Pagan Spirituality

Title: Pagan Spirituality: A Guide to Personal Transformation
Publisher: Llewellyn Publications (2006)
Author: Joyce and River Higginbotham
Pages: 259 pp.
Price: $16.95 US
ISBN: 978-0-7387-0574-3

I have been told that Pagan Spirituality: A Guide to Personal Transformation is kind of a continuation of Joyce and River Higginbotham’s first book Paganism, but I’ve never read the latter book, so I will only be commenting on this one.

Pagan Spirituality is essentially a workbook for Pagans — both those new to the collection of faiths that fall under the Pagan umbrella and those who are “old hat” — that encourages readers to look deeper into themselves and more fully discover their own respective spiritualities. That is to say, it’s intended for Pagans from all walks of life and challenges us to “think critically about the nature of faith, culture, [and] consciousness”. The book itself is split into seven sections, plus an introduction and conclusion, with each section being somewhere in the vicinity of 40 pages. The chapters include a “lecture” portion (that is, some serious reading) and any combination of visualizations, journal assignments, hands-on exercises, and discussion questions.

When I first picked up Pagan Spirituality, I didn’t realize how much it would make me think about my own beliefs and belief systems in general. I wasn’t really prepared for a … well, such a personal transformation, as the subtitle states. I really enjoyed many of the exercises and journal prompts (though — full disclosure — I didn’t do all of them), including “Making a Personal Timeline” (p.26), writing a personal myth (p.49), “Listening” (p.104), writing about energy (p.149) and divination experiences (p.193), and “Connecting to That Which Endures” (p.220). This workbook could be really great for someone who’s just beginning his or her Book of Shadows or other magic(k)al grimoire or someone who’d like to (re-)connect with him- or herself and the Divine more fully. That a Pagan can return to the do-it-yourself portions over and over and grow with each new lesson is just an added bonus.

In the third chapter, “Growth and Magick”, the authors lay out the Principles of Paganism (also noted in their introductory book, Paganism), which are:

1. You are responsible for the beliefs you choose to adopt.

2. You are responsible for your own actions and your spiritual and personal development.

3. You are responsible for deciding who or what Deity is for you, and forming a relationship with that Deity.

4. Everything contains the spark of intelligence.

5. Everything is sacred.

6. Each part of the universe can communicate with each other part, and these parts often cooperate for specific needs.

7. Consciousness survives death.

Since I am a polytheist, I was pleased to read #3, which is written to be inclusive of polytheists and other Pagans who go deeper than simply Goddess and God. I have never seen the Principles of Paganism put so simply, but I also liked the emphasis placed on personal responsibility. The glossary and bibliography at the back of the book were helpful as well.

Overall, I’d say Pagan Spirituality reads a bit like a school textbook, but it’s so packed with information that I don’t know any other way Joyce and River Higginbotham could’ve gotten all of it in one book without sacrificing some other more important aspect of the text (such as the exercises or discussion questions, many of which I found invaluable). This is the kind of textbook you’ll want to keep for future reference; the more I read, the more I knew I’d be returning to its pages again and again.

[V.E. Duncan is a blossoming polytheist. A writer who lives in the Los Angeles area (but who truly wishes to go back to New York City, where her heart is), she owns a cantankerous cat named Cleopatra. V.E. can be contacted through her website, Duncan Heights.]

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