This month’s reviews include a book about Brigid, a collection of contemporary folk tales, and stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!
This book is similar to Trevor Greenfield’s Witchcraft Today: 60 Years On; in fact, Pagan Planet feels like its “Pagan” counterpart, consisting of little essays by 46 Pagans from around the world. The main difference between the two is that, as you might expect, Witchcraft Today: 60 Years On is focussed more on magical practises, while Pagan Planet centres on earth-based spirituality. Like 60 Years On, Pagan Planet‘s essays are all quite eclectic and personal in nature, giving an honest insight into the thoughts and feelings of members of the global Pagan community. Topics range from everyday living with Paganism, to Paganism and LGBT issues, to finding spirituality in the works of JRR Tolkien. There are some well-known contributors – including Pagan Federation’s president Mike Stygal and Patheos’ own John Halstead – as well as authors currently unknown in the world of Pagan literature.
One theme that seemed to emerge for me from Pagan Planet was the theme of crisis. As I read each essay, I notice a pattern that for so many people, Paganism has provided ways of dealing with crisis – either with personal crisis such as sickness or discrimination, or with the social crises of environmental destruction and global poverty. It was poignant to read of some of the challenges faced by so many of the writers in this book, but also inspiring to learn how many Pagans are actively working to make the world a better place for everyone by leading environmental campaigns and creating charities to tackle poverty.
My favourite essay in Pagan Planet is probably Jo Ashbeth Coffey’s “Living Ancestors – Honouring the Not Yet Dead,” which highlights the importance of family and includes thoughtful suggestions on how to re-kindle relationships with more distant relatives. This essay was the one that hit home for me the most and reminded me just how important our relatives are, both personally and spiritually (this is also an important aspect of Shinto so perhaps it is natural that this essay spoke to me so much). Other highlights for me include Scott Irvine’s “Being a Pagan” in which we read about his relationship with his “biker chick” Goddess, and James Middleditch’s “Unresting Castles: Trees in Everyday Modern Paganism,” which is a short and sweet piece in praise of urban trees
Pagan Planet is a great source of insight into the lives, thoughts and feelings of contemporary Pagans, and the breadth of different essays means that there’s likely to be something of interest to any Pagan reader.