A Field Guide to Modern Pagans
in Hamilton, Ontario
by Neil Jamieson-Williams
Australopithecine Press, 2008
As Paganism has matured, the quality and variety of texts has increased over the years. No longer limited to how-to books; deeper topics such as theology, ethics and sustainability, and demographics have seen more publication. Neil Jamieson-Williams offers up an in-depth ethnography of the Pagan community in Hamilton, Ontario as the first in a series of several planned titles. As both an academic with degrees in anthropology and sociology, and a member of the Hamilton Pagan community for many years, he offers a unique perspective.
After a good basic overview of Paganism, Jamieson-Williams offers up some much-needed perspectives on how to respectfully (yet effectively) observe and approach Pagans. He stresses honest communication and ethical treatment of subject material, though he’s also honest about the realities of academia, which may cause some Pagans to be concerned.
The bulk of the book examines the covens and other groups in the Hamilton area at the time of publication. The author mentions the sometimes fleeting nature of Pagan groups, and that groups listed may not exist even in a few years (or months!). He primarily studies British Traditional Wiccan and Eclectic groups, and quite frankly assesses their involvement in the community, as well as community-based conflicts.
Beyond a few minor disagreements on semantics and definitions, and the occasional typo, I really have no complaints here. This book is useful not only to academics seeking to study Pagans in a more sensitive, ethical manner, but is also a model for Pagans who want to start providing information about Paganism to a broader audience outside the community. It is a balanced text, mindful of issues in both Paganism and academia, and I eagerly await subsequent works from this author.
RATING: 5 Broomsticks
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