(Pagan) Books to Look For: Margot Adler, Eric Scott, Owen Davies, and More!

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With all apologies to Charles de Lint for borrowing his column’s title, here are some recently released and upcoming books that I think readers of The Wild Hunt will be interested in checking out.

out_for_blood_adler“Out For Blood” by Margot Adler: In a Kindle Single released on June 10th,  Margot Adler, author of “Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America,” takes a look at the vampire, and how the monster has changed over the years to  suit our needs. Quote: “Starting as a meditation on mortality after the illness and death of her husband, Margot Adler read more than 260 vampire novels, from teen to adult, from gothic to modern, from detective to comic. She began wonder why vampires have such appeal in our society now? Why is Hollywood spending billions on vampire films and television series every year? It led her to explore issues of power, politics, morality, identity, and even the fate of the planet.“Every society creates the vampire it needs,” wrote the scholar Nina Auerbach. Dracula was written in 19th century England when there was fear of outsiders and of disease coming in through England’s large ports. Dracula – An Eastern European monster bringing direct from a foreign land – was the perfect vehicle for those fears. But who are the vampires we need now?” At only $1.99 this essay is certainly more than worth the price, and catches you up with what one of our most celebrated journalists has been working on.

livesoftheapostates“The Lives of the Apostates” by Eric Scott: Hey, look! It’s The Wild Hunt’s very own columnist Eric Scott with his debut novella (out June 28th), a story about friendship, religion, tragedy and coming-of-age. Quote: “In a Midwest college town, a Wiccan student named Lou finds himself forced into taking a History of Christian Thought class from a religion professor who spends his weekends preaching at the local Baptist church. Between shifts as a caretaker for mentally handicapped men Lou calls “the boys,” he confronts his professor’s story of Christian triumph with increasing anger. As tensions escalate, he turns to his roommate, a fellow Pagan with the unfortunate nickname of Grimey, and his coven-mate and crush, Lucy, for support. But Grimey is dealing with his own problems hiding his faith from his mother. In the course of a single night, the world collapses for Grimey and one of Lou’s boys, and Lou finds himself standing up for himself and his beliefs.” When asked to provide an endorsement, I said it was “a tone poem of rage and grief at growing up in a world where your very beliefs place you in opposition to the way most of the world is run, to the blunt instruments of religious power and privilege […] a barbaric yawp from the Pagan soul.” However, I may be biased. So instead, listen to celebrated novelist and essayist Peter Manseau: “Finally, something new under the sun: a midwestern pagan coming of age story that is at once a poignant evocation of young love and a searing meditation on the ancient conflict between faiths. As sharp as a ritual blade, as full as a chalice, The Lives of the Apostates is a great surprise, and Eric Scott a writer to watch.” Eric has only started his career as a writer, and I’m proud that we’ve had a hand in nurturing it. 

america_betwitched“America Bewitched: Witchcraft After Salem” by Owen Davies: I knew about this book, released in March of 2013, but I haven’t had a chance to pay much attention to it (sometimes you lose track of things in my line of work). In any case, Owen Davies, author of such fine books as “Grimoires: A History of Magic Books” and “Paganism: A Very Short Introduction” (see my interview with Owen Davies regarding that book) digs through the archives of America to debunk the popular notion that we stopped killing and persecuting “witches” after 1692, and shows that belief in witchcraft persisted throughout this country into the 20th century (and beyond). Quote: “Witchcraft after Salem was not just a story of fire-side tales, legends, and superstitions: it continued to be a matter of life and death, souring the American dream for many. We know of more people killed as witches between 1692 and the 1950s than were executed before it. Witches were part of the story of the decimation of the Native Americans, the experience of slavery and emancipation, and the immigrant experience; they were embedded in the religious and social history of the country. Yet the history of American witchcraft between the eighteenth and the twentieth century also tells a less traumatic story, one that shows how different cultures interacted and shaped each other’s languages and beliefs. This is therefore much more than the tale of one persecuted community: it opens a fascinating window on the fears, prejudices, hopes, and dreams of the American people as their country rose from colony to superpower.” I think this book will be powerful and necessary reading for anyone interested in how our attitudes about witchcraft have been shaped. Here’s a video of Owen Davies discussing the book.

pagan_family_values“Pagan Family Values: Childhood and the Religious Imagination in Contemporary American Paganism” by S. Zohreh Kermani: How are Pagan families passing their beliefs on to their children? This is a central question explored by S. Zohreh Kermani, a Harvard PhD who teaches religious studies part time at Youngstown State University. Quote: “The first ethnographic study of the everyday lives of contemporary Pagan families, this volume brings their experiences into conversation with contemporary issues in American religion. Through formal interviews with Pagan families, participant observation at various pagan events, and data collected via online surveys, Kermani traces the ways in which Pagan parents transmit their religious values to their children. Rather than seeking to pass along specific religious beliefs, Pagan parents tend to seek to instill values, such as religious tolerance and spiritual independence, that will remain with their children throughout their lives, regardless of these children’s ultimate religious identifications.” Sarah Pike, author of author of “Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community,” says the book is “one of the best and most nuanced ethnographic studies of contemporary Paganism to come along. Kermani takes us into the deeply conflicted religious lives of Pagan families, yet as she so deftly reveals, Pagans are not unique in their ambivalent desires for their children.” This sounds like a must-read for anyone interested in how we raise our children, and understanding how children experience growing up Pagan. Out July 29th, 2013.

pop-pagans-paganism-and-popular-music“Pop Pagans: Paganism and Popular Music” edited by Donna Weston and Andy Bennett: I briefly mentioned this title earlier, but I thought it deserved a more robust mention here, not because of my involvement, but because I think there’s some very important scholarship regarding the intersections of Paganism and popular music that I think many will find enlightening and useful.  Boasting contributions from Andy Letcher, author of “Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom,” and Douglas Ezzy, co-author of “Teenage Witches: Magical Youth and the Search for the Self,” among several others talented individuals, this book covers a lot of ground. Quote: “Paganism is rapidly becoming a religious, creative, and political force internationally. It has found one of its most public expressions in popular music, where it is voiced by singers and musicians across rock, folk, techno, goth, metal, Celtic, world, and pop music. With essays ranging across the US, UK, continental Europe, Australia and Asia, Pop Pagans assesses the histories, genres, performances, and communities of pagan popular music.” This book has been long overdue, and one that I hope will finally open the door for a proper history of self-consciously Pagan contemporary music.

Do you know of some recently released or upcoming books that should be spotlighted here? Leave a comment or drop us a line and it may be featured in a future edition of this series. Happy reading!