Books I read in May

In Satnav We Trust, by Jack Barrow

An enjoyable romp through the historic counties of England, with mad speedboat drivers, curmudgeonly campsite owners, wibbly wifi connections, a serendipitous Satnav with a mind of its own, and ruminations upon rationalism as a possible enemy of the search for meaning.

Having followed the saga of this journey via Facebook updates at the time, it was fun to read the whole thing. If it were my journey, I think I’d have done a bit more research into places of interest before I started, but there’s something to be said for serendipity. And stopping off to see friends along the way.

Open-minded rationalists, skeptical mystics, and ramblers on a shoestring budget will enjoy this book. And doubtless many others too.


Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Absolutely gripping account of what happens when Casiopeia Tun, the poor relation of the Leyva family, opens a mysterious box in her grandfather’s room. It brings to life the world of the Popol Vuh and the gods of jade and shadow, the mysterious landscape of the Yucatan peninsula, and 1920s Mexico. If you like Neil Gaiman, Ekaterina Sedia, Seanan McGuire, or Katherine Arden, you’ll love this book.

Celtic festival names

Some time back I posted a video about cultural appropriation and Lora O’Brien pointed out that the modern Wiccan and Pagan usage of Sabbat names is appropriated from Irish culture and language.

Gerald Gardner and other early Wiccans did not use the Irish names for these festivals — that happened later. Wicca is not a Celtic religion.

It does seem wrong to lift these festivals out of context. There are other old names for these festivals in England and Wales (the Scots Gaelic has similar names to the Irish Gaelic, but pronounced differently).

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Not the messiah

A few years ago, I organized an event where Philip Heselton gave a talk based on his excellent multi-volume biography of Gerald Gardner. He was looking for a title and said that the talk was about the murkier aspects of Gardner’s life. I suggested calling it “He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy” which I’m sure you will recognize as a line from The Life of Brian by Monty Python. So that was the title of the talk.

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Folklore Against Fascism

One of the highlights of my week is the Folklore Thursday hashtag on Twitter. I’ve not had time to look at it for a few weeks though, so it seems I missed the occasion when some völkisch fascists tried to hijack it, much to the horror of the regular participants.

One of them accordingly started a second hashtag, Folklore Against Fascism, and several participants tweeted about their opposition to fascism and commitment to inclusive folklore.

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