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Pagan and Spiritual Book Round-Up November 2015

 

greenmantle Greenmantle, Charles De Lint

I have to admit – the main reason I bought this book was because someone posted the cover art on a Pagan-related Facebook group, and I loved it. There’s something almost Miyazaki-esque about the colour, lighting and subject matter. That’s what prompted me to track down this fantasy novel. But you know what they say…never judge a book by its cover, and sadly, this book was a good example of this rule for the most part. Although the blurb describes it as a fantasy novel about magical forests and ancient gods, there’s rather little of this in the book. Most of it is focussed on a rather dull story of Mafia warfare and an equally dull family caught up in it all. The more fantastical parts of the novel are quite interesting, taking direct inspiration from Pagan ritual, worship of the Horned God and the concept of the resurrected Green Man but they are completely overshadowed by the aforementioned main plot. Disappointing, I’m afraid to say. Still, that cover though!

ExperiencingtheGreenManExperiencing the Green Man, Rob Hardy & Teresa Moorey

I bought this while getting Christmas presents at the fantastic Hedingham Fair online shop; I have a particular fondness for the Green Man but haven’t read books specific to him (apart from Greenmantle above). This is one of these books made by a small publishing house, and it feels it – it’s cheaply printed and bound and the text inside is amateurishly written, poorly edited and riddled with typos. Thankfully, there’s also something charming and nice about it – with its friendly tone and focus on local traditions, it feels very British. For such a little book, it’s also got a surprising amount of varied content on the subject of the Green Man, including legends, guides on local churches and landmarks where Green Men can be found, rituals for honouring the Green Man, craft ideas, and even the full script for a short Mummer’s play featuring the Green Man. I additionally liked the attention paid to the Green Man within Christianity – I much prefer it when Pagan texts emphasise the links between Paganism and Christianity rather than focussing solely on the differences. It may not be a slick product, but for lovers of the Green Man, this book would probably make a welcome addition to a collection of literature about this mysterious figure.

 

LookingForLostGods Looking for the Lost Gods of England, Kathleen Herbert 

This really more of a bound essay than a book – you can read it very easily in one sitting. Herbert investigates the beliefs of the Anglo-Saxons, drawing from the writings of Roman settlers, the Venerable Bede, and texts of the Anglo-Saxons themselves (runes and Old English a-plenty). It’s a very detailed, interesting and academic piece, but due its length I can’t help but think the general reader would find this more appealing as part of a larger collection of essays on Heathenry, rather than as a stand-alone essay.

DictionaryShinto A Popular Dictionary of Shinto, Brian Bocking

Exactly what it says in the title – an A-Z of Shinto-related, Japanese terminology. I flicked through the whole book, which was very interesting and meant I discovered a lot of new aspects of Shinto, such as obscure kami and practises. Generally, I thought the explanations were pretty good – clear and easy to understand. But there were two things I thought could have been added to improve it. Firstly, it could perhaps do with a few simple illustrations to help those unfamiliar with Shinto tools and architecture; this is pretty common in Japanese dictionaries. Secondly, there isn’t a single Japanese character in the whole book. I thought this was a considerable oversight – the kanji used to write Japanese words is very important, especially in matters pertaining to religion. Including kanji for each entry should have been an obvious thing to do, and would have greatly aided understanding for those who can read Japanese (and there’s a lot of non-Japanese people interested in Shinto who can).

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Quick visit to the British Museum

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Egyptian king flanked by deities imbuing him with powers.

Yesterday my husband and I were in London, showing around a couple of my husband’s friends from Australia. As part of the day we dropped into the British Museum for about an hour, most of which is free to attend. I’ve been to the British Museum a couple of times ago, but I thought this time I’d share a few pictures of the Classical section, which is where we spent most of the time.

I love dolphins, so I was delighted to spot this little dolphin featured on an Assyrian relief!

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Venus. I love her pose here.

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Dionysus, looking particularly feminine (aside from his naughty bits!)

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A procession of Dionysus’ followers, the Maenads.

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These Eros statuettes look like they’d be right at home on a modern Christmas tree!

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Eros riding a dolphin.

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A really interesting relief of Athena blessing her followers. Look how tall she is compared to the men!

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Pan.

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Bronze mirror depicting Nike. You can easily see how images of Nike later inspired images of Judeo-Christian angels.

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A depiction of two of my favourite Greco-Roman deities, Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Gentle Death).

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I really liked this tiny little figure of dancers – I’ve seen so many modern New Age candle holders and sculptures that look similar!

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I really want to go to the Celtic exhibition that the British Museum are holding at the moment (we didn’t go this time because it’s quite expensive, and for first-timers to the BM it’s best to stick to the free exhibits). It would be something of a pilgrimage for me to see the Gundestrup Cauldron currently on display there, which depicts a horned figure now identified with Pagans as one of our most beloved deities – Cernnunos. Next time!

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Naples Trip Part 2: Antiquities Galore

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The highlight of our second day in Naples was probably the Museo Archeologico Nazionale – the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, which has enough classical mosaics, frescoes and statues to make a Hellenic or Roman Pagan swoon. Here’s some of my favourite pieces…

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The Spirituality of Alcohol

Bacchus

Bacchus, the God of Wine. “Bacco” by Caravaggio – (Own work), Lafit86. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Why is alcohol sacred in some religions but prohibited in others? I explore this question in this article at Patheos! 

 

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