Tuesday, 30 December 2014
TBR Challenge 2015 - Pagan Style
Just when you thought you'd seen the last of me from 2014, here I am again. Well, it is the other side - Christmas is over, and the spacious plains and meadows of 2015 loom. Pathways, crossroads, new things, old ghosts. I still like the whole New Years vibe. By this time of year, the old year is starting to run out of steam, and the new year is starting to catch hold of me.
I borrowed this idea for organising my thoughts on some of the things I'm planning on reading next year from a blog I've loved for years, and which is in my blogroll- Spiral Spun. Please check her out. She's the calmest blog, the simplest, and one of the most walk the walk blogs I know. She's doing the challenge, so I thought, I too have MANY unread books (shelves full, a house full, as I have begun to be a person that keeps very few books when they are finished, unless I'm convinced I'll read them or refer to them again). So it's as well to organise a read for a few of them that have been calling to me for some time. And they have been calling to me in batches, too, which is handy.
The idea of the TBR pile as the hosting site Spiral is using, RoofBeamReader.Com has it, is that you pick 12 books plus 2 alternates. Obviously I went over that, in my usual over the top way. I'll show them to you in chunks, as Spiral did in her post, and explain a small bit about why each book.
THE HEKATE PILE
After Witchfest this year, I had a most interesting experience with Hekate. Now she and I are getting acquainted, which being me, involves a fair bit of booky research.
1) Hekate Liminal Rites, by Sorita d'Este and David Rankine - on the list because Sorita d'Este of Avalonia books, is highly into Hekate (small understatement), and publishes some very interesting works about her. I've read several Avalonia books on Hekate already and this book is one of the ones I haven't got to yet. Comes highly recommended via devotees.
2) Hekate Soteira, by Sarah Iles Johnston - a scholarly work on Hekate as represented in the Chaldean Oracles and other classics. Obviously I need to actually read the classics too, but the list is long as you'll see, and I did fancy putting some historical analysis books on it. Gives my head things to occupy it.
3) Bearing Torches: A Devotional Anthology for Hekate, ed. Sannion and the board of Bibliotheca Alexandrina - always interesting to hear reflections and essays on a deity from modern adherents, be they reconstructionists or UPG experentialists. Either way, always interesting. This press do a large series on various deities and their work is thought provoking whether you agree with views expressed or not. Also historical analysis.
4) Thracian Magic: Past and Present, by Georgi Mishev - In case you have forgotten Thrace, its (mostly now) Bulgaria, an area rich with folklore. This may not seem directly Hekate related, but its author is a Hekate devotee and the work is recommended in various reviews as heavily Hekate related. (Also he did a very interesting essay in Hekate: Her Sacred Fires, another excellent Avalonia Hekate book.) I am looking forward to the history of an area I know little about as well as the local slanting on this goddess who I am coming to see, gets absolutely everywhere and permeates so many different cultures.
THE DARK GODDESS IN GENERAL PILE
The more I look into Hekate, the more I come across the darkness into light, light from darkness aspect. Choices, pathways, illuminating the shadow self, the parts of ourselves we find hard to reconcile.
5) Spirits of the Sacred Grove, by Emma Restall-Orr - you may be thinking: 'but this is a book about being a Druid Priestess', its not a dark goddess, dark moon or particularly dark anything book. There, you'd be wrong. Emma Restall-Orr is one of the most consistently challenging spiritual authors I read. Every single thing she has written has caused me massive internal argument, and lots of hard thinking. She does not shy away from the dark anything, and she writes very much from a female perspective. She is also very earthy, very 'get your hands dirty if you're going to say you love the earth' in tone. She also writes like an angel. I have been reading this book for 3 years now, and its about time I finished it...and possibly started it again. Its rich with ideas and information. I am never less than fully connected when I read this woman. (She's written a book on the Dark Goddess previously which I could have put here...had I not already read it.)
6) The Moonlit Path: Reflections on the Dark Feminine, ed.by Fred Gustafson - this book has been sitting and waiting patiently for some years now. Drawing from spiritual writers, psychoanalysts and artists, these are essays on aspects of the dark feminine in daily life, celebrating its usefulness, and calling for its integration as a vital part of the female psyche. Looks interesting, will let you know.
7) Dark Moon Mysteries: Wisdom, Power and Magic of the Shadow World, by Timothy Roderick - this actually got onto the list because I rate highly a book he wrote ages ago, a sort of magical primer to be followed a year and a dayish, and I enjoy his blog. He has a background as a psychotherapist and makes lots of references to Jungian theory (I have time for Jung), so when I found this book, about integrating and learning from those parts of yourself you fear, and those emotions you fight, I bought it. And then it sat quietly, waiting. And now it’s time to read it, it’s called again. (Once to be bought, once to be read, that’s usually how it goes with my books.)
8) Mysteries of the Dark Moon, by Demetra George – this is not only about the actual time of the dark moon, its traditional associations and why (death, isolation, waiting); but about the embodiment of fears about this time, this part of the female psyche into goddesses. Specifically those goddesses known in general as dark, scary, manipulatively clever, or violent: Hekate, Lilith, Morgana, Kali. The idea of the unconscious is explored through these goddesses, with reference to psychology, myth and symbolic perspectives. The book explores why the female psyche was split (Madonna and Whore is a good starting point), and how it can be reintegrated with the 'dark' parts as a valuable part of the whole person. I’ve read several reviews of this book and it seems to split people, it has its lovers and its haters. I’m eager to see if I feel I’ve learned anything.
THE GENERAL GODDESS PILE
Hmmmm, are you getting a theme here, this next year?! Am I being a bit single minded? Bear in mind there'll be thousands of other books between this lot, so it won't feel as singleminded as it looks; and probably just as well. For anyone wondering why I don't have a GODS pile, its because the Gods were always my friends; its the Goddesses I've always had a bit of trouble connecting with, simply because culturally, in a Christian household, I was not brought up to think there were any goddesses. So its still relatively new to me, after all this time. I feel I am brushing up on another part of myself that was ignored, or left fallow. The Gods have walked with me all this while. So have the Goddesses, really, I just wasn't aware of it. We're all getting to know each other. Having tea.
9) The Triple Goddess: An Exploration of the Archetypal Feminine, by Adam McLean - I've had this one recommended to me left, right and centre, and it turns out its been quietly on my bookshelf for over 10 years and I have no memory of how I got it. Its time has come! Very exciting! And who is that on the front there? Not Hekate again...
10) Voices of the Goddess: A Chorus of Sibyls, ed. by Caitlin Matthews - this also comes highly recommended - several priestesses, authors and artists from entirely different paths tell of the goddess in their lives: how they found her, what she does, how she has changed them. At least 3 of the contributors are women I admire greatly for their writing already. Looking forward to! My copy of this book is very old and second-hand, and has a gift inscription inside from one woman to another, including a bit at the end about blessings of Sekhmet and Hathor - two goddesses I have heard good things about.
11) Warrior Goddess Training, by Heatherash Amara - this was an impulse purchase, based on the fact I liked the title. I think its more in the vein of a sort of earth-based self help book, we will see. If it's about accepting yourself and becoming more of a person, it may have some good nuggets: I will report back. This is the wildcard book.
12) Rebirth of the Goddess: Finding Meaning in Feminist Spirituality, by Carol P. Christ - I spent time earlier this year, before my Hekate experience, of trying and failing to find THE goddess book that would get me properly started on my idea of female deity studies. I would buy one that had a perfectly simple title and it would turn out to be about Qabalah (that keeps happening, so clearly next year or sooner I shall have to read about that in more depth too). Buy another and it would turn out to not have the historical basis I wanted...each of them was not the angle I was after.. This one might be. We'll see.
THE DRUIDRY PILE
There's a tangent, eh? Not really. I've been stalled on my Ovate OBOD studies for some while now, and I think my goddess reading, allied with some druidry reading might help kickstart me again. Druidry isn't easy, as this first book will show...
13) Living With Honour: A Pagan Ethics, by Emma Restall-Orr - yes, she again. If I'm to have a trying year wrestling with a difficult taskmistress of a goddess (if she asks me to do something I find scary or difficult), someone who will hold me to account, I think I can do no better than to make myself read a book I bought some time ago, but have not yet had the gazonkas to read, as I think I am going to feel fearful, compromised and be reminded of how far I fall short in my attempts to be ethical. I lie. I often think its a good idea, too. I'm manipulative on many occasions. I sneak about. I wish I was a person of my word - and oddly, to some people in my life without question I always am. And to some others, I view ethics as unecessary, they don't deserve it. Yet I don't see myself as a bad person; I am... pragmatic, opportunist, realist. Scared. (I kind of wish I was Quark on many days; yet I respect honourable Odo so much more.) I have a feeling if I met Emma Restall-Orr she would terrify me if we had a proper conversation. But dammit. Maybe its about time I was terrified by someone else and not the shadows of my own head. Let her talk to me of history and ethics. Let me not run away. This is a woman whose voice I deeply respect. I'm going blinkin' well sit down and listen. Can't be brave and/ or less fearful if I don't practice, right?? Its not going to just miraculously grow out of my arse, now is it?? No. Practice.
14) The Druids, by Ronald Hutton - Got to have a bit of Professor Ronald Hutton if I'm going to read pagan history, as related by a highly respected academic (who is dead nice in real life too). I had a bit of a choice here: read his first book on the Druids in general historically - perceptions of them as a concept (this one), or the subsequent thicker and more in depth study he also did, of the Druids in Britain as a whole, which has a different emphasis. I decided to err on the side of chronology and begin here. I also wanted to read his latest and hugest book, Pagan Britain, and who knows, I may do. But there are already some challenging books on this list, and I don't want to rush anything Ronald Hutton writes. He has a divinely easily read style and I like to immerse and swim in his books. In my own time. So I may have to stick with just this one. I'm bound to enjoy it (I have never found a book of his boring yet), and I am bound to deface it with notes and reactive comments till its barely legible and I have to get another copy (you should see my copy of Triumph of the Moon - even he was quite impressed at the way there was practically nowhere for him to sign it for me as I had taken so many notes!!). Can't wait to get to this one!
15) In the Grove of the Druids, by Philip Carr-Gomm - what is this with Druid writers being double-barrelled? As an aside. I've read several books by Philip Carr-Gomm and I always find him stimulating. Some of the books I love, some I found odd, some I found troubling. I love his blog too. He's the current leader (thats not the right word) of OBOD, and he is deeply readable. Another one with a background in psychology and humanism. This book, one of a few of his still waiting to be read, focusses on the teachings of his teacher and OBOD leading predecessor, Ross Nichols. Since in my Druid studies with OBOD, Nichols is often referred to and quoted, I thought it would be an idea to read Philip Carr-Gomm's assessment of the man's ideas. Could be very interesting.
16) The Mount Haemus Lectures,volume one, 2000-2007 - this is an OBOD publication, featuring several essays on contemporary Druid research and scholarship. An essay by Professor Ronald Hutton inside! Caitlin Matthews too. A contribution by Philip Carr-Gomm on shadows and light that sounds relevant to my year's focus - though its actually about the composer Tippett! I bought this from the OBOD shop, to see what sort of things were engaging the thoughts of the academically minded in the Order.
And there we have it...will I ever get through ALL these fat and wordy books??
Isn't it hilarious I did a post this long introducing you to books that I will review later??
And how hard it was to pick - so many OTHER goddess books, other Druidry books, other history books (have a most interesting looking newly published one, for example, called Daughters of Hecate, about the gendering of magic as a female activity in antiquity, and whether this was actually so, or just culturally perceived, and if so, how and why...its enormous,and very heavily footnoted and looks...fascinating. Sigh.)
So. I will get back to you at the end of the year with a review of those I definitely did actually manage to read. I should imagine barring disaster, all the specifically Hekate ones will be read ('cos when you say you'll do something to someone you are making friends with, you best do it, its polite and will otherwise create a bad impression - see, this is how people should teach me ethics: remind me its rude and unEnglish to be..impolite; even though, historically, I immediately fall into many holes there...ah, a whole 'nother post - how the English perceive themselves and their morality; compared with what we have actually been like, historically, when interacting with the world! BlackberryJuniper combusts in a puff of unbearable satirical paradox.)
And obviously, I have a Doctor Who marathon also consisting of thousands of books to read still this year (and likely still until I am dead)...
Well, I have books to look forward to. Happy New Year, all!