Review: Celebrate Wildness: Magic, Mirth and Love on the Feraferia Path. (First Edition) Written by Jo Carson.
Years ago I was given a list of books to read in response to my interest in pursuing Paganism. Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon was one of those books and, through that text, I first learned of the Feraferia tradition. At the time, the tradition did not specifically call to me. Even if it had, there was lack of access to information and teachers in Georgia in the 1990s. Wrapped up in trying on different practices and traditions, I didn’t give it much more thought.
Then, a few months ago, I came across the path again while reading Palgrave’s academic text Sexuality and New Religious Movements, and I was reminded of that part of modern Pagan history. Consequently, when Jo Carson’s Celebrate Wildness: Magic, Mirth and Love on the Feraferia Path arrived in my inbox, I was very interested in exploring it in order to learn more about Feraferia, a tradition that appears to have had a strong influence on many Pagan paths in the United States.
The word “Feraferia” literally means “celebrate wildness,” stemming from “fera,” as in wild (feral), and “feria,” meaning festival. It is a religious tradition founded by Fredrick Adams in the 1950s. According to the forward of Celebrating Wildness:
Fredrick Adams was a writer and an artist. He has been called a modern American William Blake. The majority of his work is on mystical themes relating to the Divine Feminine and the relationship of the Mother Goddess and her Daughter to Sacred Nature. Adams and his life partner Lady Svetlana were among the first founders, and most elegant proponents, of Goddess Religion in the Western Hemisphere. Through their religious fellowship, Feraferia, they inspired thousands of modern romantics and Neo-Pagans with their lyric paradisal visions, profound ecological-spiritual philosophy, elegant ceremonial rites and stunning artwork…
Even as a boy Fred dreamed of paradise. He hoped to eventually create an Eden-like environment where he and his friends could live and love each other, in and at peace with the ‘All Wild of Nature’ as he called it. A goal of Feraferia is the creation of such paradisal sanctuaries, focused on celebration and the culture if native trees and plants in harmony with the seasons… (Forward written by Carroll ‘Poke’ Runyon)
In a recent interview with Jason Mankey, author Jo Carson said that one of Adams’ unfulfilled intentions was to write a book about Feraferia in order to make it accessible to everyone. She told Mankey, “He wanted other people to be able to experience something like what he had experienced.”
For anyone not familiar with Feraferia, here is a succinct description, which can be found on the Feraferia website:
Feraferia promotes the love of nature, the “land-sky-love-body” of all wild. We take nature in the widest sense, to include ecology, physiology (human and non-human) and psychology.
Feraferia sees the Goddess as the most ancient deity of all humankind. To honor Her, we hope to serve the community of all life. At the same time, the unique deity we celebrate most is the young maiden Goddess, the laughing Girl Goddess, the Merrie Maiden – also known as Kore (pronounced kor-ee), from the ancient Greek. By her characteristic innocent grace, She allows for the freedom and joy of all.
Our basic spiritual goal is the awakening of a deeper identity with landscape as a conscious, living presence…
While preparing to review this book, I struggled with putting together a clear conceptualization of Feraferia as a religion based on the introductory information provided. This forced me to look in other places for background material. After I had more information I went back and re-read the first section and things started to make more sense the second time around.
As someone who has studied Pagan beliefs for years, I did find much of the information familiar. Even so, my overall impression of the book, and the first section in particular, is that there is too little information given on any one subject. For example, details on several concepts, including Kore as Twin Goddess (Light Kore and Dark Kore), Mysteries of Death and Rebirth, Trance and the Magic of Dreams, are wrapped up in a page or less.
With these very short bits of information coupled with loads of enchanting artwork, the book is designed more as coffee-table material than anything else. It’s the sort of book that is beautiful and that you would pick up to look at while you’re waiting for your clay sculpture to bake, but not necessarily read cover to cover. This is especially true considering the decision to print white text on black pages, which was hard for these middle-aged eyes.
That being said, I like coffee table books and this one had some beautiful art work, intriguing information and ideas all wrapped up in one.
The best section of the book was Part Three: Feraferia’s Deep Roots. It was in this section that the discussion of ancient henges, the Eleusinian Mysteries, and the ancient peaceful cultures of Crete were explored. Not only were these discussions interesting, but it was at this point in the book that things really started to click. I began to have a clearer idea of what Feraferia is and, more specifically, what is meant by the phrase: “the awakening of a deeper identity with landscape.”
It was through this section that I could put into context the rites and practices described earlier in the book. For example, I understood the importance of creating the Faerie Ring Henge in the manner presented in Part Two, and I began to understand more about the tradition’s focus on the Minoan Crete culture and on Kore/Persephone.
Generally speaking, the book was interesting, and I was only disappointed in its organization. There were countless times that I read something late in the book and had a “Oh, that’s why…” moment, leading me to re-read earlier articles, reconsider artwork, and research the tradition through other means. For example, if “The Hallows of Feraferia” (written by Admas in 1967) had been included in the beginning rather than the end everything would have made more sense the first time around.
While I have a firm-enough foundation in Pagan history to understand much of what was presented, I am not certain if a person, who is new to Paganism, could use this first edition hardbound art book as an introduction to Feraferia. Fortunately, Carson has recently released a second edition, which is smaller (11 x 8.5) contains more articles, art, a bibliography and further reference information. In addition, more books are planned, which will dive deeper into the beliefs and practices of the tradition. Until then, I will happily gaze at the enchanting artwork within the pages of Celebrating Wildness and figure out how to create a fairy henge that won’t alert my neighbors in my tiny suburban backyard.
Jo Carson is a long-time follower of Feraferia and is the tradition’s current leader. She has a Master’s degree in Film Production and in addition to her extensive work in the film industry, also produced documentaries Dancing with Gaia and A Dance for the Goddess. Her book, Celebrating Wildness, is available through the Feraferia website.