Sacred Gifts: Reciprocity and the Gods 2nd Edition
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At once both accessible and deep in its examination, deeper, more scholarly asides can often be found in his footnotes for those who are interested in either the source of the information, or the occasional aside that offers deeper explanation of a point. This helps keep the book moving at a quick pace without becoming too wrapped up in its own virtues.
Thomas has a particular knack for providing an exploration of key concepts, such as the idea of microcosm vs. macrocosm, or the evaluation of sources, in an elegant yet deep way. Very often, he provides an example rather than an explanation, which ensures the material is both relevant and accessible, and helps to support his argument at the same time.
I was pleased, as well, to see that Thomas did not rely on a single set of theories about religion in this work: while the book offers an excellent introduction into relevant thought by Eliade, he also discusses the theories of Huizinga, Lincoln, and Burkert as they apply to notions of reciprocity in religion in general. Also refreshing, Thomas mostly limits his discussion to religions from Indo-European-speaking cultures, which helps to avoid the pitfalls of generalizing too broadly when it comes to his theories (he notes the limitation in both introduction and conclusion).
Thomas spends a good deal of time examining key notions that we could all benefit from learning more about: friendship, sacred space, historical types of sacrifice (and their modern reflexes), the rules of sacred play, and many others. The book is well-organized to help the reader build an understanding for coming concepts, and help keep you from getting lost in details.
The book is not entirely about mythic and ritual history, though you might be forgiven for mistaking it as such for the first few chapters: toward the end of the book (in the last chapter), Thomas provides hands-on work for a person who might want to apply these concepts of reciprocity and engage with a spirit as well, offering a quick (and excellent) primer on meditation, trance, piety, and ritual work, with two rituals (one to meet a spirit, and one to forge an alliance with that spirit).
The division of the book into these two parts (chapters 1-7 being about reciprocity in a sacred context, and chapter 8 being about the hands-on work) helps to ensure that those interested in the subject from a scholarly point of view aren't inundated with modern Pagan work throughout, but those who are interested have a place to work those skills into their religious work. Thomas is the Archdruid of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF), so his personal stories and work occur frequently in the book, but not in an intrusive manner that might impact the scholarship of those first seven chapters.
A good companion book for this might be Ceisiwr Serith's Deep Ancestors: Practicing the Religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans , also from ADF Publishing, which I've also reviewed and found to be a fabulous resource. I might recommend starting with Thomas' book, and reading Serith's book next, though they compliment each other in whatever order you might read them.
In the end, I highly recommend this book: it's accessible, deep, and provides a fascinating window into the practices of Pagans, ancient and modern, giving us a roadmap for applying these practices to enrich our own, modern lives.
The book was a fairly easy read, but backed with sources. I wholeheartedly recommend it!
Top international reviews
It is generally well-written and engaging, and worth buying.
However, it could have used a really thorough proof-reading. On the Kindle edition, the footnotes were in the middle of the text instead of at the foot of the page. And "it's" vs "its" needed checking. And there is no need to write "[sic]" after ever use of the word "colour" in quotes from English writers - that is very irritating for a reader who uses British English.