08 September, 2013

Pagan Library Books

Hey, Readers,

In July, I visited a library in a large town--not a city, but a fairly big college town--and was dismayed with the selection of pagan books. When using the computer database to search for keywords, very few things came up when I searched "Wicca" or "Paganism," and none of the titles that came up were available at that library. They also weren't things I had heard of, except for one, which I did end up reading later because my friend happened to have a copy, but that's another book review entirely. Anyway, that library did turn out to have a couple really good pagan books once I looked in person, including Triumph of the Moon and Drawing Down the Moon. They also had some interesting books I hadn't heard of yet. I was confused as to why I couldn't find those titles with the searches I had conducted on the computer; If they didn't come up under "pagan," "paganism," "witchcraft," and so on, then how could people expect to find them?

I think I've stumbled upon an answer to that question in the days since that library visit. For one, I looked at some of the books in the Paganism section at my half price bookstore, and then earlier this week I visited another library to check out what kinds of books they had on pagan paths. Basically, what I discovered is that there are quite a few books that pagans would find interesting at libraries, but unlike at the bookstore where they're on the "New Age" or "Paganism" shelves, books that libraries choose may have sneaky classifications.

As Above, So Below: Paths to
Spiritual Renewal in Daily Life
At the bookstore, I came across this title and chuckled to myself at the way it was classified on the back. Some books have keywords or topics listed in a corner of the back cover, and this one said something like "Body, Mind & Spirit / Psychology," things which are clearly related to pagan spirituality and in a book which touches on it, but not listed as a "Pagan" book. (It was, however, on the cart of new books for the Religion/New Age section of the bookstore.) Of course pagans do not only read "pagan" books, but more and more I started noticing that some books which ARE obviously pagan or specifically about paganism, are still not listed as "Pagan." Here are some more examples from this past week at the library, when I was paying more attention and specifically thinking to take photos and remember how some things were classified.

Before I get to the books, let's take a moment to remind ourselves of what we have to work with. This is what the "Religion" section in a library consists of. The 200s are Religion, in general. The 210s cover philosophy and theory thereof, and the 290s are "Other Religions." The 220s through 280s are all various topics about the Bible and Christianity. So right away, we're all in the severe minority for resources. The 290s are for ALL other religions, and there are a lot of them.

First I checked out the 200s, general religion section. There I found a couple "history of religions" things and looked for sections on paganism. In the one book I thought looked the most helpful, there was no section called "paganism." There were, however, very small entries mixed among other things that referred to "new age" spirituality and witchcraft. But then I started seeing the diamonds in the rough--the books that didn't say pagan, but definitely were, or could be if you chose to apply them to a pagan path. Things like this:

Voices of the Earth: The Path of Green Spirituality by Clea Danaan. At this point I had forgotten to check the classifications on the back, but it didn't say it was a "Paganism" book. I think it probably said "Earth-based Religions/Spirituality." This one looks like a great read, and when I finish the book I'm currently reading, this and a few of the other books I'll show you are definitely on my list to borrow from the library now that I know they're here!

Next up is a section of books about altars and rituals! Once again, none of these books mentioned the word "Pagan." And why should they? Altars are universal, as are rituals. It's just this kind of thing that strikes me as an "Oh, duh!" moment. If we're only searching for "pagan" books, we may not find these other helpful tomes which neglect to mention our minority path. The white book in the center of the photo to the right, with a candle flame pictured on the spine, is called Altars Made Easy. The topic descriptions listed on the back read "Interior Design / Personal Development." I believe there was a third one that I forgot to write down, such as "Spirituality." But yes, precisely--Would you have thought to search for a book on altars in a section of books on interior design? It makes sense, but I don't think I would have thought of that. And it's also a way for books to get into these libraries, especially the ones that actually do somewhat censor what books they allow by deciding to order some and not others. These books are about "Personal Development," and everyone likes that, right? No need to freak people out with words like "Paganism" and "Witchcraft." Especially when we're not the only ones doing this.

Next, I moved to the 290s, Other Religions. I glanced through the first shelves of the section--Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, more Islam, more Judaism, Hinduism--and this was the first book I saw with the word "Goddess" on it. It's called The Goddess Path: Myths, Invocations, and Rituals and was written by Patricia Monaghan. I just took a picture of the back of the book this time, so you can actually see what I've been referring to when I mention the topic classifications on the back of some books. This one simply reads "Spirituality / Personal Transformation / Women's Studies."

Ah, and THEN I found some pagan books! I was overjoyed to glimpse the name "Starhawk" on the shelf--It was The Earth Path, which is one I wanted to get a look at but the half price bookstore didn't have any copies yet (or maybe it did, months ago when I wasn't ready to read it... I do feel like I've held it in my hand before, but as with Spiral Dance, I wasn't ready yet and I'll wait until I am). There was another book whose title was something about Mother Earth Worship, and when I pulled it off the shelf I realized it was a Native American Spirituality text.

And then further down, in the next column of shelves, I saw the bright green spine of a book I also really want to read but didn't want to purchase from the bookstore yet: Pagan Spirituality by Joyce and River Higginbotham, authors of PAGANISM: An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions, which I loved so much and used for my pagan prejudice research presentation. Pagan Spirituality was recommended to me by one of my YouTube viewers who saw my video about PAGANISM and asked if I had read this other one. I have not read it yet, but as suspected, I will be checking this out from the library when I'm done with what I'm currently reading. This book, by the way, was the only one I saw during this library trip that said "Paganism" on the back.

To the right of that book, in the same picture, we have MindLight by Silver Ravenwolf, a book of hers I had never heard of. I didn't take it out and leaf through it yet, since I'm more interested in the other books first, but even to know that this library does have one of her books says a bit for its attempt at a selection. Regardless of anyone's opinion of her work, she is a well-known witch, so to have one of her books does point out where this collection is, in a sense. They have "Pagan-Lite" books, as well as out and proud "Pagan Books." Also, note that these books are directly next to books on Scientology. Oh, the 290s.

So what the heck are the keywords we should use, if things like Drawing Down the Moon don't even come up under "paganism" or "witchcraft"?! Well, it looks like it could be a whole range of things. I know that as a beginner, I never would have thought to search for books with subjects like "Personal Development" when I wanted to learn about my new path, so perhaps these search systems are making people think there are fewer resources than there are. If you can look up a specific title or author, you'll always be more successful, and otherwise, there's always the option of taking a spare fifteen minutes in your day to browse the shelves!



  1. Gotta love that staunch Christian, John Dewey! I find it amusing that in Library of Congress classification systems (instead of the call number being 900.2 it would be BS 500.L .517 2010, etc.) religion and philosophy are all in the B's. The section of the B's designated to Christianity: BS. Oh, and politics is JK. :)

  2. As a Pagan working in a public library, I've had these thoughts myself and your final advice about looking up specific authors or titles is pretty much how I help patrons find what they're looking for, which leads to some interesting and lengthy reader's advisory sessions. :)