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

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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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: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 223,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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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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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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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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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