Books reviewed by Z Budapest
“Make Merry in Step and Songs” by Bronwen Forbes (Llewellyn )
Spring is warm enough to take a book out and read it while you inhale the fresh new air with flower scents. Reading about pagan rituals and enhancing your vocabulary in songs and folk dances, for circle leaders what a gift.
This is a great book! I love old England and loved learning about these many dances. The music is written down, and one can actually learn it. The dances are explained with meticulous precision, and the gentle prodding towards more practice makes the book a delight.
The author is a great lover of folk art, it shows in every selection, but those who think this is all about sugar and a little spice don’t know the English. Some of the heritage is gruesome, the character of the players murderous and unpredictable.
Yes there are the well behaved May Dance participants, wooing the fair Elinor, but there is also a story of a mother who hexed the young wife of her son with infertility. She can never have a child, until the son learns what she has done to hex her and undo the spell.
Then there is the humor. In the John Barleycorn Play, Old Woman questions Doctor Brown .
“What diseases canst you cure?” Doctor Brown: “The hips –pipsy, the palsy, the gout, a man having twenty-two senses in his head. I can cast twenty one out. Why I cured a snag tail last week nearly twenty-five feet long! Surely I can cure thy son who is not quite gone.” And then proceeds to raise her dead son from the dead. Not your everyday pabulum culture here.
I find it exciting that so much has remained still in practice, which the rebirth of the pagan traditions I am sure will contribute with more longevity.
This kind of culture requires costumes and props, a bit of pageantry peasant style. I think this is the kind of book you can consult at each turn of the seasons plus to make more merry at pagan parties. The information in here creates community, cohesiveness and entertainments. Well done Bronwen!
“Echoes of the Goddess” by Simon Brighton and Terry Welbourn (Ian Allan Publishing)
This is a book that should be made mandatory for all Women’s Studies students, and of the Craft and Goddess studies. Beautifully laid out with splendid color photographs just the object of the book itself is classy.
The English do not usually come out with this “in your face we got the Goddess all over our country” narrative. I recall when I was in England looking for the pagan heritage, the locals didn’t brag a lot about it. The London National Museum put the goddesses in room 22, a side show. It was all well known near the temples and stone, yet hush, hush at the same time. With this book, England at last owns her pagan heritage.
I have never seen goddess book this thorough, a well produced overview of the Goddess Culture. Starting with the Lost Goddess, prehistory goddesses, subterranean goddesses, holy wells, freshwater sirens, saltwater sirens, the Celtic and dark goddesses, the rude goddess, the Christianized goddess, the goddess in myths, legends, and in the labyrinth.
Rich chapters lead you through the countryside of England showing you what even tourist guides cannot see. And the Goddess is here bold and beautiful. Indeed, this book has a Holy book quality to it in content and presentation.
It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I am partial to stones. Looking at the breathtaking spiral paths, on a slab from Malta boggles the mind. Four to six thousand years old, these were people who knew about the spirals in the sky, understood the world to be part of the great whole. Another favorite of mine is the image on the Picardy Stone Aberdeen shire, from the 6/7th century AD; it was a tombstone once on an ancient grave. It has a curvy snake, a symbol of reincarnation; several images which could be maps of the stars said that it had a relationship to the hill of Dunnideer. Mysterious, yet riveting.
When you absorb all this good information take it easy, do a chapter at a time. Its like a rich meal for your mind you want to savor. The book takes you through history and accurately documents where the goddess was worshiped, by whom, for example the Pictish people, who gave women equal rights even back then. Then the great goddess was taken down with misinformation, destruction of her legacy and values. The Synod of Whitby in 664 AD finally crushed the Goddess Culture; all her physical representations were destroyed.
But not the She na gig, the vagina Goddess, she survived decorating the Christian churches, inside and outside. Good luck was her value and sexuality. The same folk also had many Green Man images to keep her company.
Make this book a success. Give them to friends for high occasions. Share it with your book clubs, keep it where you can see it and reach for it.