The Path of Paganism provides practical advice and support for living an authentic Pagan life in our mainstream Western culture. Witches, druids, polytheists, and other Pagans will discover an experiential guide to the foundations and practices of these deeply meaningful traditions.
For John Beckett, practicing Paganism means more than adopting a set of books, tools, and holidays. Practicing Paganism means cultivating a way of seeing the world and your place in it. It means challenging the assumptions of mainstream society, keeping those that prove true and helpful while discarding those that show themselves to be false. It means building a solid foundation from which you can explore the nature of the universe, the gods, your self, and your community while learning to strengthen your relationship with all of them.
|NetGalley||eARC||336||Llewellyn Publishing||May 8th, 2017|
This is a non-fiction book which gives an overview of paganism and author’s personal experience, coming from a fundamentalist background. If religion and non-fiction are something of a bore and/or trigger/license to pick a fight 🙂 please feel free to ignore this review.
Click here to read more on my personal religious background
Estonia is one of the least religious countries in the world and I grew up without any god or gods in my life. I was never christened or any such stuff and there was never any prayers nor church goings. Just life, nature centred life. So, naturally, when I came to Ireland in my early 20s, it was a bit of a culture shock for me. People crossed themselves in cars as they drove past a church, bottles of holy water and rosary beads and crucifixes hanging from light swithces and what-nots. Quite frankly, I was baffled by this. I never realized religion, the catholic church was so deeply in people’s lives here. And then, as I started to get to know people, I was invited to christenings and weddings. All due respect, I have nothing against people believing what they believe in and whatever way they want to live their lives is fine by me, but to me, as someone… as a heathen (as I must have come across as one) the church practices all seemed and sounded like fairytales and I could not comprehend the level of commitment people freely gave towards Jesus and church. Anyway.. this little introduction is just so you’ll understand where I stand… as someone who’s never had to endure the fear of hell or had to pray morning/noon and bedtime, you can’t really blame me for scoffing towards the notion that sins are forgiven as soon as you go to confession or, in fact, that a 10 year old even has anything to confess?
No, I didn’t read The Path of Paganism because I feel this is the only ‘right’ way. I read about all religions (I was more active with this religious research of mine in high school) because I want to have the knowledge. I want to know the different POVs people across the world have. I couldn’t exactly read The Satanic Bible and speak about it unless I had also read THE Bible. I couldn’t draw parallels, or in fact, have a POV or an understanding of religions and beliefs if I didn’t know about them all. Funnily enough, though, there isn’t a single religion that calls to me. The fact that many religions are based and revolve around one or more deities, does not appeal to me. I don’t believe in gods even though I believe in something but this is a whole other blog post that possibly doesn’t belong here…
If you’re at all interested in reading about all sorts of religions and beliefs then Path of Paganism is one of those books that you can easily take quite a lot away from. Reading it doesn’t mean you have to start thinking as if paganism is the only way to live your life going forward, the author says the same. We are all different and we all find different beliefs that make the most sense to us. Estonia, like many other countries, still have groups of people who generations after generations have held on to a different way of life other than what the church offers (be it Lutheran, Catholic of Protestant) and I simply could not pass on the opportunity to find out more.
When we accept that we aren’t at the center of the universe, we are free to deal with things as they are.
The book is built up methodically and covers all apsects of paganism. From the foundations and set of beliefs to gods. You’ll find out that paganism is built on 4 pillars: nature, deity, self and community. To be a paganist you don’t need to believe in all the four pillars with full focus. John himself focuses mainly on the nature and deity pillars, while not discounting the self and community pillars, and as such you can read about the author’s personal journey (which made the otherwise non fictional text quite a breeze to read) and experiences. You’ll also get tips on how to start your own paganist journey as well as making sure that picking one religion or the other is really something that suits you and your way of life. Inclusive with some rituals, Beckett manages to deliver a full bodied overview of what paganism might look like if you decided this was the journey for you.
Granted, I slightly glossed over on the rituals and the deity aspects, because the way you or I like to connect with nature or gods (if you believe in them) comes in many forms and can be done in many ways. Nonetheless, whatever I glossed over, and whatever I didn’t agree with, I found the book interesting and informative. Funnily enough, if I leave out the deity-side of it all, I could easily label myself as paganist. But I don’t. Because I don’t need a label to my way of life. I don’t feel the need to belong to one group or another. To me, some of those things the author addressed was logical and natural and every day life. But I could see how John, coming from a fundamentalist background, from a differet culture (or individual upbringing) to my own, would feel the need to spell things out in full. We can hardly expect the knowledge to be in us by default and for someone who is truly interested, the book could be seen as a helpful starting point.
Worship is not appeasement. The idea that the gods are obsessed with your sins is just as unhelpful as the idea that the gods are here to make your life easier and more fulfilling. Both good things and bad things usually have ordinary causes and the randomness of life is just that- random.
I found John Beckett to be knowledgable. I enjoyed his approach to explaining paganism and his personal experiences. One can tell that he’s 100% into what he does and believes, and I the expression I got was that Beckett has plenty of confidence and intellect to recognize the risks being a leader can cause. It was refreshing and I respected the humble yet firm point of view.
By the way John explained paganism, I recognized a healthy mix in between acceptance and freedom for someone to believe exactly what and how they needed in order to be the best they can be for themselves, for nature and for their community.
There is no documented, repeatable, falsifiable, experimental evidence for the existence of the gods or the validity of magic. And I don’t expect there ever will be any.
As I mentioned, I don’t believe in god(s) myself and as such John’s own experiences of ‘interacting’ with some of them was met by my disbelief. My first argument was: how do we know that we’re simply not conjuring up something or someone into our visions because we expect to see them? Funnily enough, a few pages later John nicely counteracted my argument by saying that it’s OK if I don’t believe because he does. And you know? That’s just fair enough! I was humbly put to my place and I can respect that.
What works for you won’t work for everyone. Some people’s lives are better following Jesus (notice I said ‘following Jesus’ and not ‘following fundamentalist religion’). Some are better following Buddha or Muhammad. Some are better not following any gods of prophets. And some are better following many gods. These aren’t all the same religions at heart, they aren’t all ‘different paths up the same mountain’- and that’s the point. Different people have different needs and different ways of looking at the world- it’s no surprise they have different religions, too.
Overall: The Path of Paganism definitely met my expectations. Well written, informative and interesting, my reading experience didn’t suffer of boredom nor dullness. 4 stars.
I have in the past year or two read two more books on the impacts on humanity by religion and beliefs. Both books were very interesting and thought provoking.