An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions
By Joyce and River Higginbotham
I went to the library a few days ago, armed with a list of books I wanted to read about women and pagan religions and goddesses. I couldn’t find any books on my list, but I did a search for paganism, and this one popped up. So I took it out and started reading it. In between nursing Sprout, cooking dinner, hanging laundry to dry, and occasionally sleeping, I finished it in two days. I couldn’t put it down.
The book is divided into seven chapters: What is Paganism?, You Are What You Believe, A Pagan View of Deity, What About Satan?, The Living Universe, Magick, and Ethics and Personal Responsibility.
The first chapter dispels myths about witches and paganism and the people who practice any of the myriad of religions that fall under the umbrella of paganism. The book is generalized toward the type of people who consider themselves pagans without focusing on one particular religion. Some of the religions mentioned that fall under said umbrella are Celtic paganism, Druidism, Ceremonial Magick, Santeria, Voudon, Asatru, Shamanism, Eclectic paganism, Solitary paganism, Blended paganism, Wicca, and Family Traditions. There is a brief description of each and its roots.
The rest of the book mainly focuses on finding what you believe. It has exercises in each chapter—journal writings, meditations, group discussion questions, etc.—designed to help the reader find her way to whatever practice and/or religion fits what she believes. There is a strong emphasis on personal responsibility, accountability, the sacredness and interconnectedness of Earth and all her living creatures, and ethics. While different religions come to light in different sections, it gives a very interesting objective view of them and mainstream religions.
My favorite part of this book is the emphasis on personal worship. The meditations and exercises are designed not to ‘convert’ one to paganism, but to unlock what you truly believe in your heart and to remove limitations that keep you from practicing those beliefs. The chapter on Magick compares spells and rituals to what other religions call prayer and divine inspiration—after reading the chapter, I agree! Sending a thought or intent or ‘spell’ out to the ‘universe’ and expecting things to happen while going about doing everything you can to help it along is just about exactly the same as sending your prayer to Heavenly Parents and having faith in your righteous desires. The authors even specify that if the inspiration you receive during meditation (or prayer, or whatever you want to call it) involves hurting someone else, or breaking the law, or hurting yourself, it’s not true inspiration and you should ignore it.
I highly recommend the book to anyone who wants to know more about paganism in general, or is seeking to bring more pagan ritual into her life but is concerned about the implications for church activity, or even anyone who is lost and looking for any religious or spiritual path.
http://www.amazon.com/Paganism-Introduction-Earth-Centered-Religions/dp/0738702226 (please go through The Amethyst Network if you want to buy this book, as they get a percentage of each sale: http://theamethystnetwork.org/ just use the amazon link on the right of the page)