Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Pagan Resources

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

Movies/TV
  • Rome (directed by Michael Apted, 2005-2007). 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. 
  • Agora (directed by Alejandro Amenabar, 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, directed by Guillermo del Toro, 2006). The Pagan themes are subtle, but the magic is not. This is a really beautiful, haunting film with much depth. 
  • Game of Thrones (directed by Tim van Patten, 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.
  • The Borgias (directed by Neil Jordan, 2011+). Ok, so it isn't strongly pro-Pagan but it certainly isn't pro-Christian either, and it is (mostly) set in Rome. 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!
More Greco-Roman viewing
I also enjoyed Gladiator (directed by Ridley Scott, 2000); Mary Beard's Pompeii: Life and Death in a Roman Town and Meet the Romans; Joanna Lumley's Greek Odyssey (wherein Lumley displays an unexpectedly Pagan disposition); National Geographic's Birth of Rome and The Roman Empire; Timewatch - The Mystery of the Headless RomansHistory Channel's Life and Death in Rome - Sex and the Imperial City (but note that as with many History Channel documentaries things are hammed up a bit) and two interesting BBC documentaries by historian Bettany Hughes on the role of the female divine and female priestesses in ancient Greece and Rome: When God Was a Girl and Priestess: Handmaids of Gods
Postscript: see also Alastair Sooke's loving ode to Roman art in Treasures of Rome (BBC) and Caligula with Mary Beard (BBC). The amateur documentary I Still Worship Zeus by Jamil Said is also definitely worth watching.
Germanic viewing
Some documentaries that give a fascinating insight into the Germanic tribes during the Roman period are Germania: the Nation that Defeated Rome 1 and 2 (note that this documentary series is about Arminius and the battle of the Teutoberg forest in 9 CE); 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 Pagans: Sexy BeastsPagans: Magic MomentsPagans: Band of Brothers and Pagans: Sacred Landscape (but disregard the anti-Roman invective at the start of the first and the end of the last documentary where the presenter wrongly conflates Rome with Christianity). 
Postscript: see also Secrets of the Viking Sword for a really fantastic and illuminating documentary about sword making, and the truly brilliant fictional TV series Vikings. 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. English - Birth of a Language is also a good watch in terms of understanding its Germanic roots, though religion is little discussed. 
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.

Games
  • 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. Another game that is expected to be good is Rome: Total War II - this is coming out in 2013. 
Postscript: another game that Romanophiles might be tempted to buy is Ryse: Son of Rome. I am sorry to say that I bought this game and was pretty disappointed. The graphics are amazing but the storyline is absolutely ridiculous. If you can stomach a storyline which needlessly deviates from history to a degree which is utterly implausible and you enjoy relentlessly violent gameplay then you might enjoy this game. I have to admit that the few times I got to play using shield formations it was pretty fun, but ultimately the game disappointed and I will definitely be trading it in to pay for The Elder Scrolls Online. I also gave Dark Souls II a go - I know people who love it, but personally I found it just too punishing to enjoy playing.

Reading
  • 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.
  • The Prose Edda: Norse Mythology by Snorri Sturluson - probably the most important text a Germanic Pagan can read, and it is very readable too. I also recommend the Poetic Edda, within which the Havamal is particularly brilliant.
  • 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 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. More recent titles dealing with Roman themes that are enjoyable include I, Claudius by Robert Graves; Ancient Rome by Robert Payne; Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt by Joyce Tyldesley and Roman Art by Michael Siebler. 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. Religions of Rome: Volume 1: A History by Mary Beard et al is a good reference book. See also To Seek the Boundaries of the Roman Lares by M Smith.

More Germanic reading
Regarding Germanic Paganism, I can also recommend Reading the Past: Runes by R Page; Scandinavian Mythology by H Davidson; The Vikings by Else Roesdahl; The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings by John Haywood; A History of the Swedish People: From Prehistory to the Renaissance by Vilhelm Moberg; Tacitus' Germania, concerning the Germanic tribes living above the northern border of the Roman Empire, is also very interesting and informative.

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. 
Postscript: 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.
  • The Mountains of Tibet by Mordicai Gerstein. This is actually a Buddhist book dealing with the process of reincarnation. Fantastic pictures and story telling.
  • Legionary: The Roman Soldier's (Unofficial) Manual by Philip Matyszak - an enjoyable choice for tweens and teens (and grown ups too).
  • 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.
Other great (kid approved) books include Romans (Warriors: Age of Conquerors) by Simon Adams, Rome and the Romans by Heather Amery, The Story of the Olympics (Young Reading 2) by Minna Lacey, The Odyssey (Puffin Classics) retold by Geraldine McCaughrean (note that this is very much a children's version of the original), Vikings (Warriors: Age of Conquerors) by Philip Wilkinson, How to be a Viking by Ari Berk and The Saga of Erik the Viking by Terry Jones. I do know of a number of other Pagan friendly books but I have chosen only to mention the kid approved ones. Unfortunately not all the Pagan friendly books I have bought over the years have met with child approval or interest - for some reason this has particuarly been the case with books featuring Greek myths or Aesop's fables. 

A note on toys: it seems to me that beyblades are Pagan friendly, in that many beyblades are named after Gods or heroes from ancient Greece and Rome. For example, some of the names of certain beyblades include Hades Kerbecs, Jade Jupiter, Scythe Kronos, Mercury Anubis and Dark Poseidon, just to name a few.


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