Paganism in all of its many forms causes many practitioners difficulties in their day-to-day lives, much of it stemming from the ignorance of non-Pagans. So it seems logical that a book on how to walk a Pagan spiritual path without annoying others would be a great addition to any Pagan library.

I was concerned that this book was going to go to one extreme or the other: That it would either be a guide to blending seamlessly into small town life by keeping your faith a secret, or that it might advocate an in-your-face, who-gives-a-hoot attitude toward closed-minded individuals similar to the “We’re here and queer!” attitude formerly embraced by some homosexuals.

Thankfully I was wrong. The author does a great job giving practical advice to Pagans on how to stay spiritually strong while not annoying the Joneses next door. It’s a great balance of both of these without asking the practitioner to be something s/he is not.

The best selling point for me was the interviews with Pagans, which form the foundation of the work. While most of the 50 survey respondents would not allow their answers to be quoted, 23 of them consented to the use of their names and quotes from survey interviews, sometimes on specific topics. It’s one thing for an author with lots of experience to provide insights, but you’re still only getting one perspective, one opinion. Forbes’ study of journalism—she finished a bachelor’s in journalism during the time she was working on this book—comes into play here as she gives quotes that are contradictory in many cases.

I was surprised at the breadth of the topics discussed, which included ritual etiquette, altars and other tools—and how to find them without a Pagan store close by, which can be a problem for many small-town practitioners—how to tell someone you’re dating about your spiritual path, and attending Pagan festivals. In some ways, it’s as much a guide to the Pagan world as it is to the mundane one. For me, a Witch who has never attended a Pagan festival, I would definitely feel more comfortable doing so after reading this book.

While a lot of the material was eye opening for me, the most valuable portion of the book was the section about starting your own coven, something that many Pagans consider at one point or another, and the rewards and dangers of doing so. It is not an easy path to walk, and Forbes presents the reality of the situation clearly. As I grow into a leadership role in my own Pagan community, I will definitely keep her words in mind.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised and pleased with this book, and I’m suggesting it to many people in my community.  Even those who have been walking a Pagan path for a long time will find some interesting tidbits along the way.

What was gratifying to me was the unity that the book conveys in such a balanced way: That even though we may be in small towns or big cities, we face many of the same challenges as practicing Pagans. I know I will be referring to it often, and plan to keep it handy.

 ~review by John Marani

Author: Bronwen Forbes
Llewellyn, 2011

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