Reading books is a big part of how I grow and develop as a Pagan and Shintoist, and followers of my blog will know that I regularly write my reflections on Pagan-related books that I’ve read. I’ve decided though that writing long reviews on each book has been a bit time-consuming, so instead I’ve decided to try and write monthly highlights of all the relevant books I’ve read. So here’s my reflections on the books I’ve read this October (aside from the ones I’ve already reviewed this month).
The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth, Robert Graves
This book is often considered “essential reading” for those interested in the development of folklore studies, as well as Paganism, in the UK. It’s also often recommended to those who’ve read one of my favourite Pagan-related books, The Golden Bough. Like The Golden Bough, The White Goddess is chunky and academic, but that’s really where the similarity ends. While for me The Golden Bough was something of a life-changer that helped to put me on the path I’m on today, I found The White Goddess far less useful as a source of information on Pagan beliefs. Much of the text, especially the first half, is focussed purely on the deep analysis on the possible hidden meanings of old poems and riddles, and is rather inaccessible to those who are not specialists in this field. While there are a few interesting tidbits of information here and there, I’d say that there’s not really a need for Pagans of today to read this – the ideas have been expressed by others in a more accessible manner elsewhere. Still, good to read for those who want a thorough understanding on the history of Neopaganism’s development as a new religion.
This is a book I found at my parent’s house when I was babysitting my nephew; I suspect my Dad bought it in Glastonbury sometime in the nineties. It certainly feels very nineties – lots of references to Atlantis and UFOs, which were big topics in the New Age movement at the time. I’m beginning to think that Druidry is not really a path for me, as I have yet to read a text on Druidry that’s really inspired me. The Book of Druidry is no different. Full of very dubious history, but rather sparse on what it is that modern-day Druids actually do, I didn’t feel I gained much from this book. The parts on the King Arthur legend were quite interesting, but I prefer Richard Cavendish’s King Arthur and the Grail as a source on information on the different interpretations of the Arthurian legends. Not bad, but not particularly memorable for me either.
Knowing that I like books on spirituality and philosophy, my husband recommended Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to me. It’s quite a quirky book – a story based sort of on real life, which is used as a framing device for exploring various philosophical concepts. You could possibly class it alongside Paul Coelho’s The Alchemist loosely in the category of “new age self help fable” as well. It starts of quite well – using the analogy of motorcycle maintenance to explain the difference between classical and romantic thought is effective and interesting, as is some of the author’s thoughts on the nature of quality and its links to concepts in Eastern spirituality. But on the whole, I found this book a bit slow, protracted, confused and more than a little pretentious.
Who Killed Mister Moonlight?: Bauhaus, Black Magick, and Benediction, David J. Haskins
**Book of the Month!**
I bought my signed 1st edition copy of Who Killed Mr Moonlight during a reading of section of the book by the author himself, David J, at Atlantis Bookshop, so I thought I’d like it. And I was not disappointed. A brutally honest biography of Goth Rock band Bauhaus by its bassist, Who Killed Mr Moonlight is insane, shocking, funny and extremely enjoyable. There’s plenty of occult content too – David J has dabbled in all kinds of magical practises including voodoo, witchcraft and Sufism, and it’s all included in here. It’s quite rare to read such vivid and in-depth experiences of magic workers in books that aren’t specifically about magic. There’s even a whole chapter devoted to David J’s exploration of the occult with Alan Moore, British occultist and writer extraordinaire. You don’t even need to be a particularly big fan of Bauhaus to enjoy this – I think all those interested in 80s rock and the Goth scene will get a kick out of Who Killed Mr Moonlight.
I’ve been enjoying my Pagan Federation membership and I was very excited to get my second issue of Pagan Dawn magazine this month. Highlight for me include an interview with Damh the Bard, a column about some of the social problems that occur during Halloween by Sergeant Andre Pardy (I really like his columns), AND an interview with one of my favourite bands, Inkubus Sukkubus (together with a competition to win some of their merchandise)