Saturday, 23 March 2013

Pagan Generation

One of my goals for this year was to spend more time reading.  As much as I enjoy reading, I'm terrible about taking the time to do it.  When it comes to books on Paganism, I'm even worse because I tend to be quite jaded about them.  Most of them are either meant for people new to Paganism, therefore, not teaching me anything I don't already know, or they're the "complete" sort of book that you don't really sit down and read, you just use it as a reference book when needed.  

So it was that I believed Pagan Generation - A Young Person's Guide to Paganism fell into the former category and was therefore not for me.  The title alone makes it clear - I am not exactly the target market for this book.  That would be my daughters, not me.  

However, this is another one of those cases where I know the author.  Luthaneal Adams and I work together for Pagan Federation London and are good friends.  It was for this reason, as well as the in the interest of expanding my reading horizons, that I even picked up the book.  I probably wouldn't have otherwise.  

It's also at this stage that my bias in reviewing this book is revealed.  However, like the last time I reviewed a book, I will once again do my utmost to quell any bias I may have to say it's bloody wonderful simply because it was written by a friend.

But.....what can I's actually a really great book and I rather enjoyed it, which surprised me because I didn't know if I would.  I also finished the book having learned some things about other strands of Paganism that I previously did not know, which was another pleasant surprise as well as a lesson to myself to not judge a book by its cover in the literal sense.  

Although speaking of judging it by its cover, it must be mentioned that the artwork on the cover and throughout the book by Laura Jacqueline Smith is fabulous; beautiful and elegant giving Luthaneal's book an air of sophistication one doesn't usually find in a book for young people.  It's actually refreshing to see such fine art in a book of this nature.  

The content of Pagan Generation, however, is what matters most and there are a great many good points in this regard.  Firstly, there's writing style.  Luthaneal is well spoken in person anyway and  this carries over in his writing, creating a fluid conversational style that is easy to read. 

I also liked that he did not shrink from using the word religion.  Amongst Pagans, there tends to be a great deal of apathy and criticism over the "r" word, some becoming downright angry about it saying that religion is a meaningless institution that is devoid of spirituality and merely a method of trying to control people.  Instead, they always refer to their "spirituality".  The irony is that if ever a publication or government body is perceived as infringing upon their freedom to worship as they choose, these same people are the first ones to stand up and shout about freedom of religion.  To me, religion and spirituality walk hand in hand and while there is no question there are serious problems with some religious institutions, I do not perceive that to  mar the word religion.  So I was pleased to see that Luthaneal made a marriage between using the terms religion and spirituality throughout.

Secondly, the general nature of the book makes it unique amongst other books for people new to Paganism, which tend to focus on one particular type of Paganism, quite often Wicca or witchcraft.  There is a fair amount of focus on Wicca and witchcraft in Pagan Generation, however, this is acceptable for two reasons:  1.  Wicca and witchcraft do tend to be the first Pagan paths people are drawn to, especially young people, and 2.  Luthaneal is an initiated Wiccan priest, so he knows well what he's talking about.  It therefore makes sense that he would devote a healthy focus to these paths to ensure correct information is presented.  I also quite liked the way Luthaneal defined Wiccans and witches, namely that Wiccans are witches but not all witches are Wiccans; a point that is not often made in other books.

But the book doesn't stop at just Wicca and witchcraft.  The reader is given a flavour of what Pagansim, as a whole, is about, as well as various paths that are considered Pagan.  This is very important to a young person who is seeking her spirituality within Paganism as she is likely to be unaware of the vast choices before her.  Several chapters are devoted to some of the myriad traditions under the Pagan umbrella which provide a terrific overview of the basic tenets and practices of these paths.  There is no way Luthaneal could have detailed all of them, but the  specific belief systems elaborated on were clever choices, reflecting the specific cultures and pantheons that people are often drawn to initially - Celtic, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, etc., even including a chapter on being eclectic, as quite often people feel drawn to more than one way of working and practising.  

There are also several chapters on important basics in respect of Paganism such as seeking the Divine, cultivating Divine relationship, the pros and cons of practising alone versus practising in a group, magical theory, rituals and building one's own practise.  These practicalities are so very important to one starting out on a Pagan path and these chapters give that initial advice and guidance that enables the reader to put ideas and theory into practise right away while giving great scope for personal interpretation.

This brings me to my final point, which is, Pagan Generation is a wonderful stepping off point where rather than the reader being tossed into an abyss of confusion, it provides the reader a  set of clearly defined paths that can be explored further.  At the end of most chapters is a short list of recommended books and resources where the reader can investigate specific Pagan paths further.  This enables the reader to move in the direction that's right for her.  

My only criticism of this book is the editing needs tweaking.  This is down to the publishing house though.  

The general content of Pagan Generation and its presentation are excellent, making it a sterling resource for any young person seeking her spirituality within the realm of Paganism.  Indeed, I wish this book had been available to me thirty years ago.  It would have quickly become my Bible, at least initially until I began to find my feet firmly on a specific path.  

And although this book is aimed at young people, I believe it's a terrific book for a seeker of any age.  The essence holds up just as well for any adult who may find herself seeking a Pagan path or even those of some experience.  As mentioned already, I still got a great deal out of this book, even though I am a seasoned practitioner and devotee.  Although familiar with all the paths outlined, many of them I had never explored or read much about.  I came away with a much greater understanding and knowledge of these paths that will no doubt serve me in future.  

I highly recommend Pagan Generation and commend Luthaneal for contributing such an important work to Paganism.  It will serve as a vital resource for many years to come.

Pagan Generation can be found on Amazon or ordered direct from Luthaneal via his website.

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