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.
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.
A good grounding in the science of the atmosphere should start at a young age. So, consider The Magic School Bus Inside a Hurricane by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen; Hurricanes! and Tornadoes! by Gail Gibbons; and Weather by Seymour Simon. The Cloud Book by Tomie dePaola (one of my favorite illustrators) is positively adorable, while Cloud Dance by Thomas Locker is stunning.
Did you know that clouds are created at floating factories? I did not, until I read the wonderfully fanciful and fantastic book Sector 7 by David Wiesner. Wordless, with highly-detailed gray-scale illustrations, this book is sure to inspire many a lazy afternoon spent cloud watching.
Two of the few mythological books I could find are the long out-of-print Marriage of the Rain Goddess: A South African Myth by Margaret Olivia Wolfson and Clifford Parms, and Kris Walherr's Sacred Animals. As a child, Rain Goddess was one of the first books I ever encountered featuring African Deities; in this case, the Zulu Mbaba Mwana Waresa. Waldherr's wonderfully illustrated book discusses different animals associated with each of the four Elements; in the case of Air, she highlights Raven, Dove, Butterfly, and Bat. I love the Raven illustration, modeled after the indigenous art of the Pacific Northwest.
If a fairy tale is more along the lines of what you are looking for, I highly recommend The Wind Child by Shirley Rousseau Murphy and Leo and Diane Dillon. In this bittersweet tale of love and transformation, the child of the title is the daughter of a human woman and the East Wind. A skilled weaver, she tries to capture the spirit and movement of the wind with her art -- but finds herself constantly longing for a different life. Somber text and stunning visuals.
Two poetry books aimed at children are Mother Earth, Father Sky: Poems of Our Planet by Jane Yolen and Jennifer Hewitson; and Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema. The former contains works by a variety of different authors, while the latter is a rhythmic, repetitive tale with vibrant, simple illustrations.
I've mentioned the manga (and anime) Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki in previous columns. Hint: that means it's really really good and you should go read it. And it does too deserve to be mentioned here: Nausicaa flies around on a really cool airsled. Plus, gigantic gun ships and exciting air battles. Oh, and of course, in the post-ecological crisis Earth of Nausicaa's day, wind turbines are the primary source of power and poisonous, radioactive winds are a chronic danger.
I stumbled across The Secret Language of Birds: A Treasury of Myths, Folklore, and Inspirational True Stories by Adele Nozedar in the bargain section of the bookstore about ten years ago. I fell in love with the cover, and snatched it up. This is a terrific resource for writers, filled with myths, fairy tales, folk tales, and some scientific information about real, imaginary, and mythological birds. Curl up on the couch and spend a few hours browsing.
I admit that I only picked up Soul of the Sky: Exploring the Human Side of Weather by C Ralph Adler and Dave Thurlow because it included an essay by a particular author (had a total crush on him at the time). I quickly came to realize, though, that the anthology as a whole was filled with fascinating, sometimes poetic, essays. Tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms, freak lightning strikes -- terrifying and destructive, yes, but also awe-inspiring.
And ... that's it. I'm sure there must be more great books out there about Air and wind and weather. Help a gal out and suggest a few? Or, better yet, go write some. I want stories about Zeus whipping up a lightning storm to impress Hera, and Ba'al Haddad sending rain to a drought-sricken farmer, and Mari creating storms as she travels the land of the Basque.
Get to it!
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