Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide, by Christian Rätsch and Claudia Muller-Ebeling
Inner Traditions, 9781594770920, 213 pp, 2006
The subtitle of this book (“The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide”) helps to explain why I wanted to review it. Far too often people focus of the most visible of Yuletide symbols (the tree, the presents, the mistletoe and the decorations) and ignore the myriad of other details which surround this time of year. So I felt drawn to investigate these background items.
The authors focus on the ethnobotany (the study of plants) associated with the season. I had read and reviewed an earlier book by them and knew that the research and writing of this book would be first rate as well. I was not disappointed in that respect, nor in any other respect. The book is profusely illustrated with beautiful drawings and photographs. Continue reading
A Circle of Stones: Journeys and Meditations for Modern Celts, Second Edition, by Erynn Rowan Laurie
Megalithica Books, 9781905713776, 124 pp., 2012
It may be showing its age a bit, even the author admits that there have been advances in the archaeological underpinnings of the work, and increased knowledge of the language and culture of the Irish Celtic people. In spite of that, or perhaps because of it, this remains an easily understandable book, and a good source for those who wish to walk the Celtic Reconstructionist path of Paganism.
There haven’t been a lot of changes made since it was originally issued. There have been a few improvements in the translation of Irish words, and the illustrations have been redone, but the information is essentially unchanged.
There are numerous suggestions for several rituals, as well as guidelines for the creation and maintenance of altars – including suggestions for turning your entire living space into a sacred environment. One of the great things is that she emphasizes the need for the altar to work for you: it doesn’t have to be a certain size or shape, it doesn’t have to be kept overly neat and tidy, and it doesn’t need to be particularly artistic in its arrangement. It should, however, be a place which you visit frequently, thus alleviating the necessity for dusting it. After all, if you are interacting with the altar constantly, things will not remain static for very long. Continue reading
This slight annoyance of being regularly asked by ‘fluffy Pagans’ if we are Satanists probably goes with the territory of being chaos magicians – at the very least we are supposed to eat a baby a week, it seems. The founder of Satanism, the late Anton LaVey, made the very pragmatic point that “stories of unbaptized babies being stolen by Satanists… were not only effective propaganda measures, but also provided a constant source of revenue for the Church, in the form of baptism fees. No Christian mother would, upon hearing of these diabolical kidnappings, refrain from getting her child properly baptized, post haste.” It’s all about the money, honey.
We have also had dealings with several people who would fall under the stereotypical definition of ‘real nutjobs about Satan.’ These include one especially memorable person at an academic conference on alternative religion that we attended a while back. Continue reading
A Teaching Handbook for Wiccans and Pagans, by Thea Sabin
Llewellyn Worldwide, 978-0-7387-2710-3, 309 pp., 2012
It has been a number of years since I have read any of Thea’s writings. In fact, it had been so long that, when I saw a quote from my review of her previous work, I had to go back and reread that review. As I delved into this latest work, my original opinion seems to have been more than borne out. I was impressed by her practicality at the time, and I am even more impressed by it at this time. If there is one thing sadly lacking in the field of Pagan education (after discounting the lack of uniformity) it is common sense. Thea supplies that in abundance.
This is a collaborative effort. Ms Sabin approached numerous teachers of Pagan topics – those who teach in-person; those who teach online; those who have been teaching for years; and those who are just starting out as teachers – on a variety of approaches, techniques and pitfalls. You know those things which are “needless to say…”, she says them because since everyone knows them, we often forget to include them in our thinking and preparations. You know the kind of disaster I mean – you have all your media on a flash drive, but when you arrive at the location you discover that the files have been corrupted (or even worse, you grabbed the wrong flash drive)…how do you recover? Or you have that one student who seems bound and determined to wrest control of the class away from you…how do you deal with the situation? Continue reading
Night of the Witches: Folklore, Traditions and Recipes for Celebrating Walpurgis Night, by Linda Raedisch
Llewellyn Worldwide, 978-0-7387-2058-6, 238 pp., 2011
This is a book which is dedicated to one specific observance (May Eve). It is not intended for the active practitioner or even for the individual striving to learn about Witchcraft, rather it is aimed at the individual who has no background in folklore. It is set against a backdrop of European custom and beliefs, which makes sense, because of the dominant European derivation of modern witchcraft beliefs. Continue reading