Begin A Pagan: Druids, Wiccans, and Witches Today
by Ellen Evert Hopman and Lawrence Bond
Being A Pagan is a modern history of paganism book, but with a twist. Instead of following specific traditions or paths, it follows the lives of specific people within the overall Pagan community. Normally, I really dislike interview-style books; I find that the questions and answers are too simple and are the same ones asked multiple times before. Thankfully, this book is different.
One of the chapters interviews Pagan leaders that have experienced extreme amounts of prejudice and persecution by their non-Pagan neighbors. I know that these interviews are dated (they were taken in 1994), the experiences that Terry Riley and Lady Sintana had while just trying to open a store or to practice their religion peacefully were very disheartening. While I was reading their interviews, I thought about how lucky I was to have not experienced what they went through. I’ve never known a shop that was forced out of existence as Terry’s shop was, nor been the focus of negative press or the police because of my religious beliefs. If I recall the time correctly, around this time a coven I was loosely connected with performed a public ritual to dedicate a new city park.
No matter how many times this seems to happen, reading about people I've actually been in Circles with still gives me the shivers. Even though the interviews for Don Frew, Rowan Fairgrove and Russell Williams are old (they were done back in '94), those interviews still paint extremely accurate pictures of their continuing influence within the pagan and interfaith communities. As an acquaintance of Rowan’s, I get updates on her interfaith work at least once a week.
There is one particular interview that had a huge impact upon me. Even the word 'huge" is not accurate enough to describe the impact it had. In the chapter ‘Pagan Artists’, the first interview is with Elspeth and Nybor, and it was a bit within the introductory paragraph that got me – his birth name. Knowing people in a book is quite different from finding a cousin, that you only knew as a name, in a book; especially when you had no idea you had any relations that were Pagan.
Although some of the information may seem dated, it can never be too dated that it won’t be important to know how other Pagans found their paths, or dealt with intolerance, or wrote what they believed for others to lean on and learn from. Just because of that, this is an important book to have on a serious Pagan’s bookshelf. However, the biggest effect of this book is much more personal for me. Through this book, not only did I find a cousin, I found that cousin was Pagan and through him found that my favorite Aunt was also Pagan. Because of this, this book will always be precious to me.