Wednesday 24 February 2010

Review: The Way of the Horned God

It can be tough if you are a teenager who wants to learn about paganism. The chances are that you won't find an adult willing to initiate you into the nature religion until you are 18, so you are limited to searching the internet, reading books on the subject and practicing on your own.

If you are a young man, things are more difficult than if you are a young woman, because many of the books around seem to assume that only girls want to be witches. Yet modern witchcraft includes plenty of men.

The Way of the Horned God: A Young Man's Guide to Modern Paganism by Dancing Rabbit is specifically intended to redress that balance. Written by a school teacher who is also a pagan, it is aimed at parents of a teenage boys as well as young men who are serious about pagan spirituality.

What makes this book different from those teaching girls how to be witches, is that it looks at things very much from an adolescent male's point of view, with more emphasis on going out and doing stuff than on staying home and brewing herbal remedies.

As with most books for beginners, it starts off by explaining what paganism is - both as a term for pre-Christian religions and as a modern spiritual path that honours the earth and nature while drawing on ancient myths and deities. This is often called Wicca or witchcraft, and the book borrows from Wiccan-style practices.

Wicca is a religion that honours the duality of male and female, exemplified by the Goddess, who is often seen in her aspects of maid, mother and crone; and the Horned God, who is the lord of the animals and wild places.

For boys, following the way of the Horned God means learning about nature and experiencing the sacred within the natural landscape. The book recommends such things as going for hikes into the countryside and camping out under the stars.

But pagan spirituality is much more than just acting like a Boy Scout.

The book includes exercises, visualisations and meditations to help experience sacred aspects of nature in the real world. There are also examples of rituals to celebrate the cycle of the year, to honour the ancestors and to understand how pagans perceive the gods and goddesses associated with the seasons, the sun and the moon, and the land.

Because The Way of the Horned God is specifically aimed at young men who are going through adolescence and entering manhood, there are also examples of rites of passage. These include symbolic gestures to represent giving up certain aspects of childhood and accepting the growing responsibilities of becoming an adult.

Sex is, of course, a subject much on young men's minds. The Way of the Horned God tackles sexuality in a way that is frank and sensible, pointing out that the Wiccan rede - or code of ethics - of "an it harm none, do what thou will" means being responsible. Sexuality is sacred and therefore to be respected - and there is nothing wrong with masturbation.

One of the most difficult things if you are a teenage pagan can be how to discuss your religion with your parents. Dancing Rabbit offers good advice on this too. Ideally, you can be totally honest with them.

However, if you feel your parents would seriously disapprove then you can practise paganism in an open but not obvious or confrontational way in order to gradually gain their understanding. For example, few parents would object to their son going for country walks or putting a few seasonal items in their bedroom as decorations after tidying the place up.

I would definitely recommend The Way of the Horned God as a great book to give a teenage boy who wanted to learn more about paganism. It is well written and explains often quite complex subjects in a clear and succinct way. It offers useful suggestions to help an adolescent explore their own spiritual path and develop their own relationship with the pagan gods and with nature.

The Way of the Horned God: A Young Man's Guide to Modern Paganism is published by O Books. It is available through Amazon

For more information about books and websites that teach the basics of paganism, visit

The Way of the Horned God: A Young Man's Guide to Modern Paganism

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