Sent to Alt Pagan, Dec 1993.
Broch, Janice and MacLer, Veronica. Seasonal Dance, How to Celebrate the
Pagan Year. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc. 1993.
It has been my experience, over the years, that the quickest way to antagonize a member of the Pagan and Neo-Pagan community is to tell them that "You" have "The Way" to do anything. To be honest, when I was handed this book to review, my deepest suspicions were that it was going to try and do just that, try to detail "The Way" to celebrate the "Pagan" year, based on the rituals of an obscure tradition that would not merely offend my sense of independence, but my desires for decent scholarship as well. I must confess that these somewhat pessimistic expectations were disappointed quite badly.
While it is true that the book does detail the rites and practices of the authors' particular Path, these are presented more as set into the greater design of the text, rather than as some suggested Book of Common Prayer. The book's goal, as I read it, was to give suggestions for people, regardless of their tradition or path, who were wanting to create their own rituals and ceremonies.
The book has chapters devoted to the "standard" Quarter and Cross-Quarter days, which give something of the histories and meanings of these days. To be honest, I can't always agree with the interpretations of the holidays, that the authors elected to present, however, those interpretations do point out clearly the sorts of understandings needed for creating a celebration based on a particular holiday.
Furthermore, the appendices give suggestions for the sorts of songs, dances, games, recipes and so forth that this particular group has found meaningful or useful. The appendices also give suggestions for research materials and readings for the someone interested in designing their own rituals, as well as information on the various Divinities that such a student is likely to run into in their studies.
I feel it necessary to mention, as someone for whom the word pedantic is a compliment, the level of research they use in their examples shows an unfortunate bias toward a balance between scholasticism, and the more popular beliefs about the Deities and their rituals. On the other hand, I found great pleasure in the authors' taking time and page length to admit that there is a tremendous amount of fallacious scholarship in this particular field, as well as pointing out their belief that a ritual's historic provenance is often less important than that ritual's desired effect or outcome.
In all, I was extremely pleased by this book, and the authors' approach, and would, will, and am suggesting it for anyone who would like to create their own rituals and ceremonies, as well as anyone who might be looking for a pre-designed ritual to use or adapt for those times when a Sabat just seems to sneak up on you.