Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Heretic’s Heart – Margot Adler

Available through Amazon and other online retailers.

Shortly after Margot Adler died I logged into Amazon and ordered both of her memoirs, Heretic’s Heart: A Journey Though Spirit and Revolution and her last published work Vampires Are Us: Understanding Our Love Affair with the Immortal Dark Side. I’ll talk about Vampires in later post. I do regret not having read both books while Adler was alive. Would have been a real honor to have interviewed her for my podcast. Alas, she was on my list of must-contact and I didn’t get to her before she died from cancer.

I enjoyed taking a look at the 50’2 and 60’s through the mirror of her memory. The end of one era and the beginning of another. The McCarthy era was winding down when Adler was a child. Her father had been subject to some of the trials and tribulations of being a Communist and nonconformist during that time. Her grandparents had fled to the US to avoid some of the backlash for their political beliefs. Her grandfather was the psychologist Alfred Adler. From the start she was no stranger to controversy and free thinking. Even the elementary school she attended in New York City was off the beaten path – to read her talk about it I felt like I was reading a description of the progressive school from Auntie Mame.

Margot Adler, author and NPR correspondent

Heretic’s Heart, true to the genre of the memoir or autobiography, is full of remembered bits and details as well as letters and journal entries. Adler used those letters and entries to tell her story, sometimes from the perspective of someone else. I really enjoyed the penpal correspondence between the young Margot and the soldier serving in Vietnam. The frankness and openness of both of them was sometimes difficult to read. The raw emotion that went into those letters really made me feel as if I was experiencing what they were describing. Margot’s letters from jail, when she was arrested during a Free Speech Movement rally at UCLA-Berkeley, were very visceral.

In Heretic’s Heart Adler shares some of her deepest joys and fears. From her childhood into her teen years, through college and her exploration of herself and the world. She takes you on her soul journey, spending time in pre-Castro Cuba, supporting the FSM at Berkeley, and moving forward with her spirituality. Born into a non-practicing Jewish family with communist leanings, if any faith system was apparent in her childhood it would have been agnosticism or atheism.  But as she progressed into adulthood Adler felt a calling to something more spiritual. She discovered Paganism, as many know from her first book Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America.

I don’t want to give to much away, but I do want you to understand that this is a story well worth your time to read. I devoured the book in a matter of a few days. For some reason, right after the first of the year, I felt compelled to dive into the world of nonfiction and personal memoirs. This was one of the first in that adventure that I read. I am definitely glad that I did. Perhaps it had something to do with her being a broadcaster, but more likely it was because of the recent loss of her to this world. As the saying goes, those who are remembered never die.

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Seeking the Mystery with Christine Hoff Kraemer

Seeking the Mystery - Christine Hoff KraemerI do enjoy probing around on the internet for books, music and information. Late in July I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and came across a post from Christine Hoff Kraemer, the editor of the Pagan Channel on Patheos.com. In the post she was announcing a book giveaway contest for her latest release, Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies. Being the curious reader that I am, I submitted my name for the drawing. I didn’t win, but Ms Kraemer decided to send me a copy of the book anyway. For that I am thankful.

It would have been great to have had this book already in my library in January of this year when KaliSara and I did our show on Theisms for the Pagan-Musings Podcast. Chapter one of the book gives brief but easily understood definitions of many of the theisms that apply to the various Pagan belief systems out there. Not an exhaustive listing, by any stretch, but a decent starting point. With a great listing of reference materials at the end of the chapter, a student of theology, Pagan or otherwise, has months of reading to do.

Kraemer is not just a writer of books and a blog editor, she is an instructor of Theology and Religious history at Cherry Christine Hoff KraemerHill Seminary. This book reads like a primer for one of her classes. Which is just how it should be read. As an introduction, she does not set out to teach you everything there is to know about Pagan theologies. Instead she helps you get acquainted with many ideas related to theology and introduces you to some modes of thought that might not have been apparent in your own studies.

I was visiting with my brother about the book recently and was trying to describe how the book could be used by Pagans and non-Pagans alike. The best thing I could think of was to pull our Kerr Cuhulain’s Pagan Religions: A Handbook for Diversity Training (the new title for the expanded The Law enforcement Guide to Wicca). Unlike Cuhulain, Kraemer addresses the topics from the view point of an educator. Either way, both books are useful for Pagans and non-Pagans.

Not only does the book address the topics of theisms, spirituality and Pagan religion in general. Kraemer embarks on how Pagans of various flavors look at the issues of sex, sexuality, death, marriage, and many other issues that have become hot button topics for the modern Pagan world. Between the introduction and the final summary, Kraemer takes you through a glimpse into Pagan theologies:

Chapter One covers theisms, feminist theology and related topics.

Chapter Two covers myth, tradition, authenticity and history.

Chapter Three address knowledge, devotion, and experience.

Chapter Four talks about life, death, sex, and other related hot button topics.

Chapter Five delves into the topics of ethics and justice, virtues and values.

I think Kraemer’s book is going to wind up on my suggested reading list along with Margot Adler, Starhawk, Cuhulain, and many others who have tried to break the terminology of Pagan theology down into concepts that just about everyone can understand.

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Filed under New Age & Pagan Books, Non-Fiction