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Paganism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 26 May 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (26 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199235163
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199235162
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 1.3 x 11.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 361,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

Owen Davies is Reader in Social History at the University of Hertfordshire. He has published numerous articles on the history of witchcraft and magic and is the author of Witchcraft, Magic and Culture 1736-1951 (Manchester University Press, 1999), Cunning Folk: Popular Magic in English History (2003) and Murder, Magic, Madness: The Victorian Trials of Dove and the Wizard (2005). His most recent book is Grimoires: A History of Magic Books (OUP, 2009).

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Rawdon Cavalier on 2 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
This is an intelligently written book. It tells the reader what paganism is, of it's suppression and attempted destruction by successive monotheistic sects, it's survival and re-construction, and in some cases what is effectively the creation of "new" religions.

The author casts a critical eye on the historical sources and highlights inconsistencies in the 19th and 20th century research and writings concerning EUROPEAN paganism, as well as sounding a warning note concerning the potential mis-use by the racial and religious intolerant elements of re-emergent nationalism, whilst at the same time remaining positive about the spiritual, and intellectual positives of the myriad pagan systems. A recommended read from this series.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Shani Oates on 3 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback
Paganism: A Very Short Introduction by Prof. Owen Davies
Oxford Uni. Press 2011 £7.99 ($11.95) 144pp inc. illustrations, refs and index.

One of over 2000 titles in the `Introduction to' series, covering all manner of subjects encompassing science, religion and the humanities, this remarkable slim volume is concise, forthright and lucid, pulling no punches as it cruises smoothly through emotive and prejudicial territories confidently and competently.

The cover boasts that it "explores the idea and meaning of paganism over the last two millennia," which it does so, readily and succinctly within six short chapters that opens with Davies dispelling the first myth regarding the use of the term pagan to define a `religion' in the sense of an adherence to a set liturgy and doctrinal beliefs. Prof Davies, opines how the term was applied to anyone outside the overarching influences of Christianity, retaining a rich diversity of belief and culture spanning the known world. Perceived as literal idolaters, Davies is at pains to assert how the literary testaments do not necessarily record accurately the meaning of the term in common use.

Davies moves swiftly through the civil cults of the state to where Judaism being in theological conflict with those embraced by Rome was the first of many to fall foul of the term. He then tackles the residual fall out from this grave matter under a later Christian Empire where it becomes an abusive term to signify a simplistic or polytheist view.

The Reformation is presented through political wrangling as the Church struggled to define itself, especially where vicious polemics hurled by opposing sides were anxious to present the other in a less than pious light.
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By P. Evans on 7 Jan. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dry uninspiring. Really struggled to drag myself through this book. I would assume that there are more informative books on the market.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Nj Mcallister VINE VOICE on 9 Mar. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I think this is a worthwhile purchase. Its not a short introduction. Its a comprehensive overview of what we know. The bottom line being that all modern paganism is a modern invention as we have no idea what people believed 2000 years ago apart from what was recorded by non pagan(Christian) sources. This is because their writings were destroyed or they were non literate societies. Well worth investigating to gain an idea of what we do actually know of paganism. And the next time someone tells you they believe in Wicca or such like, laugh in their face and ask them which ancient Wiccan texts they follow
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Pagans Ancient and Modern and Their Religion(s) 16 Oct. 2011
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Today, when we think of paganism, we usually think of the ancient classical world, or of the "primitive" polytheistic religions around the world. The word "pagan" was introduced to distinguish Jews and Christians (and later Muslims) from the religious traditions that surrounded them. Christians in particular used the term to distance themselves from the official state religion of the Roman Empire, and the word has since then acquired a distinctly negative meaning. The ancient Greeks and Romans did not think of themselves as being "pagan", and neither did the members of most of the world's religions that have been denoted with such a label in the subsequent two millennia. So paganism in its own right is not a concrete and well-defined subject. Which is the main reason that any book that deals with this subject can at best deal with the history of paganism as a concept.

This very short introduction traces the history of paganism from its earliest conceptualization in the first few centuries of Christianity, to present day pagan revivals. The book traces the evolution of the notion of what is pagan as the Christianity encountered various indigenous European religions and cults. By the end of the fifteenth century paganism was officially eradicated even from the most remote corners of Europe, but many pagan practices and beliefs persisted nonetheless, some of which were absorbed into the mainstream Christian culture (one has only to think of the English names for the days of the week). The discovery of the Americas, as well as the subsequent colonial expansions into Asia and Africa, have forced Europeans to rethink their ideas about the new religions that they encountered, and reconsider their definition of what constitutes paganism.

The last chapter of the book deals with the modern revival of paganism. This trend has begun in earnest in the nineteenth century, and has culminated in the establishment of self-proclaimed Paganism as an independent and distinct religion. The latter-day Pagans try to model themselves on the pre-Christian European religions, but most of the knowledge about those religions has come to us through the second-hand sources. Thus, for all their claims to antiquity, today's Pagan practices are distinctly modern in origin.

This is an eminently well-written and informative short book. It would be of great interest to anyone who wants to learn more about paganism, as well to those with an interest in the history of ideas in general.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Night has a Thousand Eyes. 11 Oct. 2014
By Rene L. Santiago - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Also see Julius Ceasar.
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Too scholarly 28 Jun. 2013
By M. Glover - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I got about 2 chapters through this book. I was looking for an introduction, but found it very scholarly and detailed.
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