Review: Reclaiming the Gods: Magic, Sex, Death, and Football

This is one of the books I got for free courtesy of Amazon and their amazing Kindle reading app. Let’s be honest, there aren’t a whole lot of books on Paganism that are geared towards men, and even though I wasn’t really expecting much, well, free is free, right?

I don’t think you could pay me to read this book.

So, to summarize this book, it’s basically an overview of different aspects of *the* God (Judge, Guide to the Underworld, Lover, Sacred King, etc.) that might have been interesting if had any original ideas in it. Seriously, pick up any Llewellyn Wicca 101 book and you will find the same stuff.

It’s difficult for me to describe how terrible this book is in my own words, so I’ve pulled some quotes (discovered the Kindle app would pull the quote AND give me citations) for your perusal, with my commentary (the numbers at the end are the locations in the Kindle app, not page numbers):

“Like the Gruagach [Pan] hates clothes and insists on participants coming naked to his rites.” (101)

Um, wut? Is it just me, or does being nekkid in Pan’s presence sound like a very bad idea?

The Celtic Druidic tradition for example provides an alternative perspective. It is not a religion as it has no gods or goddesses, at least not in the sense we understand them. It has no creation mythology, no creator, no dogma, no dualism of earth and spirit, and thus no fall, no sin, no redeemer and no need for redemption. The sources reveal that the Celtic Druid tradition is based upon being: being in life, being a part of the stream of the vibrant, perfect and pure experience of life, and coming into the many forms of life, again and again. (137-141)

So, I take it you don’t know a whole lot about Druids, then? Did you miss the part about druids being PRIESTS as well as philosophers?

Apart from the Tricksters and the Gods of the Underworld, some of the most likely candidates for this role [embodying everything contrary to “the norm”] are the Gods (and Goddesses) of homosexuality. Coyote, the Trickster God of North America for example, is always encouraging flirtations among the same sex. (638-640)

Who are these gods and goddesses of homosexuality? Note that this is the ONLY TIME in the whole book that Mann even references LGBT+s.

“Set appears as the destroyer and Osiris as the life giver, but both appear in a manner that suggests they are aspects of the same god.” (770-1)

[citation needed]

“Apep: The serpent or crocodile form of Set. Every night Apep attempts to swallow the sun to prevent it rising in the east. Every morning he is defeated, but restores himself to fight again. During an eclipse Apep has greater power to destroy the order of the world.” (801-803)

I guess he missed the part where Set’s the deity who’s doing the killing? (Other times Ra does it himself, IIRC.)

Other times the book has hilarious typos, as in this case:

“Erebus: A primeval Greek God of the Underworld. Son of Chaos, brother and wife to Nyx, father of Nemesis, Eros and Charon. Erebus is the personification of the circles of lesser darkness proceeding outward from the black depths of Tartarus.” (bold mine) (928-930)

[insert cissexist quip about Nyx wearing the pants in the relationship here] No seriously, I think you mean husband, or spouse.

and this one:

“Beowulf crushes Wendel,” (1499)

It’s Grendel, dammit! GRENDEL!

And a whole lot of stuff that just doesn’t make any sense:

“They (Dionysus’ maenads) reveal the bloodthirstiness of the womb, of birth giving.” (933-934

This needs to be made into a meme, right now. Everyone must know of the bloodthirstiness of the womb!

“The fact that Freyr presides over the earth in conjunction with his sister Freya (Frigg),” (1719-1720)

Freyja =/= Frigg

Freyr is kin to the Dying and Rising God as, firstly, the myth of Freya has her weeping and otherwise acting in the manner of the Near Eastern goddesses of fertility; secondly, the boar figures strongly in his cult; thirdly, he is a phallic god, a lord of love and sexual activity; and finally, the rites associated with the Scandinavian kings suggest that when they entered the earth, they joined with Freyr, whose spirit then entered into the person of the next king. Freyr is thus reborn in every king, whose annual duty was to undertake the sacrifices necessary for the fertility and prosperity of the people. Freyr was said to be slain by the incoming fiery patriarchal gods. (1721-1725)

I’m just going to leave that there.

Anyways, the rest is a nigh-incomprehensible combination of word salad, pop Jungian psychology, something about the Washington Monument and conspiracies, long-winded chapters on how Christianity sucks and we need to reclaim the God. Actually, the whole book is long-winded. I think I had more fun reading Fifty Shades of Grey and writing snarky comments in the margin than I did skimming this book. At least I had fun picking apart the one on spirit animals.

I hope someone likes reading these, because this is the kind of crap I read through for you people, and I can’t count it as an ordeal or a test of faith or anything, so I hope you’ve been entertained, because this book was just….just….

I’m going to bed.

Good night (even though it will be morning when I read the comments).

10 thoughts on “Review: Reclaiming the Gods: Magic, Sex, Death, and Football

  1. LMAO. I saw that book and thought it might be interesting. Now I’m going to avoid it. Thanks for warning me away.

    It’s a shame, because Mann could have come up with some good stuff. But nooooo, let’s take the Wicca 101 mish-mash. . . If your quotes hint at the basic level of the book, it sounds like Mann did the bare minimum of research, and didn’t go to primary sources. I would love to see his reference shelf.

    That quote on Set and Ausir is just WAT. If Mann had said Heru and Set, or Ra and Ausir, I’d have bought the former with reservation and the latter wholesale. But Set and Ausir are pretty much opposites. -_-‘

    To be fair, very late in ancient Egypt’s history, for some Set was equated with Apep.

    • Here’s the bibliography he lists at the back of the book:

      Adam Douglas, The Beast Within, London, Chapmans Publishers, 1992.
      Alan Bleakley, Fruits of the Moon Tree, London, Gateway Books, 1984.
      Alice K. Turner, The History of Hell, Harcourt Brace & Co., 1993.
      Anne Baring & Jules Cashford, The Myth of the Goddess, Viking, 1991.
      Anne Ross, Pagan Celtic Britain, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967.
      Barbara G. Walker, The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Harper San Francisco, 1983.
      Dudley Young, Origins of the Sacred: The Ecstasies of Love and War, New York, HarperCollins, 1991.
      Hilda Ellis Davidson, Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions, Syracuse University Press, 1988.
      Jeffrey Burton Russell, (1) The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1977.
      (2) The Prince of Darkness: Radical Evil and the Power of Good in History, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1988.
      John Gray, Near Eastern Mythology, New York, Peter Bedrick Books, 1982.
      John Matthews, Ed., Choirs of the God: Revisioning Masculinity, London, Mandala, 1991.
      John Rowan, The Horned God: Feminism and Men as Wounding and Healing, London, Routledge, 1987.
      Marija Gimbutas, (1) The Language of the Goddess, San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1989. (2) The Civilization of the Goddess: The World of Old Europe, San Francisco, HarperCollins, 1991.
      Mary Midgley, Wickedness: A Philosophical Essay, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984.
      Mircea Eliade. All of Eliade’s works, and those which he is editor, provide invaluable resource material on the themes of the God. Morris Berman, Coming to Our Senses, New York, Bantam, 1990. Nicholas R. Mann, (1) His Story: Masculinity in the Post-Patriarchal World, St. Paul, Llewellyn, 1995.
      (2) The Dark God, St. Paul, Llewellyn1996.
      (3) The Isle of Avalon, Green Magic, 2001.
      (4) …. & Marcia Sutton, Giants of Gaia, Albuquerque, Brotherhood of Life, 1995.
      R. J. Stewart, (1) Celtic Gods and Goddesses, London, Blandford Press, 1990. (2) The Bright One Unmasked: Celebrating the Male Mysteries, Bath, Arcana, 1991.
      Ralph Metzner, The Well of Remembrance, Boston, Shambhala, 1994.
      Robert Lawlor, Earth Honoring: The New Male Sexuality, Rochester, Park Street Press, 1989.
      Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, San Francisco, HarperCollins, 1992.
      Starhawk, Dreaming the Dark, Boston, Beacon Press, 1982.

      Now, I only have a BA in religious studies, not an MA or a PhD. but I would rely on very few of these if I was trying to write a great book on this subject. A lot of sources are from the 80s and 90s (book was published in 2011). Mircea Eliade did a lot to advance comparative religion, but his work is dated now, ditto with Gimbutas, Barbara Walker is just terrible (ooh, I have one of her books, I should review it).

      • *shakes head*

        I agree. I wouldn’t rely on many of these books either, at least not without cross-referencing.

        Mircea Eliade has some good stuff, but his work has to be taken in the context of his time and any new stuff we’ve learned. I’ve never read Gimbutas or Walker. I’ve heard bad things about them.

    • Actually, Set has a dynamic opposite pairing with both Heru and with Wesir, just different bits of equal and opposite involved. (Which makes sense, since Heru-Sa-Aset is in many ways explicitly made equivalent to his father, something which only just occurred to me now.) There’s a ton of stuff in Seth: God of Confusion about these.

      • Wow, I didn’t realize that. 🙂 Thanks for the info.

        God of Confusion is great (about 90 pages in though ambivalent on all the talk about sex). Really makes you appreciate Set’s place in the universe. Or at least in Kemetic mythology.

        Bleh, can’t spell tonight. Hopefully caught all the tyops.

  2. The inclusion of ‘football’ in the title was enough to give me pause. You just confirmed my first impression. Thank you. Do wonder what poor Wendel did that upset Mann so much, though 😉

    • TBH, I didn’t see one reference to football in the entire book, but that might be because it was jammed in with the same Goddess and God need to work together we all need to save the planet stuff we’ve all heard before (not that I have anything against saving the planet) so at that point I was just skimming it.

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