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Occasionally I wandered in where I was not wanted and gave truthful answers.
Sometimes I even did it deliberately. A little disruption now can prevent disaster later.

How to convince me you're a poseur before I've finished the first page of the preface of your book - UPDATEd

This is a page from the third version of Technopagan Yearnings. There are some formatting differences. Originally published at www.neowayland.com/C692963707/E20091014143626

Why bother to write if you're going to undermine everything you say?

I'm an honest-to-gods bibliophile. The kind who stacks books because he doesn't have enough shelf space. The guy who when he eats alone, reads. The kind who reads himself to sleep when he doesn't have a sleepover guest. The weird looking loner who more often than not takes a book to the movies to read before the lights go down.

Although it's impossible to know everything, I'm reasonably well read on many different topics. Some things I read for pleasure, like fiction or guidebooks to cities I've never visited. Some things I read for general information. Some things I read because I'm enthusiastic about the subject. And some things I study.

I read because it makes me think.

So I saw a book called Crafting Magick with Pen and Ink by Susan Pesznecker and I thought it might be worth a try. No, I'm not going to give this one an Amazon link yet, unless it gets much better in the first couple of chapters.

I'm quoting from the very first page of the Preface. And why in blazes does a book need a Preface and an Introduction? Anyway, she's in the standard quote style and my comments are in Technopagan green.


By a happy stroke of fate, I was born into a family of magickal practitioners.


One sentence and Peznecker has already triggered my warning buzzer. No matter what her background, I'm pretty sure her family didn't call themselves “magickal practitioners.”


My grandmother and the generations who preceded her were accomplished herbalists, wise women practicing eastern European leechcraft, a tradition of medicine herbology passed from one generation to the next…


This may well be true, we as the readers have no way of judging. However I'm really leery about that implication of unbroken generations of wisdom descending to the present day.


My family has a better oral tradition than most, and I know that we had more foolery than wisdom and certainly more sinners than saints. What's more, what gets passed down from generation to generation changes and gets garbled. I can't shoe a horse or preach a three hour sermon, both those things are in my family history. That doesn't make what my ancestors knew better or more pure, just different.

Magick also comes to me through my father's side, where I'm linked by lineage and geography to people who practiced Scottish Wicca, Pictish magick, and Celtic Druidry; I'm also linked to medicine lines from the Nez Perce nation.


Again, this may be true, but those phrases "Scottish Wicca" and "Celtic Druidry" just turned my warning buzzes into alarm bells. As far as I know, Scottish Wicca doesn't predate Buckland. Wicca as an organized system doesn't predate Gardner. I'm pretty sure that prior to the 20th Century, a Western European Pagan faith wouldn't have been distinguished with a label. It would have been too dangerous.

Celtic Druidry? Is there another kind? We know almost nothing about Druid practices of ancient times. Most of what passes for Druidry today is inspiration and reconstruction and guesswork. That doesn't mean it has no value, it just means that it's not an ancient tradition.


Maybe that's why she mentions the links to the Nez Perce nation. It's an appeal to authority.


None of this ancestry stuff establishes anything about the merits of what she writes. But since the reader can't test it, the implication is that we can't question her ideas either.


After all, it descends to us poor ignorant readers through no less than three Ancestral Lines of Mystical Authority.


And it's STILL only the first page of the Preface.


Just be glad I skipped over the description of her mother as a lifeguard.


UPDATE: That was my typo, not hers. Originally I put "medicine lines to the Nez Perce nation" instead of "medicine lines from the Nez Perce nation." It's fixed now.
So enough about this specific book.

I'll give the book a chance, but I will tell you now, it's already rubbed me the wrong way.

I mention it here because it's typical of some Pagan books.

This Ancestral Mystical Authority thing has really got to go. If I tell you that my great-uncle was the Head of the Secret Cabal behind FDR, well, that may be true. You've no way to dispute it. But no matter what my great-uncle did or didn't do, it doesn't tell you how qualified I am to pull strings and manipulate nations. If I told you that and couldn't prove it, but because of my Illustrious Ancestor™ I expected you to bow to MY will and defer to MY ideas, it would tell you something about my character though.

Which is why I won't tell you that.

You can trust me. Really.

UPDATE (again): Someone wrote and told me that I was a little harsh with this one. I've just seen too many books in which the author established credentials by citing what this or that set of ancestors have done without saying that much about what the author has done. Maybe I just pay too much attention to a raw nerve, but this is one issue that really hurts "Pagan" books among serious seekers and scholars. Believe me, I'd rather not rip a book apart unless it actively endangers someone. Well, actually I would, but I am trying to moderate my less civilized impulses, so I don't, usually. But the Ancestral Mystical Authority really is overdone, and it just encourages sloppy thinking.

If you don't question what a book or Authority Figure™ tells you, you aren't doing your part.

Yep, that means you should openly question what I say too. I don't always respond well, but that is my problem, not yours. If my ideas can't withstand debate and questions, then I need to polish them until they can.

Posted: Wed - October 14, 2009 at 02:36 PM

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