If you've been participating in pagan spaces for awhile, the notion that patriarchal structures have been imposed upon the world, rather than having arisen naturally from it is familiar to you. The "why" has been fairly obvious, but "how" is still an interesting question to chew on, partly because deconstruction is only achieved when construction is understood. A new addition to the literature on this subject is Sophie Strand's The Flowering Wand: Rewilding the Sacred Masculine. I stretch her thesis to include her work into this catalog, but only a smidge. She is firmly in the camp stating that modern masculinity is a flawed construct; in fact, it has done to itself what it does to everything else, imposing an unnecessary heirarchical structure just as patriarchy does to everything it touches.

This collection of essays and other writings contains the idea that our mythologies suffer from being divorced from their ecosystems, and that this metaphorical dysbiosis (I'll save you a trip to the dictionary: it is a term for a microbial imbalance or maladaptation on or inside the body, such as an impaired microbiota, she describes it more prosaically as the gut bacteria being destroyed or seriously imbalanced) robs the modern conversation on masculinty of vast swaths of historical thinking. Importantly, she spends time on what comes of scything up stories from their ecosystem - misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and a loss of what the stories were actually trying to tell us. When the Christ is reported to have said that "[t]he kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed", if you are unaware of how big a pain in the butt mustard greens were to Galilean farmers then how are you ever to understand what is meant? A massive eruption occurred in the Mediterranean in 1650 BCE, wreaking havoc on multiple cultures around the Med and causing aftershocks for years - drought, floods, warped weather patterns. The pantheon of Titans were overthrown in favor of the Olympian gods during that period; telling the latter tale without considering the former robs it of context and likely renders it hollow. Strand digs into a double dozen of similar topics, sometimes guiding the reader to answers but more often showing that there are untold questions that need answering to arrive at anything resembling authentic masculinity.

"The Flowering Wand" is an excellent collection, well worth your time if you have any interest at all in the topic of deconstructing masculinity or, by association, patriarchy. If I wanted to quibble at all (do you distrust 100% positive reviews as much as I do?) I would say that Strand's expertise in ecology can't help but bend her understanding of the relationship of ecosystems and mythology. Not everything, in this reader's opinion at least, can be related back to mushrooms. (I exaggerate, but the sensation is real.)  Still, other than this, I think very few people wouldn't come out on the other side of this book as a more thoughtful and informed person.

~review by Wanderer

Author:  Sophie Strand
Inner Traditions/Sacred Planet Books, 2022
208 pp. $18.99