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Paganism: A Very Short Introduction 1st Edition

3.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199235162
ISBN-10: 0199235163
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author


Owen Davies is Reader in History at the University of Hertfordshire and the author of Grimoires: A History of Magic Books.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199235163
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199235162
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 0.5 x 4.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #412,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Vincent P. Calabrese on January 24, 2016
Format: Paperback
Early on in the book, the author admits that historically, there's not much "there" there regarding paganism; it's an essentially negative concept which defines something as being non-Christian (and was sometimes seriously applied to kinds of Christianity considered by the historical writer to be heterodox). The religions identified as paganism in antiquity and after it were not all polytheistic, nor indigenous, nor pre-Christian.

So, since there's very little real common ground among the 'pagan' religions, the author says that his book is a history of the 'concept' of paganism down the centuries. And while there is some interesting material on the evolution of the term and its applications near the beginning and especially in the last two chapters of the book, the middle chapters drag, and consist largely of a chronicle of who converted to Christianity when. I think the book suffers from this. It would have been better, I think, to omit most of the historical material and focus on the way the concept was formed in antiquity, and how it was appropriated by those who began to self-identify as pagans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (the final two chapters, which I have already mentioned, treat this topic and are by far the most interesting part of the book).
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Format: Paperback
The best very short introductions bring a period of hisory to life or teach you new perspectives. This one is more of a list of facts and dates, and the main takeaway is that we know very little about indigenous religions. It lacks the passion and punch that other books on the series have.

The first 2/3rds could be titled: "the christianization process: a very short introduction." It is a general summary of the spread of the christian faith and how christians viewed with and interacted with the religions they encountered. It's filled with generalizations and isn't very interesting.

While the first 2/3rds of the book are pretty ho-hum, the final third about the interest in modern paganism from the late 19th century onwards does get interesting. If this in particular is what interests you, then I would recommend getting this book from a library and starting around chapter 5.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I got about 2 chapters through this book. I was looking for an introduction, but found it very scholarly and detailed.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Also see Julius Ceasar.
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