27 June 2011

Book Review – Travels Through Middle Earth by Alaric Albertsson

A few days ago I was in my favourite local shop, Edge of the Circle Books, and wandered over to the section on Northern Paganism (Saxon, Norse, Icelandic, etc.).  Normally I just glance over sections outside of my expertise but this time I stopped and took a closer look.  I realized that I know almost nothing about the beliefs and practices of a whole host of Pagans and figured I needed to work on that.  Like many, I was introduced to Paganism through the lens of Wicca and Celtic mythology.  The Celtic myths resonated with me and other really didn’t, so I never went to deeply into other pantheons or beliefs.  These days I’m spending far too much time with far too great a variety of people to allow my knowledge to be so limited.  After sifting around the shelves for a while I found Travels Through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan by Alaric Albertsson and it intrigued me.

The book is an easy read and is quite basic.  It outlines the fundamental tenants of Saxon Paganism – it’s deities, beliefs and practices – in a well written, conversational style.  If you’re already familiar with Wicca you’ll find many similarities.  Dear old Gerald Gardner took inspiration from many Saxon practices and incorporated them into Wicca.  One thing Albertsson does that I particularly like is draw attention to the places where Saxon Paganism specifically differs from both Wiccan and Norse Paganism.  For example, the differences between a Saxon cleansing and warding of a space before worship as opposed to the Wiccan practice of casting a circle – similar effects, but different on both a practical and philosophical level.

Other strong points include the depth of Albertsson’s explanations and his honesty.  Albertsson took the time to explore the philosophies and beliefs that underlie different Saxon practices, so you know learn not only what Saxons do but why.  I enjoyed his descriptions of various Saxon practices – such as herb work and astral travel – but particularly like the fact that he acknowledged that such practices are reconstructions of what the early Saxons may have practiced but that due to lack of written history we don’t actually know that they performed them.  His explanations of the deeper meanings of their magickal practices and how they fit into the overall scheme of Saxon belief were very well done.

Overall I enjoyed the book very much and really liked learning about another take on Paganism.  This book was a great introduction to the beliefs and practices of Saxon Paganism.  I’ve decided to read Albertsson’s second book Wyrdworking: The Path of a Saxon Sorcerer to learn a little more about the specifics of Saxon magick.  I’ll let you know how I like it.  If anyone has any suggestions for other books on Saxon Paganism (or any other kind really) that you think I should read please leave me a comment and I’ll add them to the list.

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