Monday, September 30, 2019

13 Books To Introduce Modern Paganism

Out on the Internet there is a constant clamor by new students for direction, advice, and first-steps maps of the route into Pagan spirituality. It remains simply true that reading books is the primary door to Pagan ways. The ever-flowing streams of modern Pagan books can  be, in turn, puzzling for new students.

So I'll do another archival article, setting down my recommendations for a basic reading list. This list is focused on general-purpose Paganism, neither Wicca as such, nor any specific ethnic or reconstructionist path. I've tried to keep it practical - most of the titles give ideas and instruction on actually doing Paganism home and life. The list isn't about magic and occultism, though several of the listed titles give good instruction. Rather it concerns Paganism as spiritual and religious practice in personal life.

I might suggest reading one title from each category for a start, then working through the rest.

A: Survey and Background Two books that introduce general concepts and outline major traditions and styles of Paganism
1: The Path of Paganism; John Beckett: Beckett is a UU member and  Druid. His book introduces basic concepts of Pagan ways such as Sacred Space, Gods and Spirits, and the Seasonal Calendar. Very cross-traditional, well-thought-out and readable.
2: Pagan Paths; Pete Jennings: A survey of multiple named or nameable Pagan systems, paths and traditions, including witchcraft and Wicca, Northern Mysteries, Womyn’s Religion, etc.

B: Non-Wiccan Basic Paganism Three books that teach broad basic themes and practical approaches.
3: Basics of Ritual Worship; Ian Corrigan: A simple method of establishing home altars and shrines, beginning work with the spirits of nature and the gods, and establishing one’s Paganism in one’s life.
4: To Walk A Pagan Path; Alaric Albertson: Covers much of the same material – home temple, family ritual etc. Albertson is a Saxon Pagan, and the book has that slant, but is widely applicable.
5: A Book of Pagan Prayer; Ceisiwr Serith: A huge compilation of original prayers and invocations for Pagan worship. Most of the Prayers could be used in almost any traditional context.

C: Traditional Wicca: Wicca (Neopagan Witchcraft)  as developed in the mid-20th century was private, small-group-centered, and based on initiation and focused training.
6: Traditional Wicca: A Seeker’s Guide; Thorn Mooney: a discussion of what traditional Wicca is, and how to find your way to a traditional, initiating coven.
7: Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft; Raymond Buckland: An at-home how-to for those who would like to practice Wicca in a traditional style, but haven’t found initiation.

D: Eclectic Wicca and Paganism: In the 1980s, Pagan festivals and public groups developed an eclectic style of Pagan ritual based loosely on traditional Wicca. Many modern ‘Wiccans’ work in this style.
8: Wicca, A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner; Scott Cunningham: Simple instructions, few rules, little connection to tradition, but very accessible, very doable. A book that changed the movement.
9: A Book of Pagan Rituals; Pagan Way (credited to Herman Slater, falsely): A full round of lunar and seasonal ceremonies designed for solo or small-group practice. This text has created countless small Pagan groups.

E: Non-Wiccan Witchcraft: ‘Witchcraft’ is a broad and indistinct category, and Wicca is far from the only style of it. I’ll include one good book, which will be made easier to understand by the other reading here.
10: Treading the Mill; Nigel Pearson;  a grimoire of English traditional Craft-style work. With rituals clearly related to those of Wicca, it brings a greater attention to the field and forest, to landspirits and ancestors.

F: Traditional Euro-Paganisms: Many Pagans find inspiration in a specific culture, such as Irish/Celtic, Hellenic or Norse.
11: Sacred Fire, Holy Well; Ian Corrigan: A review of Irish Gods and myths, with a full, non-wiccan style of ritual, Seasonal rites and works of magic and vision.
12: Hellenismos; Tony Mierzwicki:  Introduction to the Paganism of ancient Greece, home worship, invocation of the gods.
13: A Practical Heathen’s Guide to Asatru: Patricia Lafayllve: Norse Paganism is one of the most popular traditional paganisms today, and this presents a simple introduction.


Shane A. Saylor, Eccentric Bard said...

Nice selection of books, Ian. Maybe some time in the future you can you a few posts with 13 books in each of the categories you featured in this post....

David Dashifen Kees said...

I'd love to see your suggestion for a book on polytheism. I'd have my suggestion(s), but the above are so good, I'd like to know your thoughts, too.

Lady Pythia said...

Ian, please correct an egregious error! The Pagan Way, of which I am Downline, wrote The Book of Pagan Rituals. Slater published them under his name, in essence stealing them. This is a known fact of Craft history, and you can check with Dana Corby, Elder of both of us. She sang The Sun God hymn on Gwydion’s first album. She wrote me of her displeasure.

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Ian Phanes said...

I'm not able to find one of the titles you listed:
3: Basics of Ritual Worship; Ian Corrigan

IanC said...

Lady Pthia - took me a while to see your comment - modest correction done.