BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

A lively discussion of ancient and modern Pagan literature -- including children's books, graphic novels, science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries -- along with interviews, author highlights, and profiles of Pagan publishers.

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Book Review: The Ruin of Beltany Ring

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

Publisher: Triskele Media Press

Author: CS MacCath

Price: $8.00 US (paperback)/ $5.00 US (digital)

Pages: 82 pp

ISBN: 9781482535181

My first exposure to the works of CS MacCath was in the pages of PanGaia. "Bringing Woden to the Little Green Men" was utterly unique: a Pagan science fiction poem. I had never before read anything like it. I was stunned, totally jealous, and completely enthralled. Yes, this. I wanted to read more of this.

Needless to say, I gave a little squee of delight when MacCath submitted some of her poems a few years later to my literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. I snatched them up right away. I even cajoled (or conned or begged) MacCath into submitting her short story "Yundah" to The Shining Cities, the Pagan science fiction anthology I was editing.

When MacCath informed me that she was self-publishing a collection of her poetry and fiction, there was more squeeing. -- Okay, I'm passionate and excited about modern polytheist literature. Like that's a surprise?

I am happy to report that The Ruin of Beltany Ring is a wonderful, thoroughly engaging, always amazing anthology. Though familiar with a few of the works, most were new to me. I spent a happy few hours lost in magical worlds populated by seal-women, lame Gods, furious Goddesses, eco-warrior fairies, anima loci, and Wiccan lawyers. In "Ink for the Dead" a tattoo artist is guided by the whispers of spirits, while a man facing a life crisis dreams a possible future in "My Ammonite Baby." The spirit of a place speaks to a lost, sorrowful woman in "When I Arrived, This Is What She Said," while "Hephaestus" contemplates the many blows which made Him while he hammers metal into art. The stone ring of the title has its own age-old story to tell, while the unnamed narrator of "God-Touched" agonizes over the divide between human and divine.

MacCath has a real gift for crafting imagery. For instance, these lines from the poem "Fetters":

There, behind the chemical burn of cubicle food, / A fall of sun-warmed apricots, orange and sweet. / There, beneath a smooth mortuary of concrete, / Billions of seeds, patient as suns, wait to uncurl.

Or, this passage from the Celtic myth-inspired "Two Servants of the Morrighan" in which the narrator reminds us: 

She doesn't exist to grant us permission, / and we are the least of Her concerns. / "Keep pace or step aside. zdo the work or pass the tool. / Speak the truth or shut up."

MacCath is currently at work on another collection, as well as a science fiction epic, Petals of the Twenty Thousand Blossom. I impatiently await both. In the meanwhile, I highly recommend The Ruin of Beltany Ring -- grab a copy, along with Erynn Rowan Laurie's Fireflies at Absolute Zero and Oracles: A Pilgrimage by Catherynne M Valente, and spend a few hours lost to beauty, cruelty, and wonder.

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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.

Comments

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Wednesday, 21 August 2013

    MacCath is indeed, a very talented writer. I'm pretty proud to say that in addition to publishing "Bringing Woden..." we also published her story "Ammonite Baby," the heartbreaking "Yundah," and the title story of this collection, in our pages. She's one of the few Pagan fiction writers (Alex Bledsoe, who we are interviewing in our fall issue of W&P being another), who is equally talented at writing from a Pagan POV and turning out fabulous fiction. The intersection of those two categories is vanishingly small, and she's a true star in that sky.

  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan Thursday, 22 August 2013

    Alex Bledsoe *scribbling note to self* Thanks for the tip!

  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski Thursday, 22 August 2013

    Anne, who else is on that list? I would love to read more. I have found some exquisitely told stories dealing with spirituality and pagan themes among the Interstitial Arts Foundation's anthologies-- and find that the mode of storytelling itself woven through much of the fiction, regardless of genre, reflects a certain non-linear mindset akin to spiritual experience.

    Thanks.

  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski Thursday, 22 August 2013

    You know that you and this column are ABSOLUTELY terrible for expanding my wish-list of books, both illustrated and not? And library checkouts. Keep it up!

  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan Thursday, 22 August 2013

    Heeee. :) Happy to help keep you in books and libraries open.

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Thursday, 22 August 2013

    I've been remiss not to mention Deborah Blake! I'm sure I'll think of more folks over time.

  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan Thursday, 22 August 2013

    Maaaybe a themed w&p issue on modern Pagan/polytheist literature ...? *big puppy dog eyes*

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Thursday, 22 August 2013

    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-Anthology-Short-Fiction/dp/0738712698, I don't think so.

  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski Monday, 18 November 2013

    ...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 culture has happened in between to shift tastes.

    Or maybe someone should put her editorial experience on books to work assembling gems from the pages of her own magazine...

  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan Tuesday, 19 November 2013

    @Shirl: *blinks innocently* Yeah, okay; some kind of anniversary edition of Eternal Haunted Summer is a good idea. Just a matter of finding the time ….

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