Researching Paganism Without Breaking the Bank
Practicing a neo-pagan religion often requires research, and the norm is for a pagan home to have bookcases. We are truly in a boom of pagan publishing, with plenty of books on niche topics beyond Wicca 101 that include good scholarship (sometimes). However, those wonderful books aren’t free. Below are some ideas to find the information you need for your practice without breaking the bank.
Yes, back to libraries. While many branches may be lacking in physical books, look at digital resources you can access. Many libraries allow patron to check books out from a digital service like overdrive, hoopla, or libby. My observation is they tend to have “classic” books by big name pagans and recent books published in the last 5-10 years. But I have been pleasantly surprised but what I have found in the digital apps. The added advantage with using a digital app is it will be easier to hide what you are actually reading.
ILL–Inter Library Loan
This allows you to request a book or other item from a library outside of your county and have it sent to your library to check out. The details might be different depending on your county, but usually you can get items within your state. This does require some patience as it can take a while to get your book, and usually you can’t renew so you need to be ready to read through it and take whatever notes you want right away. But it will allow access to books you can’t physically get to, and expand your pool of resources.
It is always good to temper researching the metaphysical side with the current scholarship as to what our ancestors actually did. If nothing else, it can be a B.S detector to know where scholarship currently stands. Libraries also have research databases that will allow access to articles they don’t have a physical copy of.
Check your library’s process for requesting they purchase an item. They might not get it, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Talk to the Librarian
If you are nervous about revealing your religion, simply say you are interested in X ancient religion. Librarians can help you find hidden gems and show you how to use all of their resources effectively.
Used Book Stores
This one is definitely hit or miss. You’ll usually find a shelf full of Wicca 101 books as you dig to find that gem. Then again, if you are at the 101 stage that might be what you are looking for. I found Michael Hughes’s Magic for the Resistance and John Beckett’s Path of Paganism at a used book store, so luck does happen. See if the store will take your information and a list of books you are looking for, and notify you if one of the titles comes to their store. Or check out their website if they have one.
Public Domain Works
There are plenty of (especially occult) public domain resources available for free online. Sacred-texts.com is a good example.
This one unfortunately comes with a bunch of caveats. Public domain = older. Which means a lot of this material is written by long dead upper class white men for other upper class white mean. Translations might be in queen’s English and depending on how old it is the language might be archaic. Historians are asking different questions now than they did 100-200 years ago, and many discoveries have been made, as well as the technology to analyze those discoveries has been vastly improved, so a lot of older theories have been largely debunked. Not to mention, oh yes, the blatant racism and sexism.
That being said, I personally see great value in reading the classic works that have become a part of the public domain. It is always good to know your history, and to read influential books in their entirety and not just snippets. So many old ideas get repackaged as new, or in the pagan sphere Victorian ideology gets packaged as ancient paganism. Being familiar with 19th Century Spiritualism will make you realize how much it influenced current new age and neo-pagans.
Blogs, Podcasts, Vlogs
I am grouping these together because while they are different media, that share the same good points and bad points. Beyond a blog being a written work, a podcast being audio, and vlog being a video.
The growth of digital has allowed anyone to start a channel. (Yes, including me.) This has allowed marginalized communities to produce their own media and topics aimed niche audiences to be profitable. They can bypass traditional gatekeepers as well as keep costs low, or maybe at least a bearable loss, while catering to a small audience.
The downside is literally the same. Anyone can make digital media, including people with bad ideas, beginners, and those full of baloney saying anything to make money. The platforms are all moving more toward a pay for play model, which means people who sink the money into advertising or learn how to manipulate the algo rhythm are the ones with the most discoverability. It can be hard to find good and accurate sources in today’s sea of content.
For all of these, it is best to find them through some neutral 3rd party. It can be hard to have discernment when you are starting out because you lack the basic knowledge. Go by word of mouth, who your favorite author recommends, or the fabulous reviews of your favorite blogger.
As you continue your pagan journey, getting different perspectives is a good idea. W are all human, with blind spots. Balance deep religious work with scholarly critiques and don’t forget some fun exploration.