Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Who Needs Neopagan Rites by Isaac Bonewits?

"That which is
remembered lives."

I’ll start by saying that Neopagan Rites: A Guide to Creating Public Rituals that Work is an excellent book. It doesn’t surprise me that so many of my pagan friends have copies, shared around to the point where people have lost track of whose book is whose. Written by the late Isaac Bonewits1 it is enlightening and well researched, benefiting from Bonewits longstanding importance in the community and years of writing liturgy. Exploring all the considerations necessary for creating Neopagan Liturgy, it manages to be an enjoyable read even in the slower sections, crackling with wit.
 "…you may be forced to have paper cups and plates on hand, but for Goddess’ sake, have them at least look dignified.  Using Styrofoam is probably a sin."
 This book doesn’t need my help to be read2, so instead of praising it, I’m going to give a bit of advice for potential readers.

This book is not for everyone. Somewhat light on examples, it assumes a certain familiarity with Neopagan ritual, especially group ritual, and a knowledge of some of the history of Neopaganism and magic. I would not advise this book if
  • You are only just starting out on a Neopagan path3 
  • You live in an area without an active pagan group 
  • You aren’t ready to take part in the Neopagan Clergy 
  • You have never participated in a public/large group Neopagan Rite 
  • You are easily offended by occasional jibes at Christianity4
"The Gods are watching us, so let's give them a good show!"
I would advise this book if
  • You are or plan to start leading group pagan rites, especially public ones 
  • You have practice with Neopagan rites and think you know what you’re doing5 
  • Your local Neopagan group needs to spice up its liturgy/shake up traditionalism 
  • You have a solid grasp of Neopagan theology/thealogy6 and history 
  • You want a valuable addition to any Neopagan library, personal or group 
Or, and this is the biggest reason: You don’t have any experience. You’ve only got a handful of other Neopagans in your area. You’ve got no leaders, no practice, no real unity, but you want them. An important aspect (often overlooked) that Bonewits stresses is for a ritual to include a reminder of continuity with rituals of the past and the future. This book provides that. It carries the feeling of growth, of little rituals building to big ones, faith groups that should flounder managing to soar. If you’re going to start from scratch, this may be the best place to start. If you’ve got nothing to go on, just pluck and sincerity, this will at least provide you with some sort of ground to stand on.7

"Remember that if you do a fall equinox rite at sunset, you will probably not be able
to get the sun to delay setting while latecomers straggle in."

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