Many thanks to Alex, Sarah and Ryan for these great photos of our January adventures!
Take a peek and what your intrepid PCV committee have been nerding out on this month.
Animism: Respecting the Living World by Graham Harvey
An interesting work that examines what animism is and how it plays a part in the lives of people and how they interact with the world around them.
Harvey explores the different definitions of animism, both positive and negative to help establish a brief history of the word and its usage before he delves into the pagan and new age views of animism.
He also spends quite a bit of time explaining why it is important to use the word animism instead of seeking a new title for it. In a nutshell to reclaim what he outlines as a mostly negative connotation associated with the word.
He does explore animism in several indigenous cultures around the world as well as those in the pagan paths, it makes for some interesting reading and at 212 pages is an accessible length exploration.
Circlework by Shan/House of the Goddess
I was lucky enough to find this in a secondhand bookshop recently. It’s one of the older books on pagan practice, published in 1987 by House of the Goddess in the UK, and it’s a lovely zine-style book, typed (rather than typeset), with the page numbers and chapter-headings hand-written, and lovely hand-drawn illustrations throughout. I’ll confess right now to an absolute weakness for publications like this, so I snaffled it up with barely a flip-through because it felt nice to hold.
It turns out this was a good decision, because it’s a beautiful book, written in a warm, informal, encouraging voice, with gentle, practical humour and a twinkle in the eye, as well as sound and meaningful ritual advice. It’s a beginners’ book, so don’t expect to go summoning the Elder Gods afterwards (because, you know, that’s what *all* the Advanced Paganism For Fancy Witches books teach you, right?); it’s more like a lovely one-on-one chat with a knowledgeable, wise, and understanding High Priestess. Honestly, I think every pagan’s library needs a few books like this and it’s a shame this one is kind of hard to find. If you can get your hands on a copy of this, do. It’s a valuable piece of Craft history, and it contains things like these “other examples of Pagan Law”:
Medusa: Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon by Stephen R Wilk
This book is written in an accessible, conversational style, and like many conversations the author frequently goes off on odd tangents. These tangents are fortunately interesting and likewise entertaining, but they are substantially numerous.
Although the evolutionary path of myths is explored, it’s still a fairly dry, academic text which doesn’t delve far into speculation about meaning or cultural significance.
Well researched and mindful of the notorious fallibility of some ancient sources, it’s a thorough exploration of an enduring myth which continues to abound in popular culture today.
Secret Places of the Goddess: Contacting the Earth Spirit by Philip Heselton
This is a lovely meditation on finding sacred and magical spaces in nature. Heselton, author of the recent, excellent biography of Doreen Valiente, walks us through some of the sacred spaces of his homeland, whilst exploring the history and nature of sacredness in the landscape, how to engage with sacred space, how to take from them and how to give back to them. He explores woods, glades and groves, streams, springs and the sea, hills, boundaries, liminal spaces. He devotes chapters to the different times of day, the wheel of the year, how we experience nature through our senses, how to cast a circle outside, how to tend and care for sacred spaces.
The text is peppered throughout with well-chosen and evocative quotations from other authors, both pagan and literary; far from being simply a “how-to” book, this is a love-song to Nature and to the connection to the divine that we find when we open ourselves to Her. It is both personal and instructive, and while it is UK-centric, Heselton’s approaches and philosophies are all applicable to interactions with our local landscapes. This is a book I will keep coming back to; it’s rich and profound and a pleasure to read.
Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
I was really underwhelmed by the recent TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s classic, American Gods, so last month I decided to revisit the novel itself, along with several others of a similar ilk.
Small Gods is one of the lesser known, lesser appreciated standalone Discworld novels. It tells the story of the acolyte Brutha and his adventures with the great god Om, whose power has dwindled so much due to lack of belief that he has been reduced to the form of a cantankerous one-eyed tortoise.
At surface level, this novel is an excellent parody of mainstream religions. Going deeper, I love the discussion of the nature of belief, religion and the gods themselves that Small Gods, along with Gaiman’s American Gods and the Pratchett/Gaiman masterpiece Good Omens, welcomes. That it’s done in Pratchett’s usual quick-fire, cerebral style is an added bonus.
This month we thought we’d share some of our finds from the 2017 Clunes Booktown Festival and elsewhere. There will probably be more detailed reviews of some of these in coming editions of Committee Reads, but for now take a peek at the most recent editions to our reading piles…
Animism: Respecting the Living World by Graham Harvey – This book came highly recommended by members of the community, so I caved and purchased a copy.
Asimov’s New Guide to Science by Isaac Asimov – Asimov is a freaking genius and this was $2.
Fight Like a Girl by Clementine Ford – Got this signed by Clementine Ford, reason enough.
Pagan Consent Culture: Building Communities of Empathy and Autonomy, edited by Christine Hoff Kraemer and Yvonne Aburrow – This is a recent release, and in the light of the recent discussions on community safety and consent in occult and pagan practice, it seems like a very interesting read, exploring different traditions’ philosophies of consent, as well as sexual initiation, community responses to abuse, education of children, mental health issues, and much more. It clocks in at over 500 pages and was very reasonably priced for all that. I’ve enjoyed co-editor Aburrow’s previous books, so this seemed like a must-read.
Here’s an excerpt from the introduction, to give you an overview of the contents:
“We have divided this anthology into three parts. In ‘Developing Pagan Philosophies of Consent’, the reader will find both tradition-specific and personal approaches to consent-based ethics. These essays show how Pagan lore and liturgy shape our writers’ understandings of consent, as well as how their ideals translate into real-world practice. Writers also tackle complex issues such as consent in a power differential, the ethics of sexual initiation, negotiating rape culture in traditional myths, and understanding sexual relationships with the gods.
Section Two, ‘Responding to Abuse and Assault’, focuses on the narratives and needs of survivors. In addition to personal narratives of abuse and healing, writers examine the kinds of situations that can hide abuse, as well as the circumstances under which whistleblowers may be disbelieved or ignored. These essays outline policies to help prevent sexual abuse and assault and to effectively respond to it when it occurs, as well as considering how abuse survivors might be better accommodated in community.
Finally, in ‘Building Communities of Autonomy and Empathy’, our writers provide resources for teaching and practicing consent culture. These essays include reflections on consent culture parenting, curricula and exercises for children and adults, practices for sacralising pleasurable touch in both groups and on an everyday basis, ethical approaches to teaching sacred sexuality and sex magick, and more.”
Pagan Rituals: Scripts and Inspiration for All Occasions by Willow Polson – In recent times it seems I’ve become a collector naff books of ritual. I am oddly okay with this.
Seed Collection of Australian Native Plants by Murray Ralph – This was essential.
The Art of Urban Sketching by Gabriel Campanario – I’ve always been a fan of this style of sketching and wanted to understand the principals better so this was an easy choice.
The Kabbalah Tree by Rachel Pollack – An introduction to the Tree of Life and the Sephiroth, by the author of ‘Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom’, and featuring art by Hermann Haindl. I’m not a serious student of Kabbalistic philosophy, but it is fascinating and profound, and this seems to be a decent exploration for someone with no background in the culture or philosophy.
Walking a Sacred Path by Dr Lauren Artress – This was a second-hand cheapie, and I’m wondering if it’s going to be a bit naff, but it has decent reviews from respectable publications, and I thought it might be worth a go, because labyrinths are interesting, ey.
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin – This was another $1 Booktown bargain find. I bought it for my friend Kylie, who has been wanting to read the series for a while. I just love the eighties cover art.
Bottersnikes and Gumbles by S A Wakefield – Although I’ve been a fan for a long time, this edition has illustrations in it that my other edition did not.
Palimpsest and Deathless by Catherynne Valente – I bowed to peer pressure after a brilliant blog post by a friend, the constant rave reviews by people whose tastes I trust, and a song by SJ Tucker that made me cry. I’m almost scared to actually read them in case I can’t leave the house for days and can’t work because I’m lost in Valente’s worlds, but hey, I can always get another job, right?
Saltwater Vampires by Kirsty Eagar – I normally couldn’t give a toss about vampire fiction, being of the firmly-held belief that it reached its peak with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But with tales of vampires born from the wreck of the Batavia crashing a modern-day Australian music festival, I found it hard to turn this one down.
The Bards of Bone Plain by Patricia A McKillip – This one was a gift from a friend this month. So far it’s strong, rich fantasy full of archeology and lyrical descriptions. Just my bag.
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro – The author of the marvellous ‘Remains of the Day’ has set a novel in just-post-Arthurian Britain, featuring at least one knight of the Round Table. What’s not to love?
The Chosen by J R Ward – I bought this because I’m obsessed with the Black Dagger Brotherhood and this is the latest book in the series. BDB are one of my guilty pleasures. 😉
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper – I picked this up for $1 at Booktown. It was a great bargain and an edition/cover I hadn’t seen before.