Paganism: An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions by Joyce & River Higginbotham is a book commonly suggested to people interested in starting or learning more about a pagan path.
I’m pretty picky with my books. Unless a book really makes me think, is just amazingly written, has exactly the information I need, or in some way just speaks to me for no real obvious reason, it’s mediocre at best in my opinion. This particular book? I give it a solid… Eh. 2.5/5.
What I didn’t like:
For a book that sounded like it should be a good overview of all things pagan, it was very Wicca-centric. Not the worst I’ve seen, but definitely flavored as such. I’ll give it credit for saying not all pagans believed exactly the same thing, but you could tell that their main experiences were in Wicca. I realize Wicca is one of the largest pagan religions, so it makes sense that they’d spend a lot of time on it, but for something that is supposed to be an overview, it didn’t always specify when it went into Wicca mode or other mode.
This could be helpful for someone who was trying to learn about paganism from a totally clean slate, but for me, much of it wasn’t helpful. It was a lot of information I’d already heard before, slightly incorrect or biased information, and really just missed out on a lot of other things.
The workshop approach just got on my nerves. Of course, that being said, I’ll probably eventually do some of the writing/discussion exercises, or at least parts of them. I think it just seemed to water the information down too much.
There was also borderline Christianity-bashing (or at least they used Christianity as a negative example quite often while trying to act like they weren’t bashing it). I totally get that a lot of now-pagans had issues with a Christian upbringing and that it leads to a little bit of resentment, but it just seemed a bit too focused on it.
Lastly, the writing style was soooooo redundant. Ack.
What I did like:
The chapter on the Living Universe which talked about magic and quantum physics was, really, pretty awesome. Now, as I suspect misinformation in the previous chapters, I suspect it in this chapter as well, but the ideas were still a lot of fun.
It also had a chapter on building your own ethics and beliefs and encouraging thorough thinking through before you dive into using magic. I liked that it offered an outline on how to do this (or at least get you started on that) without shoving ideas at you as wrong or right. It offered the Wiccan Rede, the Rule of Threes, and the Nine Noble Virtues as examples, but did not state that they were the ONLY ideas. It didn’t go into curses, but didn’t condemn them either, simply stating that your magic should reflect your core code of ethics and beliefs.
Would I recommend this?
To the right person, yes. If someone expressed an interest in Wicca specifically, I think it would be a good book to show concepts of Wicca in the full spectrum of paganism while also introducing the reader to the idea that Wicca isn’t the only path in paganism (as many get that mixed up). The chapters on thinking through your own thoughts on belief systems and ethics would be helpful to someone just starting out as well as I’ve noticed a lot of people just take what they hear and claim it as law rather than coming up with their own take on things or at least thinking through the given ideas before repeating them.
It would also probably be good in the same way as Scott Cunningham’s The Truth About Witchcraft Today for someone who thinks paganism or witchcraft is evil to understand it for what it really is, and be a bit more up-to-date in information.