By Galina Krasskova
New Page Books, 2005 $14.99 US
Review by Daven
My first reaction to this book was “why the hell did New Page send this to me?” Normally I have a very narrow selection of books I review, simply because that’s what I’m knowledgeable in. Wicca, Druidism, Ritual, Wicca 101 and basics, magick and so on. Northern traditions and Germanic Heathenry is not my forte. I’m so glad I decided to read this book anyhow and not put it on the shelf.
I was concerned since (in my mind) Northern Traditions are the same as the Asatru I have read about and interacted with on a limited scope, and I know next to nothing about Asatru ways. It turns out that I know more than I thought I did, and this book pointed tha out to me.
And THAT is the gem of this book. It is supposed to be a primer for those who don’t know anything about Northern Traditions, Asatru, Theodish Belief, Heathenry or any of the myriad practices that are lumped together under that umbrella. It is supposed to be a basic introduction to those practices and a way to educate the masses about their way of belief. And it turns out that I had a heck of a lot of knowledge already.
This book points out that it wasn’t only the Viking religions, but all the Scandinavian ways of worship, including the Saxons, the Finish, the Germanics and many others. Since Seax-Wica is based on the Saxons, and they were part of this overriding group, naturally it turns out that some of the lore in Seax-Wica would carry over. It even turns out that a gentleman I know wrote the introduction and a group I interact with on the Seax-Wica list are mentioned. So that was cool.
But what I really really really liked was the chapter on the Deities. I chatted with the author via LiveJournal and she states that she was trying to balance the lore of the deities with the real, living entity that is worshiped now, and that she had a hard time doing it.
I think she struck a happy medium with that section. She did such a good job that while I was reading (and discovering things that I didn’t know), each of the deities mentioned were showing up and introducing Themselves to me. I have no clue why they would do this, but *I’m* not going to tell them “no”. When I related this and my impressions to the author, she confirmed that my experiences and impressions were pretty much how she saw Them as well.
So these concepts and personalities were not foreign to me. As I kept reading through the book, I felt more and more at home, both with the cosmology and how the groups interacted as well as their history; so on and so forth. I was amazed at how much I knew from my studies in Seax-Wica and through Druidism. Heathenry may not be for me personally, but it is well laid out, logically structured, well described and (as far as I can tell) complete.
I have some problems however. First is that while this book is far from being as jargon intensive as say the Eddas, it still has a lot of terms that a new person may not have seen or heard before. I would suggest a bookmark to the glossary to help the reader keep up with what the author is saying while reading through this the first time.
Another problem is that the deity names change from usage to usage, sometimes within the same entry. It’s spelled Odin here, Woden there, Odunn there and Odun over there. (Insert visual of a kid with a pamphlet at a baseball game crying, “Get your Program! Can’t keep the Gods straight without a Program!” here.) It can get more than a bit confusing. The author says that it was an attempt to get the reader familiar with the deity names as fast as possible. I think that in a primer of this sort, consistency is the keyword. Yes, list the names in that deity’s entry, but spell it one way so people know whom you are talking about.
The last quibble I have is footnotes. She has extensive footnotes. The problem with it is that the footnotes are NOT included with the chapter they are referencing. So while Chapter 3 has over 60 individual footnotes, they are shoved into an appendix in the back. By the time the average reader gets to the footnote, they may not remember where the particular text that the footnote refers to is located in the chapter. That may, however, be the way the publisher printed the book and not a function of what the author did. I would have liked to see the footnotes IN the chapter they come from, so that those who use the footnotes can do so immediately.
All in all, I REALLY like this book. I would award it 5 stars, but looking at those problems I spotted, I’m going to have to give it 4 1/2 stars out of 5. This does not detract from the usefulness of this work and it still fulfills the role the author had for it (education and primer for those who don’t know). It is simply points that one must be aware of and be prepared to compensate for while reading.
I am VERY glad I have this now. It will help me in relating to those (non)Godless-heathens out there.