Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Book Review: Our Troth (first edition)

I've read a few "intro to Heathenry" books now, and I hadn't yet found one that really was what I wanted it to be.  Most were too short, too fluffy, or too old - usually a combo of two or more.  I understand the purpose of intro books, but I feel like I need more than a page of discussion about Thor to really get a proper introduction to Him.  I picked up the first edition of Our Troth from a friend, who bought it years ago when the current two volumes were still published as one (I've been told the current edition is not drastically different, but I can't personally attest to that).  It really was exactly what I'd been looking for.

Our Troth was published by The Troth, a Heathen organization based in the US.  They have a good clergy training program, and hold an annual gathering known as Trothmoot.  Some prominent Heathen authors, such as Diana Paxson and Kveldulf Gundarsson, are active members.  In fact, Our Troth has contributions from both of them, as well as a few other authors.  This article-style mixture of authors can be hard for some to read, as the style is not entirely consistent throughout, but I personally didn't have any issue with the changing voice.  One thing I'd like to point out is that The Troth is an adamantly anti-racist organization.  Unlike some other Heathen groups who have more of a don't-ask-don't-tell policy, the Troth accepts any and all who feel called to Heathenry, and little tolerance for those who would make others feel unwelcome.  Our Troth is written with this in mind, and is an ideal introduction for those who might be leery of less inclusive rhetoric.

Each of the major Gods and Goddesses of Germanic Paganism have a chapter and and a lot of information about them; and many spirits and wights get their own chapters as well (the Disir, house-wights, land-wights, etins, etc).  There's also information about Germanic cosmology and the nine worlds, some history of the Indo-Europeans and Germanic peoples, and some Heathen theology.  The second half of the book (and from what I understand, the second volume of the current arrangement) has information and examples for many different rituals, thoughts on clergy and ritual space in Heathenry, and a note on the rights of practitioners of minority religions.  I found the first half of the book incredibly informative, and it greatly helped my understanding of the Gods and Goddesses, as well as the specific history of the Germanic peoples.  I would absolutely recommend it to anyone just getting into Heathenry.  As for the second half of the book, I am a little more leery of handing out the recommendation.  I feel that it is more suited to an experienced Heathen's bookshelf as a reference or tidbit of knowledge; much of the content consists of ideas for group rituals that someone new to Heathenry would not be planning anyhow, because the rituals themselves are written with the assumption of a large space with at least a kitchen.  The other discussions on Hof and clergy get incredibly specific and are rather dry, and were difficult for me to get through (and I don't mind dry reading)!

I absolutely recommend that any beginners to Heathenry pick up the first volume of Our Troth.  The second volume can probably wait until you you have been practicing a few years, or for some reason you really need to know the optimal dimensions for building a Troth-approved Hof.

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