It’s been awhile since I reviewed a “Pagan-y” book, hasn’t it? I think it’s time to fix that, so the book I’m going to review today is To Walk a Pagan Path: Practical Spirituality for Every Day by Alaric Albertsson.
As you may have guessed from the title, this book is all about living as a Pagan, not just on holidays, but every day of the year. It’s a short book (at least, compared to many other Llewellyn books) packed with practical suggestions: from creating your own sacred calendar to growing a portion of your own food. You won’t find complicated ritual scripts or spells that call for the hair of a live shedding wolf in this book. Instead, you will find tips on making your own ritual candles and incense and (on the more complicated end of things) raising chickens and beekeeping, all with the end goal of bringing you closer to nature’s rhythms. The topics Albertsson covers are: making a sacred calendar that is meaningful to you, daily devotions/offerings and what is realistic for your circumstances, connecting with animal familiars, growing a portion of your own food/dedicating Pagan “Mary Gardens” to specific deities, an entire chapter on trees, raising chickens and beekeeping, cooking and recipes, Pagan crafts, and an entire chapter on Yule.
I think the Pagan 101 market is inundated with books that give you a lot of ritual scripts and suggestions for celebrating the holidays, but few of them actually tackle the more practical aspects of Pagan traditions. In that sense, this book is much more (literally) down to earth, you won’t find a whole lot of discussion about communicating with deities and spirits and altar-building 101, and that in itself is kind of refreshing. Albertsson stresses that the reader should, of course, feel free to adapt the material within to fit their specific tradition and circumstances (for instance, you probably aren’t going to be doing a lot of beekeeping if you’re allergic to bee venom and you obviously can’t keep chickens if the laws in your area forbid it) but there are so many different suggestions that there’s likely something everyone can do even if they have limited space and time. The author stresses that you need to be realistic as to what sort of commitments you can and can’t make, for instance, stating that if you can only meditate for fifteen minutes each day due to your circumstances, then that’s the commitment you make.
I do think that there is a definite audience for this book, like newcomers to Pagan traditions looking for small things they could do to keep their faith from being a “holiday” phenomenon but maybe aren’t sure where to begin. I also found the book to be very approachable, for lack of a better term, the ideas in the book are suggestions, not Rules Which Must Be Followed, and, as I said, you’re encouraged to adapt them as you see fit. This is a small thing, but I also like that the book is written by an author who is not an eclectic Wiccan (which is often the case in “Pagan 101” books, especially Llewellyn books) which exposes the reader to a perspective they might not see a lot of in Llewellyn’s catalog.
I do have a few nitpicks, however, and the first one has to do with the sentence above. While Albertsson does make an effort to reference other Pagan traditions in his book, he’s coming from the perspective of a Saxon Pagan, so the rituals and much of the suggestions will be slanted towards what he does as a Saxon Pagan (although, again, he encourages readers to adapt the suggestions as they see fit). I also found the book to be kind of short (although I suppose there are only so many practical things you can do) and I also found the author has a tendency to jump from topic to topic with little warning. I also think there were some sections that might have been a little too detailed (particularly the portions involving care of animals, especially since the author only has his own experience to go off of and doesn’t appear to have any sort of qualifications or certification to back up the things he says). There are also a couple points where it felt as if the author was subtly shaming folks who could not obtain their own beeswax or grow much of their own food, in the vein of “but your rituals and such will be so much more personal if you make these things yourself” and while that may be the case, there are ways to say it without it sounding like you’re putting down people who can’t do these things (on that note, not everyone has the means to make constant trips to the farmer’s market). Also, since much of the book is focused on connecting with nature/seasonal cycles, those of you who are more “gods-based” won’t find much of use unless you’re specifically looking for more practical, not heavily-ritualized stuff.
In sum, I think this would be a great book to give to newcomers who aren’t really sure how to do the whole “living the faith” thing, more experienced folks might want to pick it up to mine the book for ideas–even though I don’t think there’s that much here that you haven’t already read, in any case, it’s good to brush up on the basics every now and then. I would tentatively recommend it if anything I’ve said in this review has piqued your interest, but I’d recommend looking through the preview on Amazon and reading a couple of other reviews first to make sure it’s something that would benefit you. I think we definitely need more books like this one, but your mileage will definitely vary in terms of how much you take away from it.