“One Heart, Many Gods: The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Devotional Polytheism” authored by Lucy Valunos
Pagan books are often hard for me to enjoy. Too many times there is an overreaching problem with them; they’re classist, racist, or sexist- or they continue to encourage terrible history that we as a community battle against every day. Worst yet are the ones that demand to speak for the whole of Paganism regardless of its variance in traditions- or the ones who manage to be filled to the brim with thinly veiled (or often overt) Anti-Semitism, or general Anti-Christian and Anti-Monotheistic sentiments.
One Heart, Many Gods, however… Is a breath of crisp Autumn air. Recommended to me just yesterday by the lovely Katja, I flew through it this morning. The initial hope was actually that it would bore me enough to finally help me break this bout of insomnia. Imagine my surprise when I found myself glued to the screen of my Kindle.
Now it has some problems, don’t get me wrong. Like most books which are self published, the writing is spotty in places; without a doubt, it could certainly do with another once over for clarification and editing. Too, is the fact that Lucy does enjoy her bullet points- a feature I think the book could do without (but that’s a personal preference). I also disliked the fact that the author tends, in some areas, to reiterate multiple times that she will cover certain topics later on in the book, which gets a little annoying in places. However, this a problem which I think could actually be solved simply by reformatting the book and what order it approaches the topics in- the formatting in this aspect being another issue that I had with the book, as I felt like it addressed things in an order which made very little sense overall.
So it certainly has its bumps and I would consider it more a Diamond in the rough as opposed to a fully fleshed out professional quality book. But honestly, these are simply nitpicks from a Woman whose chief concern is always whether or not a book is well written on the most fundamental of levels: Grammar, Clarity, Formatting, and so on. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the less mistakes there are, the better the reading experience; a book’s content, in my opinion, can easily be (and often is) overshadowed by the way in which that content is presented to the reader.
Still, it says nothing about the content of the book itself- and in that right, this book truly shines; for the first time in my life, I have nothing truly negative to say about the actual meat and gristle of a book and those who have followed me for quite a while now know exactly how hard I tend to be on them.
The fact of the matter, though, is that Lucy hits all the criteria for an enjoyable, informative book on Devotional Polytheism.
Her tonality isn’t dry and boring. Instead, it is light and conversational in a way that few authors manage to truly achieve. She keeps a respectful distance from off the cuff humor, but knows how to make her words entertaining and enjoyable regardless. And while it’s clear that she’s written the book from the perspective of her own practice? It isn’t terribly oversharing of her personal relationships and experience- a trap that many authors tend to fall into when writing Pagan books from their own experiences. Lucy does a very wonderful job of providing just enough information about her practice to put the content into context, without bogging you down with irrelevancies that have you skipping pages.
Additionally, she knows the true balance between “not enough” and “too much” information, and she treads this water with a grace and skill that most “beginners” books that I have read lack; while I may not have agreed with all points, at no point in the book did I actually feel like a subject (once finally reached) was either too advanced or too uninformative- an issue that I frequently found myself encountering with Morgan Daimler’s book on Irish Polytheism. Furthermore, the suggestions she makes in the book are relevant, practical, and easy to digest and institute. They are also applicable to a wide variety of Traditions while still recognizing that established Traditions will sometimes have their own specific ways of doing things.
And that brings me to what it perhaps my favorite quality in this book: The sheer amount of recognition among its pages; Lucy not only keeps a careful, attentive eye on Cultural Appropriation despite making mention of various non-Pagan Traditions who share similar practices (such as Prayer Beads, which reading her section on honestly reminded me of my own- old and now removed- post about Pagan Prayer Beads in some ways)… But even better is the fact that she also does an incredibly wonderful job at recognizing and acknowledging all of those little intimate details that mean no Polytheist’s devotional practice will be the same (even within established Traditions)- whether it’s because of a Chronic Illness, a Graveyard Shift, or any such other issue.
I particularly enjoyed the encouragement as well; time and time again the pages of One Heart, Many Gods are filled with soft, encouraging and reaffirming words. She genuinely knows how to toe the line between proper practicality and respect while still leaving room for wiggle- and encouraging you along in your practice even if it doesn’t look like everyone else’s.
Hands down, Lucy Valunos has done what few Pagan authors have managed to do in a long time: Earn my complete adoration of her book, and my ultimate respect; I finished this book in less than half an hour, but it will certainly remain on my Kindle Shelf despite its brevity- though I would absolutely love to see it expanded upon and turned into a high quality Paperback… Despite how short it is, I feel like it would be a truly wonderful addition to physical shelves with the right reformatting and expansions.