How-To Use the Local Library (For Pagans)
Finding suitable books to expand your knowledge of the Occult, Metaphysical and Paganism is not always as easy as it would seem. Especially since we cannot always go right out to the local bookstore and spend $15.00-$20.00 on a book that we may or may not even enjoy.
So in this How-To Guide, I will give tips, ideas and pointers on how you can transform any local library into a Hall of Knowledge.
Tip #1: Use the Cross Reference System. The majority of books out there today can fit into more than one category. Say that for instance you are looking for books to help you begin your path into Dianic (Feminist) Wicca on the library's electronic card catalog and you happen upon Women's Rites, Women's Mysteries by Ruth Barrett. Under 'Subject' on the card catalog should be 1. Women-Religious Life, but along with that you are also given three more choices and all should be available for you to click and see the other books in the library with that subject as well. This is a fantastic way to find books that would really help you and that you might never think to look for. Talk about coming in handy!
Tip #2: Study History. Are you following a specific tradition or path within your Pagan studies (i.e. Asatru, Druidry, Hellenic, Kemetic, Buddhist, Hindu and more)? Great! Use that to find history books and mythologies on the Norse, Celts, Egyptians, Greco-Romans, Shamanic and Asian countries. The majority of today's Pagan practices are drawn from historical finds and the like and you are much more likely to get accurate details from a history book than regular Pagan books as well. The works of Carl Kerenyi, Jean Markale, Miranda Green, John amp; Caitlin Matthews, and Alexi Kondratiev are just some of the authors who write on the history of the Pre-Christian religions. For history of Witchcraft as a whole, I would search for encyclopedias on Witchcraft and/or Wicca (Raymond Buckland, Raven Grimassi and Rosemary Ellen Guiley all have encyclopedias worth reading). These will most likely be in the Reference section so you will not be allowed to check them out, but check with the Librarian, as not all rules are the same at every library.
Tip #3: InterLibrary Loan. This is a blessing of the US government! The InterLibrary Loan is a project that allows card members of local libraries to virtually borrow any book from any library around the United States. How wonderful is that! I have used this system to find books on Druidry that I couldn't even find in stores. It even saves you money. One of the books I really wanted off my Amazon Wishlist I ordered through the Loan and ended up hating it. Think of that $15 I saved! Sometimes this is free and sometimes you might have to pay a fee (I pay $2 per book) so please, speak with your local Librarian about all the fine print and take full advantage of this system. If you are in a certain tradition, I would check with the tradition's website, you are sure to find great Recommended Reading lists there and feel free to use that as a starting point for using the InterLibrary Loan. Imbas and The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids are just two organizations that have fantastic reading lists.
Tip #4: Search Words. Finding the right book is not always easy, especially when you are not sure what to search for to begin with. Below I have listed some of the best words to use while searching on the library's card catalog. Feel free to come up with more; the only limit is your imagination.
Occultism, Goddess Religion, Rites and Ceremonies, Spiritual Life, New Age Movement, Charms, Sabbat, Witchcraft Trials, Alchemy, Astrology, Astronomy, Divination, Fortune Telling, Hermetism, Jung, Kundalini, Magic, Numerology, History, Oracles, Prophecies Occultism, Spiritualism, Witchcraft, Wicca, Parapsychology, Supernatural, Celts, Witches, Pre-Christian, Druids, Druidism, Mythology, Paganism, Pagan, Neo-Paganism, Fairies, Arthurian, Legends, Geographical Myths, Manners and Customs, Folk Festivals, Holistic Medicine, Meditation, Herbalism, Metaphysics, Metaphysical, Crystals, Women's Studies, Folklore, Almanacs, and Seasonal Cooking.
Tip #5: Bibliographies. Just like the Cross Reference System, you can find wonderful books within books. Just use the bibliography in the back section of the book you are reading and you will find lists upon lists of books similar to the one you are holding. It is an excellent way to find books within your own local library or to use for the InterLibrary Loan.
I hope this will help Pagans see the magic in their local library, even if it does lie in the heart of the Bible Beat like mine. Begin putting these ideas and tips to work for you and I promise, you will not be sorry. Happy Hunting!