Now and then: What I look for in a Pagan book

I’m flipping through old notebooks, finding stuff from the days when my religion took up the greater part of my brain share. These days, it’s certainly still a massive part of my life, but it integrates differently, especially since I also spend a fair amount of time on the Artist’s Way, trying to create as I go. I found this old outline for “what I look for in a Pagan book,” that I wrote circa 2001. I may have written it for an old website, or quite possible for a lecture of sorts with the MSUPagan group.

Here’s the original outline:

Originality and enhancement of concepts
Quality of writing
Tone and approach
Marketing of book
Factual accuracy, ease and cooperation with fact-checking
Practical application of concepts

Nowadays, my opinion has changed as I’ve come to realize the limited value of academics for academics sake. While certainly there needs to be some form of documentation, it’s much more about whether the information contributes anything useful to actual living religious practices. What I want now, much more:
Clear, practical explanations of the reasoning behind claims made in the book
Concrete examples of actual practice
Creativity and creative practice – I don’t look down on spellbooks as some do, but I do prefer ones that at least nod to the power of aesthetic consideration. Valerie Worth’s Crones Book of Words comes to mind as an example of excellence in both spell construction and poetry.
It’s fine if an author wants to wax on about fairies, angels, aliens – but be prepared to do something with it. I still remember talking to a guy who wanted to go on about the greatness of Zechariah Stitchin (flag one) and who went completely pale when I said, “Great! So what do you do with that?” ((I’m not patient with people who armchair their spirituality AND won’t shut up. I’ve noticed the ones who do as a rule don’t talk much. These things are related.)) Judging by his startled expression, it never even occurred to him that someone might integrate their spirituality at all.

Obviously, I’m looking for anything that doesn’t rehash the same old systems. I’ve heard enough about how to cast a circle and the sybmolism of the sabbats – ad nauseum. And it’s not just hearing about them, it’s approaching them in the exact same way over and over. I find this particularly the case when Wiccan studies approach a discussion of the elements. Yes, meditating on their alignments and getting a breeze on your face is well, but Ceremonial Magicians have found a lot more to do than that, and much of it integrates just fine with Wiccan practice.

While I don’t demand originality – it happens by kismet alone these days – at least a variation of thought is really what I want in a book about my spirituality. Perhaps a bit less about fairies, dragons, vampires, zombies or unicorns is OK, too.