Paganism is a many-headed beast. It is generally understood to be an umbrella term covering a spectrum of nature based traditions. Each tradition encompasses different paths. The variations are endless and run on ad infinitum. Pluralism and diversity are Paganism’s great strengths, however they make it remarkably difficult to define or tie down.
Whilst Paganism 101: An Introduction to Paganism by 101 Pagans does not define Paganism in any singular terminology it is a defining book, both in its approach to Paganism and to writing and publishing.
Twenty essays on topics grouped under ‘Who We Are’ (Druid, Heathen, Witch, Wiccan, Shaman, Christo-Pagan, Goddess Follower, Eclectic Pagan) ‘What We Believe’ (Nature, Ethics, Afterlife, Ancestors, Past and Present) and ‘What We Do’ (Ritual, Magic, Prayer and Meditation, Healing, Herbalism, Celebrant Work) are supplemented by vignettes from a community of practicing Pagans. Whilst the essays provide the view of a recognised author on the theoretical aspects of a topic, the vignettes provide alternative perspectives based in individual experience.
The effect is a multifaceted weave that presents Paganism in all its richness and diversity- a kaleidoscope of colour contrasting with the telescopic effect of individual opinion. For me the way these narratives fit together as a complex and sometimes oppository whole accords far better with Paganism in a post-modern society than a single over-arching narrative.
As the first major product of Moon Books’ on-line community, Paganism 101 also demonstrates what a collaborative approach to publishing can achieve. By supporting recognised authors and creating opportunities for new writers it makes room for voices that might not otherwise be heard and promises an exciting future for Moon Books.
This book is not only for newcomers to Paganism but a beautiful tapestry of words that will speak to people of faith or none. In the spirit of Paganism 101, rather than commenting further I’d like to let the voices of the authors speak for themselves by showing a small selection of the excerpts that sing to my soul.
‘In essence, the aim of prayer is to open the seeker to the divine, or the numinous. Meditation stills the mind in preparation for prayer… to experience the numinous is to be moved and changed.’
– Nimue Brown, ‘Prayer and Meditation’
‘Reconstructionist pagans base their religious practices on those described in ancient manuscripts and texts, like the old Norse or Icelandic sagas, such as those found in the
Prose and Poetic Eddas. They look to the latest archaeological or art historical evidence, which can help to enrich or add a new angle to their religion. Where there is no historical information, reconstructionists seek guidance from their patron gods or ancestors, or through extra-ordinary experiences…. Some people call reconstructionism “paganism with homework”. I prefer to see it as an exciting, fluid path, constantly updating itself, making it as valid today.’
– Linda Sever, ‘Past and Future’
‘people can often (in the author’s experience) seem quite fickle and only willing to espouse an allegiance to or belief in a given deity whilst they are getting whatever it is they feel to be their dues. When life suddenly hits the rocks and the deity fails to deliver what was expected of them, it is far from unknown for worshippers to go elsewhere or jack religion in entirely…
Plus there are many people who, when they don’t receive what they asked for, will tend to assume there must be a wise reason for this and remain in the relationship.’
– Robin Herne, ‘Deities’
‘Death is not some six foot robed being, nor is Death a pretty young woman with a swirl; Death just is, if it helps think of it as a room; silver and grey with a light somewhere within it. This light is white and cosmic, beyond it is not for our mortal eyes to see. It is only for the eyes of those who are passing over.’
– Jay Cassels, ‘Afterlife’
‘But I believe in Cissbury Ring an hour after sunrise, my dog fifty yards ahead of me trying, forlornly, to catch rabbits, sheep bleating in the paddocks below, grey-sky breaking to blue and the soft earth beneath my feet. I believe in chalk and flint, white bones of the ancestors, wind and rain, and the sacredness of this place.
And Jesus? Well, we’ve all got our roads to travel. He was a good friend, and friends don’t give up on each other. Maybe we’ll meet again one day, where Gods and mortals wander silently awaiting recognition; lost, found and lost again in a mythical hinterland of miracle and rumour.’
– Trevor Greenfield, ‘Christo-Pagan’
‘The enchanted forest, the place of the deer – whether here in the physical or in the Otherworld – is about the Earth-Song. Elen is also the Lady of the Dream-Paths, the Enchantress of the Song-Lines. Our dream-paths and song-lines are similar to the Australian ones, they are the paths of Earth-dreaming, dreamweaving, enchanting, singing. It is the way the Earth weaves everyday reality. The songs are the en-chant-ment of the land – to chant is to sing, to en-chant is to sing into life.’
– Elen Sentier, ‘Shaman’
Paganism 101: An Introduction to Paganism by 101 Pagans is available from Moon Books from 28th February http://www.moon-books.net/books/paganism-101