Welcome to the 2014 edition of BookMusings' Literary Discoveries! *insert much tooting of horns and throwing of confetti here* Looking back over my LibraryThing account and my postings here on PaganSquare, as well as at Eternal Haunted Summer, this has been quite a year for good literature. Not only did I find many new books and series to enjoy, and recommend to others, but I discovered entirely new authors.
Unlike Greek mythology and even Egyptian mythology, the Gods and heroes and lore of northern Europe appear rarely in books aimed at children. This is unfortunate, as Norse mythology is rich with wondrous tales, grand adventure, amazing Gods, and tragic but noble heroes. There are several picture books that I recommend though, as well as chapter books and teen books and a few activity books; there are also some general mythology books which feature good sections on Norse lore. These would all make great additions to the private libraries of Heathen families, or even lending libraries maintained by particular Kindreds.
There are several picture books which the youngest children will enjoy; some retell a single myth while others focus on a specific Deity or hero. First is Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient Norse by Leonard Everett Fisher* which features short, encyclopedic entries on the Deities along with beautiful full-page chalky illustrations, a map, and a pronunciation guide. Iduna and the Magic Apples by Mariana Mayer and Laszlo Gal, which I profiled in a previous column, retells the story of that Goddess's kidnapping and rescue. The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God by Lise Lunge-Larsen (author of the wonderful Gifts From the Gods) and Jim Madsen, is a humorous and exciting collection of that God's most well-known stories, while Shirley Climo and Alexander Koshkin's Stolen Thunder: A Norse Myth focuses on Thor's quest to reclaim his lost hammer from the Frost Giants. Leif the Lucky by Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire is a biography of the famous explorer, while Sister Bear: A Norse Tale by Jane Yolen and Linda Graves is a folktale featuring a spunky heroine, an adorable dancing bear, and some terrible tattooed trolls.
Paganism is sometimes labeled an "earth religion" and "nature-based religion" in the mainstream media. That label is ... inaccurate. Not incorrect, but too broad a generalization. For many Pagans, nature is vitally important, even the focus of their devotions. Other Pagans have a general concern for the environment, no greater or lesser than that of anyone else who watches the news and the weather. And still other Pagans have no interest in the natural world at all.
I personally straddle the amorphous line between the first and second. As an Hellenistai, I see the world as infused with animating spirits. Nymphai inhabit trees, rivers, mountains and meadows. Great Gods such as Artemis and Dionysus and Hekate and Persephone walk about in the world. Indeed, the Earth herself is a Goddess, Gaea.