Tag Archives: pagan

Book News

My Pagan publisher has a sale on at the moment! Moon Books is quite a diverse house, with titles from many different paths, authors and perspectives so if you’re looking for Pagan material, there’s a very good chance of finding something that will suit you. And of course half price ebooks make it easier to take a gamble and try a new author.

Buying directly from publishers and authors is a great way to support people. By the time a book has been through one of those big, third party sites, what returns to the author is small. Self published authors actually do better in terms of percentages on Amazon than authors at big houses. Most famous authors will only see pennies from each book sold.

So, if you’re looking for ways to make your purchasing more effective, going straight to the publishing house in search of books by your favourite authors is often a good choice. I’m seeing increasing numbers of houses getting into direct sales, and this will help publishers and authors alike.

While I could say highly critical things about the big publishing houses, it is usually the case that small publishers are lovely people who genuinely care about books. There’s a lot to be said for buying directly from them when you can.

If you fancy picking up any of my Moon Books titles at half price, start here – https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/moon-books/authors/nimue-brown


Moon Books – Small Press Big Ideas

This month I’m joining in with #SmallPressBigIdeas. I’m going to be blogging about some small presses, starting with Moon Books.

Moon Books is the Pagan imprint of John Hunt Publishing. I’ve had books there since 2012 when my first non-fic came out with them – Druidry and Meditation.

Moon Books publishes a broad array of Pagan titles, some broad and aimed at a wide Pagan market, others gloriously niche. Titles focus on individual deities, different paths, traditions modern and old… Authors contributing to Moon Books come from around the world, and represent many different ways of being human, as well.

For me, Moon Books has been a community as much as it’s been a publisher. Through Moon Books, I’ve met a number of people I really like and who have become part of my life in other ways. This year I was at Halo Quin’s Goblin Masquerade. Laura Perry sauntered over to Hopeless, Maine and designed a tarot deck for us. There are also friends at Moon Books I’ve known far longer than this imprint has existed – Robin Herne, Cat Treadwell, Elen Sentier, Brendan Myers. There are many authors at the imprint who I think of as friends, even if we haven’t met in person. That’s too long a list to type!

My experience of small publishers is that they tend to be far better at taking care of their people than big houses are. If I need to talk to the boss – Trevor Greenfield – about anything, I can count on hearing from him within the week. Usually quicker. Smaller houses don’t have vast sums of money to spend on promoting books, but a lot gets done through clever use of the internet, and mutual support. Rather than seeing each other as competitors, authors at Moon Books look out for each other, share opportunities, and we all keep an eye out for books we can support. No one is ever leaned on to support a book that doesn’t align with their thinking, and there’s quite an array of opinions within the books so we aren’t all comfortably coming from the same place all the time. The support happens where it makes sense, and thanks to that, you’ll see me reviewing titles from other authors here and there. Only the books that appeal to me.

Publisher website – https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/moon-books/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/MoonBooks

Twitter – https://twitter.com/MoonBooksJHP

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/moonbooksjhp/

Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/c/MoonBooksPublishing


When nature isn’t lovely

I’ve seen plenty of Pagan and Druid writing that celebrates nature in really straightforward ways. Nature, we tell each other, is beautiful and lovely and inspiring. Go out into nature, it will lift your spirits.

Sometimes nature is harsh. Sometimes nature looks a lot like a baby bird fallen from the nest and dead on the ground. Sometimes it’s the rainstorm that tears the flowers apart, or the remains of a fox cub on the side of the path. It’s watching a gull take a babe coot, or a buzzard take a rabbit. It’s the desperate, dying shriek of the mammal who has been found by the stoat. 

While I don’t like the way nature documentaries often focus excessively on violence, sometimes nature is violent. Sometimes it is arbitrary, cruel and makes no sense. The rising tide takes the nest of things too young and small to escape from it. The naturally occurring forest fire slaughters those who cannot flee fast enough.

Nature is the basis of all things, it is part of us and we are part of it. Life continues, often at the expense of other lives. Forces move through the world with no care for the lives they impact on. I think it’s important in nature based spirituality to acknowledge that nature itself is not moral. It’s not lovely, or benevolent, it simply exists. The universe can indeed be bountiful, but bounty for the fox is not benevolence to the rabbit. What creates bounty for humans at the moment is wiping out the majority of other creatures. When we see the bounty and not the cost, we don’t see nature as a whole.

Druidry cannot ignore the parts of nature that are neither pretty nor comforting. We need to square up to those as well. We don’t have to like all of what’s out there, but we do have to respect it. We don’t have to be happy in face of the harsher parts – it is important to have room in ourselves for the feelings that aren’t lovely. Sometimes you need to cry over the dead baby bird. Authenticity is bigger and messier than the idea that nature is lovely.


Nature and spirit

There are (I think) three key ways of considering the relationship between nature and spirit. Which approach you favour will inform how you do your Druidry.

Option 1 – nature is everything, there is no spirit in nature other than life itself. This is atheist Paganism and it means engaging with the world in a rational way and not seeking anything magical or non-scientific. It tends to foster pragmatic relationships with the natural world but does not rule out numinous experience or a sense of wonder.

Option 2 – everything that exists in nature is possessed of spirit. The material world is alive with presence. This perspective will incline you to see every living being as precious and capable of having opinions and preferences. It opens the way to encountering other-than-human people and is consistent with an understanding of reality that has a lot of room for enchantment and wonder. Any encounter with wild things may be laden with significance, but the power lies in the encounter and you are a spirit present in the world encountering other spirits who are present in the world.

Option 3 – spirit manifests through nature. Wild things can therefore be being moved by some greater force and may have some message for you or be there to teach or guide you. I struggle with this one because I prefer to see living beings as existing in their own right and not being here to bring us messages. This approach can be problematically human-centric. It does however open the way to seeing every encounter as laden with potential for meaning and magic. It is probably the strongest option for the person seeking enchantment and wishing to re-enchant their own lives. I have no doubt it is also possible to see the physical world as spirit manifesting without having to attach personal meanings to everything and to instead see the living world as a means to commune with something greater that lies beyond it.

What does it mean to step outside and see a bird, or a cloud or a really nice rock? How does that encounter fit into your world view? How does your world view inform how you interpret your experiences? What do you want to experience and what do you want from the wild things around you?


Protecting your community

One of the most important things for me, when it comes to being part of a community, is being understood. There’s something wonderful and nurturing about not having to explain parts of who you are. Feeling supported, welcome and like you make sense is good for mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Being on your own with an issue, a need or a feeling is a lonely place to be. Modern urban humans are each surrounded by a great many other urban humans, but that can increase loneliness rather than offering respite. No one sees you in a crowd. You are not understood, and the need to be understood is a life-affecting one.

During my volunteering years, I met a lot of people who had just found Paganism, and talked about it in terms of coming home. Some of this is about the path itself and finding relief in a spirituality that makes emotional sense to them. Some of it is about finding a community. 

Being able to talk to people who are capable of understanding you is a wonderful thing. When you have feelings about magic, nature, old gods etc, you can feel disconnected from the regular world. Meeting people who can relate to that is liberating.

Sometimes however, community comes at a price. The desire to belong can put a lot of pressure on a person to fit in with things. We all need community and safe spaces, so what do you do if the price tag on being a member of a community looks problematic? How much do you ignore to protect your access to space you desperately need? What are you willing to enable in order to be able to belong? 

Along the way I’ve ended up in some spaces – Pagan and otherwise – that weren’t especially healthy. Not spaces that were dangerous or super-toxic, but certainly places that had issues. I stayed longer than I should sometimes because I so desperately wanted to belong somewhere. No doubt most of us have seen people getting hurt, used, exploited, manipulated and compromised because they needed to be part of something. And sometimes when we’re part of the group causing the problem, all too often we turn away from that abuse and pretend not to see it because we don’t know how we’d survive without this precious community space.

Abuse happens when people put their need to belong ahead of the need to create genuinely safe space. It happens when vulnerable people feel emotionally rewarded by abusers when they let them get away with stuff. It happens when people with low self esteem can’t imagine they deserve better treatment. It’s important to keep an eye on who, and what we sacrifice for the sake of protecting our communities. It can be hard to admit when you’ve got into something that isn’t good. No one wants to believe that the space they love is harmful, but refusal to look at that enables bullies and predators.


Your Druidic practice

I was struck this week by this powerful post about daily practice, routines and needs – https://therivercrow.wordpress.com/2022/08/22/august-update/ such that I felt it was worth me chipping in.

So many pieces of writing on Paganism and Druidry advocate for a daily practice or for specific kinds of activity. Not everything works the same way for everyone and there should be no shame or unease in doing things that work for you and avoiding things that don’t. Some of us need routines to function at all, and some of us find them stressful and unworkable. Honouring nature means honouring nature where it manifests in you which in turn means not trying to force yourself to be something you are not.

It’s all too easy for people who don’t struggle with things to conclude that said things are fine and everyone can do them. At this point I’m largely convinced that phrases like ‘everyone can’ or ‘everyone should’ are strong indicators that the person writing the piece has little awareness of how diverse people are. I’m pretty sure that there is nothing that everyone can or should do in any specific way.

There are two key questions to consider when it comes to how you do your Druidry. Firstly, what does your Druidry do for the world? And secondly, what does your Druidry do for you? The answer to the first question needs to be some form of good, and it can be any form of good. The second answer needs to be about how you are affected, be that in body, heart, mind or spirit. Your druidic practice should give you comfort, inspiration, a sense of purpose, or relationship or connectedness. Some of those things, or all of those things. There may well be other good things that you find in your Druidry, but I think these are the core qualities to look for.

It is worth trying things a few times before deciding how or if they work for you. It’s often difficult to make a good decision about something when you’ve had little experience of it. At the same time, it is not the case that there’s any merit in slogging away at something that leaves you cold and does nothing for you just because you’ve been persuaded that you have to do it to be a good Druid. If you get a strong feeling of aversion to something at the first try, there’s no reason to make yourself uncomfortable by revisiting it.

It’s also worth noting that there’s a lot of variety within any given practice and a lot of room to do things on your own terms. If what one writer or teacher has to say on the subject doesn’t work for you, then it may be worth looking around for other inspiration and possibilities. It’s also worth considering exploring things on your own terms. Every Pagan practice out there is something someone figured out, and the people doing the figuring out were not massively more qualified to do that than you are. If you’re willing to put in the time exploring and experimenting, then you are going to become an expert in the thing you are doing.


Getting closer to Nature

The chances are you’ve seen art and photographs of people with wild things. You’re a Pagan, a Druid, and the idea of wild things coming to you is deeply attractive. It would affirm how attuned you are to the natural world. It would prove your Druid-ness. Maybe you could rescue something and raise it. Maybe you could tame something.

It’s a temptation I entirely understand. Wild things are deeply emotionally affecting. There are few experiences more powerful and affirming than having a wild being look back at you and not just run away. These are usually experiences I have at a distance. I don’t try to handle wild things unless they genuinely need my help – getting hedgehogs out of roads being the thing I’ve done most of. I won’t rescue wildlife from other wildlife because everyone has to eat. I will move creatures who are at risk of being harmed by humans.

Without knowledge, skills and the right resources, bringing a rescued creature home is really risky for them. It’s better to get them to a professional, or an established rescue centre if they really need help. It’s always worth considering leaving them to let nature take its course – thus providing someone else with a meal. Decisions about who to help and who to leave hungry should not be based on cuteness. For me, whether the species itself is endangered is going to be my biggest consideration.

If wild things get used to humans, this can make them vulnerable. We can put them in danger if they start thinking humans are safe to approach, or a good food source. We can frighten them, disrupt their lives and cause them harm by trying to get close to them. Often the kindest and most respectful thing to do is to stand still and let the wild thing do as it will if that doesn’t put you at risk either. Enjoy the moment. Wild creatures who seek food from humans can end up being killed for being aggressive and invasive.

The situation is different with semi-wild things – feeding the ducks on the pond in the park is not really going to impact harmfully on them. Birds in your town centre are not going to be compromised, probably. It’s worth noting that seagulls in particular can become aggressive in their dealings with people if they think they can get food. It is important to know what you’re doing, and to know what is safe and appropriate food for any semi-wild things that move towards you. Don’t give dairy to birds. Don’t pollute the water by throwing in loads of bread that just sinks to the bottom.

If we genuinely care about nature and about wild things, one of the best things we can do is not impose. Humans put a lot of pressure on nature as it is, without Pagans trying to live out fantasies in invasive ways. Stay on the path. Don’t interfere with wild lives. Don’t try to feed them your lunch. Don’t steal their babies – leaving young unattended is normal. Don’t deliberately get close to their homes, nests, or dens. Watch them from a distance that keeps them safe.


What does a Druid do?

This is a question to keep asking, and for which there can be no final or absolute answer. What does a Druid do in any given context? What does a Druid do right now?

One answer for me at the moment, is that we can try to model more sustainable living. To honour nature, we have to be working to avert climate disaster and to make human life on Earth more sustainable and viable. There are many ways of doing that. One powerful thing we can do is share our choices and actions with other people.

I think there are a couple of key issues around doing this. Being heavy handed and preachy can put people off – we’ve all seen how this happens around veganism. Engaging people with more responsible and sustainable food choices is a really good idea. Shaming people for what they currently do doesn’t tend to encourage change. Talking about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it tends to be much more effective than lecturing people about what we think they should be doing. Leading by example is more powerful. This is true in all aspects of our lives.

If people feel like they have to suffer and be martyrs for sustainability, most of them won’t want to know. One of our jobs is to figure out how to live well while living sustainably, and then to put that out there where other people can see it. I’m seeing a lot of Pagans playing with fabric in sustainable ways and sharing that – it’s really attractive.

Sustainable living will need to be creative and innovative. We need to do things we feel good about and are excited about if we’re going to maintain it. Sharing things that we’re enjoying and feeling good about is an excellent way to engage other people. The festive period offers us lots of opportunities to do this and to put it where other people can see it – it’s a great time to engage our wider families a bit and to model what happiness looks like without rabid consumerism and waste in the mix.


Long live the revolution

This week, Pagan Dawn magazine came out and in it was my final Quiet Revolution column. I’d written it every quarter for years. When I started, it made sense to be talking about lifestyle changes like not picking up single use plastic carrier bags. We’ve all come a long way since then. Over the years, I’ve talked about the need for radical changes to our lifestyles, culture, ways of working. Sometimes I’ve put this in a context of spells, prayers and acts of religious devotion.

This summer I made the decision to let the column go. Partly this came from feeling that I would not have the time moving forward. I’ve spent this year reducing the number of things I do. I need a gentler, slower paced life, and I need to focus on the projects that are working for me and where I think I can do my best. My quiet revolution work will continue here on the blog, and no doubt new energy and ideas will fill what space I leave behind in Pagan Dawn.

I’m ok with the amount of upheaval this last year or so has brought. Letting go and doing less are principles that are important to the kind of change I think we need. We aren’t likely to help ourselves or save the planet by working ourselves to death. It is better to slow down, do less, consume less. It’s also good to share out the opportunities. 

I’ve cut right back on my volunteering. I’ve done a lot of service over the years, for various Pagan organisations. I feel good about not doing that anymore. I feel strongly that the most good I can do right now is going to come from what I do creatively, and that this is where I need to pour most of my energy.

There can be grief in letting go. It can be scary. Right now it feels good and necessary. My gut feeling is that I’m doing what I need to do – and I’m just going to trust that and see where the path takes me.


Pagan Dreaming

I’ve written a number of Pagan and Druid books, and of the ones published by Moon Books, Pagan Dreaming has been by far the least successful. It’s been out for years and has just broken through 500 sales. For perspective, the average book sells 3000 copies in its lifetime. Most of publishing does not look anything like those multi-million selling famous authors. For every massive international hit, there are many, many books that don’t even sell a hundred copies. 

Part of the problem is that there are a lot of dream books out there, it’s a really saturated corner of the market. Most dream books are either dictionaries of meaning, or are focused on teaching you how to control your dreams, and these are not things I’m interested in. Much of the motivation for writing the book came from wanting to offer alternatives to the x=y approach to dream symbolism, and the idea that control is the goal.

The trouble with publishing is the assumption that people want more of what they already have. It’s perhaps less of an issue in Pagan publishing because it’s still a new area and we haven’t established hard rules in the way some genres have. Long may it continue so. As a reader I am not even slightly interested in reading books that are just like some other books I’ve read. I want to be surprised. I want something different. This is one of the reasons I read a lot of books from indy authors and small publishing houses. 

Of course I’m not alone in this. Netflix are proving over and over that there is an audience for films and series that are not exactly like everything else. Books that are unusual can and do sell too.

The trouble is, that books, films, etc are all easier to sell if you can go ‘if you liked that other thing you’re going to love this.’ I’ve worked in marketing.  There’s an obvious attraction to things that you can easily see how to pitch and who to pitch to. But that doesn’t get you the best books, or the most original books or the books that could actually sell the most. If no one has done it before, you have no idea if this is the book everyone is waiting for. It could be. It might not be.

Some authors are amazing and brilliant, timely and trendsetting and deserve every success. Some authors are successful because they’re really good at figuring out what people want from them and how to pitch it. Some authors are simply lucky, and catch the zeitgeist in some way. Some authors keep churning out the same thing and get enough marketing support and sell far more copies than perhaps they deserve to. It’s not a meritocracy. 

I prefer to take risks, write things that interest me and hope for the best. I’ve tried to be commercially oriented, and frankly I don’t do that well. There are enough people who like what I do for it to feel worth doing. That’s enough. 

If you’re the sort of person who is interested in your dream life, but also heartily sick of dream dictionaries and you don’t see lucid dreaming as the goal of your dream life… I may have a book for you and you can find out more about it over here… https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/moon-books/our-books/pagan-dreaming