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There is a vast amount of literature out there about Paganism, from the most fluffy and ditzy of spell books through to the seriously academic. For someone thinking that maybe Paganism is for them, its a confusing state of affairs, with different traditions and groups, and no good palces to start. Pete Jennings has, rather ambitiously perhaps, attempted to provide a sensible place for people to start. It needed doing. This is not a book that will tell you how to be a Pagan, or how to cast spells, but it will tell you where you can look.
Pete is very good about laying out his personal biases. He's a member of the Pagan Federation - which while not being a definite Pagan group, has one of the (if not the) largest mebmerships, has been going for 30 years and does a lot of work to get Paganism taken seriously. He was furthermore, President of said organisation a few years back. So, the book contains some of the PF biases and world view, but there are so many organisations out there, a book including all of them would be a very huge tome indeed. Being a PF member myself, I was of course open to Pete's leanings, but it might not suit everyone. Furthermore, Pete belongs to the Heathen/Astaru tradition, following the Viking pantheon, which informs a lot of his perspective.
There are a huge number of Pagan paths out there, and within any given path, there are lots of different subgroups with their own styles, practises and traditions. Druidry for example, has many groups, including but not limited to, The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, The British Druid Order, the Druid Network, The Druids of Albion, the Loyal Arthurian warband.... and many others. It's the same in other traditions. Consequently, it would be impossible to give a full picture of Paganism in the UK today (much less in the world) without writing a tome of fairly epic proportions. It would be equaly difficult and lengthy to cover Paganism historically. This book is a taster, a starting point and an overview. If something grabs you, you can follow up on it. It's not supposed to be the ultimate guide to everything Pagan - any exposure to this group of religions will make you realise how impossible such a book would be to write. It's a place to start, no more and no less.
What Pete Jennings has written is a book that gives an overview of the main streams of practise within the UK, as he sees it. He covers some of the forms of witchraft/wicca - Gardnerian, Alexanrian, Traditional, hedgewitch etc. Druidry, Shamanism, Astaru women's and men's mystery traditions. He gives a brief overview of the history of these groups, and says a bit about what they currently do. It isn't definitive or exhaustive, nor does he claim it to be. Also, unless you are in a tradition, it's very difficult to give an impression of what it's like to practise. Pete works around this by including lengthy quotes from leading figures in various movements. It does, I think, give a good impression of how the paths are. I certainly learned a few things about the history and current practise of traditions other than my own.
The book includes information about Pagan approaches to seasonal celebrations and to life rites, to ceremonial magic and spell casting, as well as considering the practical implications of Paganism and the ethical issues surrounding the use of magic. The writing style is relaxed and fluid - I found it highly accessible and very readable. There was a lot of information packed into quite a small space, but it didn't overload me. I remember most of what I read. It could never be definitive, because for every Pagan you will get a slightly different take on what Paganism is all about. It is necessarily superficial, but I think it does give something of a flavour.
One of the things I especially liked was that Pete makes it very clear this isn't something you can get into casually or lightly. Paganism is not really the path for people who want hatch-match-and-dispatch religion. This is a lifechoice, not a hobby. He makes it clear that all of the paths are challenging and demanding in their own ways, that they will ask a lot of you, and he is wise to do so. Anyone who is put off Paganism by this book, clearly wasn't suited to it. It's not an easy spirituality. He does include some of the more challenging aspects - nudity, use of sexual initiaion, use of extreme measures to create altered states of consciousness, etc. If you mean to do more than pay lip service to Paganism, it's hard work, there are issues, and I think it pays to know in advance that it isn't the sort of religion where you can turn up once a week or however often, listen to someone else telling you what you should be doing, and pay it no thought the rest of the time.
One of the things that makes this book good, is it's lengthy list of further reading, which is excellent and will give any searcher a good place to start. I think in this capacity it is an excellent resource.
So who is it for? It's largely written as though the anticipated reader knows nothing at all about any Paganism, and for someone coming to it new, it might be a good read. I can imagine many would be witches or heathens reading it and thinking 'golly, that's a bit much, don't like the sound of that'. If so, good stuff. As a Pagan, I feel there are a lot of people who dabble their feet in our religions without the strength of mind or intention to do anything other than make noise. This may sound harsh, but I don't really care. I think one of the intentions of this book is to put off people who were looking to 'learn a few spells ', people who have seen 'The Craft' and think that's what Paganism is about. (I'm not one of these people who thinks that Paganism should be dummed down to suit every dappy individual who wants to play at it - I don't think that's a responsible approach.)
I would particularly recommend this book for established Pagans who are interested in getting a vague idea about what traditions other than their own are about, or who are considering making the move between the 'general eclectic pagan' that represents where most of us start, and one of the more formal traditions.