I’m in the midst of a big move. I could cheat a little and make the topic for week 3 (yes, I’m behind) of the Pagan Blog Project be “Big Move!”, but it would be even more accurate to choose “Boxes” as the topic since I am surrounded by them as I type this. But really, it’s what’s in the boxes that’s more interesting, and what I am going to post a quick blog entry about.
Books. I have lots and lots of books. I don’t know an exact number, but I know that they fill fourteen 18-gallon tote boxes. That seems like even more books when you consider that I currently live in what amounts to a studio apartment. I had some books in a bookcase, some stacked 2 deep in an entertainment center, some stacked on my nightstand, a large storage cupboard completely filled with them, some still in the box from when I moved into this apartment, and some in my oven. Yep. Since I don’t cook, I used the oven as storage space. I had so many books that I was able to make a Christmas tree out of them:
Here they are with the flash on:
As you can see, I have a fondness for books.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. Pagans, in general, seem to like their books. I’m not the only Pagan I know with a large library. Why the seeming correlation between those who follow a nature-based spiritual path and the love of books?
I think one of the reasons that those who are into Paganism, Wicca, Polytheism, or other magickal based paths tend to collect so many books on the topic is that for many of us, books were the first way we started to learn about Pagan spirituality. If I were just becoming interested in Christianity I could go to a church on Sundays, attend Bible studies, and find lots and lots and lots of real-life people to teach me what Christianity is all about. Despite that I’m writing this blog post from Portland, Oregon, and there is actually a pretty decent sized Pagan community here, in general, most people are not going to run across a ton of Pagans in the day to day life or be able to just pop in on a Sabbat or go to a ritual to check it out. Many of us found a book and started reading. For me, I had just moved to Portland in Fall of 2001 after having left a very conservative Christian denomination. I was open to hearing about other spiritual paths. I met a woman at work who told me she was Wiccan, and she recommended a few books to me. I started reading. Now, I know that some of this has changed with the rise of the Internet and the dawn of digital books, but for many Pagans books were how we first started learning about this spiritual path and were able to grow in our learning of it.
Ironically, it’s the followers of the mainstream Abrahamic faiths that usually called “people of the Book”. The term can mean slightly different things depending on if it is being used by a Muslim, a Jew, or a Christian, but the general idea is the same. It refers to the faiths that follow a written down, Divinely revealed holy book such as Islam, Judaism, or Christianity. I say it’s ironic because I don’t think that the “people of the Book” are quite into books as many Pagans seem to be. Don’t get me wrong. I read a lot and liked books when I was a Christian, and I knew other Christians who were the same, but I don’t think it quite permeates their culture in quite the same way as it does with Pagans. I wonder if part of the reason for that is that for many (but certainly not all!) Christian, Jewish, and Muslim their faith is about having answers. But for many Pagans, there are no set answers. Our spirituality is often about questions, and finding answers on our own, apart from just accepting the answer from a priest, rabbi, or pastor. That desire for our own answers drives us to books to learn what we can about a topic.
And let’s be honest, I think many of us are just nerds. I’m sorry, but Paganism has to have a higher nerd ratio than other spiritual paths. More than half of my coven are role-playing game geeks. They’ve all read series like Harry Potter and the Song of Ice and Fire. Many of us grew up reading fantasy series filled with magic users and pantheons of gods and goddesses. I think that this exposure to this fantasy magic, even on some small level, at least prepared us to be open to the idea when we came upon the real life equivalent. Reading about the gods and goddesses in these books at least introduced us to the idea that there are options out there other than monotheism. And dressing up in ridiculous cloaks and dresses and going to Renaissance fairs or gaming conventions or comic conventions or what have you, at least put the idea in our heads that it is kind of fun to wear silly robes and cloaks and kilts.
But then again, I could just be full of shit. What do you think? I’d love to hear you thoughts on this. Why do Pagans like books so much?
Oh, and if anyone happens to be in Portland this Saturday, I have about 14 heavy boxes of books to move…