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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars By and large a well-researched book
For a scholarly and historical approach to the history of European paganism (as opposed to the cr*p and nonsense offered by several Pagan and/or New Age authors), this book is extremely readable and well-researched. It's not perfect; I have a few doubts about some of its claims, like that the Vikings had a "trinity" of Freya, Odin and Thor, that maypoles...
Published on 6 Aug 1999

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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Serious reservations about the academic value of this book.
I have serious reservations about the academic value of this book. I thought this work looked promising at first sight as a concise overview of paganism in several areas and forms. However, although the book is split into areas such as Greek, Roman, Celtic, Germanic, the Baltic and Russia, it is sometimes unclear as to which period of time the authors are referring in...
Published on 9 Mar 2008 by HL


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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars By and large a well-researched book, 6 Aug 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: A History of Pagan Europe (Paperback)
For a scholarly and historical approach to the history of European paganism (as opposed to the cr*p and nonsense offered by several Pagan and/or New Age authors), this book is extremely readable and well-researched. It's not perfect; I have a few doubts about some of its claims, like that the Vikings had a "trinity" of Freya, Odin and Thor, that maypoles are Pagan remnants in the British Isles or why a picture of a sheila-na-gig was included when nothing was said about sheila-na-gigs (and which, contrary to popular modern-day Pagan opinion, are *not* remnants of ancient Paganism), but the book also does not go off into fanciful and nonsensical flights about unbroken lines back to the Neolithic, ancient matriarchies, worldwide ancient "Great Goddess" worship or alleged "peaceful" cultures with no implements of war. One of the consultants on this book was Dr. Ronald Hutton, a historian at the University of Bristol, whose opinion I trust a lot, although the authors mention in the introduction that he 'refrained' from commenting on their interpretations (I can see where he was probably biting his tongue since a few things they claimed were in contradiction with what he's claimed in his own books). I found the book hard to put down and was particularly interested in their honest summation of modern-day Paganism at the end and its more modern origins (some Pagans would like to think otherwise). (ObDisclaimer: I am a Pagan myself). For them's that wants historical accuracy rather than candy-coated New Age feminist revisionist histories, this book, in my opinion, is hard to beat.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Serious reservations about the academic value of this book., 9 Mar 2008
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HL (UK / Norway) - See all my reviews
I have serious reservations about the academic value of this book. I thought this work looked promising at first sight as a concise overview of paganism in several areas and forms. However, although the book is split into areas such as Greek, Roman, Celtic, Germanic, the Baltic and Russia, it is sometimes unclear as to which period of time the authors are referring in these areas. I also get the feeling that "paganism" is treated an homogenous whole over the entirety of time and space, which is not true.

More worryingly, and I found this is quite typical in the work, in the 'Baltic Lands' section, the authors talk briefly about the role of sacred groves in Finno-Ugrian paganism without citing any primary sources, any secondary sources or mentioning what period of time their paragraph relates to, until suddenly they inform their reader that in the nineteenth century sixty-four groves remained.

The lack of citation of primary and secondary sources is an outstanding flaw of the work. They do have endnotes but their use of them is wildly inconsistent and frequently unhelpful. Unfortunately this lack of citation also transfers itself to the bibliography, where they do not bother to list their primary sources on the grounds they are available in many editions. This in itself actually makes it more vital to know which translation they are using. And translations it must have been, unless the authors are able to read a wide variety of dead and modern languages, which I suspect is not the case.

This lack of care in documenting source material is no where more evident in their section on 'The Later Celts'. Here they recount the story of Martin of Tours inspecting Northern Gaul and destroying pagan shrines and trees. They tell the tale of St. Martin being challenged by the pagans to perform a miracle: he could cut down their sacred tree if he stood under it as it fell. According to the authors, St. Martin declined their challenge and went elsewhere. Their citation for the story is not from a primary text, but rather from a secondary book, which they got in another book, which cites something else - and that does not appear to be a primary text either. Alas Jones and Pennick, this is not the version of the story the rest of the world interested in Martin of Tours knows! In the "Life of St. Martin of Tours" written by Sulpicius Severus, who begun his "Life" while St. Martin was still alive (he died in 397AD), the story is related clearly and in it Martin does stands under the tree, but rather than in it hitting him the tree miraculously sweeps round and almost squashes the pagans, which is more like it for a Saint's Life. There is no excuse for this kind of error or poor citation. I have just checked, and even the information on Wikipedia could have saved them!

So, read it this book if you must, but keep in mind the need to double check their citations for everything they bother to give references for, and to check and find sources for the many things they do not.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars dense and invigorating, 24 Aug 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: A History of Pagan Europe (Paperback)
I was afraid this book would be dogmatic and slanted towards New Age Paganism and Mother Goddess mumbo jumbo, but it turned out to be a solid, scholarly book. At points, it is difficult to follow the scores of references to different times and places, but working through the details is worth the effort. If you're interested in pre-Christian European history, this is an excellent piece of research. A good historiographic source, too.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Serious Reservations about their presentation of the Balts, 23 Aug 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: A History of Pagan Europe (Paperback)
I have serious reservations about the book, considering that their section on Lithuania has some glaring mistakes, one of which is where they claim that a Duke Sventaragis chose the site of Vilnius. Sventaragis was never a person, but a sacred site. Two, in the legends it is Gediminas, one of the major Grand Dukes who is credited with the founding of the capital city.
The rest of the text is worth a read, but they should have done further research into the Balts.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brief history of Paganism, 15 April 2002
This review is from: A History of Pagan Europe (Paperback)
I wouldn't consider it as a scholary book; it is not that detailed.
It is indeed a book that is hard to put down; it's good written and although there are many pictures that aren't mentioned in the text, it is very informative. Giving in a brief way a good realistic perspective on all sorts of pagan costums and history from Greeks to Asatrú.
Once you read it; you want to find out more...Ronald Hutton a.o. also have good books on the subject.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and a great read., 20 July 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: A History of Pagan Europe (Paperback)
This is a well-written, complete, and unbiased history. This is about your ancestors what they really believed and how some of their ideas survived. It is like comming home for the first time.
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A History of Pagan Europe
A History of Pagan Europe by Nigel Pennick (Paperback - 20 Feb 1997)
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