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Rebecca Buchanan

Rebecca Buchanan

Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I had originally intended for this post to continue the Elements series (books about Earth, Air, Fire, and Water). However, after an uncomfortable experience this morning, I changed that focus.

In deference to devoutly Catholic family who are visiting this week, I opted to attend Easter Mass with them. For the most part, it was fine. The church was lovely, filled with incense and spring flowers, the stained glass windows glowing in the sunlight. Then it came time for the homily, in which the priest spoke on the meaning of the gospel. I was a bit startled -- and quite dismayed -- when he stated that Christianity must be right and true because people were willing to die for it, that even the first generation of Apostles must have seen and experienced something real (not a myth or a made-up story) if they were willing to lay down their lives for it.

"After all," he said, "you never hear about martyrs for Zeus or Jupiter or Thor."

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  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Maybe the difference is that we do not celebrate martyrdom. Why? Because we celebrate life, not death. Siggghhh....
  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    Very true, Freeman. Can one have a favorite martyr? If so, than Hypatia of Alexandria is one of mine.
  • Freeman Presson
    Freeman Presson says #
    Let's not leave out Hypatia!

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A few months back, I wrote a post about proper book review etiquette. Most of it was common sense stuff: be polite, be fair, point out the good aspects and the bad. Well, I apparently forgot one obvious point of etiquette:

Use the book review space to write an actual review.

It turns out -- and this never would have occurred to me -- that one does not actually have to write a review in the review box. No. It can be used instead to ... oh ... ask for dating advice. Look for a hook-up. Play a furry rpg. Rail against those with different political or religious beliefs.

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Title: A Feral Darkness

Publisher: Blue Hound Visions

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A few months back, I wrote a column on books about the sea (or mermaids, to be exact). While digging through my library, it occurred to me that different columns for each of the traditional Elements might be a good idea. Just one problem: when I went looking for books on Air (and, by extension, wind and storms and so forth), I could find virtually nothing.

Sure, science books aimed at all ages are plentiful -- and I recommend some of the better written ones out there. The atmosphere is kind of important, after all. But books which deal with Air (and air and wind and atmosphere and so on) from a non-scientific point of view are few and far between. I could not find a single text written from an explicitly Pagan or polytheist perspective. So, I was left with lots and lots of science texts, some poetry, and a few mythological texts. And that's it.

Here, then, are my recommendations -- along with a hearty prayer that folks out there will be inspired to write the books that we need.

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  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    Oooh, thanks for recommending "Shiva's Fire." I would love to see your Recommended Reading list for the Season of Earth. And I'v
  • Alay'nya
    Alay'nya says #
    What a wonderful idea, Rebecca! I'm going to look through your titles. More to the point, I'll put a link to your blog today (an

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

At the end of 2012, I looked over what I had read the previous year and came up with a list of Literary Discoveries. Considering how much I have read this year -- novels, novellas, anthologies, short stories, essays, longer works of philosophy and history and spirituality -- continuing the tradition seemed like a good idea. And, just like the previous list, not all of these titles were published in 2013 (though most were); I just discovered them this past year.

So, in no particular order, here is my 2013 edition of Literary Discoveries.

1) I read Reza Aslan's No god But God several years ago, and found it to be a well-written introduction to and overview of the theology and history of Islam; this is the book I recommend to anyone looking for a basic primer on the subject. So, when Aslan released Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth I decided it was worth checking out, even though I have very little interest in the development of Christianity -- actually, let me amend that. I find some of the early Christian sects which were later deemed heretical to be interesting, and I've studied the fall of Classical Paganism even though it makes me angry. So, I was curious as to Aslan's conclusions about the carpenter from Nazareth. I won't spoil it for you. Suffice to say, the book was well-researched and engaging, and I highly recommend it to anyone at all interested in Middle Eastern history, the Age of Augustus, or the history and evolution of Judaism.

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Series: The Erotic Pagans

Titles: Beltane Fires, Samhain Shadows, and Yuletide Temptation

Publisher: Naughty Nights Press

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So … the "God Graveyard." Yeah, it's been all over the Pagan blogosphere. I admit to being ambivalent in my reaction. Anger, annoyance, frustration, and exasperation all mingle alongside "the stupid! it burns!" 

Only after I took a really close look at some of the very fuzzy, rather crummy photos of the "graveyard" did I hit upon a response appropriate to BookMusings.* "Furrina?" I squinted at the photograph. "Who the heck is that?" I wondered -- and pulled out my battered copy of Goddesses in World Mythology by Martha Ann and Dorothy Myers Imel. I picked up Ann and Imel's book many many years ago, and it has never let me down; though the entry on Furrina** was brief, it was enough to pique my interest -- and the extensive bibliography offered plenty more venues of research.

Wikipedia may be the default resource for many people (myself included), but not everything is online. There is still a lot of information -- a LOT -- that has not been digitized. So, here are a few of my favorite, go-to print dictionaries, encyclopedias and other resources about the Gods, ancient religions, mythology, and modern Paganism/polytheism.

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  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    @Ife: Oh, that's terrific! I can't wait to see it.
  • Ife
    Ife says #
    Great news! I contacted the author and she said that she is working on a Treasury of Norse Mythology. She also loved my idea on Ja

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Unlike Greek mythology and even Egyptian mythology, the Gods and heroes and lore of northern Europe appear rarely in books aimed at children. This is unfortunate, as Norse mythology is rich with wondrous tales, grand adventure, amazing Gods, and tragic but noble heroes. There are several picture books that I recommend though, as well as chapter books and teen books and a few activity books; there are also some general mythology books which feature good sections on Norse lore. These would all make great additions to the private libraries of Heathen families, or even lending libraries maintained by particular Kindreds.

There are several picture books which the youngest children will enjoy; some retell a single myth while others focus on a specific Deity or hero. First is Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient Norse by Leonard Everett Fisher* which features short, encyclopedic entries on the Deities along with beautiful full-page chalky illustrations, a map, and a pronunciation guide. Iduna and the Magic Apples by Mariana Mayer and Laszlo Gal, which I profiled in a previous column, retells the story of that Goddess's kidnapping and rescue. The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God by Lise Lunge-Larsen (author of the wonderful Gifts From the Gods) and Jim Madsen, is a humorous and exciting collection of that God's most well-known stories, while Shirley Climo and Alexander Koshkin's Stolen Thunder: A Norse Myth focuses on Thor's quest to reclaim his lost hammer from the Frost Giants. Leif the Lucky by Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire is a biography of the famous explorer, while Sister Bear: A Norse Tale by Jane Yolen and Linda Graves is a folktale featuring a spunky heroine, an adorable dancing bear, and some terrible tattooed trolls.

For those interested in collections of short stories -- which work great as bedtime reading -- Favorite Norse Myths by Mary Pope Osborne and Troy Howell collects fourteen tales (including some lesser-known adventures); it is unfortunately out of print, but copies are readily available online and at your local library. It's worth tracking down just for Howell's stunning paintings.    

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  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    @Shirl: if I missed any good ones, let me know. … Like I have any room on my book shelves ….
  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski says #
    Thank you for this treasure trove of words and pictures, and the recommendation for Willy Pogany's work for those who don't know i
  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    @Tim: glad I could add to your father-son reading list. If you have any favorites that I missed, please let me know.

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The rise in print-on-demand publishers and the increasing popularity of ereaders has led to an explosion the last few years in self-publishing. Anyone -- so the story goes -- can write their magnum opus, print it through CreateSpace or Lulu or CafePress or publish it through SmashWords or Kindle Direct Publishing and have any instant bestseller. Money in the bank!

Uh, no. That is not actually how it works. 

I am an avid reader of both print and ebooks. I work in a bookstore. I have worked in comic book stores and libraries in the recent past. I also edit and publish print-on-demand and ebooks for Bibliotheca Alexandrina. So, I know whereof I speak.

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  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    @Francesca: thanks for the link!
  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    @Thomas: Yep. *nod* I love science fiction romance, but books in that subgenre are not well categorized at Amazon, Barnes and Nobl
  • Thomas Stevens
    Thomas Stevens says #
    Couldn't agree more. The cover is much more important than a great number of first time authors think. Even if you don't want to j

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Amazons have long fascinated me. As a little girl, the idea of living in an all-female society (free of bullying boys) was highly appealing. I spent many summer afternoons running around my backyard or curled up on the couch, fighting minotaurs and going on grand adventures with my sister Amazons. And you can be darn sure I preferred Wonder Woman* to that silly Superman -- I mean, she was from a super secret island and worshipped the Old Goddesses! How cool was that?

That fascination remained with me as I grew up. I gravitated towards the powerful women of history (like Hatshepsut and Elizabeth I) and those women who challenged the restrictive mores of their society (Harriet Tubman and Matilda Joscelyn Gage, to name two). When I wanted to escape into a fictional world, I chose those which featured women warriors and generals and starship captains.

As a result, my personal library is filled with books about and featuring Amazons -- the Amazons of classical myth, real world women warriors and leaders, and powerful women of fantasy and science fiction.

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  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    @Jamie: thanks for the note about Sikelgaita. I'll have to look her up. As for real versus fictional Amazons: I think more atten
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    It does surprise me that so much attention is devoted to fictional amazons in popular culture (Xena, Wonder Woman and various fema
  • Melia Brokaw
    Melia Brokaw says #
    Nice! I was a Wonder Woman fan too!

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A few weeks ago, I listed some of the best Pagan-authored and Pagan-friendly fantasies that I had read, to date. I am happy to report that I can now add two more titles to that list.

First is Apex Magazine. I downloaded a one hundred page sampler and was immediately hooked. Every issue -- and the publication is up to number fifty-two -- contains short fiction, poetry, essays and interviews. Many of the pieces which have appeared in Apex draw heavily on mythology and folklore, and feature Gods, Goddesses, monsters, tricksters, and heroes both familiar and strange. For example, Elizabeth Bear's "The Leavings of the Wolf" (Norse myth), "The Moon to Sappho" by Sonya Taafe, "Kamer-taj, The Moon-Horse" by Dr. Ignacz Kunos, and "Coyote Gets His Own Back" by Sarah Monette.

I highly recommend that anyone interested download the sampler issue, or browse the listings on the Apex site, Amazon or Barnes and Noble and get the issue that most interests you. Newer issues are only a few dollars a piece, with older issues are a very reasonable .99 cents. There are also collections, such as The Book of Apex and The Apex Book of World SF.

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  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski says #
    Thanks for this updated list (and the original)! Jane Yolen in general is ALWAYS an excellent read, and she respects her source ma
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thanks for sharing! I'll check it out.

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Title: The Ruin of Beltany Ring: A Collection of Pagan Poems and Tales

Publisher: Triskele Media Press

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  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    @Shirl: *blinks innocently* Yeah, okay; some kind of anniversary edition of Eternal Haunted Summer is a good idea. Just a matter o
  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski says #
    ...maybe the timing would be better now for someone else to release a similar project. It's five years later, and a LOT of pop cul
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Oh, honey, I'd love to. But after the financial drubbing I (and Llewellyn, too) took on this book http://www.amazon.com/The-Pagan-

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My fascination with mermaids has come and gone over the years. I never went through a unicorn phase as a little girl, but I definitely went through a mermaid phase. My interest in them faded, returned in my teens, faded again, then recently returned. Over the last year or so, I have been reading and writing and reading and writing some more about the aquatic ladies (and gentlemen).

Once I started looking, I was surprised at just how ubiquitous mermaids are -- they're everywhere! In literature, mermaids appear in every genre, aimed at every age group. There are picture books aplenty, but also mysteries, teen adventure tales, romance novels, collections of mythology and folklore, art books, you name it.

 

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  • Constance Tippett Chandler
    Constance Tippett Chandler says #
    The Starbucks coffee logo was originally a copy of an ancient statue of a mermaid. It showed more of her body, now it is just her
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    This is great stuff! Thank you. By the way, I really enjoyed all those TIME-LIFE mythology/paranormal themed books. I read a lot

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Paganism is sometimes labeled an "earth religion" and "nature-based religion" in the mainstream media. That label is ... inaccurate. Not incorrect, but too broad a generalization. For many Pagans, nature is vitally important, even the focus of their devotions. Other Pagans have a general concern for the environment, no greater or lesser than that of anyone else who watches the news and the weather. And still other Pagans have no interest in the natural world at all.

I personally straddle the amorphous line between the first and second. As an Hellenistai, I see the world as infused with animating spirits. Nymphai inhabit trees, rivers, mountains and meadows. Great Gods such as Artemis and Dionysus and Hekate and Persephone walk about in the world. Indeed, the Earth herself is a Goddess, Gaea.

This sense that creation, nature, the earth, was something wonderful and amazing was instilled in my at an early age. I played hide-and-seek beneath the apple trees in my backyard, spent hours building snowmen, and did my best to protect every spider, bird, cat and dog that crossed my path.

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Fantasy as a genre can be tad difficult to define.To paraphrase Wikipedia, a fantasy is any story which employs magic and/or "other supernatural phenomena" as a driving force of plot, theme or setting; and, like science fiction, fantasy tales are often set somewhere-other-than-here-and-now. Fantasy has something in the neighborhood of a dozen sub genres, depending on how one counts -- high fantasy, epic fantasy, sword-and-sandal fantasy, feminist fantasy, eco-fantasy, dark fantasy, urban fantasy, et cetera and so on. It also mixes well with other genres; consider how many fantasy romances and magical mysteries are on the market. 

Fantasy is a very Pagan-friendly genre. By its very definition, it contains elements which are of central importance to our communities. Pull nearly any fantasy novel off the shelf, and you will find polytheism, environmentalism, "alternative" and "mainstream" sexualities, gender (re)construction, fantastic creatures, magic, and I could go on.

While the genre itself may be Pagan-friendly, that is not the case with every individual title.* Quite a few books treat the Gods as jokes or caricatures, tart up the female characters for the sake of titillation, engage in gross stereotyping or -- sorry -- are just plain badly written.

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A few months back, I recommended a few of my favorite Pagan- and polytheist-friendly romances. They covered a variety of sub genres, from urban fantasy romances to science fiction romances. I am pleased to report that I have discovered two more books which should interest Pagan romance readers out there, especially Kemetics.

Seducing the Jackal and Hunting the Jackal by Seressia Glass are part of the Harlequin Nocturne Cravings line of short paranormal romance novels. They run only seventy to eighty pages, but Glass builds a whole, fascinating world in just a few chapters. In the Jackal books, there was once an alliance between the magically-talented Daughters of Isis and the shape-shifting warriors, the Sons of Anubis. Thousands of years ago, they fought side by side to protect the land of Egypt from the Lost Ones*, those souls which failed -- or refused -- to cross over into Duat and returned to torment the living. 

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  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    Totally agree. I can spin a good magical realism yarn, but my attempts at romance are drivel. Oh, well. If you have any Pagan ro
  • Heather Freysdottir
    Heather Freysdottir says #
    I am so tickled to see someone else who enjoys Pagan romance! I got started writing with Loki as my Muse in romantic fiction, and

b2ap3_thumbnail_fireflies.jpgA few months back, I discussed some of the best books of or about modern Pagan poetry. I knew at the time that I was missing some important titles (a girl can only read so much and still hold down a job, sadly). Then, I found the recent post on The Wild Hunt that Erynn Rowan Laurie had won the poetry category at the Bi Writers Association annual gala for her collection Fireflies at Absolute Zero. I was already familiar with some of Laurie's work, thanks to her inclusion in Datura and The Scribing Ibis and a few other publications. The award tipped the balance and I immediately ordered Fireflies.

This is where language fails me and I have to resort to "zomg! awesomesauce! squee!"

Fireflies is divided into five sections: Seeking the Spring, Walking to Charlemont, The Night Sutra, Poetics of Desire, and In Cedar Time. The poems vary from the ecstatic to the beautiful to the wondrous to the horrific as they explore the nature of the Gods, the life of a poet, and the impact and purpose of place. I was struck dumb from the opening lines of the very first poem, "Brigid Dreams the Poet":

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Title: Goddesses Paper Dolls

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  • Molly
    Molly says #
    Neat!
  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    @Hope: aw, just tell him its a paper doll collection of great role models for your niece.
  • Hope M.
    Hope M. says #
    OMG i must have this!!!! One for myself and one for my niece, think I can sneak it past my brother who thinks Witches are weird

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