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Brothers of the Sun: Pagan Men Mysteries Paperback – March 20, 2011
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
About the Author
Rev. Terry Michael Riley is the founding High Priest of the Southern Delta Church of Wicca – A.T.C. in Jonesboro, Arkansas, established in 1994. He was ordained by the Aquarian Tabernacle Church in 1993. He is a respected sage in his Pagan community. He has been teaching men’s mysteries in the craft through workshops, classes and open festivals for the past sixteen years. He is a healer and teacher. Since 1995 Terry has performed over 180 Rites of Passage for the Pagan community in his tri-state area.
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When Riley sticks his subject -- Wicca, rites of passage, and the Triple God concept -- his work is quite good. The Rove-Father-Sage triad makes a lot of sense within the context of modern Wicca, and the rites he shares in Brothers of the Sun for celebrating those stages, as well as other major life changes, are very practical and not beyond the reach of a working group who wants to adopt them. Likewise, he's created an interesting system of symbols and tools for each life stage. While I'm not Wiccan, I can appreciate the beauty of these systems, and the lore that Riley is hoping to add to his tradition.
Unfortunately, when Riley steps away from those subjects, things kind of fall apart.
Brothers of the Sun would have benefited immensely from stronger editorial oversight. The text is plagued with preventable spelling and grammatical errors, as well as numerous bizarre factual errors about etymologies, biology, and history. Some examples:
- His "Universal Law of Gender," for example, ignores that binary gender, sexual reproduction, and dimorphism are not universal phenomena among living things.
- "Masculine" does not derive from a French word for "witch," "female" is not derived by adding "fe" (meaning "property") to "male," and "human" and "humus" do not share a root.
- While women did enjoy more rights among the ancient Celtic language speaking peoples, it's a stretch to say that they were fully equal, and families were not universally matrilineal.
- The god Belenos isn't the historical brother of the historical Brennus (though in fairness to Riley it's likely that Geoffrey of Monmouth didn't know what he was talking about either).
The way gender is presented in Brothers of the Sun is also problematic. The feminine is, Riley proposes, a sort of static default in contrast to the masculine's role as an agent of change. The feminine may birth life, but the masculine must plant that life first. He also writes that "The Goddess is the wheel of life and the God turns the wheel." Masculinity, meanwhile, is "animalistic," and men in certain life stages are inclined to "hunt" animals and women. He also reinforces the women-as-healers stereotype (a vagina apparently makes one more compassionate), and appears to conflate gender with biological sex. He also appears to believe that sexual orientation is "both an urge and a choice" and that partners in same-sex relationships take on gendered roles.
Riley has some good ideas, but he's buried them in broken social theory and pseudoscience. While I'd likely substitute the "Youth" for Riley's "Rove," and make him a more neutral figure of youthful energy and curiosity in order to be inclusive of all young men, the overall concept of rites of passage for boys and men is a fine one, and giving men more archetypes within the Wiccan tradition to identify with can only be a good thing. Unfortunately, in order to get to the chewy center of this book, the reader really does have to trudge through a sea of misinformation, bias, and high weirdness.
I wanted to like this book, and to find some beneficial tools in it. Instead, I'm trying to figure out how to get rid of this paperback without releasing it back into the wild for some newbie to stumble over. It's a terrible shame, since the good in it deserves to be developed, but the signal-to-noise ratio in this one is entirely out of control.