Pagan Book Review: Awen Alone

Awen Alone has a definite Celtic focus but it is not exclusionary. The book mentions at several points that people of non-Celtic background should not be afraid to explore this path and that it is natural for druids to explore other pantheons beyond the Celtic pantheon.

Awen Alone offers a straightforward description of modern druidry. The author Joanna van der Hoeven explains without obfuscation the differences between joining groups and taking on a solitary practice. She makes clear that druidry can be a practice for atheists as well as a spiritual path and she assuages common fears about doing it wrong. The book also includes a particularly helpful and non-judgmental section with straight talk about different perceptions of gods and goddesses.

Where the beginning of the book emphasizes an openness to different ways of following a druid path, later in the book the tone becomes at times heavy-handed with an insistence that daily walks are the primary way to observe changes in nature through the seasons.

There are chapters outlining basic concepts of meditation, inner path working, and prayer. The author places a significant emphasis on connecting with ancestors of blood, place and path. The focus seems to be on a very flexible druid path. If there are any rules on this path, they are about respect and care for the natural environment. The only thing that is non-negotiable to the author is that you must explore your local environment and care for it, no matter what it is, urban or rural. 

A loose version of the wheel of the year with Neopagan names for the feast days is promoted with the caveat that many people will adapt the dates to fit local climactic conditions. 

The path of druidry presented here is attractive to eclectic Pagans. It may appeal to people of various backgrounds who have felt a pull toward Native American spirituality but don't want to appropriate the beliefs of that culture if it is not their own. The solitary druid path as presented here allows the individual to adapt an earth-centered spirituality to local conditions and to choose from a range of techniques such as various types of meditation, prayer, nature observation and inner path working to gain spiritual insight.

Pagan Book Review: iPagan

iPagan is a fascinating and challenging collection of essays, including multiple, diverse perspectives on Druidry, shammanism, goddess spirituality and witchcraft. These four major streams in the modern Pagan movement are described and explored in a variety of ways both theoretical and experiential. While there are plenty of books that will tell you what these paths are and even provide step-by-step instructions for going through the motions of their practices, I appreciate this collection's attempt to evoke the sensory and inner experience of each pathway.

Later in the book there is a selection of essays on more general topics concerning the Neopagan community, such as gender, Pagan politics and Pagan parenting. These went only tentatively beyond the boundaries pushed by previous collections of Pagan essays. Intercultural topics and disability issues in Paganism were still avoided by most of the authors and only briefly mentioned by a few. I continue to be disappointed by the lack of considerations in Pagan anthologies for issues which cause daily concerns within the Pagan community. However, what is discussed is handled well here, including complex issues of gender identity.

The overall quality of writing in this collection is excellent and there was no boring moment throughout the book. If enjoy reading thoughtful and lively essays, you will likely find iPagan both informative and entertaining.