This is another installment of my ADF Dedicant Program studies.
Modern Paganism Studies Book Review:
“People of the Earth: The New Pagans Speak Out”
by Ellen Evert Hopman and Lawrence Bond
“People of the Earth” is a collection of very insightful interviews with a wide variety of Pagans- fifty-nine, in fact. Many of the interviews are with famous authors and leaders in the Pagan community; for example, Isaac Bonewits, Selena Fox, Oberon Zell, Starhawk, Susun Weed, Z. Budapest, and many more. Many of the same questions are asked to each participant, however, the diversity of answers to these questions, and the in-depth responses, really give the reader an insider’s view into many different Pagan organizations. Each person, in his or her own personal style, discussed how he or she came to be Pagan, as well as some of the details on their specific brand of Paganism and where they see the Pagan community going.
I can easily see why this book was on the ADF Dedicant reading list. It gives a more in depth perspective of all the different kinds of Paganism out there. These are perspectives that, without the help of a book like this, would be hard to obtain without direct experience with a wide variety of groups over a long period of time. What this book did for me was to re-affirm in my mind that ADF is the path for me. The most compelling interview for me was the one with Isaac Bonewits about ADF Druidry. “To me the essence of Druidism is combining the best of head and heart and hand. Combining the intellect, the emotions, and the artistic creativity and craft that people have. It’s using that to worship the Gods and to help ourselves to understand our lives better and understand what we are doing and where we are going.”1 It really seems in synch with my way of thinking, especially in respect to the importance of scholarship. I didn’t feel that with most of the other interviews. So I see this book as something that could be very useful for someone with is searching for their particular path. The information is directly form the source!
But also, it is important to understand our fellow Pagan’s perspective. I really found the interview with Victor Anderson informative. I have a friend who is in the Feri Tradition and now I feel that I have a fuller understanding of that tradition. I also know, beyond a doubt, that it’s not for me.
I thought the chapter titled “Paganism from Norway, Greece, Egypt, Israel and Italy” was going to be a cross-cultural view. Yet after reading the first interview, I began to realize that the interviews were not going to be with people living in said countries, but mostly with Americans reviving those traditions (or what they believe to be those traditions). They were interesting, quirky, and personal stories, however, and so were an entertaining read.
For anyone reading this book who isn’t Pagan, it gives myriad views and reasons why people come to Paganism. Among the many reasons found in the interviews are; being dawn to nature and the feminine divine, disappointment with monotheism, and being drawn to Pagan deities.
So in conclusion, from reading “People of the Earth”, we discover from some personal in depth interviews, what some of the Pagan options are today, and what many of the Pagan organizations are like. We learn all about Pagan beliefs and practices and the direction they’re all hoping to be headed in. Although the interviews were done in the early nineties, the perspectives are still relevant today, although much (if not most) of the resource section for various groups’ contact information may be hopelessly out of date.
1. Page 3, paragraph 3, part of Isaac Bonewits’ response to the question, “So what is the essence of Druidism?”