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review 2018-09-10 17:15
Pagans / James J. O'Donnell
Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity - James J. O'Donnell

A provocative and contrarian religious history that charts the rise of Christianity from the point of view of "traditional" religion from the religious scholar and critically acclaimed author of Augustine.

Pagans explores the rise of Christianity from a surprising and unique viewpoint: that of the people who witnessed their ways of life destroyed by what seemed then a powerful religious cult. These “pagans” were actually pious Greeks, Romans, Syrians, and Gauls who observed the traditions of their ancestors. To these devout polytheists, Christians who worshipped only one deity were immoral atheists who believed that a splash of water on the deathbed could erase a lifetime of sin.

 

This was a great history of the late Roman/early Christian time period. It wasn’t quite what I thought I was getting, but it was still very interesting and written in an easy-to-read style. I thought I was going to get more about the pagan religions of the time. Instead, I learned that the whole idea of being pagan, as opposed to being Christian, was a creation of the Christians once they found themselves in the position to be able to form public opinion. As the author puts it, “Outside Christian imaginations, there was no such thing as paganism, only people doing what they were in the habit of doing.” Like those of us now who don’t really espouse a religion, but still celebrate Easter and Christmas.

The main points to know about the traditional, pre-Christian religions? ①Their gods weren’t perfect. ②The gods weren’t very nice. ③The gods didn’t care whether or not human beings did the right thing. ④The gods hadn’t created the world, either. ⑤They could help you, if you were nice to them.

The relationship between gods and humanity was much more businesslike in traditional religions. If you wanted something badly, you made a sacrifice to the god/goddess of your choice and if they liked your offering, you might get some divine help. But there were no guarantees.

If I have learned nothing else from reading this book, I realize now how completely current European and North American societies are shaped by Christianity. It is the underlying assumption of all our societal structures. Even atheism is completely shaped by its reaction against Christianity.


Also, Christianity has changed greatly since its early days, but some things never change. It’s still split into numerous denominations because its followers are prone to outrage at discovering that someone else dares to have a different opinion. That judginess and tendency towards schisms/excommunication started early and continues on to present day.

The author doesn’t talk about Neo-Pagans (except in one footnote), but the Modern Pagan movement, just by using the word ‘pagan,’ is defining itself in relation to Christianity. Christians created the concept of paganism after all. These Modern Pagans are much more self-conscious about their ‘faith’ than the original worshippers of Zeus or Thor were. (The whole concept of having faith in a god being a Christian innovation).

Amusingly, one of the ‘pagan’ concepts that has hung on is the title of “Pontiff” for the Pope. It was originally the title of the Roman official in charge of all religious occasions, regardless of deity, held in Rome under the Emperors.

The author has also written a book on St. Augustine which might also be an interesting read, although there’s a good summary about him in the last half of this book.

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text 2017-07-29 13:27
July Wrap-up
The Goblins of Bellwater - Molly Ringle
A Duty to the Dead - Charles Todd
Golden Age and Other Stories - Naomi Novik
Crystal Magic: Mineral Wisdom for Pagans & Wiccans - Sandra Kynes
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld - Patricia A. McKillip
Holiday Cookies: Showstopping Recipes to Sweeten the Season - Elisabet der Nederlanden
Embroidered Garden Flowers: Botanical Motifs for Needle and Thread (Make Good: Crafts + Life) - Kazuko Aoki
The Xanth Novels: Books 38–40 - Piers Anthony
Art on the Rocks: More than 35 colorful & contemporary rock-painting projects, tips, and techniques to inspire your creativity! - Marisa Redondo,F. Sehnaz Bac,Margaret A Pericak-Vance

It's close enough to the end of the month that I know I won't finish anymore by then.

 

So, 9 books finished this month. 4 of them non-fiction and 8 of them Netgalley. Ooops...

 

The good news is I'm on the last of my Netgalley books until more approvals come through and about to start another book off my A-list.

 

Speaking of which, the best book of the month was the one I read from that list, A Duty to the Dead. I really enjoyed that one.

 

More good news, my samples folder is empty! Yes, completely empty. There may be some more lurking on my desktop computer where I put back-ups for a factory reset once, but I'm up to date and can start vetting all those freebie books. They get the same treatment as the samples; grab me quick or it's the delete button. If I find one I want to read, the vetting goes on hold until I've got room to start another book. Just in case.

 

Hopefully that will get me through all my stashes of backed up books eventually. I've got a folder on the desktop for Instafreebie downloads and such too!

 

I have 55 in my Ereaderiq folder, waiting for price drops. But I have plenty to read and a wide selection so I can afford to wait.

 

New samples will come in constantly no doubt, but now I can keep on top of them!

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review 2017-07-28 15:46
Crystal Magic: Mineral Wisdom for Pagans & Wiccans (Paperback) by Sandra Kynes
Crystal Magic: Mineral Wisdom for Pagans & Wiccans - Sandra Kynes

I have been interested in Crystals and stones for years. I have several books on crystals btu one can never have too many books or stop learning about something that interests them. This is without a doubt one of the most in depth books I have read on Crystals. It does more then show you a picture of the crystal and give you a 1 paragraph history and uses of the crystal. The book actually teaches you how to choose your crystals, how to care for them, and most importantly how to use them.

 

This is definitely not one of those books you read once and put away. This is a reference book and while using your crystals you will want to pull this book out again and again. The book is very well written in easy to understand terminology so everyone will benefit from this book whether you are a beginner or have been working with crystals for many years.

 

I received this book from the Author or Publisher via Netgalley.com to read and review.

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review 2017-07-12 10:22
Crystal Magic
Crystal Magic: Mineral Wisdom for Pagans & Wiccans - Sandra Kynes

by Sandra Kynes

 

This is a Llewellyn book, definitely targeted at Pagans and Wiccans and about using crystals in magic to enhance magical ritual with the use of crystals.

 

Unlike a lot of books of this kind, it has a wealth of practical information that would be of interest to anyone interested in gemstones or any mineral that might be used in jewellery. There is some history of the use of gemstones in medicine as well as cosmetics and information about their constituents, followed by a science chapter that I found very interesting indeed. This included information about how crystals help to support life and how crystals are formed and reformed in nature. Also about crystal structures and non-mineral crystals like Amber, jet and petrified wood. The information about optical properties of stones was especially fascinating.

 

There are many pictures in black and white, but of such good resolution that they work in a book where color might have been expected.

 

Chapter 3 is about Selecting and Preparing Stones. This one hit my 'new age' meter and I questioned some of the advice, particularly about putting salt water on stones. For many that will do no harm, but opals, especially Ethiopian opals, would lose their color, at least for several weeks.

 

Chapter 4 on using crystals in magic, however, mostly impressed me. There was some good advice for charging crystals and color correspondences given that actually matched up with older information about associations. I liked the explanation of crystal grids, though I've heard of this idea before.

 

There were two things I thought needed a warning. One was that you should never stare directly at a candle flame during a divination as it can harm the eyes. I can see the method of watching the flame through a clear stone working okay if the stone was big enough, but I did feel some caution should have been given about keeping the flame completely behind the stone at all times.

 

The other thing was about using oils. Oil an opal and it will lose its color forever. Other than that, the part about herbs and oils was very interesting as was the mention of the significance of birthstones, though it seemed to skirt around some of the disagreement about which stones belong to each month.

 

Much of the book is a compendium of stones, giving information about more that a hundred varieties of minerals. It was strong on history and description, but didn't give hardness index.

 

Appendix A deals with magical properties of stones, while Appendix B lists associated deities. I'm not knowledgeable enough to judge the accuracy of either of these, but found the information interesting and the extensive bibliography suggests that the author did a lot of research.

 

Over all this was a very good book on the subject with its strengths being on history, science and thoroughness. I may well get a hard copy to keep on my reference shelf.

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review 2016-01-13 13:52
101 Pagans (no dalmatians)
Paganism 101: An Introduction to Paganism by 101 Pagans - Trevor Greenfield

One of the difficult things about a book featuring the thoughts of 101 Pagans, is finding some Pagans who are not in it to review it! It doesn't seem so very long ago that finding 101 people who would admit to being a Pagan was an unlikely prospect, and this community book goes a long way to expressing how far out of the broom closet we now are.

 

Facing North said "One of the things I like most about this book is that it welcomed all paths and put them on an equal footing. I’ll say right now that as I read through this book, there were things I didn’t agree with. If you are a practicing Pagan and you read this book, you are going to have the same thing happen. I look at that as a good thing." Full review here -  http://facingnorth.net/Reference/paganism-101.html

 

Participating in community projects like this is a great way for new writers to develop their skills and confidence. In this blog post - http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2014/01/paganism-101-introduction-to-paganism.html - Lucya Starza talks about her involvement. This year sees the release of her first book as a solo author - Candle Magic.

 

It's been a very popular book, not least because having 101 voices in it, there's no room for dogma or narrow vision. Each section has a topic covered by a well established Pagan writer, and then other writers offer their own experiences and perspectives, so everything from ethics and nature to ancestors and the afterlife is explored with multiple voices. I was asked to contribute a piece on prayer and meditation - having written 'Druidry and meditation' and being then in process with 'When a Pagan Prays'  - so I'm an entirely subjective commentator on this book.

 

The experience of being a participant in a community project was so powerful for me, that when Trevor Greenfield (editor of this title and publisher of Moon Books) asked me if I'd like to take on the Pagan Planet project, I jumped at the chance.

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