by Brooks Alexander
Harvest House Publications, 2004, $11.99 US
Review By Daven
This is a book that I’m going to have to judge on two scales. See, this is not one of those books I normally review. Generally I review books of interest to the Pagan/Wiccan/Witch community and tell everyone what I think of it. This one touches on the NeoPagan community, but is not really of interest to the NeoPagan community other than as a reference.
A Christian wrote this book about the NeoPagan community, and the NeoPagan’s impact on society as a whole. It’s about trends and how we have touched almost every aspect of modern life. So I’m going to have to judge this book on it’s own merits and on the scale of “how useful is it to us”.
Let me say that this book is excellently written. The author has done his homework on this topic and knows what he is talking about almost as well as we do. He states in this book that he has been working with the NeoPagan community almost since it’s inception in the 1960’s. He was around and active during that critical crucible time in California and other parts of the country and had been involved in many of the groups that started the whole thing off. My first question was “why didn’t he become a Wiccan/Witch/Pagan?” By his own words, he found Jesus and God, was Born Again and has been very active in Christianity since.
But part of his “mission” is to help other Christians not be hoodwinked by threats to them. So he started the “Spiritual Counterfeits Project” dedicated to exposing fakes and flakes. He helped expose things like the Moonies and Jim Jones. But he kept his NeoPagan contacts up and wrote the occasional scholarly piece about the pagans. While the implication is that NeoPaganism is a “spiritual counterfeit”, he’s very careful in this book NOT to state that Wicca and Witchcraft are counterfeits and says in so many words that they are NOT counterfeit at all.
This book takes all his research further and makes things clearer about what Wicca and NeoPaganism is and is not. He accurately portrays the current state of NeoPaganism and Wicca, showing not only our strengths but our flaws as well. Make no mistake, this is a biased book, as it is written for a Christian audience, but it is not slanted nor does it misconstrue our faith and life-path. He gives an accurate history, debunks the Burning Times myth (which he calls the “Foundation Myth”) and states accurately what Wicca is and what is believed in the practice. He is VERY careful in this section not to make a judgment call as to whether or not Wicca is right or a religion.
Interestingly there is an extensive section where he talks about the invasion of the Fluffy Bunnies and the reaction of current Wiccans to that invasion. He talks about the role of the CoG in getting worldwide religious interfaith outreach, including their excellent work with the Parliament of World Religions and the United Religions Initiative.
The book talks exclusively about how NeoPaganism has changed many of the paradigms of Western thought. An example that he shows is the removal of a benevolent creator God from the current culture to replace it with a self-responsible and aware paradigm, to the loss of Christian faith in many key areas of the current culture. He lays out this change in thought very well and thoroughly, and implies that it was deliberate on the part of the NeoPagans back in the 1960’s. Not that it was a sinister plan, mind you, but that it was an opportunity that we took advantage of as it was presented.
He goes on to talk about current cultural icons that are being used as a substitute for God and how there are many cases where it is a deliberate shift (such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer). He talks about this impact on the young of the world and how it can be seen as both a good and a bad thing from a Humanistic standpoint, but how it is diametrically opposed to a Christian mindset and whether or not we intended it, it is an opposition to the goals of Christianity.
He never advocates proselytizing to the NeoPagans, nor does he ever say that NeoPaganism is wrong or dangerous. On the contrary, the author seems to go out of his way to present NeoPaganism as one path among many and what more and more people are turning to whether they know it or not. He also never says NeoPaganism is a good thing. He points out that there is a very strong moral streak in NeoPaganism, but that it is different from Christianity. Like all researchers, he mostly leaves his personal judgments at the door.
This made reviewing this book very difficult. On it’s own merits this book is an excellent work. It shines as an example of what can and has been accomplished over the past 50 years by everyone involved in NeoPaganism. It is full of facts, some criticisms (the same criticisms most serious practitioners level at the stupid as well, such as the “foundation myth”) and admission when they are wrong and when we are wrong. For this alone, I give this book 5 stars out of 5. It never falls down nor does it bite it’s own tail. It is exceedingly well written by someone who is as knowledgeable in NeoPaganism as many of our current Elders, and many of the Founders of NeoPaganism and Wicca as well.
It’s usefulness to the average NeoPagan? In that, this rates 3 1/2 stars out of 5. There are many points made, many suggestions made and a lot of accurate research. If one can ignore the Christian bias, its usefulness is self-evident. It’s a well written scholarly work, full of facts and trivia that *I* didn’t know about (but which holds up on checking facts out). So most NeoPagans will find a lot of use from this book. But this book makes statements from a Christian perspective that can be argued are flawed because of some assumptions, and for that, it should probably not be recommended for anyone who is at a Wicca 101 level.
In all, I like this book and I’m glad I read it.
NOTE: I was contacted by Mr. Alexander today, and he told me that the entire contents of this book have been put online now. He was kind enough to share the URL with me, and it is available at the publisher’s website.
He also sent in the same email:
Also possibly of interest will be the article I just published (in the SCP Journal) on “Christian Witchcraft & Christo-Paganism”, featuring a lengthy interview with Donald Frew, Interfaith Representative for the Covenant of the Goddess (CoG). You would be able to order a copy of the magazine through the SCP website (<scp-inc.org>)