Pagans like books. You go to any Pagan’s house and the bookshelf will be there, and often it’ll be big, and packed with esoteric knowledge. Books accumulated over many years. A bookshelf with pride of place. Our house is no different. Some of those books I bought and never finished reading, others I read from cover to cover, and over the years there have been some that have stayed with me. Had a profound effect on the direction of my spiritual path. So I thought I’d share some of those with you today.
There are many, but here are the twelve that feel most important. Of course, as soon as I press publish I’ll think of more, but maybe those can be the topic of a further post. They are, as far as I can remember, in the order in which I read them.
1. Magick in Theory and Practice – Aleister Crowley – My introduction to all of this was the works of Uncle Aleister. Back in the day there was no internet. The only book on Druidry was Stuart Piggott’s The Druids, books on the Craft were rare, the New Age bomb had yet to explode. My interest was with the supernatural, the occult (like many teenagers I guess…) and luckily I had understanding parents. I joined Encounters Books Club, an occult book club run by W H Smiths, and they gave away 4 hardcover books for 50p as the introductory offer. One of the books I chose was Magick in Theory and Practice by Aleister Crowley. For years it was the text book I reached for. I joined the Occult Church Society and spent years studying Ceremonial Magick. This book guided that for quite some time.
2. The Spiral Dance – Starhawk – After my interest in Magick took a turn to more earthy folk magic, on a trip to Glastonbury I bought two books, The Book of Druidry by Ross Nichols, and The Spiral Dance by Starhawk. I was at that moment where I felt I had to decide where I would point my wand (so to speak) and so I went back to my hotel room at the George and Pilgrim and began to read both books. Starhawk’s book is the one on this list as it was the book that helped me realise that Wicca wasn’t the direction I was going to be heading. It might not have been the best introductory book, but it did the job, hence it’s inclusion here as an influence on my spiritual path. In truth I didn’t really understand a word of Ross’ book. It wasn’t at all what I expected, the language was odd, the history a little weird, but the topics it focussed on ignited a fire in my head, and showed me a path that I have been walking ever since.
3. Witchcraft – A Tradition Renewed – Doreen Valiente and Evan John Jones – Although I had chosen my path and entered initiation as a Druid with the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids, my heart still yearned for a slightly more earthy magic. I wasn’t completely put off by The Spiral Dance. I knew that there had to be more to The Craft, so I took the advice of some Traditional Craft friends of mine and read this book. It was gritty, a little dodgy in places, but got to the heart of what I thought Witchcraft was, or could be. I realised that my Druidry would forever be influenced by Magic. It’s not that kind of path for every Druid, but I am a Druid with the beating heart of a Magician.
4. Mabon and the Mysteries of Britain – Caitlin Matthews – I was so happy to have found a path that, at its heart, had the love of story, poetry and music. The Bard and all that went with it was the Fire in my Head and with that came a realisation that we had our own ancient Gods that had been borne from the very mud of this island. I had learned about the Greek and Roman Gods in school. Why on earth had I not even heard of our own? So I began to explore. Nodens, Epona, then the tales of the Mabinogion caught me, and I met Gwydion, Ceridwen, Taliesin, Rhiannon, Arianrhod, Blodeuwedd. This book might be a little dated now, but it did the job for me at the time when those doors were opening.
5. The Druid Way – Philip Carr-Gomm – If other books were teaching me about my inner landscape, this book opened my eyes to the physical one surrounding me. A tale of a pilgrimage. A walk through the countryside, pondering Druidry and what it means to be a Druid in this modern age. And it was set right in the landscape around me in Sussex. After reading this book, every year for three years, on the weekend nearest to the Summer Solstice, I walked the same route as Philip. Sleeping out under the stars, connecting with the land.