THE PAGAN PATH
Janet and Stewart Farrar have been witches for over twenty years. They are British devotees of the Pagan religion of Wicca, and authors of several books on the subject, including Eight Sabbats for Witches and The Witches' Way. These are volumes of instruction in the practice of Wicca which are widely considered classics in the field. Gavin Bone, their co-author, is also a practitioner of Wicca. His actual role in the writing of the book is never clarified.
Throughout, the writers are plain-spoken, with a nonjudgmental attitude, a focus on practical information, and plenty of research to back up their opinions. As practitioners of Wicca, they write from a religious worldview, and as British Wiccans, they assume at some level that modern Paganism and Witchcraft are roughly equivalent. Readers unfamiliar with the wide variety of Pagans and magic-workers may derive the erroneous feeling that religious issues and practices are a primary focus for all witches, which is far from the truth.
The Pagan Path consists mainly of an overview of the story of European Paganism and its manifestations in this century, with personal tales and opinions of the authors mixed in, the whole being capped by the informal results of a small survey conducted in the early '90s. The book opens with six chapters having to do with sex roles in the religion, how divinity is conceived of by the average Wiccan, the variety in style of worship in Witchcraft and Paganism, and the relationship between modern Paganism and Christianity.
There is a brief section which touches on the use in Paganism of magic, divination, healing, environmentalism, and reincarnation. The next section addresses specifically the history of Paganism, with one chapter covering the high points of the last 4,000 years of Paganism; Egyptian, near and Middle Eastern, and Celtic/northern European contributions, and another chapter on the last sixty or seventy years, and leading into a discussion during the next four chapters of the religion's contribution to, and involvement with, personal, community, and world affairs.
The Pagan Path concludes with chapters dealing with the results of the author's survey of about 150 Pagans worldwide (who they are and where they live, how they feel about several currently hot topics); a mercifully short selection of jokes; advice for those who may be seeking to join others in practicing this religion; and a glossary and bibliography. The glossary is of doubtful value since it seems to have been given little attention, but the bibliography is thorough and should provide the seeker with many good leads for further investigation.
The authors clearly are knowledgeable and entertaining writers. They have a wealth of personal experience to back up their studies in the fields of Paganism and Wicca. Their book seems aimed at the intelligent general reader as well as newcomers to the religion.
My main complaints about the book I attribute to poor planning and weak editing. The book would have been more readable if it had been broken into sections, with the currently orphaned, scattered comments and opinions gathered together, short chapters combined where possible, and more attention paid to continuity of ideas. The authors jump from one topic to another and back, the result being lack of clarity.
The best way to read The Pagan Path may be to picture yourself settling down near the fire for a few nights of conversation with three people who have experienced most of three decades of the history of a little-known substratum of our culture. Good people, and an interesting, if scattered, book.
Reviewed by M.J. Lavin
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