This is not an objective review. Empty Cauldrons by Terence P Ward is a book about depression and Paganism. For this book, Terence interviewed a number of Pagans about their experiences, and I was one of those people. We knew each other from the period when Terence was reviewing books for The Wild Hunt and I was sending out review books for Moon Books.
Unlike most of the interview-based books I’ve read, this one does not get samey. The interviews were conversations, and each went in its own direction. Rather than publishing the interviews, Terence uses them as source material to explore various aspects of what’s unique about depression for Pagans. This content is woven together with a wealth of ideas about how to navigate depression as a Pagan. Terence brings a lot of deeply explored ideas to the reader, including spells, rituals, prayers and diverse approaches for thinking about and dealing with depression. It’s really innovative work and any Pagan reading it has a decent chance of finding something that might help them. I have never seen content like this before, it’s highly original and potent.
I found it refreshing to read something that acknowledges this is an issue many of us just have to live with. There are no promises about cures here, or magical ways of never feeling depressed again. These are tools for coping, for surviving, for climbing back out of the hole. It’s realistic and comforting and does not set anyone up to be further crushed. This is not a book that explores the causes of depression much – because the reasons are so individual. Instead, it focuses on how to live with the reality of it – and the symptoms are a lot more commonly shared by people who suffer. That means the odds of it being relevant to anyone with depression are high.
This is a very readable book, the tone has a nice balance of pragmatism and mild optimism. I find that when I’m severely depressed, anything too optimistic seems unrelatable, patronising or irrelevant. It helps to read work from someone who understands what depression is. Presenting it as something that may not ever be entirely overcome but can be managed and lived with offers hope, but not so much hope as to seem unrealistic.
Reading it also put some things in perspective for me. I recognise entirely the kinds of inner landscapes being described here. A significant amount of the book is about dealing with the kinds of things that does to a person – how depression can make you lose control of your life and do things that only make your situation worse. Reading it made me realise that I’ve done a solid job of fighting that, for years. I get up, I do the essentials, I keep moving, no matter how bad things are inside my head. It probably means things don’t look that bad from the outside – that I do manage to keep going may look like evidence that the depression is mild. But I can hold this knowledge for me and I can be a bit kinder to myself in recognising that I have been fighting an epic battle with this for years, and doing all the things I could have done to make a difference.
More on the publisher’s website https://www.llewellyn.com/product.php?ean=9780738763330