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Posted: Nov. 17, 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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| Sturgeon's Law States That 90% Of Anything Is Crap, And This Holds... ||Sep 8th. at 3:43:52 pm EDT|
|Matt (Bloomfield, New Jersey US) ||Age: 21 - Email |
Sturgeon's Law states that 90% of anything is crap, and this holds true for books on paganism as it does for every other form of art, literature, and human experience. The remaining 10%... Well, that's another story. :-)
The two most valuable resources I've found for exploring paganism are 1)books and 2)websites. Granted, many of them are fluff, and redundant fluff to boot, but repetition is an effective pedagogical tool. Read a description of the Sabbats 45 or 70 times, and it's likely that at the end of that you will have absorbed a bit of information, especially if you're motivated enough to seek it out on your own.
Fortunately or unfortunately, however, these resources seem to be most valuable to beginners; at a certain point one is presented with the choice either to stop practicing due to lack of information, or to begin to develop what has been learned. At that point it's probably good to have some fellow pagans around to bounce ideas off of, and believe me, there are other pagans around you. They just all think that they're the only ones, too. We recently founded a pagan student organization on my college campus, and people came crawling outof the woodwork in droves to join up. :-)
My favorite authors/recommendations:
Dreaming The Dark - Starhawk
Drawing Down The Moon - Margot Adler
Green Witchcraft - Aoumiel (Ann Moura)
Green Witchcraft II - Aoumiel (Ann Moura)
Green Egg Magazine - Church Of All Worlds
Anything by Scott Cunningham
I've also found Llewellyn Press to be an excellent resource; anything that you can get from them is usually of at least some value.
| I Do A Lot Of Reading, Both Books And Websites, And My... ||Sep 8th. at 3:16:51 pm EDT|
|Andrea Crowley (Cranston, Rhode Island US) ||Age: 30 - Email |
I do a lot of reading, both books and websites, and my perspective has changed dramatically over the years. A lot of the websites I find are just thinly veiled (or not veiled at at) copies of some of the popular pagan books out there. I can't tell you how many times I've seen sites that are basically one of Silver Ravenwolf's books, with a few words changed here or there. Ugh! But then you find a really creative, original website, and it makes up for all the crappy ones. I really like Isaac Bonewits' page- www.neopagan.org, plus of course the Witches Voice!
As for books, Starhawk is a classic, especially The Spiral Dance. I like most of Scott Cunningham's books. Isaac Bonewits' Real Magic is a terrific read. I think basically the important thing for someone new to paganism is to read a LOT of books, not just read one book and take that as the TRUTH. You need to find your own truth. I've done tons of reading, solitary work, group work, etc, and I'm still figuring out what I believe, what I think. So what I recommend to anyone new to this is to get lots of perspectives, and if you read a book you like, read the books that that author recommends for further reading.
| Something I Have Personally Given A Great Deal Of Thought To Is... ||Sep 8th. at 2:41:37 pm EDT|
|Soli (South Hadley, Massachusetts US) ||Age: 26 - Email |
Something I have personally given a great deal of thought to is this subject, seeing as how I just recently completed working at a large bookstore, where I was in charge of the 'New Age' section. I am very glad of it because I have since found -many- wonderful Pagan (and religious) books that I have enjoyed. I have also had some books come in that I know for a fact were either not worth the stock they were printed on or fraudulent. (and I had great joy in sending them back)
Personally, I wish people would branch out from just looking in the New Age/Metaphysical section for their guides. Anthropology, Religion, Mythology and History sections can also produce some real gems (ie, our bookstore kept titles like Golden Bough and When God Was A Woman in these areas). What else I would like to see are people starting up 'Pagan Reading Groups', to go beyond alot of the 101 material on there and see where some of those authors got their background.
And some of my personal favorite books/authors:
Trish Telesco (whose Advanced Wicca I am really wanting to get a hold of)
Freya Aswynn (for Runes and Asatru material)
The Wicca Handbook (yes it's new, it's also a huge reference)
People of the Earth
The World Is As You Dream It (slender book dealing with the Shuar tribe of South America, and just beautiful to read)
(I would also love to hear from people who have read a great deal of Pagan books)
| I Have Found Many Good Pagan/wiccan Websites In The Past Few... ||Sep 8th. at 9:45:38 am EDT|
|Dragonah (Peoria, Illinois US) ||Age: 20 - Email |
I have found many good pagan/wiccan websites in the past few months. Here's a few that I recommend:
AREN (Alternative Religions Educational Network): www.aren.org
CAW (Church of All Worlds): www.caw.org
CMA (Council of the Magickal Arts): www.magickal-arts.org
Mama Silver's Circle (Silver RavenWolf): www.silverravenwolf.com/newpage1.htm
| This Is An Interesting Topic, Especially For Me Since I Have A... ||Sep 7th. at 10:09:39 pm EDT|
|Wytchling (Taipei, Taiwan) ||Age: 21 - Email |
This is an interesting topic, especially for me since I have a Pagan website! I think there are many reputable sites and books which reflect who we are and what we believe well.
But I think a lot of books and websites are aimed at "the converted", so to speak. I find that people who aren't interested in Paganism largely don't bother reading stuff written by us, for us.
I definitely think the myths around Paganism should be got rid of, it will make the world a bit more harmonious! With all the books and websites that are out now, the media could write reviews or publish excerpts from books written by our authors. I think positive media exposure would be helpful to letting people know that we are not fairytale cliches who should be burned alive.
| When I First Found The Path, My Biggest Disappointment Was All The... ||Sep 7th. at 7:38:24 pm EDT|
|Lilly (Champaign, Illinois US) ||Age: 26 - Email |
When I first found the path, my biggest disappointment was all the books I was reading seemed to repeat the same things. Few gave real guidance. Those that did offer guidance were boring to read. I did gain enough knowledge to wobble through. But my best help was finding a strong community and Pagan friends who would offer advice and experience. I would like to see more "counslers". Persons willing to come out of the shadows and create a community for new initiates and experienced practioners. I have recently left a strong community in San Antonio and have found no community in my new location. It has been difficult getting persons to even meet socially for fear of persecution. Fear is a powerful thing. It takes strength to overcome it.
| Use Your Common Sence! Books On Paganism, Witchcraft Or Wicca Should Be... ||Sep 7th. at 5:30:49 pm EDT|
|Hunter (Peterborough, Ontario CA) ||Age: 23 |
Use your common sence!
Books on Paganism, Witchcraft or Wicca should be approached the same as any other topic, with some common sence. I was raised with horses, and bringing home books on the topic from my school`s library was often quite funny, some of the things said were way out in left field and then some things were right on. This example applies to everything, the Occult studies being no different. I do believe that popularity shows acceptences and as more publishers begin to print books on this topic the more common people will regard our beliefs. For me my search for spiritual idenity was ended when I picked up Laurie Cabott`s ``A Witch in Every Woman`` (and I`d like to thank her here for writting such a wonderful book) Without having found such a book I think I might still have been searching. As far as evaluating their role in properly reflecting Pagan beliefs well its like the eariler examples some people write books and post web pages, and they actually try to give something back to a system that has given them so much, these are the good ones, but as we all know everyone is in business these days so for some if it looks like an easy way to make a buck or get themselves known, then no matter if they know anything or not they sure will try to atleast make it sound like they do. But no matter from which angle these books and sites are wrote the truth always finds its way into the open and for those who really have no idea in the long run they only hurt themselves.
| It Is A Good Thing That This Question Has Been Asked Because... ||Sep 7th. at 4:54:12 pm EDT|
|"A" (Mahopac, New York US) ||Age: 23 - Email |
It is a good thing that this question has been asked because I myself have pondered about the whole "marketing" of our beliefs, Some say we should hide away from the rest of the worlds religions while others are out there making it known we are here to stay grown and share with others who do not see the way of the other religo-sects.
To go out onto the net and see a vibrant array of information is grand, it gives us something a community of millions of people, to connect with.
While having the ability to goto a store and purchase a book does help out to certain extents. Learning from those in person also can help those seeking spritual guidance. It gives one information that they have to digest and try out for themselves. What it doesnt do is keep interest due to many conflicting influences.
When a person sits and absorbs the information given on paper (net/paperback) and then goes to teach or share they're learnings with another how do they know it is right?
Practice makes perfect and knowing your limits and trusting your instincts for each and every working is key. Moderation & concentration is key in all things majick. With this in mind you will succeed in any thing you choose to accomplish.
Some websites have much information but also a lot of them miss the whole point of mother earth. It is a world where corporations own the natural resources and the human mass accepts this. While this happens you have those who doubt what they are given and they eventually find themselves looking into pagan beliefs, Sometimes these same people are lead astray to thinking that being a pagan is something "evil" or "cool" so they can fit into a acceptable cliche within certain age groups.
Education of the "non-pagan" public should be left up to them. Let those who seek information be able to decide for themselves. Ive watched the "jews for jesus"the "watchtower" people, and all sorts of other fanatical groups parade around down in NYC and in the subways of times square, and they become a symbol of what not to be. Which is pushing the acceptance, looking for money upon a multicultural-internationally known city, preying upon those who can not find spirit within themselves.
It is amazing that the Tribes gather every year and share the lost words of the past and also share the words of the present to bring forth the future. It is my hope and wishes that parents and individuals who are pagan (new or not)can overcome the hurdles that "modern" society has constantly marked us with, That we as a people can look past all of it and one day come together, creating a place out underneath the moon where we can all share in the wonders of all the Gods.
| 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.
| 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.
| 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!
| 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?
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