Polytheistic Monasticism: Voices From the Pagan Cloisters

Title: Polytheistic Monasticism: Voices From the Pagan Cloisters
Publisher: Moon Books
Editor: Janet Munin
Pages: 120pp
Price: $12.95 / $6.49

Polytheistic Monasticism: Voices from Pagan Cloisters is an anthology of essays by many different pagan monastics from different traditions. 

Pagans and Heathens called to the life of a monk or nun find challenges because of being a group of small religions of scattered adherents and no central authority. There are very few established monastic orders, and those that exist might not be of the precisely the same path as the seeker. Some of those called to this life join an established order, some found their own, and some live as hermits, as much as is possible for those who also still have to support themselves. That’s another challenge faced by Pagan and Heathen monastics, just as it is faced by Pagan and Heathen priests and other religious specialists: we don’t have churches that financially support them. Another challenge is lack of information about what is being done already, which is what this book tries to address. 

The nine essays cover a broad array of types of pagan monasticism. Some made their own rule, some joined an established order, some have no rule but seem to overlap with hermit or mystic. Some have very scheduled, regular lives, some focus on other types of religious communion. 

Only one of the essays is specifically and only heathen, but all of them will be of interest to anyone considering, planning, or just curious about a monastic lifestyle as a pagan, heathen, or polytheist. Some of the other essays deal with heathenry and northern ways as well, although they also relate to other practices. For example, one of the Druids also honors the heathen gods. Heathens often consider Druids to be a sister faith, but the entries by Druids show how different they can be from each other in addition to being different from heathenry. The specifically heathen essay is about Black Stone Sanctuary, which is dedicated to the heathen goddesses, and focuses on darkness and earth centered practice. The essay is very heathen but at the same time seems to flow of a piece with the other essays. There is a lot in common between the heathen and pagan types of monasticism presented in this book. 

The essays are written in different styles, but unfamiliar or foreign words are explained, so a reader unfamiliar with the writer’s tradition can follow what is being said. Some of the essay writers are academics, but these are essays not academic papers, and the general reader can understand them. This is not a beginner’s book, but it could help someone near the beginning of their calling to monasticism explore the possible ways to be a pagan monastic. The book is of broad interest to pagans, heathens, and polytheists, not only those called to monasticism. I recommend it for anyone interested in how various pagan monastics practice their calling.

[Reviewed by Erin Lale.]