Thursday, 25 June 2015

Pagan Christian Planet Earth book review by JadeM

A Pagan/Christian
Conversation: First Steps in Inter-faith Dialogue 

  Pagan Christian Planet Earth would definitely appeal to students of Religion, practicing Pagans and Christians and anyone interested in dipping a toe in to some Spiritual traditions that they may not have previous knowledge of. The book is the result of a conference which took place at the Ammerdown Centre when a group of nearly forty Pagans and Christians were invited to take part in a ‘Conversation’ in a place dedicated to dialogue, reconciliation and renewal. The hope was that the participants could explore some of the prejudices and preconceptions, learn more about each other, and find common ground in ‘Celebrating Planet Earth’, as the event was called. 

  I found it a thoroughly engaging read with some brilliant concepts and grounded solutions for anyone looking to resolve any conflict they may have with the idea of bridging the gap between Paganism and Christianity. It is presented in chapters each written by influential folks who are currently living and breathing their faith, lovingly edited by Denise Cush.

  Contributions have been made to the book by; 

  Philip Carr-Gomm, Alison Eve Cudb, Denise Cush, Graham Harvey, Steve Hollinghurst, Simon Howell, Viannah Rain, Philip Shallcrass, Bruce Stanley, Tess Ward and Liz Williams

  What works for one person may not be ideal for another to follow lock stock and barrel but there could be hope for those who find they have a foot in two disciplines simultaneously, and during the course of reading this text it becomes clear that there are those who are actively encouraging this as a spiritual way. There is no reason why we can't ascend the same mountain but travel different paths to get there!

  There is some very interesting dialogue comparing key words associated with Paganism and Christianity in the fears and prejudices chapter. Overall a focus on shining a light on the similarities instead of the differences in the practices of Pagans, their connection with Nature and culture, and how important our human relationships are, and that the very act of talking and living together in a sacred space can bring faith into to the level of humanity. The contributors present the idea that regardless of individual personal beliefs we all share that common space of Earth. In the discourse into the Forest Church movement by its founders we are introduced to some of its concepts, connecting to nature, use of outdoor rituals, the language of birds, the necessary act of foraging and restoration of tired minds by spending time in nature.

  There is an exploration of Christianity and historical witchcraft having shared heritage, and a potted history of Gardener with an introduction to the background of the system of Wicca for those interested in its origins, a beautiful description of the roles of god and goddess and the form of spirituality which reconnects us with the world around us. There are also interesting discussion points about the links between fantasy literature and paganism, and the shared landscape of Britain.

  Simon Howells chapter offers lots of suggestions as to how we can in our modern age, evoke a naive spirit, one that promotes living harmoniously alongside each other regardless of our spiritual beliefs with the shared goal of reclaiming the gift of the imagination. I particularly enjoyed Philip Carr Gomm's chapter in which he emphasises appreciation of the diversity in beliefs and our right to choose a path. His is a very convincing narrative exploring the idea of being able to practice the two forms of Christian worship and Pagan worship simultaneously without the need to merge druidry and christianity.

  I really like the ideas presented in the text of interfaith ceremonies and ritual as performance as a way of Christians and Pagans coming to terms with the idea of magic ritual together. Towards the end of the book there are some beautiful descriptions of ritual enactments and of celebrations which occur during seasonal changes. There is a strong emphasis on the use of storytelling and myth in ritual and creating rituals using inspiration rather than rehearsing sacred text over and over, thus keeping the essence alive. Some great descriptions of harnessing symbols, creating ritual anywhere, ritualisation of symbols and a fabulous explanation of the uses of the circle in ritual.
All in all this title is a delight from start to finish.
JadeM
25th June 2015