Core Books in Pagan Studies

I recently completed an article on contempoary Paganism for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion, so when it appears, I can at least say that I have been published by Oxford UP. Yay me. But is there still a market for academic encyclopedias in this day when undergrads must be taught how to use reference books? Someone must think so.

As to the article, instead of writing another “it all started with Gerald Gardner” article, I decided to give more space to (a) the Romantic movement and (b) the Latvian and Lithuanian reconstructionists of the 1920s and 1930s, that two-decade space when their nations escaped centuries of German and Russian colonization before being dumped in 1940 back into it—the Third Reich and then the USSR.

magical religionThe editors wanted a brief bibliography, of course, with primary and secondary sources, so I just went along my Pagan-studies bookshelves, grabbing this and that, including some titles that I think have always been under-appreciated.

Jim Lewis’s edited collection Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft was published twenty years ago, yet it is still relevant in the questions that it raises. Some of the chapters later turned into books, such as “Ritual Is My Chosen Art Form: The Creation of Ritual as Folk Art among Contemporary Pagans,” by Sabina Magliocco.researching paganisms

Likewise, the collection Researching Paganisms (2004) discussed issues of “religious ethnography” that every scholar of  religion should read, not just those studying some form of Paganism. From the description:

Should academic researchers “go native,” participating as “insiders” in engagements with the “supernatural,” experiencing altered states of of consciousness? How do academics negotiate the fluid boundaries between worlds and meanings which may change their own beliefs? Should their own experiences be part of academic reports? Researching Paganisms presents reflective and engaging accounts of issues in the academic study of religion confronted by anthropologists, psychologists, sociologists, historians and religious studies scholars?as researchers and as humans?as they study contemporary Pagan religions.

paganism readerHere is the rest of the bibliography. I do not claim that it is complete, but it is representative. For example, if you look into the The Paganism Reader, which Graham Harvey and I compiled, you will see material from ancient centuries up into the early twentieth, for example, so it covers a lot of ground. Pity it got such a boring cover.

Primary Sources

Buckland, Raymond. Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1986.

Clifton, Chas S., and Graham Harvey, eds. The Paganism Reader. London: Routledge, 2004.

Gardner, Gerald B. Witchcraft Today. London: Ryder and Co, 1954.

Graves, Robert. The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1948.

McNallen, Stephen A. Asatru: A Native European Spirituality. Nevada City, Calif.: Runestone Press, 2015.

Murray, Margaret. The God of the Witches. London: Sampson Low, 1931.

———. The Witch-Cult in Western Europe: A Study in Anthropology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1921.

Valiente, Doreen. The Rebirth of Witchcraft. London: Robert Hale, 1989.

Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon, ed. Green Egg Omelette: An Anthology of Art and Articles from the Legendary Pagan Journal. Franklin Lakes: New Page Books, 2009.

Further Reading

Aitamurto, Kaarina, and Scott Simpson, eds. Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Central and Eastern Europe. Studies in Historical and Contemporary Paganism. Durham: Acumen, 2013.

Berger, Helen. A Community of Witches: Contemporary Neo-Paganism and Witchcraft in the United States. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999.

Berger, Helen, and Douglas Ezzy. Teenage Witches: Magical Youth and the Search for Self. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2007.

Blain, Jenny, Douglas Ezzy, and Graham Harvey, eds. Researching Paganisms. The Pagan Studies Series. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press, 2004.

Clifton, Chas S. Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America. The Pagan Studies Series. Lanham, Md., Altamira Press, 2006.

Davy, Barbara Jane. Paganism, 3 vols. Critical Concepts in Religious Studies. London: Routledge, 2009.

Doyle White, Ethan. Wicca: History, Belief, and Community in Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2015.

Eller, Cynthia. Living in the Lap of the Goddess: The Feminist Spirituality Movement in America. Boston: Beacon Press, 1993.

Harvey, Graham. Animism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.

Hutton, Ronald. Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.

———. The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

———. Witches, Druids and King Arthur. London: Hambledon and London, 2003.

Johnston, Hannah E., and Peg Aloi, eds. The New Generation Witches: Teenage Witchcraft in Contemporary Culture. Controversial New Religions. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007.

Lewis, James R., ed. Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996.

Magliocco, Sabina. Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Myers, Brendan. The Earth, the Gods and the Soul: A History of Pagan Philosophy from the Iron Age to the 21st Century. Winchester: Moon Books, 2013.

Pike, Sarah M. Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community. Berkeley, University of California Press, 2001.

———. New Age and Neopagan Religions in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.

Rountree, Kathryn, ed. Contemporary Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Europe: Colonialist and Nationalist Impulses. New York: Berghahn, 2015.

———. Embracing the Witch and the Goddess: Feminist Ritual-Makers in New Zealand. London: Routledge, 2004.

Salomonsen, Jone. Enchanted Feminism: The Reclaiming Witches of San Francisco. London: Routledge, 2002.

Weston, Donna, and Andy Bennett. Pop Pagans: Paganism and Popular Music. Studies in Historical and Contemporary Paganism. Durham: Acumen, 2013.

Wise, Constance. Hidden Circles in the Web: Feminist Wicca, Occult Knowledge, and Process Thought. The Pagan Studies Series. Lanham, Md.: AltaMira Press, 2008.

York, Michael. Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion. New York: New York University Press, 2003.

9 thoughts on “Core Books in Pagan Studies

  1. Great list – and I’m flattered to see my book in there! From my own perspective, I’d probably say that a few other “core readings” that jump to mind (and which are not always as widely read as I think that they deserve to be) are:

    * Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and their Influence on Nazi Ideology (Aquarian Press, 1985)

    * Robert J. Wallis, “Shamans/Neo-Shamans: Ecstasy, Alternative Archaeologies and Contemporary Pagans” (Routledge, 2003)

    * Michael F. Strmiska, ed. “Modern Paganism in World Cultures” (ABC-Clio, 2005)

    * Jenny Blain and Robert Wallis, “Sacred Sites, Contested Rites/Rights: Pagan Engagements with Archaeological Monuments” (Sussex Academic Press, 2007)

    * Mariya Lesiv, “The Return of Ancestral Gods: Modern Ukrainian Paganism as an Alternative Vision for a Nation” (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013)

    * S. Zohreh Kermani, “Pagan Family Values: Childhood and the Religious Imagination in Contemporary American Paganism” (New York University Press, 2013)

    * Jennifer Snook, American Heathens: The Politics of Identity in a Pagan Religious Movement (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2015)

    Again, that’s not a comprehensive set of additional volumes, but they are all books that I think highly of and would definitely recommend to anyone taking their tentative steps into Pagan studies.

    1. Oh, and Mattias Gardell’s “Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism” (Duke University Press, 2003). I’d put that right up there as one of the really important (if not entirely representative) tomes within the field of Pagan studies.

      1. I hesitated over Gardell but ejected it because it was not a broad study of Asatru but focused chiefly on the racialist Asatruar and on prison Odinism.

        1. True. Personally, I always like to recommend it as it will allow the reader to better appreciate the breadth of the Pagan movement in all of its diversity. I get a little frustrated by seeing the generalised claim that “Pagans are all nature-worshipping, tolerant, liberal and celebrate the Wheel of the Year etc” in academic material, and I do think that Gardell’s work is the best antidote to that misconception. Plus I just think that it’s a cracking read.

    2. Off hand, I can say that Mariya Lesiv is included in Aitamurto & Simpson. Jennifer Snook I have not yet read; Temple did not have her book at their AAR booth. Goodrich-Clarke is more about fringe esotericism than Paganism as such. Wallis and Strmiska and Z. Kermanic are all good, but as I said, the list was “representative.” (All three have published in The Pomegranate too.

      1. I get your point about it being a “representative” list, although there are a few titles in there, such as Weston and Bennett’s edited volume, that I might not characterise as such (not that that really matters; it’s a moot point).

        Yes, Lesiv did produce one of the best chapters in the Aitamurto and Simpson volume. But her monograph on Ukrainian Paganism is a really good read too, if a little too short for my liking.

        Although Goodrick-Clarke does not deal purely with what we would now recognise as modern Paganism in “The Occult Roots of Nazism” (there’s a fair bit on mystic volkisch Christianity in there too), I think that the volume’s great value is in looking at these continental European groups and individuals who were busy worshipping pre-Christian gods and trying to ‘revive’ ancient religion decades before Gardner came along. I think that it is really important to emphasise these oft-forgotten early Pagans who came out of the romanticist milieu (accordingly I’m very pleased to hear that you’ve made mention of these groups in your entry for the OUP encyclopaedia.)

  2. Medeina Ragana

    Thanks to all of you for this list. I am especially heartened that Lithuanian and Latvian paganism is noted since that is part of my heritage. Now if someone can find the same with Russian, Ukrainian, Polish and Belorussian paganism, (in English! My Russian is poor, and my Polish and Ukrainian non-existent) I would be most grateful.

    1. As far as I am aware, nothing has been published (in English) on Paganism in Belarus, but the Aitamurto and Simpson volume that Chas cites would be very interesting to you, I think. Lesiv’s recent volume on Ukrainian Paganism might be too.

      There are also a few (English language) papers on Russian Paganism in The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies.

      It is absolutely fantastic to see these scholars conducting work on Central and Eastern Europe, which as regions have been far too neglected within Pagan studies up until now.

      1. Medeina Ragana

        Thank you for the reference. Unfortunately Pomegranate is way beyond my budget since I’m living on Social Security, but I will save my pennies up to see if I can buy the relevant issues. Again, my thanks.

Comments are closed.