Pellet reviews of some recently released books of interest.
Barbara Jane Davy’s “Introduction to Pagan Studies” is an essential overview and distillation of current academic thought concerning the history, beliefs, and practices of modern Paganism. Accessible and written as an introductory textbook, Davy provides an excellent starting point to people wanting to know more about Paganism, and to Pagans wanting to explore the burgeoning realm of Pagan Studies. Highly recommended, and I’m not just saying that because my writing is referenced in one of the chapters.
“Savage Breast: One Man’s Search For the Goddess” by Tim Ward, is an unflinching look into one man’s psyche as he goes on a quest for the divine feminine. Ward travels the world investigating holy sites dedicated to ancient goddesses, while working out his own personal issues with women along the way. I don’t say “unflinching” lightly, Ward goes through some pretty ugly emotional purging and realizations about how he has viewed women, and ultimately comes to feel that the absence of goddesses has created an unhealthy cultural and spiritual imbalance that must be corrected. This is a uniquely powerful and emotionally honest work.
Lisa McSherry’s book “Magickal Connections: Creating a Lasting and Healthy Spiritual Group” tackles the thorny issue of Pagan group dynamics and offers some solid advice in building and maintaining spiritual groups. McSherry draws from a variety of sources both religious and secular (including the excellent “Antagonists in the Church”) to help overcome common problems found within the small worship and ritual groups that typify our communities. This is a wonderfully functional and useful book that deserves wider attention.
America’s religious illiteracy is becoming dangerous, and something needs to be done. That is the basic thesis of Stephen Prothero’s “Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know–And Doesn’t”. Prothero’s book looks at the roots of our country’s religious illiteracy (and measures equal blame to both the idealogical “left” and “right”) and advocates for a renewed commitment in our public schools to religious education. Prothero envisions a “fourth R” (religion) to help students grapple with the religious underpinnings of important social and political issues that face us today. While I do quibble a bit with how “literate” in religion early Americans truly were, I do agree that classes dealing with the prominent religions in our world are increasingly necessary. But the needed compromise between the secular left and Religious Right to make Prothero’s proposals happen may not be coming any time soon.