The book I have chosen for the Indo-European history requirement of the ADF Dedicant Path is A History of Pagan Europe by Prudence Jones & Nigel Pennick.
The very first line of this book states;
“In this book we describe the hidden history of Europe, the persistence of its native religion in various forms from ancient times right up to present day” (pg 1)
This is not only an accurate overview but also provides the reader the perspective of Indo European Europe not only as a historical account, but also written with a strong focus that these religions are practiced today as well. A major argument this title proposes is that not only is paganism rooted in Indo-European Practice still practiced but that it is actually flourishing more and more openly practiced in present day.
This book focuses on a great deal of Indo-European cultures including the Greeks and Eastern Mediterranean, Rome and the Western Mediterranean and the Roman Empire, the Celtic and Later Celtic world, the Germanic Peoples and late Germanic Lands, and the Baltic lands and Russia. While I was familiar with some of these cultures, many were new to me on a scholarly paganism level and this book gave a great look into how similar styles of paganism were practiced within the Indo-European spectrum. It is not hard to infer religious importance from neighboring cultures that share a similar language pattern when our historical information is missing.
I really enjoyed reading about Russia and the Balkans as this was an area of religious study that I had not studied before. I was surprised to read that celebrating Midsummer as a national holiday was abolished as recently as the 1960s by the Soviets and that Paganism in generally only began to experience some toleration around 1988 or so. An interesting point I noticed regarding deities was that like Germanic pantheons, the moon is a masculine deity and the sun is feminine which makes sense given their proximity as opposed to the Mediterranean pantheons.
One thing I did not particularly care for with this book was the literary pace in which deities seemed to be “thrown at” the reader. While reading through the Celtic World chapter in particular I had to stop a few times because the content was so condensed and multiple gods were introduced very quickly in such a way that it was really hard to keep up. I am someone rather familiar with these particular deities so the fact that I struggled to keep up is concerning in how I feel the average reader might perceive this or any other chapters. I felt this way with several other cultures in the book as well but I had wondered if my unfamiliarity with the deities was the issue, however, when I got to the Celtic chapters I realized that it was an overall writing style and it did not work for me. This writing style could likely have been remedied had this book been another 50-100 pages longer or so in length.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants some good basic information about a variety of different cultures and their practices of Paganisim following the Indo-European language patterns. I would caution them, however, that the content moves very quickly and that skimming the text may not be beneficial to good learning. While it may be enjoyable for some readers to focus on one culture in great depth forsaking the others, this book provides a lot of good information about neighboring cultures that help paint a more complete picture of what pagan faith was like in days of old. I believe that it is through understanding this history that modern pagans can respectfully honor the old ways in a modern world with genuine cultural acknowledgement.
Jones, Prudence, and Nigel Pennick. A history of pagan Europe. London: Routledge, 1997. Print.