Authors: Joyce & River Higginbotham
Trade Paperback, 250 pages
Publication date: July 2002
Price & More Info: Click Here
With Paganism: An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions, Joyce and River Higginbotham have attempted to place their decade of experience in teaching classes on Paganism into book form. Translating classroom teaching experience into book form is always a hard task. The Higginbothams have managed, however, turning their classroom methods into text form quite nicely and very readably. This book has received rave reviews from many Pagans. Unfortunately, it will not be receiving such a review here.
I had fairly high hopes for this book when I picked it up. Unfortunately, they were dashed almost immediately. In the second sentence of the first chapter, the authors state that Paganism is an umbrella term for many different "denominations" of Paganism. My heart froze. Paganism is indeed an umbrella term, but for many separate religions, many of which share little in common except being under the Pagan umbrella. To refer to them as denominations would be like calling Christianity and Islam "denominations" of Judaism because they are all monotheist religions. I continued reading, thinking to myself that perhaps this terminology was just an aberration.
Unfortunately, it was not. The fourth page starts listing the characteristics of Paganism with "Paganism is a religion." That's right: one religion, not many. This fatal flaw surfaces through the book. While Paganism occasionally mentions non-Wicca based religions like Asatru, it still presents Paganism as a single religion that uses the earth-centered Wheel of the Year as its holidays, believes everything is sacred, believes in life after death, follows a Rede-like ethics (although there is a mention of the Nine Noble Virtues used by some Asatru), uses magick and tools like the athame, etc. While all of this is true for most traditions of Wicca and for Pagan religions based on Wicca, many of the facts about Paganism listed in this book simply are not true for other Pagan religions.
In my opinion, any introductory book on Paganism which teaches its readers that Paganism is this single religion with basically Wiccan-like beliefs is a book that all true beginners should be urged to avoid. There are too many Pagans now who are shocked to discover that not all Pagan religions are earth-centered, Goddess-oriented, magick-using, and Rede-following. The Pagan community does not need more introductory books that perpetuate such myths. Paganism: An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions does and therefore I cannot recommend this book to those trying to find out what Paganism is.
Despite this fatal problem for beginners, the Higginbothams' book is an interesting resource for those teaching classes on Paganism. Many of the exercises in this book are original and useful for getting people to think about the various ideas about deity, religion, and spirituality. For example, the "God Map" in the "A Pagan View of Deity" chapter would be a useful tool for showing the different views of deity that various religions, both Pagan and non-Pagan, have in a simplified and introductory way. While I cannot recommend this book for its intended main audience of those interested in finding out about Paganism, I believe that those teaching classes on Paganism should take a look at this book for for its many interesting teaching methods and exercises.
Reviewed by Randall