Kevin’s recommended books

Waterlog by Roger DeakinWaterlog Roger Deakin £8.99 0099282550

Iinspired by John Cheever’s memorable classic short story The Swimmer, Roger Deakin decided, whilst swimming in his garden moat, that he would undertake his own adventure and swim across Britain.

Waterlog, is Deakin’s lyrical and evocative account of this journey as seeks out tarns high in the hills of north Wales, swims with salmon in Somerset and eels in the Fens. The British Isles are blessed with a whole variety of waterways often encompassed within beautiful valleys, rolling hills, green fields and rugged coast lines.

He describes the nature he sees around him from his unusual perspective inches above water level. This is a sight of Britain that only a frog will have experienced. His love of swimming away from the confines of a swimming pool comes through strongly in his writing. Wild swimming is an unusual hobby in modern society as we are constantly told how our rivers and lakes have become polluted by large industries disposing of waste via waterways and chemical fertilisers washing off farmers fields into out rivers. Well if the diversity of wildlife is any indication, I would say that the days of river pollution are behind us. What more powerful way of connecting to the natural countryside around you could there be, as you slip into the earth’s ecstatic skin and immerse yourself in the gentle current? The softness of the water on your skin will take your breath away. Either that or the temperature will.   A wonderful read. If this doesn’t get you swimming in the lake at Woodbrooke, alongside the Moorhens, nothing will! Buy at Woodbrooke

Soil and Soul Alastair McIntoshSoil and SoulAlastair McIntosh £8.99 1854109421

A must read, that I believe is as important for our generation as Silent Spring was to our parents.  Alastair McIntosh reckons that this book is his masterpiece and it is hard to disagree with him.  On the surface, it tells such stories as growing up in Lewis, land reform on Eigg and the spirited campaign that stopped the Harris superquarry.

But the real message of the book, and the reason why it has sold into five figures, is much deeper and wider. He uses factual campaign stories as a carrier to express the deeper stories of our times – the struggle of the human spirit to shine, the imperative of making community, the recovery of a credible spirituality. It’s an entirely factual book and yet much of its poetic impact derives from real-life magical realism. Alastair touches some of the deepest hopes and possibilities within us all.

I absolutely love this book. It took me out of myself and really challenged me to dig deep into finding my own ministry as a twenty-first century environmentally-challenged Quaker. Buy at Woodbrooke

Pandaemonium by Humphrey JenningsPandemonium – The Coming of the Machine Age as Seen by Contemporary Observers

Humphrey Jennings 0333638379

This may seem a rather unusual choice in a Quaker website bibliography but it is one that I turn to time and time again to help me put the rapid development of current technologies into historical perspective.  It is an extraordinarily moving anthology of how the human imagination experienced the full might of the Industrial Revolution.  The texts, dating from 1660 – 1886, are drawn from letters, diaries, old journals, reports, newspaper cuttings and novels to create a seamless narrative as the age of the machine unfolds.  Jennings (also a brilliant film-maker) had an exceptional combination of intellectual curiosity and a deep humanity that helped him draw inspiration from the most unlikely of sources.  Here is his text for the opening of the Great Exhibition in 1851 – ‘But if the other parts of the Great Exhibition are curious and instructive, the machinery, which has been from the first the grand focus of attraction, is on the ‘shilling days’ the most peculiar sight of the whole. As you pass along you meet a member of the National Guard in his conical hat and red worsted epaulattes and then you come along a long, thin, bilious-looking Quaker with his tidy clean-looking Quakeress by his side’. Reminds me of the elders bench in Dublin when I was a very young child. Buy at Woodbrooke

Dirt - The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth
William Bryant Logan £14.95 1573225460

A beautiful and lyrical collection of short essays and meditations on Dirt, which as Logan writes in the book  ‘ Dirt is a good word. It goes straight back to the Anglo-Saxon and the Norse. Like “love,” “house,” “hearth,”, “earth,” “sky,” “wrath,” and “word ”   it is short and strong .  Therefore even before you know what it means you want to get a hold of it and chew it.’

He gets hold of dirt, with both hands, and dives deep into the humus and layers of geological strata to astonish our creative imaginations about this extraordinary substance.  The chapters headings alone sound like lines from a rooty fruity poem: Stardust, Sweet and Sour Soils, The Foundations of Cathedrals, Perception in Earthworms, The Theory and Practice of Manuring, The Dung Beetle, The Compost Man, Fire and Ice, Moonquakes,  The Theory of Silt,  Old Quarries and the Pharmacy of Molds.

This is a book to treasure and will make you realise that your garden soil is as alive and as riveting as a Victorian novel. Buy at Woodbrooke


Woodbrooke workshop booklist

Here are a few of the books that were selected by the Woodbrooke library team for our book trolley during the weekend. Warm thanks to Bettina Gray for her very thoughtful selection.

The Paganism Reader Chas Clifton and Graham Harvey 0415303532

‘The Pagan revival of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries endeavoured to revitalise ancient Pagan symbols and traditions into a meaningful spirituality for the contemporary West. The Pagan Reader is the first to bring together some of the formative writings that have given birth to the Pagan revival and gives readers a fascinating insight into influences on contemporary Pagan thought.’ – Vivien Crowley

‘If you’re wondering why people want to be pagans today – or want to be one yourself – this book provides you with a rich variety of pagan voices: guiding, feeling, thinking, arguing. Clifton and Harvey have given pagans a voice and an understanding of themselves – with enviable sympathy and authority.’ – Ken Dowden, Professor of Classics, University of Birmingham and author of European Paganism

Buy at Woodbrooke

Pagan Theology Michael York 0814797024

Michael York provides an introduction to, and expansion of, the concept of Paganism and provides an overview of Paganism’s theological perspective and practice. He demonstrates it to be a viable and distinguishable spiritual perspective found around the world today in such forms as Chinese folk religion, Shinto, tribal religions, and neo-Paganism in the West.

While adherents to many of these traditions do not use the word “pagan” to describe their beliefs or practices, York contends that there is an identifiable position possessing characteristics and understandings in common for which the label “pagan” is appropriate. After outlining these characteristics, he examines many of the world’s major religions to explore religious behaviours in other religions which are not themselves pagan, but which have pagan elements. In the course of examining such behaviour, York provides rich and lively descriptions of religions in action, including Buddhism and Hinduism (Description from Buy at Woodbrooke

A faith to call our own Alex Wildwood 0852453124

The book forms the basis of Alex’s Swarthmore Lecture, given at Friends House in London in 1999. He provides fresh insights on early Friends and meeting for worship today, through a striking personal journey from institutional Christianity into feminism, therapy and ‘green’ spirituality, arriving at a re-visioning of our Quaker faith. Buy at Woodbrooke

The Celtic Year Shirley ToulsonThe Celtic Year Shirley Toulson 1852303611

Celebrate a full year’s worth of everything Celtic, from the lives of the Celtic saints to annual festivals and traditional tales handed down through generations uncounted. The rich essence of Celtic spirituality is revealed through an illustrated treasury of traditional prayers, accompanied by suggested pilgrimages to Celtic shrines and historic sites throughout the British isles, one for each month of the year. The pilgrimages are described in vivid detail, with maps, walking directions and colorful descriptions of what you’ll see along the route. And because not everyone can visit these sites in person, the journeys need not be undertaken in the physical sense, but rather they may be used as launching pads for your own spiritual journeys of discovery (from Buy at Woodbrooke

Creation was Open to Me  An anthology of Friends’ writings on that of God in all Creation.  Compiled by Anne Adams.  0951876627 Published by Quaker Green Concern (now QGA).  Limited remaining stocks. Contact Friends House Bookshop, London

Rekindling community - Alastair McIntoshRekindling Community: Connecting people, environment and spirituality Alastair McIntosh 1900322382

Climate change, species extinction, war and alienation. These are just some of the threats that imperil our world. There is no single solution, but one thing is certain. Unless we learn how to rekindle community, all other efforts will wither on the vine. Alastair McIntosh’s Schumacher Briefing explores three integrated pillars of community – with one another, with the natural environment and with the spiritual ground of all being. McIntosh draws not just on his own extensive experience, but also on the work of a dozen associates at the Centre for Human Ecology – mostly his former students. These have carried out research into the spirituality of community regeneration, assisted by WWF International. Each of them provides a summary of their findings, weaving a rich tapestry that illustrates community.With its emphasis on spirituality, the Briefing examines the implications of living as if all life is interconnected. It addresses both the theory of community and its practical regeneration. The contexts range from remote islands to inner city deprivation and even the world of corporations and government. The results fortify our capacity to face the future and point to ever-deeper meanings of love (from Buy at Woodbrooke

An introduction to Quakerism Pink DandelionAn Introduction to Quakerism Pink Dandelion 0521841119

Pink Dandelion thoroughly and thoughtfully describes the many aspects of Quakerism as they were and are lived. Especially good for serious inquirers, new Friends, and renewal study groups. Bibliography. Buy at Woodbrooke

The Quaker Condition Pink Dandelion and Peter CollinsThe Quaker Condition – The sociology of a liberal tradition Pink Dandelion and Peter Collins 1847185657

This book focuses primarily on what we have termed the Quaker Condition. It looks sociologically at the condition of present-day British Quakerism. This original and innovative collection contributes to several different, though obviously connected, fields within the study of religion. It operates on five levels. In the first place, the volume is the first to represent, substantially, the contribution of social science to the study of Quakerism and therefore provides useful comparative material for those whose focus is on other faith groups. Second , the book focuses largely on British Quakerism and so enriches the pool of resources relating to the sociology of British religion and British culture more generally Third , there are very few sociological volumes dedicated to the analysis of a single faith group. Fourth, the book represents an in-depth study of a liberal faith group, when liberal religion is the focus of much scholarly debate at present particularly with reference to the secularisation thesis. The study of British Quakerism is especially fascinating in this regard, given how the group can be described almost as hyper- or ultra-liberal, prefiguring many of the developments which may overtake currently more conservative groups. Fifth, the volume represents a particularly collective way of working of interest to all those concerned with the methodology of social research, with the design and construction of the volume jointly agreed by all the authors. Regular meetings of the group and a conference based on these chapters has culminated in a book far more interwoven and layered than a typical edited collection. Buy at Woodbrooke

Alison’s recommended books

In the Footsteps of the GoddessChristina Biaggi £14.95 1879198304

Cristina Biaggi has gathered together an extraordinary circle of women (and some men) and allowed us to eavesdrop as they recount their poetic, illuminating and deeply moving stories of meeting the Goddess. One of the best things about this book is the variety of people and experiences. The goddesses encountered come from every corner of the world and from a multitude of religious traditions; the writers include the famous and the less well known. Some accounts, like Sandra Barnhouse’s tale of meeting the Goddess in a field of corn, took my breath away. What a treat to have at your bedside. There are passages here you will want to read aloud to your closest friends.” — Margot Adler Buy at Woodbrooke

A Celtic Devotional Caitlin Matthews £11.59 0717137465

Drawing from the spiritual current of Celtic tradition, which encompassed all aspects of daily life with prayer and invocation, and from Celtic Christianity, Celtic Devotional combines traditional blessings with specially written prayers and meditations. Many new prayers, blessings, and ceremonies appear in this revised edition of a much-loved book. The marking of time by prayer or special periods of devotion is common to all spiritualities. This book follows the seasonal pattern of the Celtic world. It is divided into five sections; the first four correspond to the Celtic seasonal quarters of the year. The last one contains prayers and blessings for special occasions.                                Buy at Woodbrooke

Where the Spirits Ride the Wind – Trance Journeys and Other Ecstatic Experiences  Felicitas Goodman  £12.99 0253205662

“The book is clearly written for the general reader and includes many descriptions of trance experiences. It may serve as a good introduction to the nature and appeal of the shamanic revival in modern Western cultures.” — Theological Book Review

“… a case study in experiential anthropology that offers a unique mix of autobiography, mythology, experiential research, and archaeological data to support a challenging thesis — that certain body postures may help induce specific trance states.” — Shaman’s Drum Buy at Woodbrooke

The Serpent and the Goddess – Women, Religion and Power in Celtic Ireland Mary Condren  £18 (secondhand)

‘One for the theologians amongst you!’ Using Ireland as a case study, this book provides an account of the decline of matriarchal power in Western civilizations and analyzes its implications for today’s women and today’s Catholic Church. From the age of Eve to the age of Brigit to the age of Mary, the author traces the rise of patriarchial consciousness. Mary Condren is a former editor of Student Christian Movement Publications and the author of articles on men written for feminist liberation theory. The author has taught in the Women in Religion Program at Harvard University. Buy from Woodbrooke

Our recommended reading list

One of the resources we forgot to share at Woodbrooke was a recommended book-list.   These are the books recommended by Debs at The Goddess and the Green Man.  Debs personally selected all of the books I brought along at the weekend and her knowledge is incredible. Why don’t you add your favourites too?        I can heartily recommend ‘Sacred Celebrations’ by Glennie Kindred too, which I have used as source material on the three workshops we have run and constantly return to it for inspiration.  I’ve added the ISBN for each book, in case your bookshop doesn’t have them in stock.

Green Man – Pitkin Guides £4.99  1841650455

Britain is rich in medieval buildings, from great cathedrals to parish churches, and Green Men can be found lurking in many of them. The best places to look for them are on the roof bosses, the capitals at the top of columns, bench-ends and the hinged wooden seats known as Misericords.The Green Man in Norwich Cathedral is in the style called ‘the foliate head’ in which the shape of the face changes imperceptibly into leaves.

Little Book of the Green Man – Mike Harding £6.99 1854105639

Mike Harding presents a selection of the most fascinating manifestations of green men, gargoyles, miseri cords and stained glass in this series. He explains the back ground and meaning behind each subject in text and illustrations. His photography is quite stunning.

Landscape of Memory – Living Folklore in England – Jerry Bird £12.99 0955290872

Valuable reading for all those interested in English Folklore. A wealth of illustrations & photographs.

Wheel of the Year – Myth and Magic through the Seasons (Beginners Guide) – Teresa Mooney and Jane Brideson 0340683864

This is a modern pagan’s guide to living in harmony with nature and the seasons. It covers the turning points of the year, including the solstices, equinoxes and major pagan festivals, with explanations of their significance in everyday life.

The Kitchen Cauldron – MS Saille £9.95

This book is a little glimpse into charms and cooking and how magical intent in the kitchen can conjure up some spellbinding results! The major celebrations of the wheel of the year are also shown with ideas for both Altar decoration and suggestions for cakes and wine. Each book is a hand bound numbered edition

Hedgewitch – Rae Beth £6.99 0709048513

Written in the form of letters from an experienced witch to her two apprentices, solitary witchcraft is offered as a fulfilling lifestyle in its own right. This book provides spells for all the key festivals of the witch’s calendar. Her lyrical letters, accompanied by pen-and-ink sketches, bring the reader to an understanding of the solitary witch’s lifestyle and beliefs. A bestseller.

Sacred Celebrations: A Sourcebook – Glennie Kindred £10.95 0906362482

This is a handbook for those who wish to find ways to celebrate and connect to the earth’s cycles. The author explains the underlying energy of the solstices and equinoxes, and details the eight Celtic festivals, working with moon cycles, herb and tree energy, and inner journeys. Highly recommended.

Earth Wisdom – A Heartwarming Mixture of the Spiritual, the Practical, and the Proactive Glennie Kindred – £14.99 1401904696

Earth Wisdom is a heartwarming mixture of the spiritual, the practical, and the proactive. It provides clear insights into new ways of looking at the world to bring about positive change, integration, and renewal. Glennie is one of the UK’s leading authorities on the earth traditions and this book will appeal to anyone who would like to deepen their connection with the earth. Written in an accessible and inspirational style.

The Earth’s Cycle of Celebration – Glennie Kindred – £5.99 095322273X

If you want a guide to tell you when to celebrate the Wheel of the Year and the Cycle of the Seasons, with plenty of suggestions on how to do it, this booklet contains everything you need. Beautifully handwritten and illustrated (brown line drawings on parchment coloured paper) this has obviously been inspired by a love of the Earth, and not by thoughts of profit. Glennie Kindred has produced a book to treasure.

Alison’s favourites:

Singing the Soul Back Home – Shamanism in Daily Life  Caitlin Matthews £12.99  1859061036

Since first publication in 1995, Caitlin Matthews’s primer on practical, everyday spirituality as practised through shamanism, has become a sought-after classic. For those trapped in a material society, shamanic wisdom offers new purpose and vitality in life, and a re-connection to the natural world. Caitlin Matthews shows how you can harness your creative imagination and innate healing powers as you explore your inner space, and journey between the everyday world and the spiritual realm of the shaman.

The Once and Future Goddess – A Symbol of our Times Elinor Gadon £12.99 0062503545

Having demanded that spirituality be reexamined in terms of women’s own spiritual needs, the women’s movement has brought a resurgence of prepatriarchal spirituality centering on the goddess–whatever her name. Along with this resurgence comes the need to reexamine artistic and anthropological assumptions. Using art and artifacts, Gadon traces the history of goddess worship from Paleolithic times to the present day. (From The Library Journal)