Author: Yasmine Galenorn
Paperback, 220 pages
Publisher: Crossing Press
Publication date: November 2001
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At long last, publishers are beginning to respond to the needs of those Pagans out there who have grown beyond the same old 101 fare. Yasmine Galenorn, already a strong author whose previous books were thoughtful and unique, offers something truly and delightfully different: Crafting the Body Divine, a book on the Neo-Pagan relationship to the body and how to improve self image within a spiritual context.
The book begins by discussing body image and how the way we take care of ourselves reflects our spiritual values. It discusses sexuality and health in frank, open language dusted liberally with good humor. Galenorn includes chapters on exercise -- dance and yoga receiving special attention, as they have an inherent spiritual component -- and body modification from the pseudo-mainstream (tattooing, piercing) to the extreme (branding, as well as a number of ceremonies from diverse cultures that would cause more than a few winces among Westerners). Within these chapters are meditations, ritual ideas, and thought-provoking interviews. Especially enjoyable for their unpretentious honesty are Galenornís anecdotes about her own struggles with body image, her experiences under the tattoo needle, and her recovery from injury.
The most encouraging thing about this book is its tone. Galenorn is willing to step up and say, "This is who I am, and you damn well better get used to it" and nudge others toward the same attitude. Women especially will find peeking around the paragraphs a true role model for self-acceptance and courage.
I would have liked this book to have been longer, including a few more meditations and exercises on body image, as it is a difficult issue for many trying to recover from Western society's Cult of the Stick Insect. While body modification is widespread in the Pagan community (and often undertaken without true contemplation of the gravity of changing your physical form permanently), the first half of the book dealing with self-esteem will probably prove the most influential for readers. People coming to the community cannot make the transition from "I'm a fat sow" to "I'm a Goddess" automatically. There are many small steps in between, and Galenorn's Crafting the Body Divine offers the tools that many of us have been missing to help get there from here.
Reviewed by Dianne Sylvan