Thursday 9 July 2015

Review: Nature Mystics: Literary Gateway to Paganism

Looking for ideas for holiday reading that will transport you into nature and into the past? A new book in the Pagan Portals series, Nature Mystics: The Literary Gateway to Modern Paganismwill give you plenty of inspiration.

I know the title makes it sound a bit academic, but it really isn't some dry text book for an English literature class. It is full of short biographies of women and men who found spirituality in nature and brief descriptions of the fiction they wrote that feels pagan and has influenced modern paganism.

As publisher Moon Books explains: "Pagan Portals – Nature Mystics traces the lives and work of ten writers who contributed to the cultural environment that allowed Modern Paganism to develop and flourish throughout the twentieth century. John Keats, Mary Webb, Thomas Hardy, Sylvia Townsend Warner, D.H. Lawrence, Elizabeth von Arnim, W.B. Yeats, Mary Butts, J.R.R. Tolkien and E. Nesbit."

Some of those authors will probably already be as familiar to you as they were to me, but I also expect you might find a few things about them that you didn't know. I read the E Nesbit books when I was a child and knew they were full of magical themes, but I didn't know she was an active member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

What I especially loved about Nature Mystics was finding out about wonderful books and writers I hadn't heard of before - in particular, Mary Webb and her novel Precious Bane.

Nature Mystics author Rebecca Beattie explained that Precious Banewas also her own inspiration on her path to paganism and in putting together her book about Mary Webb and similar writers:
When I was fifteen, I fell in love with Kester Woodseaves, who was a weaver. He was everything a young girl just emerging into womanhood could want. He was kind, saw beyond physical imperfections, and recognised the soul beneath. He was infinitely wise: to Kester, caterpillars were ‘butterflies as is to be’, he abhorred cruelty in any shape (particularly towards animals) and he recognised the divine influence in nature. There was only one drawback: Kester was in love with Prue Sarn, and they were both perfectly suited to each other. And they were both fictional characters.
Mary Webb’s novel Precious Bane tells the story of Prue Sarn: doomed to a facial disfigurement when her mother is cursed by a hare, Prue is taught to read by the local cunning man, since she was believed to be too ugly to marry. But Prue lives in superstitious times, and whispers of ‘witch’ follow her wherever she goes. Local logic dictates that the outside appearance must be a reflection of what lies within. With her gentle ways and her piercing observations of both nature and human nature, Prue is a character who intrigued me. As a young woman on the path to Modern Paganism, she became someone I could relate to, someone I could look to for inspiration. 
As I mentioned earlier, rather than being a dry, academic text, Nature Mysticsis delightful to read. In fact, if you are off on holiday why not take Nature Mystics itself with you on your travels? I am sure you would enjoy time spent in the beauty of the natural world all the more for learning to see it through the eyes of earlier nature mystics such as Thomas Hardy, W.B Yeats and Mary Webb.

Pagan Portals - Nature Mystics: The Literary Gateway to Modern Paganismcan be ordered via Amazon.

Links and previous related posts
Pagan Portals - Nature Mystics: The Literary Gateway to Modern Paganism
Precious Bane

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