A good, solid, human and engaging introductory text to a religion, particularly a minority religion, is worth its weight in gold. Crafting an introduction to a religious practice, mythos, cosmology and values is a bit like walking a tightrope: too far to one side creates a text that is inaccessibly esoteric and too far to the other side leaves you with a “dummies guide” that even the most ignorant novice will scoff. In Exploring the Northern Tradition Krasskova has created a beautifully balanced introduction to Modern Heathenry.
I will admit that I always check negative reviews of books first, particularly on Amazon. Despite having read her blog posts on Pantheon and found her to be a delightful and grounded person via e-mail, I did begin to read Exploring the Northern Tradition expecting it to be in the same vein as Welch’s Goddess of the North. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. While Krasskova has included UPG in certain sections of the book, especially when writing about the Gods and Goddesses, it was clear enough when something was from the lore and something was from her own personal spiritual practice, that the average reader should not find themselves confused.
From cosmology to personal devotions the book covers each subject thoroughly from a deep Heathen viewpoint. The flavor of the Heathen traditions permeates every sentence. Krasskova expresses the pride, strength, piety and deep community values that make the Heathen religious traditions so bewitching. Perhaps as a result of her Catholic background, the book has the warmth and emotional depth of female mystics, such as Julian of Norwich.
Krasskova illustrates a purpose and a drive to Heathen spirituality that is often missing from works by Pagan authors; this is perhaps due to the fact that Heathenry has an eschatology, or “end game”. Just as the Gods are ever maintaining frith and making preparations against Ragnarok , so humanity is ever holding out against decay and stagnation. Krasskova writes “I often think the process of spiritual emergence is an ongoing fight against entropy.” I think that is a statement that could be liberally applied to Pagan spirituality in general, not just the Heathen traditions.
If you are interested in the Heathen traditions this would be the first book I would recommend, along with a good copy of the Eddas. Reading through this a few times will give you a good solid foundation from which to explore the sagas, the Eddas and enter into dialogue with the Heathen community. The concepts of Heathenry and key points of lore are presented in an accessible and earthy manner. Krasskova has respect for her readers and doesn’t exhaustively explain every term and concept that isn’t key to having a basic understanding of the Heathen concepts. Even terms with which I was unfamiliar, the context made their meaning plain, and my interest in learning more was piqued.
My only disappointment in the book was that the glossary was not as exhaustive as I would have liked, but then in the age of Google perhaps the glossary isn’t as important as it used to be. In the same vein, there weren’t any illustrations or pictures, which someone who only has the barest understanding of Heathenry may find useful. Yet again, such resources are only a search engine away. These are small critiques compared to the real needs this book fulfills, and the footnotes and bibliography are a joy.
I would recommend Exploring the Northern Tradition to any Heathen, and any Pagan for that matter. We are seeing signs of how our communities and traditions are maturing, moving past the revival phase to look deeper, both inward and outward. This book is a good example of how Pagan traditions are moving into the future, and it seems the future is bright.