Book Review Monday: Whispers from the Earth

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Buy the book here: Whispers from the Earth: Teaching stories from the ancestors, beautifully woven for today’s spiritual seekers

 

This is a book for Rudyard Kipling fans for sure.

I’ve spent about twelve hours since I’ve read it trying to think of who Taz Thorton’s style reminds me of, and it finally hit me at around midnight, waking me up.

 

This is another book that could easily have been read to me when the Vicar visited my school – even though these are pagan flavoured, they are traditional British teaching stories that have wisdom and benefits that transcends religion.

 

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Like books? Visit my book review blog Mercurial Review to get all of my posts about books from around the web.

Lent, Sacrifice and Self Flagellation

Lent’s always been a funny thing, for me. I grew up in Protestant community in rural (ish) England, one that whilst accepting of other cultures and religions, everything was tinted in some way with a Protestant world view.

That’s no bad thing – I was lucky enough to be introduced to religion in such a welcoming and fuss-free environment.No one really cared about scripture, but we had Harvest Festival where instead of praying on our knees we would collect tinned food for the homeless, and, as I’ve said before, our Bible and Fable stories were told to us to provide moral concepts and lessons, not to praise a God on High. Protestant-flavoured Humanism, you might call it.

So Lent always confused me. I remember a Vicar telling us that he’d given up strawberries, his favourite food, for Lent, before launching into the Jesus and the desert story.

I didn’t understand. I still don’t. What does it prove? What does fasting prove? What does self-flagellation prove? Obedience, yes. Self-sacrifice, sure. It’s like a geas, I suppose, but today when no-one fasts during Lent the old fashioned way; instead picking what they’re going to give up, why? Why do it?

But in a world that doesn’t shackle itself to a God, whether they worship one or not, what’s the point?

My mother gave up sugar in her tea for Lent once, and has never had sugar in her tea since.

She gave something up for Lent, and found that during it, she didn’t need it anymore. That, I think, is the point of Lent or of these challenges that one finds around the blogosphere – Buy Nothing New For A Year etc.

But! Some people spend so much time talking about how and what they’re giving up, they’re missing the point. ┬áLike those who would march around the country, whipping themselves in public for their sins. And then go on to continue doing those sins rather than learning from it.

Eating strawberries isn’t a sin. It’s not even unhealthy, and if they’re British strawberries there’s few issues one can take with that. All he was doing was denying himself something he liked for a month and a bit, and then going back and eating them again. Maybe it’s something uniquely Christian, but I really don’t get it.

But I do understand sacrifice. And for sacrifice to be worth it, it has to be well meant, it has to be sustainable or achievable, it has to hurt, and it has to have some kind of point. When you sacrifice something to a God, you are giving them something of yours as a gift – whether it’s your life force, an animal or an object. For it to be a sacrifice, it has to be a difficult thing to give up, or else it’s just a present. Which is kind, but it’s not a sacrifice.

I’ve never been good at giving stuff up – even stuff that actively harms me, like sugar. But I’ve been thinking recently about the Vicar and his strawberries, and a thought did occur to me.

Perhaps I can’t change my habits to improve myself – it reeks too much of self-flagellation for me to do it. We live short lives, and some of us live difficult ones that will not be improved by denying ourselves strawberries.

But, there are things we can give up that will not only help ourselves, not only be a worthy sacrifice to whichever Deity we hold dear, but can also help the poor and the planet and animals and who knows what else.

I’m not doing mine for Lent – I’m already late to the party for that. I’m going to try and keep to it for the rest of my life. I’ll talk more about what I’ve chosen in later posts.

What that sacrifice is to you, is up to you. But there’s plenty to choose from, at all levels to suit you. A sacrifice you can’t afford is not a sacrifice. It’s self-harm.

 

Book Review: Pagan Planet

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Buy the book here: Pagan Planet: Being, Believing & Belonging in the 21Century

I really enjoyed this book, it was a frank and varied look at what it means to be Pagan in the modern age. I took something away from each piece in this book, and added new authors to my ‘To – Read’ list based on their pieces in this book. I also really appreciated that activists and other members of the wider Pagan community had pieces included, it was really interesting to read from the perspectives of those that don’t usually share so deeply in their lives.

I learned a lot from this, not just about other Pagan religions I had not been introduced to, but also about activism of various kinds, not just environmental.

It made me realise that we are only as strong as the values we choose to demonstrate.

(Links in the post may be affiliate links. That means I earn a  commission when you buy something through that link, at no extra cost to you.)

Like books? Visit my book review blog Mercurial Review to get all of my posts about books from around the web.