Book Reviews

Indo-European Studies Book
Mallory, J.P. In Search of the Indo-Europeans. Thames and Hudson. 1991.

This book is a survey of the linguistic and archaeological evidence to prove the existence and general location of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. Large portions of the book also discuss the various theories, both old and new, about where the PIE’s were located and how they spread.

The main thesis of the book is primarily to give an up-to-date account of all the evidence and new theories about the Proto-Indo-Europeans. He first looked at linguistic evidence that showed the connection between languages in Europe. He also looked at cultural evidence like (religion, words of plants/animals, etc). He then went into the archaeological evidence to narrow the scope of possible homelands for the PIE’s.

The existence of the PIE family is central to how ADF works with multiple European pagan cultures. Since this book explains what we do and do not know about the PIE’s and what aspects of culture are similar, it is very useful information for any ADFer. I can’t deny the importance of this book on the reading list. However, I did not like reading it — and I was a history major. This book is so dense and so boring.

I would say it does inform my personal practice and it does give me ideas. I loved the pictures of the censors that were used and its apparent that they also used ocher in burials. I also liked the chapter on mythology and deities. For instance, I didn’t realize that sky/thunder gods were associated with oak trees. I found out that oaks are often struck by lightning, but the branches fall off and the tree doesn’t burn. It makes sense that the ancients would then think their thunder god had a particular affinity for the oak.

I can’t say I recommend this book. I would encourage anyone reading it to skim it, and I would warn them that there are pages where the author simply discusses old theories or other arguments among academics, which ultimately don’t matter for a Dedicant’s purpose.

Modern Paganism Book
Clifton, Chas S. Her Hidden Children. AltaMira Press. 2006.

This book is about how modern paganism started and spread from the UK to the US. It also investigates the different cultural movements that influenced how Wicca was shaped in that country. It also assesses how Wicca and other forms of paganism were shaped over time.

This book is significant because it is a modern history of neo-paganism. Usually there is a sweet spot when it comes to writing the first histories of a subject: it can’t be too soon after the event(s) and it shouldn’t be too far after. This is for clarity and proper evidence. This book ends in the 90’s and only gives its conclusion to new forms of paganism at that time. The rest is focused on Wicca with glimpses of other older forms of neo-pagan thought like Church of All Worlds, Gaian nature/complex, and the Golden Dawn. This is a perfect balance: it looks into the roots of neo-paganism.

I’m not sure that it really informs my practice. However, it is important to know an accurate account of my own religious history. And the beginning of neo-paganism generally starts with Gerald Gardner and Wicca. The information in the book and understanding how neo-paganism spread and changed is important for me to know.

I would recommend this book. It is extremely informative in ways I had not read about before. The author looks at both time and place to discuss the changes in Wicca and neo-paganism. For example, Wicca in the UK in the 1940s was not the exact same as the Wicca of the US in the 1970s. These developments are important to understand.

I guess the only thing that would make this book better is a continuation. But it might still be too soon for pagan history from the 90s to the present. It would still be useful to have a chronology and developmental history of these groups.

Hearth Culture Book
Davidson, H. R. Ellis. Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe. Syracuse University Press. 1988.

This book is an information dump. There is not so much a thesis for this book, except for bringing together evidence from Celtic and Germanic sources together to be compared. It is intended for research and students. The book covers a range of topics, from cultural practices of divination and sacrifice, to how things such as holy places and the ancestors were seen by these peoples.

As a hearth culture book, it’s on the reading list to fill in the gaps for someone new to ancient paganism. This book specifically merges Celtic and Germanic cultures, which ranges from Ireland to Germany to France to Sweden. The whole of northwestern Europe had these similarities in culture and practice. And this is useful for modern pagans who have ancestry and interest in these cultures. A book that compares these cultures historically, can be very useful for new ideas for modern pagans.

The importance of this book for ADF is why it’s important to me. Much of my DNA is in fact from areas that were Celtic and Germanic. To me, that’s important — but just for myself; I wouldn’t hold that over anyone else. And so, to have one book that shows and compares the whole worldview of northwestern pagan Europe is central to the practice I want to develop. It has opened my mind to all kinds of things I can bring to my practice. But it also had helped me realize why ADF does certain things. For example, heads and skulls were important symbols of the dead and were supposed to have special powers.

I definitely recommend this book. It’s not a walk in the park, but it has fascinating and useful information. It is my favorite book of the three, and I think it has also been the most useful to my understanding of the ancients and their ways. And it is also helpful for gaining new ideas to develop a modern practice.

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