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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: 19,125,059  

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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 

The Books That I Have Been Fortunate Enough To Get A Hold... Sep 5th. at 10:26:37 pm EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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.

Witch Book..... I, On Any Given Day, Am Drawn To Books. As... Sep 6th. at 2:54:03 pm EDT

Ocean WindSong (Pahoa....soon to be Seattle WA, Hawaii US) Age: 37 - Email


I, on any given day, am drawn to books. As all people, I search for a truth which has been elusive on some levels for most of us witchy people. I think this is a direct result of community. For a long time ago, our community had its elders, teachers, shamans and wise women. These people were the ones which recognized a power, a calling in a young person. They then set about to guide that student, help them hone their skills and teach them of the old ways.

We do not have that type of community any more. We are spread about and network but finding a mentor, a guide is a difficult process. This process, for many of us, begins later that childhood.
I have seen the myriad of books at various bookstores. Some obviously written to catch the latest broom craze, and others written by our mentors..our teachers. One must only read the first few pages to discern which is witch.

I, personally, have no problems with the 'how to turn ur ex into a toad' or any other fun filled book meant more to bring laughter into ones life. We forget that sometimes that practice of magick is suppose to be enjoyable and raught with laughter.

For serious students the good books are few and far between. Adler, Starhawk, Amber K., Ravenwolf, Cunningham, Budapest, Conway and Mccoy are all authors which grace my magickal library. I have read, read and re-read them all ( not all their books) and keep them for reference for students, myself and friends&family.

Being filled with the the sociological aspect of my craft I found Adler's 'Drawing Down the Moon' indispensible. When I read it for the first time it brought about so much thought. And so many questions.

So, I think until the time we nurture the gifts we see in our children, the children of the community and start guiding them with the exploration of their great gifts we are 'stuck' with the books!!!!!!!

First Of All, I Think If Not For Books And Then Websites... Sep 7th. at 12:00:37 am EDT

Pam (Exeter, Pennsylvania US) Age: 25

First of all, I think if not for books and then websites, many if not most new Pagans would have never learned anything about it. As to the quality of these things, I guess that is personal opinion. The term Pagan encompasses a wide range of belief systems. I think that a large part of the problem is that people see books that oppose what they themselves believe, and therefore condemn them as being rubbish.

We ourselves, collectively, cannot even come up with an all encompassing definition of what a Witch, Wiccan, or Pagan is. How can we expect publishers and book stores to do so? In the stores I go to, there is no "Witchcraft" section, only New Age. So they are clumped together. I can pick out what interests me and what doesn't. If something doesn't apply to me, I don't buy it. Who is to say it may not apply to someone else?

I understand the need to try and explain ourselves to people who only believe we are pure evil, but I think that the major concern should be with ourselves, and not with what anyone thinks of our beliefs. Buy what you are interested in, take what you will from what you read. Leave the rest behind. There is so much talk of being misunderstood, of being prejudged, and of being discriminated against, yet I see so much of that being done by those same people who claim it against themselves. There is something to be learned and offered in all of those books and web sites, if not for you, than possibly for someone else. Who are we to judge what is quality and what is not for anyone but ourselves?

If I Had Not Picked Up A Copy Of "to Ride A... Sep 7th. at 4:47:06 am EDT

Lughna Ra (Bowling Green, Ohio US) Age: 33 - Email

If I had not picked up a copy of "To Ride a Silver Broomstick" at my local bookstore five years ago, I would probably still be trying to fit myself into my family's Christian beliefs. I read the first couple of pages and nearly cried on the spot when I realized that the beliefs I'd held since I was in my teens were not weird or abnormal, but that many believed as I did. For me, it was a great jumping off point and I have recommended it to others new to the Craft.

Having worked in a bookstore, I have paid close attention to what is available to folks. I agree with many others that once you grow out of your "newbie" stage, advanced material is difficult to come by. I have also been appauled by what I have seen people shelve with the Wicca/Magickal Studies books - voodoo kits, all of LaVey's works, etc. In the last store I worked in, the manager was athiest, so when I suggested moving the Necronomicon to sci fi, he went one step further and moved it to horror! He also had no problem with me moving the LaVey books to the religion section.

I think there is very little to educate the general public about the Craft. Most of the works in the magickal studies section are geared toward those who already believe and are either ready to begin practicing or are already doing so. Excepting Scott Cunningham's "The Truth about Witchcraft Today", I have really seen nothing that I would recommend to those not familiar with the Craft who just want to know in simple terms what it's all about. I can't tell you how many times I have had to educate folks about books in that particular section. Most of them are young girls (high school) who buy books about how to charm someone into loving you or turning your ex-boyfriend into a toad. I actually had a customer who thought that tarot cards wouldn't work for you unlsess you stole them! Yes, I had a thing or two to say about that!

As far as recommendations, anything by Cunningham, Starhawk (et al) "Circle Round" (for families and solitaries alike), Edain McCoy's "The Sabbats" for a general knowledge and some history of the sabbats, Silver Ravenwolf, DJ Conway's "Maiden, Mother, Crone", and the other authors already mentioned by so many. And, of course, YOU! As a practicing Pagan/Wiccan/Witch, you are a fabulous tool for educating the public about our beliefs!

As far as the Internet, I'm afraid I don't have much experience with too many Pagan sites there - so if anyone has any recommendations about that...

Also, a bit of interesting bookstore trivia: the most stolen book in a bookstore? The Holy Bible...go figure!

Like Everything Else, It All Depends On What You Need And Like... Sep 7th. at 9:09:03 am EDT

Adelandaya BirchGrove (DeKalb, Illinois US) Age: 27 - Email

Like everything else, it all depends on what you need and like. E.g., I was reading a book by a Witch (who is among some peoples' recommended authors on here) when I simply had to stop because in the middle of a page about elementals and how important they are, the author went off on a rant at those who DARED to disagree and said that the elementals weren't as important as s/he said they were! I de-converted from Fundamentalist Christianity last year, and I'm not about to put up with Fundamentalist bull from Pagans now, too. So this author has lost a reader by doing this. On the other hand, there may be people who like seeing authors shouting at those who disagree with them. ::shrug:: It's your nickel.

I also purchased a book which looked interesting and was by an author I had considered checking out...and unfortunately, I felt it was written to alleviate Pagans of having a fear of death. I have no fear of Death per se, nor of the God and Goddess when I die, so the book was completely irrelevant to me. Perhaps some other Pagan would find it valuable, but I certainly didn't need it.

It is true that usually one can find some treasure among the trash. For example, the many guides to how to do ritual can spark your own ideas about ritual (especially if you're a comparative newbie like me). The really silly and trashy ones which giggle about invoking love spells and so on can enlighten you about the fact that Pagans are just human like anyone else, and are just as capable of error as any Muslim, Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist. The spell ideas can spark your own creativity. The ones for which you have no use may well be another Pagan's treasure that you can give her. Who knows? Other Pagans may have "trash" that is "treasure" to you, too.

I'd like to see more works on the Gods, myself. A lot of the Pagan books I've seen pay lip service to them at the beginning (and that's only the "101" level, too) and then go on to the REAL excitement of spells, etc! But I think theology has its place, if nothing else to give us the perspective of what other Pagans think of the Goddesses and Gods we too believe in.

As for a recommendation, I really enjoyed Starhawk's fictional book, The Fifth Sacred Thing. It's not a guide to Paganism per se, but it's very enjoyable and presents a Pagan community in the ideal realm that really encouraged me. I've been enjoying Raven Grimassi as well, and Cunningham is always fabulous.

I Think In A Great Many Instances The Books And Online Resources... Sep 7th. at 12:32:59 pm EDT

Chris Melton (Bremerton, Washington US) Age: 28 - Email

I think in a great many instances the books and online resources available now are a wonderful asset to the Craft. Many of us wish that access to so much material had been available for us when we were first starting down this path. The ever increasing numbers of books on Wicca, paganism, etc. allow the seeker to view, at least in part, a wide variety of takes on the Western mysteries and I believe this can help people find what works best for them. The online resources sites such as The WitchesÕ Voice provide are also impressive. The ability to search, literally for hours, through free information is amazing. The contact pages many of these sites offer is a tremendous boon to todayÕs seeker. In the old days you had to really work to find a teacher, or even someone to discuss your beliefs with. On the other hand, so many books have flooded the market that it can be very confusing for the seeker.

Authors such as Galenorn and the FarrarÕs both write about the same topic, but the way itÕs presented, they appear to be almost totally different religions; both presented as the same thing. Confusing? Very. Also, a number of the books to hit the market in the past few years show a certain Òmoral flexibilityÓ that is not part of more traditional Wicca and paganism. We often see cases of two books on the Craft presenting far different views of what are considered the Craft basics (Wiccan Rede, Three-fold law, etc). This can be very confusing and extremely frustrating for the seeker. One very popular book that recently hit the market flat out lies to the reader as to the authorÕs background in the Craft movement. With so many resources the seeker can be quickly overloaded with information, not all of it in agreement. I think that here lays one of the greatest responsibilities that Covens and Wiccan clergy must accept. Many people have come to our Coven searching for more information. But much more often what they want is clarification. It is easy to get lost in the jungle of writings we see today, but at least itÕs there to get lost in.

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