[personal profile] asthefiretree
Renee Rhodes
Book Review: Modern Paganism
Being A Pagan, Ellen Evert Hopman, Lawrence Bond

I chose to read this book partially because it was the easiest available to me in the modern paganism category- I borrowed it from my roommate- and partially because it was the one I was most interested in.

After the introduction, the book starts out with an interview with Isaac Bonewits. I have not yet read any of Isaac’s books, nor had I read any interviews with him, so it was interesting to read some of the thoughts of ADF’s founder. This interview was proceeded by a couple of members of the Henge of Keltria. I understood that there were some differences in goals and ideology that caused the people to leave ADF and found Keltria, but after reading these two interviews, it looks like the parting wasn’t very amicable, though the comments were innocuous enough. However, I am not reviewing accounts of the ADF/Keltria split.

This book was an interesting read. The interview format and conversational tone made it a very easy and quick read also. I wasn’t really sure what I would find or who was interviewed for the book but I wasn’t entirely surprised to find that many of the interviewees were “Pagan celebrities”. I was disappointed to find that there really weren’t many of your average “Joe Pagans” in this book, a sentiment that has gotten me started on the idea of possibly eventually writing just such a book myself.

I am conflicted over my feelings in a lot of the interviews, but on most points, I can’t fault the authors, it is the viewpoints and claims of the interviewees that I disagree with, such as Zsuzsana Budapest’s “I am a genetic Witch, originally from Hungary. My family tree goes back to 1270 and I am a miracle. We survived the Witch burnings…” (pg. 326) and “First of all, I teach women the female Goddesses and not the male Gods. We just don’t pray to male Gods, period. No more bowing down to male Gods. First we acknowledge that the male principle in the universe is not a patriarch, he’s a good boy. I was raised like that, we never prayed to male Gods.” (pg. 327) I found the first statements to be unbelievable- there is a witchcraft gene? And the second ones to be patronizing and unbalanced. This book was definitely useful in finding out which other authors’ books I might want to avoid..

My main disagreement with the authors themselves comes from the various points throughout the book where they refer to paganism as “a religion” and “one of the Earth religions” (pg 264). The problem with this is that paganism is not “a religion”. “Pagan” is a very broad term for a very large collection of religions which, depending on whom you ask, can be applied to any non-Abrahamic religion.

The other aspect of this book that I had problems with was the constant asking of “When did you discover you were pagan?” This sounds very much to me like “When did you find out you had a learning disability” or “When were you diagnosed with an astigmatism?” It implies that “pagan” is something that you can be without knowing it. I believe that one might hold certain beliefs, and choose to apply the term “pagan” to them once discovering the label, but that doesn’t make the person pagan without knowing it.

In all, the book was worth the time and effort to read once to gain some of the many viewpoints of pagans out there. However, it didn’t make me want to run out and buy my own copy.



March 2010

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