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.