The Most Important Page of Any Book

The Most Important Page of Any Book

There are now lots of Pagan books out there, on a huge variety of subjects. Some are new, some are old, some are out of print but still available through second-hand shops and websites. I’ve recently been perusing some older and out of print books on Wicca and Witchcraft, as well as Paganism in general and it’s really hit home just how much one page of a book can make all the difference. In fact, it’s the most important page of any book. And what is that page?

The page at the beginning of a book that has the publishing details on it.

What? Yeup – that’s the bit that I find the most helpful from the start. Why? Because it gives you context. You can find out just when the book was written, so you will see © 2001 Witchy McWitch. These few words give you an idea into the time in which the words were penned, a snapshot in time as to what facts and truths were available, and what were not, and how they were presented. Under that you will see the publishing dates, such as “First published in 2012 by So & So Publishing”. There will be the initial publishing print date, as well as other information to let you know how many printings of this book there has been.  If you are buying the book brand new, this reprint information gives you an idea of how popular the book is, as well as the possible opportunities for correction during subsequent print runs by either the author (if they’re still alive) or the publisher (if at all possible).

So why is this important? Well, information changes, history changes as new facts come to light. Knowing just when a book was written will allow for some leniency with regards to what was known at the time, versus what we now know after decades of research. I can forgive a book that is 20+ years old for not having a good history of witchcraft, for example. With even older books I can be more forgiving. The use of terms such as “shaman” and “shamanic”, as another example, can be forgiven because that was the term being used at the time. If the book hasn’t undergone a reprint recently, or has been out of print for a while, then this information just can’t be changed. And this is, at least to this author, a source of anxiety. I don’t know about other authors, but often when you put stuff out there, it’s out there for good and people can forget the context in which it was written.

People change. Facts change. Views of history change. What is politically and socially correct, changes. But old books can’t change. Not unless a new publishing company picks it up, the author is still alive to consult about making the changes, and everyone is happy to go along with it. But so often I will see criticism and horrendous reviews of old books regarding the information contained within. If you look at the book within context, you will know that it is out of date regarding historical accuracy, and then you might be a little more lenient. But instead people slam the old authors, those who many of us from Gen X and previous grew up with. We know that some of the information is wrong, or outdated, if we have the privilege of being able to keep up to date with the latest books and information (and in today’s growing economic crisis here in the UK, and around the world, we know that people have less and less money to spend). Think about it for a minute. If you haven’t been able to buy a new book on an aspect of Paganism in the last decade or so for whatever reason (no money, no time to read it because you’re working two jobs and trying to raise kids, etc.) you won’t have the most up to date information. But people will still criticise you and the books that you have for it, when it is beyond anyone’s control.

(There is a caveat here – some books do just contain information that was made-up at the time, and the author knew it. Or it was just poorly researched when information was quite readily available at the time. I’m thinking of a certain book written in 1990 that states the ancient Irish peoples carved pumpkins. Yeah. We knew better even at that time.)

Books are a luxury. For sure. Not everyone has the ability to do the in-depth research, to keep up to date with the latest information and the world of academia. For some people it just bores the crap out of them. Some people are doers, not readers. We have to take a look at the bigger picture, and stop cancelling authors whose books are out of print, as well as over-criticising people for not keeping up to date with the latest academia. It’s just not possible for some people to do. It’s utterly beyond their control.

I am so lucky that I am able to search around to find these old books, to add to my collection. I am so fortunate that I am able to buy new books with the latest academic research. I understand my white, middle-aged woman privilege here. Which is why I’m not ranting at others online or in person about the material they present, the authors they like, the books that they’ve read or not read (apart from my small caveat above). Because there’s a whole world of circumstances that I cannot possibly understand.

People are throwing out, or at least recycling old books because some of the information in them is out of date, contains bad history or what not. But as I’m re-reading these old books, every time I pick one up I look at the publishing details, to remind myself of the context. I can then be more forgiving. It doesn’t mean that all the material is worthless – it means that we have learned a lot more since this book was written. Now, if it was a brand new book written in the last few years, I might have a different attitude, but again there are variables: is the book self-published? If so, then there aren’t any external editors to say to the author “Look, this claim that you make has been shown to be false, here’s some research for you to look up” or some such. Circumstances matter.

Acknowledging circumstances help us to live more compassionately.

One last thing to think about is that authors, if they have the good fortune to have kept going throughout the decades, will contradict themselves sometimes. This is a good thing, because it is showing growth (sometimes in the wrong direction, it may seem, but it shows that they are still seeking). I released my first Pagan book in 2012, written in 2011. I am most definitely not the same person I was 10+ years ago. I have said things in my older books that I cannot say today, because my life has changed. I mention in one of my old books that I’m vegan, but I haven’t been vegan for a long time now, for various reasons. But someone reading that book will still think I am, or may even criticise me later on when they read a subsequent book and find my position has changed. The history that my older books contain may not stand up to the test of time. But the message, the exercises, the feeling and the passion hopefully will, as long as people understand the context in which it was written.

Words are funny things. They’re like stones, and if you put too much stock in them, hold too many too close to your heart, they will weigh you down. We have to let some of them go, in order to fly. We have to change and adapt with the times, realise that there are circumstances beyond our control, or that we aren’t even aware of while holding a compassionate regard for the past, and an understanding of just how far we have all come.

You’re Not A Real Witch/Druid/Heathen/Whatever

At some point in your pagan spiritual path, you may come across some person or a group of people who tell you that you’re not a real [insert path here] and may even give you “helpful” reasons as to why they have come to this conclusion. And I’m here to tell you that it’s all bollocks.

First off, anyone who has the gall to tell someone else that they’re spiritual path is wrong because it differs from theirs, most likely has some superiority/inferiority/ego issues. It usually takes someone with pretty low self-esteem to try and knock down other people, and with the anonymity that the internet provides, this can be done in large quantities. What we all must remember is that when someone says something like “you’re not a real [insert path here] because you don’t do [insert whatever here]” it is saying a lot more about them, and not a lot about you. It displays their hang-ups, their biases, their issues, not yours.

Some people will confuse their dislike for something and state it as something that is “wrong”. However, simply because someone doesn’t like it doesn’t mean that it is wrong. I *heart* unicorns. Always have, always will. Does this make me less of a witch/druid/heathen/whatever? I don’t wear black, I don’t have a witchy aesthetic per se, I’m not particularly drawn to “dark” magic and I don’t even “look” witchy. I honour different gods from different traditions and follow many different paths. I am a Witch, a Druid, a Heathen, a Zen Buddhist. I don’t limit myself to one “pure” tradition of anything, because I don’t believe that exists. Does this make me any less in the eyes of the pagan public? To some, yes. And that is their problem, not mine.

My path is extremely rich and rewarding. For me. If it inspires others to follow/develop theirs, then I’m so very pleased and filled with gratitude. We need to support each other more, not tear each other down. There’s enough of that nonsense already in the world. Let’s not add to it.

Nature teaches us that diversity is key to a healthy, functioning ecosystem. What fills my cup is constant learning and taking that learning into real experience, which will lead me down many interesting paths. I can be more than one thing at one time, or at all times. I am a sister, a daughter, an aunt, a wife, Mother of Cats, author, singer, dancer, YouTuber, blogger, podcaster, Northern Expsoure fan and more. I am not one thing, nor could I ever be. Plurality is a good thing. It keeps things interesting.

If someone’s path diverges from yours, take time to understand more. Even if you don’t agree with it, it’s not your place to decide what is valid or authentic, and what is not. When we do so, we are seeking to belittle someone, and that is just not cool. Again, it says more about us than it ever will about them.

No one can please everyone, and nor should anyone even try. For when we do so, that’s when we are being inauthentic. That’s when we lose sight of who we are, and who we aspire to be. Our dreams are our own, and we shouldn’t let others tell us whether or not we should seek them out. True sovereignty lies in knowing who you are, what you love, what brings you joy, what makes you the person you are. It is knowing your strengths and weaknesses, your light and your shadow. While others may provide you with inspiration on your path, never, ever let anyone dictate who you should be or what you should do.

Don’t let people “should” all over your life.

You are a real whatever-it-is-that-you-want-to-be. That’s your life, your living it, your path. No one else can walk it for you. Let your own story shine.

Edit: I’ve since recorded a follow-up piece to this blog post, and this has now been posted on my Bandcamp page here: joannavanderhoeven.bandcamp.com/track/dismissive-paganism

New Community Working on Patreon!

I am now making the 13 Lunar Rituals available to ALL patrons on my Patreon page 🙂 Together we can work and discuss as a community our thoughts, feelings, desires, wishes and workings for this coming moon’s cycle. We work from full moon to full moon. I hope to see you there! You can join us for as little as £1 a month. xoxo

Click HERE for more info!

(From last year’s harvest…)

New Video: The Tapestry of Life

After my hard drive crashed (and is not repairable) I finally got out again and did some filming this week. I hope you like it!

Book Review: The Druid Path: A Modern Tradition of Nature Spirituality by John Michael Greer

The Druid Path: A Modern Tradition of Nature Spirituality by John Michael Greer

Published by Sterling Ethos, 2021

This book is a great introduction to Druidry. I love a hardcover book, and this little gem published by Sterling Ethos is a really nice production. The corded cover with embossed title, the interior illustrations and the overall print quality is superb. We need more Pagan books that pay attention not only to the content, but also to the print quality and aesthetic! This book will last a long time, for sure. It’s in a nice almost square format too, which is different. It is an introductory book, so it doesn’t go into great length on any given subject, but it does cover all the essentials necessary to begin your path of Druidry.

It is divided into four sections: Part One looks at the sources of Druidry, including the ancient Druids, the Druid Revival and Modern Druidry. This brief history of Druidry covers all the essentials, as well as some new things that I have never come across, including William Stukeley’s elephants (you’ll just have to read the book for more on that one). I am also pleased to see a section on Women in Druidry.

Part Two looks at the Druid teachings, the different strands of Druidry and exercises to help one not just read about it, but also turn it into personal wisdom through experience. The section on “The Two Currents” I had not come across before in my own Druid learning. This chapter discusses the solar current and the earth’s telluric current and how to incorporate that into your practice.

Part Three is the practice of Druidry, an essential section that really shows how Druidry is a living practice, something that must be done, not just read about. I especially like Greer’s words on Druidry as a craft:

“Druidry is not an ideology. Like basketry, forestry, and many other words that end with –ry, it can be best understood as a craft. You don’t become a basket maker or a forester by believing some set of opinions. You become a basket maker by learning and practising basketry, and you become a forester by learning and practising forestry. In the same way, you become a Druid by learning and practicing the craft of Druidry. One of the things this means is that becoming a Druid isn’t an all-or-nothing matter. You start becoming a Druid as soon as you begin learning some elements of the Druid craft, and you keep on becoming a Druid as long as you keep studying and practicing that craft.”

In this section, Greer also introduces us to divination through the Coelbren alphabet, which is not used as much as the Irish ogham taught by many other Druid authors, teachers and organisations. This chapter also gives you some more daily practices and a couple of rituals to get you started.

Part four is about initiation into Druidry. The word initiation means “to begin” and so the ritual set out in this section provides the reader with a definitive point in time where they can say that they started out on the Druid path with directed intention to practice this craft to the best of their abilities. The self-initiation ritual is simple but poignant. Greer ends the book with the following words:

“A more important source of guidance than books and organizations, however, is the time you spend working with the basic practices of Druidry, listening to the One Life, and learning from nature. No one can do that for you. The only thing that limits how much you can learn and grow on the adventure of Druidry is your own willingness to pursue it.”

There is also a helpful glossary, bibliography, recommended resources and index.

I was very pleased with this little book that holds much wisdom. I’d recommend it to anyone starting out on the Druid path who wants a concise introduction contained within a beautifully printed publication.

A Spell for Peace

This month I’ve written a spell for peace (in a war-torn country) that is available to everyone via my Patreon page. You do not need to be a Patron to view or download the pdf of this spell – it is open to all. May we be peace. xoxo

The Goddess has a plan… or does She?

I’ve come across the phrase “the Goddess has got a plan” or something similar within the Pagan community, especially when people are trying to sort out why good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. For me personally, there are a few reasons why this just doesn’t sit right in my own Pagan worldview.

To begin with, I simply don’t believe in predestination. Many people have a simplistic view of “fate”, which seems to preclude the concept of free will. Many things are “fated to happen”, or meeting that person was “just fate”. Sometimes the notion of free will is forgotten in these instances, other times willingly overlooked in order to explain or justify the reason something has happened. Many Pagans, and all Wiccans, believe that we have free will, such as in the Wiccan rede (maxim or “counsel”) “an it harm none, do as ye will” which translates to “do not harm others while you live up to your full potential”. You will is your potential, your spiritual goal, your highest self.

But everyone is on this same ride. We are all going through life together, and someone else’s will may come into your life to challenge, support, annoy, or validate your own experience and your own will. Some would argue that a higher power has a plan for everyone, and that they are in some sort of control over the final destination, which means that there is some sort of control over the everyday experiences that lead to this final destination. This precludes free will, in my opinion.

Some have turned away from deity because of what has happened to them in their lives. They can’t believe that a deity would allow such things to happen to them and/or to the world in general. This is still a belief in pre-destination, and a deity that controls everything like some master puppeteer.

For me, deity is most certainly not this in any shape or form. Deity is the energy of life, of death and of renewal. That is its agenda. This energy may be seen in many different ways, relative to culture, to personal preference, to environment and so on. Different people attribute more associations to this basic agenda, myself included, into a more specified spiritual practice. But overall, the plan is life, death and renewal (or regeneration).

Our relationship with deity is very personal, and can be very specific. But does my Goddess have a plan for entire world? I know that she most certainly has a wish for the world, but it’s not up to her. It’s up to us.

Our free will, our own capability of taking full responsibility for our lives and the lives of others is part of that overall plan of life, death and renewal. It’s the growing up of the human race, the evolution that hopefully will take place sooner rather than later. In a Druidic sense, it is coming to realise that we are part of an environment, and that we need to be a contributing and beneficial part of that ecosystem in order for the whole to thrive (us included). In a Wiccan sense, it would be to do the least amount of harm and to become the best person that you can be in a similar context. In Hedgewitchcraft, it would be to understand and work deeply with the cycles of nature in your own home environment, crafting your life in complete attunement to the world around you, both the seen and the unseen. In all of the above, we are opening ourselves to deity in order to better understand ourselves, and how to live well on this planet.

That, in my opinion, could be the only plan the deities could have for us. Bad things will happen to good people, not because it’s part of deity’s plan, but because there are bad people out there who harm others knowingly or unknowingly. Human ego, greed and fear get in the way of so much that could be accomplished.

Sometimes it’s really hard not to despair when the world seems like such a mess. But we have to put faith in ourselves, in our own actions and be the example we want to see reflected back to us in the world. Working with the wonderful energy of the gods is one way, though not all Pagans are religious. Working with the energy of the land where you live is at the core of all practice, to better understand our place and how we can make it better not just for ourselves, but for all in order to have a sustainable future that follows life, death and renewal, even when not viewed from a religious standpoint.

Your own Will is that which will see you through the most difficult of times. If you align your will to the flow of nature, you will come to understand the true inter-connectedness of all things. And these all have free will, just as you do. It’s learning to meet each other, soul to soul, and work with that energy which in Druidry is often called “awen”. In our relationships with the world we come to better understand the world and really participate in this great, vast cycle within cycles. We will see the good, the bad and the ugly on the way, but we have to realise that not all of that is part of any deity’s plan. It just is, and we can learn to work with it, to condemn when we need to, to be the light we want to see in the world, and to really think long and hard about our own ethics and morality.

That’s my plan, anyway.

A little magic and spellcraft…

Did you know that on my Patreon page, I share magic and spellcrafting tips? Every month I put up a new spell, alongside some other tips, herbcraft and more. Here is an example of the spellcrafting that’s on offer for the top two tiers with my Patreon community 🙂

The Cairn of Stones Spell

In this spell, we use the power of stones to help bring about what it is that we need/desire. Ensure that your intention is good as well as being nice and clear. You can perform this spell outdoors or indoors. I personally prefer not to work with crystals unless they are ones that I have found myself out in the wilds, because a) they may have been mined through blasting the earth or obtained using dubious labour practices, and b) most crystals for sale are tumbled, meaning that they won’t pile one of top of the other very well.

Gather up some stones to use in this spell. If you are collecting them out in the wild to take home later, then please ensure that there are no restrictions as to what you can and cannot take home with you from this area. As you walk the land, keep your intention in mind, and your eyes and heart open to stones that seem to speak to you. Pick them up as you go, feeling their energy to see if they are in tune with your intention. If you are using stones that you already have, then do the same with each of them at home. Leave an offering to the earth after you have collected the stones. Thirteen stones is an ideal number for this work.

Find a place that speaks to you, and where your stones will be left undisturbed. Don’t place them in a prominent spot, say, in the middle of a busy beach, because children, adults, dogs etc. will probably knock them over before they’ve had a chance to work. It’s a good idea to find a place near to where you gathered the stones, so that they are all staying roughly in the same area. If this is not possible, bring to mind the area where you found the stones when you are ready to start the spell, and say a word of thanks.

In your designated place, cast a circle if you so wish and call upon any deities, ancestors, spirits of place or Fair Folk as appropriate to your path. Call upon the element of earth specifically, and really focus on this element. Through the stones, your spell will be working through the element of earth.

Hold each stone separately, and think of your need/desire. Blow gently on the stone to attune it to yourself and your personal energies. Then, place your intention into the stone, letting it flow from your mind and into the stone. Pour some of your personal energy into it as well, and visualise yourself as having obtained or achieved your goal. Say these or similar words after you have done this, to seal it into the stone:

Stone of earth, elemental power

Lend your strength here at this hour

To my spell manifest for me

This is my will, so mote it be.

Place the stone down, and repeat with each stone in turn. Make the little cairn or pile of stones wider at the bottom, so that it narrows towards the top where you can place a single, topping stone. As you place this final stone with the words spoken, see the whole pile lighting up and glowing with

combined energy. This energy radiates outwards and into the world to manifest your goal. Take a moment to relax, ground your energy and then leave an offering nearby (but not right by the stones – an animal might knock it over if it is a food offering). Rise and make your way home if you are out in nature, and let the spell do its work. The rocks may radiate your energy and intention for some time.

If you are performing this indoors, use your altar or a place where the stones will not be disturbed for several days at least. Leaving the stones for a cycle of the moon is ideal. When you are ready, dismantle the stones and thank each stone for lending their aid to your work. You can do this with an outdoor cairn as well, returning the stones to where you found them, or you can leave the stones there as you wish. If you need to break this spell at any time, simply dismantle the cairn and state “the spell is broken, through the words I have spoken” and see the energy of spell dissipating into the air. Some residual energy may linger, but you may not have any control over that, as it has been “put out there” so to speak and you no longer have complete control over it.

Working with stones is a wonderful way to get to know the earth and its energy.

Last video of the Year!

Working with the darkness and the light, the Divine Child and Great Mother – for me, it is the defining theme and journey for this time of year.