US) ||Age: 24 - Email |
The books that I have been fortunate enough to get a hold of are, in my opinion, very good at educating seekers and non-pagans alike. I have heard some bad stories, however. Such as the story of a friend of mine. She has always considered herself a pagan, she is part indian and has had close ties with Native American beliefs. However, as she told me at one time, when she started getting interested in the new age stuff, all the information she could find was Dianic. This was some time ago, and I don't think she had access to the internet at the time, but this fact really bothered her. When her son was born, she began looking for ideas for a ritual to perform, and all she was able to find were rituals for baby girls, as if boys just didn't matter. This disconcerted her very much, and she has since stayed away from any of the new age stuff, relying instead on her own inventiveness.
| In Terms Of Educating The Public, I'm Afraid The Majority Of The... ||Sep 5th. at 11:27:55 pm UTC|
|Skyler Lark (Phoenix, Arizona US) ||Age: 38 |
In terms of educating the public, I'm afraid the majority of the books on the market will not inspire much confidence of outsiders about our views. There are a few good books out there, but how would a non-pagan know how to choose? Therein lies the difficulty. If I had to suggest a single book to give to a non-pagan to explain my beliefs, I'd be hard pressed to know what to choose. Marion Weinstein's "Positive Magic" might be a good one, but it includes some information that might be difficult for a non-believer to grasp. However, it does emphasize the positive aspects of the Craft and indicates clearly what to avoid in her "Ten Foot Pole" section. It's definitely a must-read for anyone new to the path and might be suitable for a non-pagan skeptic, as well.
Relative to books for those new to the path: As with any genre of books, there is an enormous variety in accuracy and quality of writing. As an absolute bookworm, I haunt occult bookstores online and in-person. Upon my initial interest in a pagan path several years ago, I checked out several books that had been recommened here on WitchVox, such as Margot Adler's "Drawing Down the Moon, " Starhawk's "Spiral Dance, " among others. In addition, I perused the basic "Intro to Witchiness" books out there, including Scott Cunningham, Silver Ravenwolf, and others. I found a wonderfully diverse set of approaches, although I was disappointed to see so much "fluff." However, I think the serious seeker will bypass the fluff after a few such bad buys (I've made my share) and focus on those books that offer more indepth knowledge, clarity in voice, and sound scholarship. They are out there, but aren't as easy to find. There are many ways to study the path and I feel the best way is to read, read, read and then read some more: Anthropology, Sociology, Mythology, Comparative Religions, History, etc. Pull the threads together and weave from them a solid base of scholarship from which to pursue your chosen path.
One of the most interesting books I've laid my hands on (and am currently reading) is by a noted archaeologist, Anthony Aveni, and is called "Behind the Crystal Ball: Magic, Science, and the Occult from Antiquity Through the New Age." It is a scholarly and objective. It traces the roots of magical practice, the rise of Christianity and science, and how each subsequent time period has imprinted its mark on and distinctions among religion, magick, and science (he refreshingly questions the distinctions among those, and specifically questions organized religions' tendency to relegate magick based paths as non-religions). I find it to be a fascinating reference that I will turn to again and again to check out where certain practices began and what original documents survive that refer to them.
My main complaint is that once you move out of the "newbie" Witchcraft 101 stage, the number of books available that are written by pagans for pagans becomes dismally small. I suppose at that point it is best to begin a study group with others to research and share information from other sources.
| So Far, I Have Been Unimpressed By "wiccan" Literature That I Have... ||Sep 6th. at 2:34:27 am UTC|
|the ShadowDancer, JDavis (Tucson, Arizona US) ||Age: 46 - Email |
So far, I have been unimpressed by "Wiccan" literature that I have seen in bookstore sections dedicated to the upcoming Age. Most seems trying to make $$$$$$$$$$$$ of the current Neo-pagan fad. I will try some of the those suggested by you others in this Opinion section.
However, I am not Wiccan. So there are somre excellent books that I can recommend. All are dynamic, and have been important to my understanding.
"The Way of the Shaman" by M.Harner. This is the bible of neo-shamanism--a book of methodology and great power. I practice many of the methods in this books on a daily/weekly basis.
"The Spear of Destiny", by T. Ravenscroft is a truly amazing piece of historical non-fiction about WWII written from an Occult point-of-view -- a must for anyone interested in higher powers which affect the physical plane on this planet. It will blow you away and possibly change your life-- it did mine!
Though difficult (like text books), anything written by "The Tibetan" channeled through A.A.Bailey is well worth the effort. "A Treatise on White Magic" is a good one to start with if you wish to begin to understand the Occult(that which is hidden).
I picked up "True Magic- A Beginner's Guide" by Amber K. in a used bookstore. I found it full of excellent and well thought out advice for beginners. Get it!
"Magic and Mystery in Tibet" is an odd book, but facinating. It was written as a documentary by a woman, Alexandra David-Neel, who spent years in a country of sorcerers, magicians, and lamas. This was 1st published in 1929, and describes magicks that likely no longer exist, but did right into modern times-- probably until the Chinese communists under Mao Tse Tung invaded Tibet.
Most stuff written about G. Gurdjieff and the 4th Way are almost impossible to follow- even for me, and I have great patience when reading about real life magicians. "Meetings with Remarkable Men" is the generally recommended starting place, it is even a movie and on video. "In Search of the Miraculous", is very good, but very difficult. There are others.
Finally "Last Call" is the 1st book in a trilogy by Tim Powers. This fiction is so magical that it was for me hard to escape from it back into this world. I had to be reminded, by one of my Upper World teachers, that the series is fictional, not reality. For me that is amazing. I am generally firmly rooted in this existence, not prone to being mystical or to spacetrucking.
Of course there are more, but these have had the most impact on me.
| Witch Book Is The Best? The Only Way To Find Out Is... ||Sep 6th. at 2:57:14 am UTC|
|Strega Viola (martinez, California US) ||Age: 45 - Email |
WITCH book is the best?
The only way to find out is to read them all. Without reading them all, how would you declare one the best? But since that is close to impossible, the next best thing is to read as many books as you can on the subject. Reading is knowledge. Sure, there are books out there that are "trash", but that enables you to recognize the good ones, and it also helps you to distinguish for yourself what is "trash" and what is "treasure".
Fortunately in this country anyone can write a book if they want to. Even if it is garbage. It would be a terrible thing if a ruling body was assembled to prohibit some books from being written because the authorities felt the book was not the "correct" or "right" one. Just like religion, we should pick and choose, and be eclectic if we desired.
I myself collect books on Paganism, Magick, the Occult, Witchcraft, and "new age" what ever that is. I currently have 973 books. What I have noticed at this stage, is that a lot of people are drawn to certain "Pagan" books because the book contains the information the reader had WANTED it to contain.You may not like certain books, not because they are trash, but simply because the book did not say what you had WANTED to hear.
My advice is to read as many books as possible, and you will probably notice that you will form your own beliefs/path/religion, based on bits and pieces you have accumulated yourself, and agreed upon with yourself.
Magick is as Magick does.
I believe you will eventually become your own book, based on references you have agreed with from other books, and knowledge you have gained and collected.
There may not be any bad books. Because the books you don't like or agree with will teach you what not to believe in, or what not to do.
The best book I can recommend is: Your own book. Book of Shadows. Read, read, read. Then write to yourself about what you WANTED to read. If you still insist on finding the "right" book, then you will. Never set the limit. Magick has no boundary.
| I Think That While There Is, In Fact, A Lot Of Drivel... ||Sep 6th. at 9:33:06 am UTC|
|Dessi (Grand Rapids, Michigan US) ||Age: 21 - Email |
I think that while there is, in fact, a lot of drivel out there, overall the information avaliable is both educational and a reflection of Pagan beliefs. New seekers will find a lot of information at their fingertips; some of it good, some not. Part of the Pagan paths is using your head to sort out the information in front of you, asking questions, and making informed choices. With the resources avaliable, it's not too hard to sort out the gold from the dross if you're willing to put the effort into it. In addition, the wide variety of information avaliable allows more pagan paths to be more fully represented. Pagan, non-Pagan, and seeker alike can look at the wealth of information and see many similarities, as well as many differences, between Pagan paths. There are also many wonderful resources for educating non-Pagans that don't require them to go searching high and low for the facts, as many of them won't. On the whole, the information out there is very good, as long as no one resource is taken as the final truth.
| As With Anything, There's Going To Be Some Really Good Things And... ||Sep 6th. at 1:52:59 pm UTC|
|Melanie Pohl (Auburn Hills, Michigan US) ||Age: 20 - Email |
As with anything, there's going to be some really good things and some things that are junk. Part of learning and growing, which is what a spiritual Path is about, is figuring out how to discern between the two. Only with practice and experience can one look at something and decide whether something is worth taking into account or whether it has little value at all.
But again, as with anything, value is dependent upon the individual. Some things simply work better for some than they do for others. If we all fit the same mold, then we wouldn't have the vast variety that we do, be it in spiritual Path or whatever.
To each their own. (As long as it doesn't interfere with another's "own".)
| Ifeel That There Are Adequate Books To Educate The Public On What... ||Sep 6th. at 2:26:21 pm UTC|
|Silverbough (paris, Maine US) ||Age: 36 |
Ifeel that there are adequate books to educate the public on what paganism is and is not. I think there are droves of pagan newby books. Really way too many. It seems like everyone has something basic to say. What I think we need far more of is advanced books. There are finally some very good books on topics that will be of service and use to those far beyond that advanced level. The Pagan Book Of Living and Dying by Starhawk( others too but I've forgotten their names just now.), Wicca Covens by Judy Harrow, to name a couple. I'd like to see books on such topics as starting, developing and maintaining multifaceted magical relationships( marriage/leader/magical partner, or teacher/student/friend, ect.). I'd like to see a book that speaks to mixing pagan traditions, or about developing curriculums for new teachers. Or how about some books about advanced spellcrafting that will answer questions that don't occur to beginners...These are but some of the books that I would care to read. We are just now getting to the stage in this country where our elders have something advanced and new to contribute that they are willing to write about. I am applauding and relieved to have something besides newby stuff to browse through on the book shelves.
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