Nature Mystics: The Literary Gateway to Modern Paganism
Pagan Portals – Nature Mystics traces the lives and work of ten writers who contributed to the cultural environment that allowed Modern Paganism to develop and flourish throughout the twentieth century. John Keats, Mary Webb, Thomas Hardy, Sylvia Townsend Warner, D.H. Lawrence, Elizabeth von Arnim, W.B. Yeats, Mary Butts, J.R.R. Tolkien and E. Nesbit.
Here's what other people have said about the book:
"This book is an important first: it brings the rich detail of the pagan sensibility in early twentieth-century novels to the modern reader. Paganism's spiritual ancestry is shown to be richer than we knew. We all know the names Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente, but how many of us know to cherish and appreciate Mary Butts, Sylvia Townsend Warner and Mary Webb? We learn too of the paganism in the heart of those greats John Keats, DH Lawrence and William Butler Yeats. By giving us extensive quotes and biographical summaries, Rebecca Beattie gives us an enjoyable introduction to these pagan 'ancestors'."
"...a wonderfully deft and vivid introduction to a broad range of distinguished British authors whose contribution to the making of modern Paganism is both considerable and little understood."
Professor Ronald Hutton
"Highly recommended. Nature Mystics: the Literary Gateway to Modern Paganism is a new and refreshing departure in Moon Books’ Pagan Portals series... Beattie’s book adds to the picture by spelling out Pagan tinged nature mysticism as a spirituality that is congruent with this quest, and also informed by it. I have still not read anything by Elizabeth von Arnim or Mary Butts, and before getting my review copy of this book, knew of them only through their links with other people. Now I’m encouraged to look at their work. I’ve been delighted to read a work that offers new information and a new lens. The writers concerned are a diverse and free-spirited group."
"I know the title makes it sound a bit academic, but it really isn't some dry text book for an English literature class. It is full of short biographies of women and men who found spirituality in nature and brief descriptions of the fiction they wrote that feels pagan and has influenced modern paganism.
Some of those authors will probably already be as familiar to you as they were to me, but I also expect you might find a few things about them that you didn't know. I read the E Nesbit books when I was a child and knew they were full of magical themes, but I didn't know she was an active member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
What I especially loved about Nature Mystics was finding out about wonderful books and writers I hadn't heard of before - in particular, Mary Webb and her novel Precious Bane.
"Reading Rebecca’s book it became clear to me that the author’s personal relationship with the natural world is a key part of how they write. For many authors, nature is just a backdrop for the human events being portrayed. An author who is sensitive to landscape and the natural world will write from a place of emotional engagement and that, in turn, has the power to help others connect and be inspired. Finding those emotional connections with nature can be the first move towards conscious Paganism.Nature Mystics sits well alongside Robert McFarlane’s Landmarks, which explores less fictionalised writing of the land. I find it especially valuable because of the invitation to step back and look at a whole host of bigger pictures. Paganism in the context of the fiction that went before it. Literature in the context of lives lived. Stories in the context of landscapes. At the same time, like Robert McFarlane, Rebecca also directs us towards the detail, the way precision in landscape writing creates reality, brings place forward as a character in its own right, grounds stories in something specific. The grand vistas and the intimate details are equally important in landscape and in writing. They cannot be separated without losing something important."
"This little book is a joy to read, delving into the lives and works of some well-known, and many lesser-known, British and Irish literary figures in search of the origins of contemporary Paganisms... Rebecca Beattie writes with admirable clarity about her chosen authors... It is a credit to Rebecca Beattie's own gifts as writer that, as I read her accounts of these literary figures, I often found myself thinking, “Hmm, I must look out for a copy of ...” whichever of their books she happened to be discussing at the time."