Looking for the perfect Solstice gift for your favorite Pagan, Heathen, or Polytheist? PNC-Minnesota’s 2012 Winter Solstice Gift Picks with expert advice, reviews, and recommendations for the latest movies, books, and other holiday gifts and treats can help. Remember, when possible, support your community by buying local or buying direct from the artist or author. Click the photos to go to the stores where you can purchase these items.
In addition to a few of our own picks, we turned to two industry experts for what books top their list for 2012.
Elysia Gallo is the Senior Acquisitions Editor for Llewellyn Worldwide, based in Minnesota. She’s also active in her local community as Membership Chair / Volunteer Coordinator for Paganicon and Twin Cities Pagan Pride, and blogs for Llewellyn’s Paganism blog, Reflections of the Moon. Here are Elysia’s picks:
Ecstatic Witchcraft is a grounding and deepening in the shamanic current of witchcraft. What is the shamanic current in witchcraft? Gede Parma describes it as “a revisioning and a reclaiming of the older ways of seership, healing, travelling between the worlds, and spirit allies.” Parma focuses on techniques such as drawing down deity, possession and trance work, healing and soul retrieval, divination and spellcraft. Rather than learning ceremony and correspondences, this book suggests digging deeper within yourself for true magic and altered states. Parma defines witchcraft as an ecstasy-driven, earth-based Mystery Tradition, so if that sounds right up your alley, this is the book for you.
A Teaching Handbook for Wiccans and Pagans is a book for anyone interested in teaching Wicca, Paganism, or any number of spiritual paths. While many don’t feel called to teach, there are always going to be newcomers in our communities who yearn for trustworthy, solid instruction, and this book will prepare you to be competent in providing this service. Thea Sabin gives advice on everything from screening students to setting up lesson plans. There is a wealth of information on teaching to different adult learning styles as well. Non-denominational, solid guidance for anyone considering this path of service to their community.
Jesus Through Pagan Eyes is one of the most controversial books we’ve published in a while. Many Pagans had the knee-jerk reaction, founded on years of experience, that the author’s goal is to convert Pagans to Christianity. Quite to the contrary, he is a priest who left the Church of England to follow his own ways, including joining the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. The book is full of insightful essays and interviews with Pagan elders such as Diana Paxson, Raven Grimassi, Christopher Penczak, Maxine Sanders, Janet Farrar, and many more, as well as the author’s careful dissection of the historical Jesus from the mythological Jesus of the Church, and the Cosmic Christ. A perfect Yule and Christmas gift for the open-minded spiritualist in your life.
Faery Craft is just a seriously fun book. Fun for all the pictures and ideas for art, fantasy, dressing up, and festivals; and serious for the true spiritual connection you can develop with the Faery realm. From creating altars and making appropriate offerings to finding the magical spots in nature where the portals to the other side can open, you’ll find that working with faery is not about escaping reality, but engaging with it on every level. Includes hundreds of photographs, art, poetry, meditations, interviews, and more.
New Paths to Animal Totems offers, at long last, a fresh perspective on animal totems. Rather than pseudo-Native American New Age teachings and animal dictionaries, Lupa encourages you to find your own way, offering three different paths. One is the correspondences model where, for example, you might connect with different animals representing the different directions or elements. Next is the bioregional model, which takes a close look at the biodiversity of your own habitat. Finally there is the archetypal model, where you might associate different animals with each aspect of your own personality or issues you are working with. Brilliant and refreshing new insights, how-to along with lots of why-to.
Taylor Ellwood is co-owner of Immanion Press. He’s also a holistic business coach, magician, and the author of the newly released book Magical Identity. You can find him on G+. Here are Taylor’s picks:
The Travellers Guide to the Duat is your guidebook to the spirit world of ancient Egypt, inspired by The Egyptian Book of the Dead. Laced through its humorous presentation you will find extensive information about ancient Egyptian religion and magical practice – from the etheric anatomy of the human soul to what colour to make your protection amulets, and from the history of creation to the rites of judgment held in the Hall of Two Truths. Renditions of ancient spells in modern poetry mark each section, showing the ancient magical texts in a new light.
Embracing Heathenry explores how one defines heathenry and how one becomes heathen. The book details the personal account of the author’s journey, along with an exploration of the various roads one wanders in the discovery of one’s faith. The book explores how heathens feel about various paths, including articles and poems that reach to the core of what heathens believe. Embracing Heathenry will provide the reader with an unprecedented look at heathen concepts as well as the love, passion and faith that is rarely seen by the public.
Manifest Divinity is about welcoming the Divine into our lives. Honoring the individual’s personal relationship with the Divine, we explore the many opportunities for Divine presence in our daily lives. Not only is this book an overview of the different ways the Divine may manifest, but it is also a beginning tool to enhance the developing personal relationship between the reader and Divine. Awe is heavily underrated, but it is a sign of Divine presence. The author’s intention with this book is to open up the readers understanding of the wide variety of Divine presence while respecting their personal religious framework. You might say she is on a mission to promote Awe-some-ness and bring enchantment back into our daily lives.
Cara Schulz is the Co-Editor for PNC-Minnesota and Managing Editor for PNC-News. A Hellenic polytheist involved in many organizations devoted to Hellenismos and occasional contributor for Bibliotheca Alexandrina anthologies. In addition to the Dies the Fire series by SM Stirling, here are my picks:
The Shining Cities: An Anthology of Pagan Science Fiction As a genre, science fiction is difficult to define. So, perhaps the best definition is also the broadest: science fiction as a genre deals with imaginary, but plausible and logically constructed, worlds in which the implications and consequences of cultural, environmental, and scientific change and innovation are explored. With its limitless potential for world-building — and real world influence — science fiction is also a genre rich in possibility for Pagan authors and readers alike, but one which has been sadly neglected. With The Shining Cities, we add one more to that short list of works. In these pages you will find tales that run the gamut from humorous to ecological to anthropological to time travel to space fantasy to space opera to steampunk.
Queen of the Sacred Way: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Persephone She is the Young Grain, Daughter of the Harvest Queen. She is the Iron Queen, Beloved of the Underworld. She is the Great Revelation, the Secret of the Mysteries. She is Persephone. Known today primarily as the Spring Maiden, ancient peoples knew her as so much more. It was Persephone they called upon to watch over their marriages, and guard their unmarried daughters. It was Persephone they called upon to curse their enemies and avenge injustices. It was Persephone who offered them a peaceful afterlife through the revelation of her great Mysteries at Eleusis. Today, we are rediscovering the complicated, complex nature of this wise and awesome Goddess. Within these pages are hymns and poems, essays and rituals, artwork and fiction in honor of the Harbinger of Fruit, the Goddess of the Narcissus, She Who Tasted the Pomegranate, the Queen of the Sacred Way.
Unto Herself: A Devotional Anthology for Independent Goddesses Artemis. Athena. Columbia. Coventina. Freyja. Hekate. Hestia. Isis. Kuan Yin. Lilith. Mary. Minerva. The Morrigan. Nehalennia. Neith. Skadhi. Tabiti. Vesta. These Goddesses and countless others have forged their own paths and, in so doing, inspired women around the world. In this collection of prayers, poems, rituals, essays, and short stories, we honor those Goddesses who are complete unto themselves, and teach us to be the same. Unto Herself is the latest in Bibliotheca Alexandrina‘s line of devotional anthologies. This series is dedicated to the Gods and Goddesses of the ancient world — especially the Mediterranean and Near East — and to the modern revival of their worship.
A note about Bibliotheca Alexandrina: 25% of the proceeds from the sale of many of our their books to be donated to worthy charitable causes in the name of the Greco-Egyptian Gods.
The best recommendation for new music in 2012 can be found on Jason Pitzl-Water’s (blogger for the Wild Hunt and Editor in Chief for PNC-News) A Darker Shade of Pagan. Go here for his Top Ten 2012. His number 1 pick, Anastasis by Dead Can Dance, is below.
Local Americana group Murphey’s Midnight Rounders released not just one, but two albums this year. Pearl Street is their more mainstream CD while Swede Hollow swings more Pagan. Either would make a great gift. Humor often infuses their music and I laughed my butt off at Pearl Street’s Upper Midwest Terrorist Society (and Spelling Bee). And when it isn’t humor, it’s a profound look at our culture, which is what you’ll find in Wits Against the World. Swede Hollow has one of my all time favorite MMR song on it, Wreck of the Modern Pagan.
Plastic candles, ninja swords, and simulated crystal orbs,
an unread print of Ray’s Big Blue
He’ll teach young women what he knows,
if they take off all their clothes and spiral dance into his bedroom.
She won’t say Merry Meet because she’s a vegetarian
and she’s afraid it violates the Rede
She only reads Fiona Horne
and believes she is reborn from an ancient Big Dish Queen
It’s fun to be a ceremonial Wiccan Druid Shaman
Make the rules up as you go along
I want to be a ceremonial Wiccan Druid Shaman
Come back in another life, if I get it wrong.
How can you not love that? If you don’t you’ve never been to a Pagans event, convention, or festival.
If you are looking for excellent Winter Solstice music, I’m going to point you to a CD that came out last year, but too late to be included in the 2011 Gift Picks. It’s Jennifer Cutting’s OCEAN Orchestra’s Song of Solstice.
Buy this CD. Buy it. Buy it now.
Give it to everyone you know. They will love you for it.
I don’t think I’ve ever had this strong a positive reaction to a CD, especially a holiday CD, but I can’t recommend this work of pure art by Jennifer Cutting highly enough. There is not one single track I’m not in love with.
There are original songs, old world classics in French, orchestra accompaniment, hints of steampunk, Renaissance recorders, electric guitars, female singers and male singers. You wouldn’t think such musical diversity would work on one CD, but the unifying theme of midwinter pulls it together nicely. All the songs celebrate the season in some way, and while most have a distinct Pagan vibe to them, your Lutheran mother would enjoy it, too.
Cutting’s unusual childhood with a mixture of spiritualities and her respect for the divine influences the entire CD, but is best displayed in a capella song Light The Winter’s Dark.
So let us all sing the Lady’s name
To light the winter’s dark
And may her light grow brighter still
With each new year we mark
Each verse, and the refrain, change to honor a different deity or sage such as Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Mohammed, and the Pagan Lady. It ends with a verse that even atheists could happily sing.
When we all brought our light to earth
We made it a better place
We loved and lost and loved again
And learned from our mistakes
So let us all sing each others’ name
To light the winter’s dark
And may our light grow brighter still
With each new year we mark
Summer Will Come Round Again is my favorite cut. It’s pseduo-Celtic, which I normally detest, but this original by Cutting wouldn’t sound half as well done any other way. The vocals are wistful and colored with hope, exactly the essence of Winter Solstice. I listened to this song last night while sipping wine and wrapping gifts and it was one of the more pure moments of contentedness a person could experience. The lyrics are profound and successfully trigger the scent of strawberries, a first kiss, and sunlight on a dragonfly’s wing. It’s a song that easily could have been sappy or maudlin, but is soaring and evocative.
Another song that succeeds against expectation is Fall, Leaves, Fall. It’s a song celebrating the death and decay of Autumn and Winter using Emily Bronte’s poem of that name. Celebrating? Oh yes, and it does it in full electric Gothic splendor with vocals by Annie Haslam. If Haslam’s name (or voice) is ringing a bell you just can’t place, you may remember her from the 70′s British rock group Renaissance. Jaunty, with a nod to early punk marches, you’ll ” smile when wreaths of snow, blossom where the rose should grow” and “sing when night’s decay ushers in a drearier day” along with Haslam. Even a perennially black t-shirt wearing goth like A Darker Shade of Pagan’s Jason Pitzl-Waters would enjoy Fall, Leaves, Fall.
I could write about every song on this CD (listen to the title song Song of Solstice with a mug of beer, preferably at Merlin’s Rest), but I’ll turn to the performers. The musical talent and high production values mingle to create a CD that is a joy to listen to. I hate to say it (no, really, I hate that this is true) but many Pagan or Pagan friendly CDs fall short because their production values are so poor. Kidos to you, Jennifer Cutting for producing such a high quality CD. As for the vocals, in addition to lead vocalist Lisa Moscatiello and the a fore mentioned Annie Haslam, there is Steve Winick, English folk singers John Roberts and Tony Barrand, and the harmony group Coope Boyes & Simpson. Cutting is the composer, songwriter, and Musical Director for the CD.
So buy it now and get into the Solstice spirit with rousing cuts like Green Man. Make your Christian sister happy with Voici La Noel (bonus – it may be Christian, but it’s an instrumental. Ha!). Feed your soul with Time to Remember the Poor. As for me, I’m logging off and kicking back with hot chocolate, a book, and this CD for the rest of this dreary day.