Joyce & River Higginbotham
Llewellyn, 2002 $14.95 US
Review by Daven
When I saw this title in the catalog I got somewhat concerned. The blurb said that it was 250 pages long, and promised to explain paganism to those not familiar with the concept. My concern stemmed from the belief that 250 pages is just too small a space to explain a subject as complex as paganism.
Believe it or not, the authors actually manage to do it.
This book is clear and concise in the descriptions of what Paganism is and is not, without ever once making blanket statements like “Pagans all believe….” or “Belief in ______ is shared by all pagans…” and so on. They also never make the mistake of stating that Wicca is the only thing in paganism. They distinguish clearly between Wicca, Asatru, Shamanism, Voodoo and so on, which in my experience is a novel change.
In fact in the ethics section, the authors not only contrast but also compare Wiccan, Asatru, etcetera.
I applaud the questions and the exercises in each chapter. For example, in one section about pagan concepts of the deities, they give an example used in their own classes, and then encourage the reader to take a hard look at their own beliefs, and map out their concept of God on the same chart, so that there is a visual comparison with others.
These exercises are in every chapter, sometimes multiple times if the subject is a complex one like worship and ethics. They also encourage journaling so one can see one’s thoughts and feelings on a page and be able to objectively consider them. There is even a section in each chapter if one is having problems digesting some of the concepts.
However, this book is not an in depth examination of paganism, it is an introduction to the rich diversity in our society and communities. I think this book would be totally appropriate for one to purchase and give to those friends and colleagues who are honestly trying to find out what we believe and come to some sort of reconciliation with it. This is not for those who reject paganism in general as satanic nor will it convince them that we are not, a closed mind is incapable of learning. It is written for the person who has an open intellectually curious mind.
There I have a few slight problems however. I feel that the ethical discussions should be at the front of the book rather than being held until the last chapter. I would have liked to see a list of recommended references broken down by Pagan path for those who are trying to explain a specific path to someone.
This is a good introduction to paganism one that I think would be useful to those who have relatives who are struggling in understanding. I think the Higginbothams did an exceptional job with a difficult subject. I give this 4 1/2 stars out of 5.