Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Pagan Resources

Whilst not comprehensive, here are some Pagan friendly resources that I can personally recommend.

  • Rome (2005-2007). One of the best television series I have ever seen - set in ancient Rome during Caesar's time. Some of the historical detail is blatantly wrong, but the atmosphere and story line of the series is brilliantly engaging. 
  • Vikings (2013+) The first few seasons of Vikings are brilliant, though unfortunately the writing starts to weaken from season 4 onwards. It loosely follows the story of Ragnar Lodbrok. Like Rome, it is not historically accurate but seeks instead to evoke the spirit of the times, which is mostly does extremely well.
  • Agora (2009). Already a Pagan classic - based on the life of Neoplatonist philosopher and mathematician Hypatia, who was murdered by Christian fanatics in the 5th century CE. This is a really fantastic, inspiring film.
  • Pan's Labyrinth (orig. El Laberinto del Fauno, 2006). The Pagan themes are subtle, but the magic is not. This is a really beautiful, haunting film with much depth. 
  • Game of Thrones (2011+). The Pagan themes are generally pretty subtle, but with most of the characters professing belief in polytheistic religions it is clear that the series is fundamentally Pagan friendly. Better still, the storyline is brilliantly engrossing.
  • Gladiator (2000) There are only a few Pagan references in this film but where they occur they are brilliant, in particular the references to the afterlife.
  • The Borgias (2011-2013). Ok, so it isn't strongly pro-Pagan but it certainly isn't pro-Christian either. There are a number  of Pagan sympathetic scenes, particularly during season 2. This is probably the most sumptuous and decadent TV series I've ever seen. I love it!
Germanic viewing
Some documentaries that give a fascinating insight into the Germanic tribes during the Roman period are The Germanic Tribes: Barbarians against Rome; The Germanic Tribes: Battle of the Teutoberg Forest; The Germanic Tribes: Pax Romana; Barbarians - the FranksBarbarians - the Goths; and Enemies of Rome - the Vandals (this latter documentary is also interesting because it demonstrates how 5th century Christian intolerance and preoccupation with heresy - which replaced Pagan syncretism - played out as a contributing factor in the fall of the western Roman empire). Dealing with the post-Roman period, Barbarians II: The Saxons is enjoyable and edifying, as is Barbarians - The Lombards. On Pagan Vikings see Neil Oliver's Who Were the Vikings and Vikings - The Trading Empire. On pre-Christian Paganism more generally, from a mostly Celto-Germanic perspective, see Richard Rudgeley's Pagans. See also Secrets of the Viking Sword for a really fantastic and illuminating documentary about sword making. Germanic Heathenry is not discussed in Nymphomaniac but there are definite hints of Paganism in this disturbing but ultimately enjoyable film by Denmark's most in/famous film maker, Lars von Trier. 

Celtic viewing

Regarding ancient Celts Neil Oliver's A History of Celtic Britain: Age of Warriors is highly engaging. The Wicker Man (1973) purports to deal with reconstructionist Celtic polytheism, however, this movie is not really pro-Pagan imo, but it is entertaining (make sure you don't accidentally watch the Nicholas Cage remake though).

  • Skyrim (The Elder Scrolls V). Brilliant and engrossing. While the Gods of Skyrim are fictional, the polytheistic setting is fun to play in, not to mention visiting the various temples and playing the associated quests given to you by the priests.
  • Dishonored. Another brilliant game by Bethesda Softworks (the same guys behind The Elder Scrolls games). Imbued with mystical Pagan magic; I loved this game so much I played it twice (first on normal setting, then on hardest). 
Another Pagan friendly game, which is rather old now, is Age of Mythology. I know a couple of guys who swear Dark Souls is one of the best games they have ever played (I've played it a bit - I like it but it's maybe a bit too violent for me) and having watched them play, it is definitely Pagan imo. 

  • Gods and Myths of Northern Europe by H R Ellis Davidson - invaluable, enjoyable to read and I keep going back to it again and again.
  • The Saga of the Volsungs - the Games of Thrones of the Viking era. A brilliant and highly important story, and the best version of them. I advise reading this before attempting the heroic poems of the Poetic/Elder Edda, as they are based on the Volsung stories.
  • The Prose Edda: Norse Mythology by Snorri Sturluson - probably the most important introductory texts a Germanic Pagan can read, and it is very readable too. Even more important (but much less easy to read, though the effort is worth it) is the Poetic Edda, also known as the Elder Edda.
  • Tales from Ovid: 24 Passages from the Metamorphoses by Ted Hughes - genius, I was so impressed by this book that I went onto read the much longer original, Metamorphoses, which I also enjoyed.
  • Religions of Rome: Volume 2: A Sourcebook by Mary Beard et al - authoritative, readable and easily the most informative non-classical book on Roman Paganism that I have come across.
  • As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook edited by Jo-Ann Shelton. This is a very academic book but also surprisingly readable. It contains many fascinating extracts from ancient sources so to illuminate the everyday life of ancient Romans. The footnotes are also very informative and worth taking the time to read.
  • Fire in the East (Warrior of Rome, Book 1) by Harry Sidebottom - a Fellow and Tutor in ancient history at Oxford. Sidebottom is so intimate with ancient Roman history and warfare that he manages to evoke the Roman world with great success, even when the gripping story line seems occasionally improbable. I have read the first three books in the series and all of them have been brilliantly engaging and evocative. 
More Germanic reading
Regarding Germanic Paganism, I can also recommend Reading the Past: Runes by R Page; Rudiments of Runelore by S Pollington; Scandinavian Mythology by H Davidson; Barbarian Rites by H Hasenfratz; The Vikings by Else Roesdahl; The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings by John Haywood; A History of the Swedish People by Vilhelm Moberg; Tacitus' Germaniaconcerning the Germanic tribes living above the northern border of the Roman Empire, is also very interesting and informative.

More Greco-Roman reading
Some ancient Roman books I have especially enjoyed include The Annals by Tacitus; The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius; The Golden Ass by Apuleius and Murder Trials by Cicero. Also, no collection on Roman Paganism could be complete without Fasti by Ovid - unfortunately it is not as engaging as his Metamorphoses or Amores but it does contain a wealth of information about ancient Roman religion and myth; Cicero's On the Nature of the Gods is also an invaluable resource. See also To Seek the Boundaries of the Roman Lares by M Smith.

Movies for Kids
  • Princess Mononoke (directed by Hayao Miyazaki, 1997). Probably the best anime movie I've ever seen - if not one of my favourite films of all time. It is quite violent and intense in parts, however I think it is still suitable for kids as young as seven. This film is overtly Pagan.
  • Spirited Away (directed by Hayao Miyazaki, 2002). Another really beautiful movie by Hayao Miyazaki. Suitable for ages 6+. This film is overtly Pagan.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief  (directed by Chris Columbus, 2010). Fabulous Hollywood adventure film for kids aged 7+. This film is overtly Pagan.
  • Rise of the Guardians (directed by Peter Ramsey, 2012). Ideal for Christmas time viewing, especially for kids aged around 4-9 years. This film is latently Pagan.
Other great (kid approved) movies include pretty much anything directed by Hayao Miyazaki, especially My Neighbor Totoro (about a tree spirit) Howl's Moving Castle (full of wonderful magic), Nausicaa (which advocates respect for nature), Laputa: Castle in the SkyPonyo and Kiki's Delivery Service (a must for lovers of witchcraft) - this latter film is probably more suitable for girls, however most of Miyazaki's films will be enjoyed by either gender. Those who have an interest in witchcraft and/or communicating with the dead will especially enjoy ParaNorman, and I cannot resist mentioning an earlier movie by the makers of ParaNormanCoraline, which is not really specifically Pagan, but is a fantastic movie with much depth. The Lone Ranger (2013) is kid approved and, with its message that "nature is out of balance" and occasional hint of Native American spirituality, is latently Pagan - I have to say I really enjoyed it too. Likewise I absolutely loved Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013) and it is definitely kid approved.

Books For Kids
  • D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths by Ingri d'Aulaire - perfect for reading aloud to kids around 4-8 years, fabulous pictures and truly fabulous story telling. D'Aulaire (b. 1898) was a Christian however, so you may want to skip the very beginning and the very end, as he attempts to Christianise the stories somewhat in these brief pages of an otherwise wonderful book.
  • Roman Diary: Journal of a Young Slave by Richard Platt - great for reading aloud to 7-8 year olds or for self reading for kids around 9-12. Great pictures, quite a long story though so not for very little ones. Also, some very young children may be upset when the heroine of the story is separated from her brother upon being sold into slavery, so be prepared for a story that's not coated in pink and fluff.
  • Egyptian Diary: The Journal of Nakht by Richard Platt - great for reading aloud to 6-8 year olds or for self reading for kids around 9-12. Great pictures, quite a long story though so not for very little ones.
  • Perseus and the Gorgon (Young Reading 2) by Rob Lloyd Jones - can be read aloud to younger kids or used as an early reader book for kids around 7-8 years.

Written by M. Sentia Figula. Find me at neo polytheistRoman Pagan and on Facebook

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