Saturday, August 24, 2013

Book Review - Travels Through Middle Earth: the Path of a Saxon Pagan, by Alaric Albertsson

Travels Through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan is a lovely introduction to Saxon Neo-Paganism. Many different aspects of the path are covered, from the Deities and the Spirits all the way to making your own mead! I did read the other recommended books for an Anglo-Saxon hearth culture (Brian Branston's Lost Gods of England and The Real Middle Earth by Brian Bates) but was left unfulfilled - Branston's work was very academic and interesting, but lacked spiritual recommendations; and Bates's book was a bit too loose with history for my tastes. Then I read Travels Through Middle Earth, and it was exactly the kind of book on Anglo-Saxon Paganism that I had been looking for; a good mix of scholarship and the personal experience of a man who has been walking this path for many years.

Travels Through Middle Earth is an introduction to Anglo-Saxon Paganism, and because of that it contains a lot of the usual 101 information - basic overviews of deities and holidays, many of which you can find in other Pagan introduction books. But where this book stands out is Alaric's careful attention to the mindset and world-view of the Anglo-Saxons. I particularly resonated with his point about language and culture; they are inextricably intertwined in the common phrases we use every day, without thinking. And of course, a people's religion is intimately bound up with their culture. This makes the English-speaking world particularly suited to the worldview of the Anglo-Saxons (though of course not limited to it - I myself also honor a Celtic hearth culture, and I wasn't raised speaking a Gaelic language).

Alaric also, while introducing the usual 101 holidays of the Wheel of the Year, goes deeper into their older meanings; and even talks about some interesting holidays that are much less well known in the general Pagan community, such as Mother's Night, a celebration of female ancestral spirits. He also gives many good ideas for celebrating these occasions, while staying true to the history and allowing for the fact that most of these customs are much more recent than our Pagan ancestors, but still applicable.

I have used some of the ideas in this book already in my own practice, setting up a w√©ofod (shrine) for Thunor and Frige. I appreciate Alaric's emphasis on consistent practice, and the book has inspired me to be more regular in my interactions with the Deities and Spirits. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone interested in Anglo-Saxon, or any sort of Germanic Paganism; I feel Travels Through Middle Earth is a fantastic resource to those who may just be starting out, and also contains some wonderful gems for those who have been walking the path for awhile now.

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