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A Supplemental Reading List for the Well-Read Pagan

Author: Bronwen Forbes [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: January 3rd. 2010
Times Viewed: 9,362

There are quite a few, say hundreds, of Pagan books out there. Between the books and some hands-on ritual experience, you can have a very satisfying spiritual life. But there is information out there that could enhance your practice that isn’t technically “Pagan” at all.

I recently had the opportunity to ask several Pagan authors what top three Pagan books they’d recommend and why – which got me thinking: what sort of non-Pagan-specific books would *I* suggest all Pagans, regardless of number of years in the community, read if they haven’t already?

This information is particularly relevant to young people who aren’t old enough to join a coven and/or who may also still live at home. Mom and Dad may have issues with you reading books with “Witch” or “Wicca’ in the title, but would be thrilled to see you with your nose deep in a book on one of the following subjects:


Okay, I am the first to admit that I am severely scientifically challenged. I have made grown men literally cry with frustration at my complete inability to understand how and why a tape recording works (and please don’t e-mail me with an explanation. I guarantee I won’t understand it.) . However, I understand string theory about as well as any former liberal arts major can.

String theory states that every single thing in the Universe vibrates at some level, and that vibration makes a sound, even if we can’t hear it – basically everything in the Universe vibrates with music all the time. If that isn’t magical, I don’t know what is! Imagine how much more you would appreciate the unique nature and properties of the various stones and crystals you use if you knew a little bit about basic geology, or how much better astrology would work for you if you read up on astronomy. The ways in which you can increase your understanding of the physical world the Gods made for us are endless.


This sounds obvious, but it’s so often overlooked. Reading the myths and stories of various cultures gives you a greater understanding of the nature of the God (s) you worship, especially if you are just beginning to walk your Pagan path. Try Bullfinch’s Mythology, Robert Graves, ’ The Greek Myths, or a good translation of The Mabinogion (Welsh) or The Kalevala (Finnish) . If the Arthurian legends float your spiritual boat, have you read Sir Thomas Mallory’s Morte D’Arthur?


In the Don’t Let This Happen To You category: I am married to a history teacher. While teaching an American history class, he once gave a pop quiz on the previous lecture –about the Salem witch trials. In answer to the question, “What side of town did most of the people accused of being witches come from and why?” one clever student answered, “The east, because that’s where all the witch stores were.” (Correct answer: The east, because the rich people tended to live on the east side of town and were also the majority of the accused, according to the book Salem Possessed.)

A basic understanding of American history, not only the Salem witch trials but the process our Founding Fathers went through to ensure our right to worship as we choose can only make us better spiritual practitioners. An equal foundation of ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian history will give you an excellent context in which to worship the Gods that came from those times and places. My heart goes out to anyone who feels called to delve into Irish history, particularly Irish history since, oh, 1500 or so; it is one convoluted mess.


That’s right, cooking.

First of all, if you attend ritual with a group of people on a regular basis or even think you might want to attend ritual with a group of people on a regular basis in the future, after-ritual feast food is a great way to acknowledge the changing of the seasons. Think of being able to make and bring a loaf of homemade bread to a Lammas ritual – the time of year when the “first harvest” (grains, mostly) is celebrated, or an apple pie you made from scratch to Mabon or Samhain. There are entire cookbooks devoted to getting you in touch with the foods that are in season – and teaching you what to do with those foods.

Cookbooks can also help you with spellwork. As you cook more and more, you become more adept at following a recipe and then adjusting the recipe to fit your personal tastes. You can then transfer your recipe following and recipe modification skills to creating workings that accomplish pretty much what you need them to. You may even find that cooking becomes a whole new way for you to eat well and perform spells at the same time!

Finally, cookbooks are an excellent way to better understand your God (s) if they happen to be from a culture not your own. For example, I am not Greek, nor am I of Italian ancestry. However, if I wanted to properly honor Greek or Roman Gods at a post-ritual feast, I would head for the nearest ethnic cookbook shelf at my local public library and read up on Greek and Italian cooking. Even if I chose not to follow the recipes, I would at least have a better understanding of the common ingredients found in the culture’s cuisine.

If you’re lucky enough to live near a large population of people from the same country as your God (s) , go to any street fair they may have. You may just find the ritual jackpot – a collection of holiday recipes and folk customs compiled by the women in the community and reprinted in a nice spiral-bound book. If you find one, grab it!

I mentioned the library, and I will again – your local library may not stock much in the Pagan books section, but even a small town library will have a cookbook section, some history books, and mythology books and some science basics in the kid’s section. Being a well-read Pagan doesn’t have to cost a dime!


Bronwen Forbes

Location: Bloomington, Indiana


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