Author: Janet and Stewart Farrar, Gavin Bone
Trade Paperback, 256 pages
Publisher: Phoenix Publishing
Publication date: March 1995
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This is a book I recommend strongly to anyone who comes to me asking for a basic book on Paganism. The primary reason for this is the book’s chapter entitled "The Rainbow of Paths," which gives brief descriptions of some of the better known Pagan paths. There is a growing perception that Paganism or Neo-Paganism and Wicca are interchangeable terms, and I believe it is important for someone just beginning to look into Paganism to learn at the outset that Wicca is one of many, rather than the only of the Pagan religions.
Outside of this chapter, however, several assumptions are presented that unfortunately contribute to this very misapprehension, such as the various Gods and Goddesses being "tuning-signals to the same two aspects of the Ultimate" (p. 15). Similar generalizations relating to cycles of holy days, reincarnation, and environmentalism as a religious mandate are found in the book as well. And so I strongly suggest one not stop with this one book, or even with the books found in the bibliography.
One other problem I find, and it is a fairly serious one, is that chapter 11, "The Ancient Roots," perpetuates the myth of a widespread (if not worldwide) Paleo-Pagan Earth Goddess religion. While some of the information presented is useful, including some of the speculative history, the presentation of the whole as accepted historical fact is problematic.
However, the book’s strengths still outweigh its weaknesses, I believe. The chapters on "Magic and Divination," "Healing," "Pagan Families," and "Pagans and Christianity," while necessarily brief and introductory in nature, present enough information to give the reader a basic idea of the relevant techniques or ideas and to (one hopes) prompt the reader to delve further into the areas of most interest to them.
As a whole, I consider this book to be one of the better "Paganism 101" books available, so long as it is read with a critical eye. If I were teaching a "Paganism 101" class, I would probably include this book alongside Ronald Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon as the joint starting points on the reading list.
Reviewed by Diane Verrochi
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