Phoenix from the Flame by Vivianne Crowley

Phoenix from the Flame by Vivianne CrowleyYear Published: 1994
Publisher: Thorsons
ISBN: 1-85538-161-3
# of Pages: 285
Cover Type: Trade Paperback

Phoenix from the Flame presents an overview of various forms of modern Paganism. Vivianne Crowley presents modern Paganism as restoration of ancient practices, changed to reflect current needs, rather then as a continuation of ancient religions. Ms. Crowley writes about Celtic, Norse, Germanic, Finish, and Baltic traditions, reviewing what is known of early practices and providing insights into what modern Pagans are doing.

The ideas of modern Paganism are presented as a synthesis of many faiths, but I find some faults in this since Ms. Crowley seems to present things more from a Wiccan point of view even though she proposes to talk about other paths like Asatru. This is especially evident in the sections entitled “The Way of the Goddess” and “The Way of the God”, and in the discussion of the Wheel of the Year. However, she does an excellent job discussing Pagan views of order and balance, as opposed to good and evil. Ms. Crowley also discusses the Pagan ideas of free will and fate, making it clear that most Pagans believe in a free will that is shaped by fate.

Chapters on life passages and ethics are also included. Again, the ethics discussion looks at the subject more from a Wiccan point of view, but quotes from Eddas about respecting members of one’s society are included to provide a wider base for the discussion. I was also glad to see a little bit about the ethics of the Warrior Way included. I think that some Pagans are overly concerned with pacifism and forget that sometimes a warrior is needed to protect our society and our rights.

There is also a discussion on Shamanism, divination and magic, making clear the difficulty of these paths. Ms. Crowley writes that mysticism is the main goal of most Pagan paths. Pagans are looking for individualization, she says, searching for themselves and connectedness to the world as a whole.

In one of the final sections of the book, Ms. Crowley gives a list showing the typical steps one takes on the way to becoming a Pagan. I present it here partly to show that Ms. Crowley has an excellent grasp of modern Paganism (if there was any doubt).

Becoming Pagan

  1. Learning about Pagan Gods and mythology
  2. Deciding we are Pagan
  3. Developing contact with Nature
  4. Celebrating the major Pagan festivals
  5. Drawing near our Gods through meditation and prayer
  6. Practicing Pagan ethics
  7. Deciding whether to join a Pagan group
  8. Deciding to join a particular Pagan tradition

Ms. Crowley finishes her book with a large section of resources and an extensive biography. Sadly, since this book is over a decade old, many of these books are now out of print and some of the resources she listed have disappeared. This is no fault of Ms. Crowley’s, of course, but it is sad nonetheless.

Overall, I was very pleased with this book. It is not a book that tells the reader how to perform Pagan rites, but rather it discusses where some parts of the modern Pagan movement have grown from. Ms. Crowley also makes clear the dangers that lie down some Pagan paths, like Shamanism. It is well worth searching it out for a read.

Rating: 4 – An interesting survey of modern Pagan faiths, and their roots. A little too much of a Wiccan spin though.