Travels Through Middle Earth: the Path of a Saxon Pagan, Alaric Albertsson, Llewellyn Publications, Woodburty, MN, 2009.
Alaric Albertsson’s Travels Through Middle Earth: the Path of a Saxon Pagan is a good beginner book for anyone interested in the traditions of Anglo-Saxons. Like many other Llewellyn books, this is a decent starting point for anyone new to paganism or someone unsure of how to structure rituals in this tradition but scant on references, new information, and any in-depth information. I am not sure of the accuracy of many statements in the book, since it is very lite on references and citations. The books that were referenced seem to be commonly available other publications on Anglo-Saxon and Saxon traditions. For this reason, I would expect there is not a great deal of new information in this book. While I don’t practice Anglo-Saxon paganism, I was familiar with most concepts found in the book and didn’t find much new information. Despite the lack of citations or scholarly material, I found the book easy to read and tolerable. The author uses many personal examples and experiences and does not pretend to speak for all “Saxon pagans” or pagans attempting to recreate and re-interperate Anglo-Saxon spirituality. For the hard Reconstructionists, this book will only disappoint since Albertsson focuses on re-imagining Saxon beliefs and practices for this century. I appreciate this aspect of the book but pagans of a more traditionalist bent may not.
I think the rituals are the best-selling point for this book. Albertsson’s rituals provide the perfect starting point for new pagans. These basic rituals would be useful to beginners for practice and novices creating outlines for creating their own rituals. Writing rituals without any kind of experience or understanding of how one might go about this can be intimidating for new pagans. Most pagans I know have been there at one point. These rituals are easy to add to and adapt to your own personal practice. Additionally, the author makes it clear that one should speak from the heart during rituals not follow a pre-packaged ritual wording. So, he includes words presented only as examples of what may be said. I remember well my first rituals reading from a page and nervously attempting to carry something out, so I too have been there! Finally, all most aspects of life are included in the ritual section. Albertsson includes basic rituals for blots, husels, as well as important life events like baby namings, marriages, and death rituals. The only ritual I see left out are puberty rites or menarche rites, and I am unsure if this is because Saxon culture does not mark these periods or because the author choose to ignore them. He does make a point that these rituals are somewhat inappropriate today since menarche and puberty no longer truly are markers of adulthood. A book that includes some basic outlines for rituals I think can be helpful to have on anyone’s bookshelf.
My main interest in reading this book was to find out more information about how to best honor my ancestors. As an American, this is especially tricky and while I do honor my ancestors that I knew in my young life, I would like to find ways to best honor my ancestral ancestors. To do this I have tried to learn about ancient Irish and English cultures. So I found the examples of how Saxon pagans honor their ancestors helpful in this respect. Likewise, the Kindle edition is well formatted and easy to read. Overall, this is about what I would expect from a Llewellyn publication – which is not much and I would not have purchased the book if I had looked closer at the publisher. In truth, I mistook this book for a similarly named book by Brian Bates (it may have been that the Bates book was not available in Kindle format). Since I bought it, I read it anyway to review. I would not necessarily recommend it but the ritual parts which I found reading tedious, may be helpful to people new to this path. There are probably better books on Anglo-Saxon paganism out there but I am not the person to recommend any.
Full Disclosure: I purchased the Kindle edition of this book. I have not been paid nor asked for this review.