I felt the need to minimize a little further and, while I should be doing something other than toting things around the home, I decided clearing some space on my shelves would be a good thing to do. The shelves I minimized the most were the shelves I have reserved for the various Pagan / religious books I’ve collected and read over the years. These shelves hold a number of books that, quite honestly, have been gathering dust. I have kept them on their shelves for various reasons, though – from a sort of shrine to gathered wisdom, to something that visitors to my home can look at. What troubled me was that none of my reasons for keeping these books out had anything to do with me reading, or re-reading them, on a constant basis.
The number of these books has dwindled somewhat, due to my having moved around a bit. The current number I would place at around thirty. Now, the shelves have been completely emptied – the majority of the books were boxed up and will await my decision on their eventual fate (I’m tempted to give them away, to be quite honest; but have yet to decide). Seven books, however, escaped the boxes and now rest by the side of my bed – these books I do still re-read.
Highest among them, is Dreams Underfoot, by Charles de Lint. As far as I’m concerned, this is among the very best books a modern Pagan might have in their collection. This book, though very likely never intended for a particularly Pagan audience, brings fairy tales brilliantly into our modern times (even if the book was published over 20 years ago). My endeavor to seek magic in the mundane was inspired very strongly by this book.
The book that might arguably have first set me on a Pagan path was also never intended for a particularly Pagan audience. It was published in 1900, written by Ernest Thompson Seton, and is titled, Biography of a Grizzly. I was in the third grade when I first read this book; and I did not move from where I sat, neither to eat nor watch cartoons, until I turned the last page of the book. Whether or not it was the genius of Seton, or something else – Seton is a master of compelling a reader to see a story through the eyes of animals, of a similar style though in my opinion even more compelling than Jack London – when I read this book, I felt in my soul that I was reading my own story. Although, as a third grader, I had never encountered the word, reincarnation, by the time I was done with that book, I was a strong believer in the concept. There is a quote from this book that has also shaped much of how I view the trials of life and Nature: “The All-mother never fails to offer to her own, twin cups, one of gall, and one of balm. Little or much they may drink, but equally of each.”
The third book is an edition from Jack London, containing both White Fang, and Call of the Wild. There is so much wisdom in this book – in particular when it comes to exploring aspects of the human condition – that no words of mine would ever do these two stories the justice they deserve. Because much of my religious outlook has to do with our interconnectedness to all things through Nature, books like those from Jack London or E.T. Seton are sacred texts for me. While I feel a past life of mine might be described in Seton’s story of Meteetsee Wahb, I see elements of my current life played out in London’s stories of Buck and White Fang. For me, exploration of such things has inspired more than a few thoughts of religious nature.
The remaining books are also not from Pagan authors, they have to do with Stoicism. It seems like every time I pick one of these books up, I discover something new in it – I’ve been doing this for nearly ten years. From Stoicism, I have learned to look at religion quite differently from the days when I was obsessed with mastering the lore and histories of my ancestors … a perspective that would eventually help me to develop my thoughts concerning Relative Being. I have never claimed to actually be a Stoic – just influenced by their ways of looking at things; and grateful that, at a point in my life where someone I trusted actually tried to convince me that Stoicism was dangerous, due to its preaching a general sense of disconnection, I followed my own counsel and decided to give this philosophy a chance. What I gained by doing so was a greater sense of connection than I had ever before enjoyed.
So, oddly enough, although I consider myself Pagan, it would seem all of the books I own that deal with specifically Pagan topics, or were written by Pagans, are not staying on the shelves dedicated for religious books. The shelves, themselves, are still empty, as I contemplate what I would like to do with them. The books that survived my latest foray into minimalism are what inspire me on a more practical, and connected level. Of much less importance to me over the years is what Paganism once was. I’m not interested in reconstructing, and I’m not really interested in reviving … what was, was … I want to continue getting to know the gods as they are today. For this, it would seem, I prefer a less-than-conventional, and fairly reduced selection of books with which to enrich my religious experience.
This leads me to wonder, among people reading this blog post, what books – books that are not themselves directly religious texts – have inspired you the most? What is it about these books that inspired you?