Books I read in September 2021

Reading about hygge, which seems very akin to Pagan ideals of comfort and pleasure, and about the Indigenous sense of humour, gives me hope that one day all of humanity will again see the Earth as sacred. I also reread some Dion Fortune.

The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well, by Meik Wiking

The concept of hygge is not quite the same as cosiness or Gemütlichkeit — it’s more like the cultivation of the feeling you get when being hugged by someone you love. The word hygge appears to be related to the word hug. It’s about sharing experiences of togetherness and good food and warmth and doing things together; but it can also be about curling up in your reading nook with a mug of cocoa, a rug, a nice jumper, and a good book. It’s the light and warmth of a fire when all around is cold and dark. I thought that the whole hygge thing was a bit of a fad when the book first came out about five years ago, but it turns out that I’ve been practicing the art of hygge my whole life. My whole concept of Yuletide is hyggelig, for example. And what’s more, the author of the book is a happiness researcher, so he’s got the statistics to back up his suggestions for how to make life more hyggelig. The book also ‪points out that one of the reasons that people in Denmark and other Scandinavian countries, and the Netherlands, are happier is because there’s a lot of equality (a much smaller wealth gap than the UK or the US), a social safety net in the form of generous unemployment benefits, and a culture of caring about other people.‬

Me Funny, edited by Drew Hayden Taylor

Indigenous humour is hard to pin down or define, as you might expect, since there are so menu different Indigenous cultures, but it is noticeable that Indigenous humour is grounded in Indigenous world views, in resistance to oppression, and in a sense of community and solidarity. The figure of the Trickster is important too.

The book alternates between theorizing about Indigenous humour and telling jokes and funny stories. It has contributions from a number of different authors including Drew Hayden Taylor and Thomas King. I really enjoyed it.

The Sea Priestess, by Dion Fortune

I don’t know how many times I have read this book. I first read it in the early 1990s, and have read it several times since. I do know that when I first went to Brean Down, I immediately recognized it as the real version of Bell Head in the book. I love the rhythmic language of the book and the way that occult concepts are interwoven with the story. And although the theology outlined in the book is not the same as mine, it’s still an occult classic. The poetry in it also makes an excellent basis for a ritual. I think the whole business of the “mooncalf” being grabbed by the sea is extremely unfortunate, and I would have preferred it if it wasn’t in the book.

Moon Magic, by Dion Fortune

I decided to read the sequel to The Sea Priestess, and it is hard going. The character of Rupert Malcolm is nowhere near as sympatico as Wilfred, and as the story is partly narrated by Vivien Le Fay, she doesn’t have the mysterious allure that she has in the first book. I think what this book was trying to argue for was twofold: first, for the reintroduction of magic and magnetism into marriage; and second, for the liberalization of the divorce laws and the social mores of the time around fidelity when a marriage had irretrievably broken down. There’s so much beating around the bush in this book, as it seems that neither of those points could be made explicitly, that the point is almost lost. At least the argument was all in favour of magic and mystery, unlike Jude the Obscure; but I almost gave up on the book three quarters of the way through. I’m glad I didn’t because the ending was better than the middle. Nonetheless, The Sea Priestess is a much better book than Moon Magic.

Now reading SPQR by Mary Beard.

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