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"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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We cannot comment on the situations of other subjects, people and organizations depicted in the book as we were not privy to their participation, however, we can correct numerous assumptions about our own participation and portrayal.
The Coru Cathubodua Priesthood was contacted on October 4, 2013 by Ms. Mar requesting our participation in a book that would be a continuation of her documentary, “American Mystic,” and would depict the contemporary American Pagan movement. The book was never described to us as a "personal memoir."
The Priesthood decided to participate in Ms. Mar’s book based on three factors:
1) The personal experience of one of our members; having been a subject of said documentary wherein they were given review rights by Ms. Mar, thereby establishing the precedent.
2) Two members who knew Ms. Mar personally vouched for her trustworthiness and ability to honor agreements.
3) The conferring of review rights by Ms. Mar to the portions of the manuscript where our Order was depicted. This occurred in a December 13, 2013 phone call between Ms. Mar and our then communications chieftain.
We requested review rights in order to ensure the accurate portrayal of our beliefs and protect the individual privacy rights of our members and their families. It was our understanding that our members would be the sole focus of what was detailed in the book, not our friends, family or congregants. We believed this agreement was amicable, reasonable, equitable and conscionable, and with these expectations, we proceeded in good faith.
We gave Ms. Mar access to individual members for interviews. She attended public events and hospitality functions. She was never invited to nor was she present for any private Priesthood rituals.
On November 18, 2014, we contacted Ms. Mar requesting an update on the project and inquired about our opportunity to review her manuscript. Our review rights were rescinded by Ms. Mar in a reply email from her dated November 23, 2014 stating that the manuscript will not be made available to us for review, citing industry “standard practice.” This was one year after our participation in interviews with Ms. Mar.
To restate for the sake of clarity; the Coru Cathubodua Priesthood would have declined to participate in Ms. Mar’s book from the start without the agreement that we would be able to provide corrections and redaction where necessary to protect our members’ personal and religious lives, and ensure our beliefs and public rites were correctly depicted.
Much of Ms. Mar's book inaccurately characterizes the structure and practices of our Order, then and now. Many of the events depicted that involve the Priesthood are paraphrased anecdotes translated through her own personal journey and story-driven narrative. We view the book as being “inspired by actual events.” Ms. Mar takes great liberties in what she does depict and sensationalizes many activities to the point of falsehood with no thought to how her lies would impact her subjects' lives and livelihoods.
None of the events described therein should be considered accurate or representative of our religious beliefs, structures, values or attitudes. In addition, individuals who attended our public events were quoted and named by Ms. Mar without their knowledge or consent.
As this book has caused and continues to cause direct harm to our members, our friends and community, we cannot, will not and do not stand by it. It is obvious in hindsight how we were preyed upon by Ms. Mar with her providing review rights and then rescinding them once she the necessary materials and entree into our community.
An additional point of clarification: Ms. Mar has recently gone on the record with mainstream publications to say that participants received copies of the book prior to publication with the intimation that it was for review. This is patently false. Our Order did not receive any copies of the book. Two of our members received personal advanced copies of the book as a courtesy two weeks prior to its general release date of October 20, 2015.
Unfortunately, the subjects of the book are shortchanged by lazy scholarship (as other reviewers suggest, Mar seems to draw heavily from Margot Adler and Ronald Hutton's works, without adding any appreciable content or interpretation) and Mar's plethora of personal hangups and anxieties. Although she makes a big deal out of being in her thirties, her recount of her experiences seems like that of someone much younger. Her deep insecurities and judgments of herself reflect on to her subjects, and she seems to lack any significant insight or perspective regarding these personal issues. I almost feel bad for her - I do sense that she is genuinely seeking a spiritual experience (and indeed, has flashes of it), but her inability to let go of her self-judgements and truly participate prevents her from getting much out of it. At the same time, the thoughtlessness of the impact her words have on her subjects (her constant refrain of "I feel vaguely embarrassed" and unnecessary fixation with describing women's bodies in particular) makes her seem childish and self-absorbed. I genuinely hope that Ms. Mar can overcome the hurdles she sets up for herself and is able to find the experience she seeks. However I would suggest that those seriously interested in learning about modern paganism look elsewhere.
TLDR: Good if you like navel gazing confessionals and reading the word "liminal" over and over, but by no means a thoughtful or scholarly treatment.
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Before reading this book, my understanding of witchcraft barely went beyond what we see through Hollywood films.Read more