Tag Archives: pagan books

Where books come from

Fiction remains a bit of a mystery to me. Each imaginary tale has its own unique process of conception and gestation, and I still have no idea whatsoever how, or why it works. Non-fiction, on the other hand, has much clearer origins and everything I’ve thus far written on that side has come about via a fairly similar process.

I’m an avid reader and will try just about anything in terms of subject matter and genre. I read a lot of non-fiction, and will have a go at any topic if it’s written intelligently. History, natural history, philosophy, religion and politics tend to dominate. My natural response to finding a topic I’m not up to speed on, is to get a book or three. Currently that means I’m reading a lot of politics, because I need a better handle on that aspect of society and I do not know enough about where we are right now, much less how we got here. I’m finding plenty of books to answer that.

On the Pagan side however, there are a lot of introductions and far fewer in-depth books. When I started getting into meditation with a view to running groups, there were only a couple of books with any obvious relevance to what I wanted to do. I had exactly the same experience after reading Blood and Mistletoe – there was nowhere obvious to go to read more about Pagan relationships with ancestry. Then I started exploring prayer, and hit exactly the same problem. In each of those three cases I started reading around, looking at other traditions, experimenting and asking questions.

Druidry and Meditation, Druidry and the Ancestors, and Druidry and Prayer (not available yet) all came out of the process of not being able to easily find what I needed. It makes me very conscious that all spiritual books are basically human inventions, and that none should be granted too much authority. Religion is entirely a consequence of people making stuff up and writing it down, usually in response to a perceived gap in the already available information. Nothing else is available. It’s all guess work, experimentation, jamming on other people’s ideas, and trying to make sense of the world.

In each case I’ve become more aware that there is no way I could nail any issue or put together some kind of definitive text. Sure, there’s an ego drive that way, I expect most authors want to write something ground breaking and definitive, but mostly we won’t. These will be steps along the way, and others will carry on from them (hopefully) to write something better, deeper, more insightful and more relevant.

I mostly end up writing my best shot at the book I really wanted but could not find at some key point in my life. The most recent, Spirituality without Structure, is the book I could have done with when I was about nineteen and starting out along my own path in earnest. Currently I’m working on something about dreams, which I the book I was looking for in my early twenties, that neither psychological writing nor new age stuff was able to deliver for me. I have no idea what comes next. It depends entirely on my becoming aware of an absence that matters to me.

Writing Druid Books

When I first started exploring Druidry, quite some years go now, I was terribly excited about the books I imagined I would be coming into contact with, thanks to advice from wise teachers and those further down the path. You know the ones: The books of ancient wisdom. The books that would tell me how to be a druid. The books of mystery and wonder that would enable me to see the world in whole new ways. Those books. Based on observation, I think a lot of young pagans anticipate the existence of such great works and many are disappointed. I found lots of introductions to Druidry, lots of things that hinted at deeper things and refused to tell me how to do them, or told me that I could only learn then directly from an actual, physical teacher. I was not pleased. I’d just finished the kind of degree that had convinced me that, really, anything worth learning could be learned by reading about it.

My natural inclination is to read. These days I use the internet a fair bit too, as well as books, but I am more likely to want a book about a thing than any other method of learning. That may be hardwired. However, there just aren’t the books out there to teach me the things I want to learn, and that’s been the case for more than a decade now. I expect the teachers who could teach me are out there, but one lives in a hut half way up a mountain and doesn’t have a website. One only speaks Russian. One was tragically killed by a bear last week, and four of them are, themselves, still in their teens and have not yet grown into their own greatness. Or so I like to think. So, where the hell does that leave me?

One of the things that bugs me about books on modern paganism, is that an awful lot of them are very general, introduction type books. Especially in Druidry. There are some people who feel that you can’t even write a book on Druidry without devoting the first chapter to yet another rehash of the ancient druids, the revivalists…. And I’ve got to say, if you’ve read more than two books on druidry already, that can get a bit much. I want a world in which everyone has to read Ronald Hutton, and then everyone else writing about Druidry can start the book by saying ‘read Ronald Hutton, I’m not doing the potted history.’ Think how much paper and frustration that would save! It was suggested to me that I do a potted history at the start of Druidry and Meditation. I didn’t. I also don’t want to get bogged down trying to explain what modern Druidry *is* every time I write a book. Again, more than two reads, and you’re going to be heartily sick of that debate.

What I want to read, are books that go a lot deeper into some facet of Druidry. If you know of good ones, please, please put them in the comments at the bottom. Robin Herne’s Bardic book is already on my to-read list, Kevan Manwaring’s The Way of Awen is a favourite. Brendan Myer’s The Other Side of Virtue really took me places. Books for people who are not beginners. Books for people who have already read some books, done some rituals, have a sense of where they want to go.

In the meantime, I’m trying to write something useful. I wrote Druidry and Meditation because when it came to trying to run a meditation group, I couldn’t find anything to help me. The title now in edits came about for similar reasons. I was going through a thing, I had no book to help me on my way. I’m working on book 3, researching, pondering, experimenting a thing that does not have any significant pagan books about it, so far as I can find.

Which brings me to the final question. What ‘Druidry and….’ book do you really wish someone had written? Where are the biggest, most aching and frustrating holes in your bookcase just now? I’m not at all promising I can write them, but I’d like to know, and maybe someone else will look at the list and say ‘bloody hell, I know so much about that topic, I could do that’ and will then do it.

Shall we give it a go?