Pagans interested in some of the history of the beliefs and practice.
In a nutshell:
Author Williams provides a multi-century overview of the beliefs, practices, groups, and secret societies that are associated with paganism in the UK.
“It is always worth your while to ask two questions: ‘how do we know?’ and ‘who said this first?’”
Why I chose it:
I find spiritual practices and belief systems outside the big three Abrahamic faiths to be quite interesting.
What it left me feeling:
I was raised vaguely Christian (like, my mom went to a church on Christmas and Easter until I was maybe six). I had a VERY Christian phase in 8th and 9th grade, but by college and after I was leaning more agnostic, with a brief exploration of paganism in the form of Wicca.
As I get older, I think that I’m getting a bit less rigid in some of my beliefs (though more rigid in others lol). Like, I don’t think I’ve ever seriously defined myself as atheist, because I can’t know. And it’s sort of arrogant to assume I do, or even can. But I find nature, and the power of nature, to be calming and inspiring, and so when I think about spirituality and religion, I think of that, and I’m more open to the ideas around it.
Which brings me to why I picked up this book. I was in a fairly tiny bookshop and this jumped out at me. I don’t know much of the history of different forms of paganism, and thought this would be an interesting bit of reading. And the first half was, but the second half, I don’t know, I found it hard to follow. It feels like it it would have worked better as an encyclopedia – each chapter, in the back half, has a lot of sub-headings of different groups or belief systems, and while Williams makes a solid effort to connect all of these things, it doesn’t totally work for me.
One thing Williams’s research makes clear is that there isn’t really a straight line or unbroken connection between ancient pagan belief systems and current paganism, despite what some claim. Modern practices draw from a lot, but Williams argues that they pull from what spoke to them. They aren’t partaking in something that’s been unchanged for centuries. I suppose that matters to some people, but I don’t know. I think one can learn a lot from a variety of beliefs and practices, and can put together something that feels right to oneself.
Recommend to a Friend / Keep / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep for reference