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Author Topic: What Was Your 101 Book?  (Read 28905 times)
Perzephone
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« Topic Start: December 24, 2009, 01:10:14 am »

So, if you started out on your path by reading a book, what was your '101' book, so to speak?

Looking back on it, was it a good beginner book for your path? Would you, or do you, recommend it to people who are just starting out? Why or why not?

Conversely, looking back, are you embarrassed about it, and do you try to avoid mentioning it, or do you warn people away from it? And once again, why or why not?

(I know it sounds awkward - I was tempted to ask, "What was your first book on Paganism, Wicca, or the occult?", but not everyone here is on a Pagan path, and I didn't want to exclude anyone, lol).

_______________________________________________________________

Even though I was raised on mythology and books on general occultism, the first book I read after I recognized that I was Pagan was a really, really bad book. I picked up Sarah Morrison's The Modern Witch's Spellbook. It was written in the 70s, and I was reading it in the early 80s. It's a spell cookbook at best, and at worst... well, Morrison writes spells calling on both Satan and Jesus Christ (thankfully not at the same time, hah), and her primary focus seems to be man-catching. She's more than a little racist and seems to espouse both women's lib and the 50's ideal of the white-picket-fence. Many of her spells have some delightful components like boiling live ants in oil to torment an enemy, or frying live spiders in candle flames. She also suggests winning a man by going out into a field under a full moon, picking wild mushrooms & adding them to the intended target's mashed potatoes. Morrison's magic is definitely not for the feint-at-heart (or the untrained mycologist!).

Here's a classic quote: Marriage-minded ladies are to be found everywhere, but especially in large cities where they tend to live in ghettos.... Wtf?

Or how about: Nurses, of course, headhunt among the doctors staffing hospitals, and regard all other females who find doctors interesting, too, as intruders on their private reserves... /facepalm

Uh, needless to say, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone - unless they're looking for a good laugh. What's embarrassing about this particular tome is that I actually performed some of the spells (although not any involving frying insects or unidentified fungi) - and had some minor successes.
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« Reply #1: December 24, 2009, 03:40:21 am »

So, if you started out on your path by reading a book, what was your '101' book, so to speak?

I'm kind of an outlier in all this, as I never really read 101 books about witchcraft or paganism of any stripe.  So I guess I'll just skip straight to the embarrassing stuff...

Quote
Conversely, looking back, are you embarrassed about it, and do you try to avoid mentioning it, or do you warn people away from it? And once again, why or why not?

This is really embarrassing, but the book that got me started exploring paganism was a novel I read in the mid-80s.  By <gulp> Whitley Strieber.  Yeah, that Whitley Strieber.  I grew up in NoCal with lots of New Age types, but this was my first exposure to something that kinda sorta looked like Wicca.  And while Wicca and I didn't work out, this book got me voraciously looking for more information about neopaganism.

Though not a book, I'm also a little embarrassed at how much I got into the Women and Spirituality series (put out by the Film Board of Canada in the early 90s).  Margaret Murray's debunked theories were already on my radar, but like Fox Mulder, I wanted to believe.

Brina
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« Reply #2: December 24, 2009, 07:08:12 am »

So, if you started out on your path by reading a book, what was your '101' book, so to speak?  

(I'm answering on "what was your introduction to Paganism" terms here, because my intro to Hellenic Reconstructionism specifically was mostly just talking to people/observing other people talking on TC, honestly.)

I didn't really, and I still haven't actually read all that many Books On Paganism.  I got my beginning info on the Web.  Fortunately, I very quickly found my way to TC and its then-sister-forum the Thicket (quickly enough that I don't really remember much before that), so by the time I got to books I had a good idea of what to look for.  At the time, I was on a much more Wiccish path, and as a result what I read was What Witches Do by Stewart Farrar, and Starhawk's The Spiral Dance (the 20th anniversary edition, and no, Starhawk isn't actually Wiccan, but at the time Spiral Dance looked sufficiently similar to me that it still helped me out in that area).

Not really embarrassed about it, no.  Grin
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« Reply #3: December 24, 2009, 08:13:56 am »

So, if you started out on your path by reading a book, what was your '101' book, so to speak?

My introduction to Magic and Paganism (although not my current religion) was Mastering Witchcraft by Paul Huson. A book I still strongly recommend to those interested in witchcraft as magic today.
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« Reply #4: December 24, 2009, 09:44:59 am »

I'm kind of an outlier in all this, as I never really read 101 books about witchcraft or paganism of any stripe.  So I guess I'll just skip straight to the embarrassing stuff...

Well, the first book doesn't have to be a 101 book - I was just trying to see what people read first Smiley

Quote
This is really embarrassing, but the book that got me started exploring paganism was a novel I read in the mid-80s.  By <gulp> Whitley Strieber.  Yeah, that Whitley Strieber. 

Aw, Cat Magic was great, if only because it was so wacky!
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« Reply #5: December 24, 2009, 11:24:52 am »

So, if you started out on your path by reading a book, what was your '101' book, so to speak?

Starhawk's The Spiral Dance, and yes, I'd recommend today to others.
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« Reply #6: December 24, 2009, 12:54:31 pm »

Aw, Cat Magic was great, if only because it was so wacky!

I still enjoy reading it, actually.  I'm just a little embarrassed to have derived an immediate and rabid interest in spirituality from it.  But in my defense, I was a teenager.  Wink

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« Reply #7: December 24, 2009, 01:38:28 pm »


I became pagan during the internet age so my first exposure to actual paganism (actually Wiccan-flavored) was via website.  The first actual Pagan book was Cunningham's Guide for the Solitary Practitioner.

Although you could say that my first exposure was in middle school.  The school library had a nice mythology/folklore/paranormal section and they had a book about the history of witchcraft (mostly about the various witchhunts throughout history and what people thought witches were) which had a chapter about modern witches that I can not remember if it was accurate or not (mind you, this was in a series that included books on Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster).  Another book from this library was a book on American folklore and had some hoodoo spells in the back.
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« Reply #8: December 24, 2009, 01:43:27 pm »

So, if you started out on your path by reading a book, what was your '101' book, so to speak?

I can't say that it started me on my path, but started me on paganism?  That I can do.

The Truth About Witchcraft Today.

(This was followed rapidly with The Spiral Dance and Uncle Bucky's Big Blue.  And possibly a few others.)

It was enough to make it clear to me that pagan stuff was the direction I should be going and keep me trying neoWicca until I gave up in a fit of "I feel like a complete idiot doing this stuff", so I guess that's a good start.
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« Reply #9: December 24, 2009, 04:11:32 pm »

So, if you started out on your path by reading a book, what was your '101' book, so to speak?

Looking back on it, was it a good beginner book for your path? Would you, or do you, recommend it to people who are just starting out? Why or why not?

Conversely, looking back, are you embarrassed about it, and do you try to avoid mentioning it, or do you warn people away from it? And once again, why or why not?
My 101 book - the first explicitly-Pagan non-fiction book I recall reading, and the point at which I began to develop a coherent structure for my path - was Starhawk's The Spiral Dance (original edition, borrowed from a friend - I didn't have a copy of my own until the 10th anniversary edition came out).  Not only would I/do I recommend it to others, I want to buy the 30th anniversary edition if and when it appears (note:  there is no mention on her homepage of a new revision being in the works, so I may be yearning after a unicorn here - which may stop me from getting it, but it doesn't stop me from wanting it).  My recommendation would, though, come with a lot more caveats than it once did; it's not a useful starter for someone who isn't interested in religious Witchcraft, and someone who is needs to know that it's not Wicca.

I'd already been following my path, in a magpie unstructured way, for over ten years by that time, though, reading all manner of material on Weird Stuff, gleaning bits of wheat from the very large mountain of chaff.  I managed to miss both Streiber (as per Brina) and Morrison (as per Perzephone), but I read plenty of other things that I'd probably be embarrassed about if I could remember what they were - but I wasn't looking at that point for authoritativeness, just for whatever bits a given book had that resonated for me in just the right way.  To that end, I generally found fiction to be more useful than non-fiction - I may have run across some explicitly-Pagan non-fiction, but I wasn't yet at the point where it pinged my radar as "this is what I'm looking for" - with Andre Norton's Witch World books being the most useful.  I'm still inclined to recommend the fiction-based sort of approach, too, though it doesn't work for everyone - for me, it was an excellent way to develop critical reading skills, because I knew durned well that any "truth" therein would be non-literal, buried in the requirements of drama and conflict and plot structure, and possibly an accident of good solid plot structuring rather than derived from the writer having actual occult knowledge.

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« Reply #10: December 24, 2009, 04:28:49 pm »

I'm still inclined to recommend the fiction-based sort of approach, too, though it doesn't work for everyone - for me, it was an excellent way to develop critical reading skills, because I knew durned well that any "truth" therein would be non-literal, buried in the requirements of drama and conflict and plot structure, and possibly an accident of good solid plot structuring rather than derived from the writer having actual occult knowledge.

Well, if we want to get into fictional initiations... mine was, naturally, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It still shapes a lot of my cosmology, and I'm not even that drawn to Celtic paganism, heh.
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« Reply #11: December 24, 2009, 06:34:03 pm »

Well, if we want to get into fictional initiations... mine was, naturally, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

That is a beautiful book.
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« Reply #12: December 25, 2009, 01:02:39 am »


Hmm. Mine was Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham. I still look at it from time to time, despite not being Wiccan. I was actually thinking about Wiccan mythology recently, and that I still sort of relate to it, or at least really like it. Especially the Holly/Oak Kings and the life-death-reborn Sun God myths. *shrug*
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« Reply #13: December 25, 2009, 02:59:03 am »

So, if you started out on your path by reading a book, what was your '101' book, so to speak?

Looking back on it, was it a good beginner book for your path? Would you, or do you, recommend it to people who are just starting out? Why or why not?

I have taken such a circuitous route to where I am today it's difficult to say what the first book was.

I think it started with a curiosity about tarot symbolism, so I'd say Aleister Crowley's "Book of Thoth" was probably first.  Yes I'd recommend it.  For me it was a jumping off point for further exploration just to figure out some of the things he was talking about.

Now the book that brought me to heathenry was H. R. Ellis Davidson's "Myths and Symbolsin Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions".  I would and do recommend heathens read any/all of her works even though they're not written for pagans per say.

I wouldn't call either of these '101' books.  I've read some pagan ones in between and since then, but I read a lot because I like to.
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« Reply #14: December 25, 2009, 01:31:18 pm »

So, if you started out on your path by reading a book, what was your '101' book, so to speak?

Looking back on it, was it a good beginner book for your path? Would you, or do you, recommend it to people who are just starting out? Why or why not?

Conversely, looking back, are you embarrassed about it, and do you try to avoid mentioning it, or do you warn people away from it? And once again, why or why not?

Well..my first book was from Scott Cunningham..the second in his series Wicca for the solitary beginner.

It was good but I guess I was expecting something a bit more than just talk about symbols and tools.
Another was a book by Dianne Sylvan (I think) called "The Circle Within" that was good too but she talked much about her Christian upbringing so I was never sure from what premise she was ever talking form. It seemed like she was promoting the religion she was brought up in.

The book had good points and is overall worth reading.

I actually had a few books at one time though I cannot recall all the titles.

I did have a couple of books about "hedge witches" too.so it is hard to really say what book was the most useful as I would think most books have some morsels to extract.
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