Saturday, 26 May 2012

Update on the Pagan Reading Challenge 2012 so far

Remember the Pagan Reading Challenge I signed up for?  (For info – click on the little pic at the side of the blog of a maiden reading beneath a tree.)  This is how its going so far, since January – what I’ve read this year that’s relevant to it.  (I’m in the middle of many more books, pagan and non-pagan, as usual, but the only ones I list are ones I have actually finished with.)

Forgive me while I get a bit nerdy and categorize them for you:

Fluffage – as in, related to serious topics, but done in a very ‘we must sell this book by the thousands!’ kind of way

  1. Goddess Signs, by Angelica Danton
    (A nice idea, to mix the Chinese astrology with Western, and to add goddesses.  But it didn’t work for me.  I didn’t feel exclusively or only like my designation – a Metal Pig, a Protectoress Goddess, like Demeter, a Mother.  Its just one part of me.  The learning resonated, but nothing else.  A seller.)
  2. Llewellyn’s 2011 Witches Companion
    (Some trash *and* some very good thoughts – notably the one about wealth by Calanteriel: comfort, freedom, security – an interesting system for thinking about money, how to approach it, identified.  And the section on your own fairy tale story, as a useful tool, that really appealed to me.)

Ghost Stories (always deserving of a category of their own)

  1. The Winter Ghosts, by Kate Mosse
    (A very nice idea that would have been a wicked good short story.  But was ruined by being self indulgent, overly long and oh my god so badly written; all portentous in the wrong places etc.  Dreadful. I hate to say that about any book - but I could see how truly wonderful it could have been.  I hope other people liked it.)

Anthologies – collections of (usually reasonably academic) essays on whatever topic

  1. Hecate: Keys to the Crossroads, edited by Sorita d-Este
    (Some very interesting stuff in here.  A very friendly book, on the whole, about a rather scary seeming goddess.  Some awful bits too – I think it was the essay by one contributor where she slavishly talked about the ‘high born’ Hekate that really put me off.  I can’t relate to the gods as if they are so much better than me.  That probably sounds odd.  I can’t be dealing with entities in a way that suggests they would be doing me a great favour by simply noticing my existence, let alone interacting with me, or helping me.  I prefer to think of it as making friends with someone from a different culture: carefully done, with sensitivity; but both on the same level, just offering different things to the relationship.  David Rankine’s essay made her sound very scary, too.  The book didn’t manage to explain why so many people find her so much the be all and end all of goddesses.  I found that a bit strange.  But I am sufficiently interested to read more; and have a nice satisfying looking reading list to be getting on with.)

One Book Primers on esoteric subjects

  1. Essential Asatru, by Diana L. Paxson
    (Now – here was a book where the gods were treated as “friends and allies”, and toasted, not fawned on.  And I have started working with some of these gods – Thor, Odin, Frigga, etc – they all sounded wonderful, and friendly.  I really enjoyed this book, and seem to be having a real almost obsessive THING for the Norse gods and myths at the moment.  Am talking about it all with an Asatru follower on FB – who also has a most brilliant blog, here it be:  He has humour, a certain force and authority to his words – and that thing prized highly in these circles: a grasp of the lore and an ability to quote and do the homework.  I actually fit in quite well with this mentality.  I shall borrow some.  The author of the book, to get back to the point,  worked with Marion Zimmer Bradley for a long while; that was where I first knew her name from; she co-authored some of the later books.  A fine fiction writer as well as an explainer of this strand of paganism.)

Pagan and/or Magically based Fiction

  1. Moondance of Stonewylde, by Kit Berry
    (I enjoyed this a lot more than the first book.  Magus is still a terrible character, getting oddly more cartoon villain and yet real at the same time, as is Clip becoming more the ‘worm’ of Yul’s trip-vision.  There was less outright suffering to make me miserable in this book.  Sylvie’s suffering was real, but was offset by Yul’s strength and growth in respect and understanding of his destiny– you felt challenges would be coped with, hard, but met.  Him running around the stones touching them each as he went until he drew a storm, to stop Magus feeding on Sylvie’s moon magic was tearful and memorable.  There were some brilliant characters in this one – Professor Siskin, and Old Violet.  What is Kit Berry’s obsession with old women that are outrageously ugly, have claw fingers and all smell so bad???!  Very odd.  But I loved this one and can’t wait till the next; which luckily I have on the bookshelf…glad Buzz was disposed of.  Can’t wait for Jackdaw to be got rid of too.)
  2. Solstice at Stonewylde, by Kit Berry
    (Read all in one day, almost hallucinogenically, while laying in bed with a stinking cold and feeling dead in the body, but the brain was still moving in curious neon circles.  Jackdaw got well and truly disposed of in this one.  As did Magus, in the most un-action action scene.  She managed to make it like a repeating pattern, happening but also happened many times before.  Professor Siskin came home for good; Mother Heggy understood the meaning of the fifth candle…and Sylvie had a windey time in this instalment, but came good in the end.  Miranda saw the light; and Yul became the beginning of what he needs to be.  This was so good I’m scared the next may not be as great.  Because Stonewylde needs to be a place where good wins out.  But I think Kit Berry knows that.)
  3. Book of Moons, by Rosemary Edgehill
    (Another good Bast novel, one of the trilogy Rosemary Edgehill wrote, always readable, and always more authentic than lots of others in this wonderful hybrid genre.)
  4. Shadowland, by Peter Straub
    (A re-read, for possibly the 8th time? Not as good as I remember, but so many parts of me are in this, and things I think and feel to be true for me – this was THE book of my 20’s.  I seem to have moved on since then – but I have no idea where to or who I am currently, so there is no book of my 30’s or 40’s to define me as yet.  It’s all a confusing fog.  I remember when I had a vague idea what was going on, and maybe I will again at some point – who knows?  Some days I do.)
  5. The Gold Falcon, by Katherine Kerr
    (The series goes on and on…and I wish it would never stop.  Even the less exciting parts, like this one, are full of characters so familiar and cherished.  The bit with Branna calling to Rhodry at the end – it’s rare anything makes me cry in one line, for the lost ideal of deeply returned love, these days.  But the last book did it when Rhodry turned; and this book did it, as I say, with one line at the thought he might, at some point…come home.  Jeez, crying just thinking about it.  That’s powerful writing – when you wish you were there not here.  Even when here is fine.  I’ve read her books ecstatic with my own love and hope, and in the pits of disillusion – no matter where I am, I go to where she is, and dwell there.  THAT is the purpose of writing, to poach people’s consciousnesses, and have them live in yours – true communication, the receiving of a clear vision of some else’s mind.  Never alone, with people all around, all of whom you understand, even if you do not like.  The world only makes sense through stories.  Even if one day, my need to pattern may backfire on me.)

The next step on whatever path books…

  1. Living Wicca, by Scott Cunningham
    (On the whole, a very reassuring read, in that I liked his clear and informal, simple tone.  I liked being told, just because others say this is the only way or contradict one another, doesn’t mean you have to do it this way.  There were several very nice turns of phrase for invocations and small rituals, that I would like to borrow.  Then I was rather put off by his saying the goddess and god ‘are deities and bigger than us’, created everything, and other rather Christian turns of phrase though he was clearly not friendly to Christianity.  (As you know, I couldn’t give a stuff whether the world was ‘created’: it’s what you do here that counts.  And the HOW of evolution is fascinating.)  I liked and disliked the fine line he walked between telling you to follow your gut (and ‘pray’, rather than meditate on, or some less Christian –like buzzword), and you DO have to do this or that thing, or else ‘you’ll be inventing a new religion’.  To which I wanted to say, ‘Yes, and?  If I do, it means ‘traditional’ Wicca wasn’t for me, so..?’  It was thought provoking.  I also did like his insistence that I re-examine in depth all my ideas and correspondences etc, to make sure I have everything straight in my head should I come to writing my own solitary Book of Shadows.  He kept reminding me that I would be forming my own ‘tradition’ as a solitary.  Perhaps I just dislike that word, and want to think of it as simply my own path, my own variant on what other people do.  Either way, it was a read that made me think – disagreeing with him in a way that expanded my thinking rather than limiting it.  So good.  Disagreement is vital for thought production!)
  2. Wiccan Warrior, by Kerr Cuhulain
    (Best and most down to earth Wicca/magick book I’ve read in some time.  Why does he not write more often?  I like his calm confident tone, his reasonable way of talking and his sensible suggestions for incorporating Wiccan ideas into life.  I like the organisation of the chapters; and the way the idea of being a warrior is used not in its strictest martial sense, but in a strengthening of purpose and sense of self way – much as the Asatru emphasis is, on similar subjects.)
  3. Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living, By Melusine Draco
    (This was a funny read for me, as she was a very opinionated writer, and full of ‘what a real witch does’, as opposed to a…new agey pretend one.,  I get bored of all the division in the pagan world.  No, that’s inaccurate - let me re-state: I think its very healthy there are tons of different flavours in the pagan world, but I get fed up with some of them always doing down other ones.  Live and let live if no harm is being done!  Anyway, despite the fact I found her a bit contentious, amazing things happened to me while I was reading the book, directly relevant to what I was reading – so it seems the material resonated with me, despite her annoying, at times, tone!  It was during this book’s reading I found my magickal name, after over 10 years of looking for it, for example.  She helped me see that it was right in front of me.  Also, right when I was reading about a Witches Pouch, used for strength and protection, I found a very relevant thing for mine, in the garden.  It was all nicely serendipitous.  So I will read more of this annoying, opinionated woman, and see what happens next.

If you’re thinking this was an odd and arbitrary selection of books – it’s true.  The year is only half gone, I have loads more.  My magical and pagan and nature bookshelves burst, with their contents all crying out to me, all wanting to be read right now.  My Santeria, Heka, Hellenism, Hoodoo, Voodoo, Feri sections…all that relevant social history stuff…so many stories…

If you wonder where the shamanism or Druidry was in that selection, remember I just finished the Bardic Grade of OBOD – so its been there all along, lived every day – just in something I’m not counting as a book (though I did, ehem, read it all, all the many many moons of it…). 

Also – it takes, and I am only exaggerating a teensy bit here, hundreds of years to read and learn through the Norse and Germanic lores…I have been reading the Prose Edda for 4 months now, around other things!  And I think I will be reading that and Beowulf and various others of the Lores, for many months to come! I am becoming very fond of Thor.

Lastly, what I’m not including here, partly out of embarrassment, I spose – is my obsessive devouring whole of the wonderful English annuals and comics of Misty (in particular) this year.  Anyone who used to read Misty as a girl knows you got an awful lot of supernatural/paranormal/pagan notions in there…And I’ve always been a great believer in returning to the things of childhood to regain a simple understanding of things that have become unnecessarily complicated by people’s personalities and baggage, as adults. 

A friend once read my horoscope and summed me up in a sentence.  She said: ‘You go forward by going backward.’  Yup, that’s me.  I will always go back to fetch things I forgot if I think they are still likely to be useful.  New things, old things: all can be helpful.

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