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MASKS OF MISRULE - The Horned God and his Cult in Europe

By Nigel Jackson, published by Capall Bann at £9.95. 168pp. ISBN: 1-898307-67-9

Amidst the plethora of Goddess books of the past 20 years, the God (Horned or otherwise) has been neglected by just about every writer on paganism. Which, for a spirituality which claims to recognise a duality of deity, is strange to say the least.

Masks of Misrule sweeps through a reconstruction of old European shamanism, the records of the 16th-17th century witch trials, assorted folklore (especially the Green Man and Wild Man of the Woods in all his guises), Indo-European and Finno-Ugric mythology, men's secret societies and medieval and later demonology to examine both the bright and dark aspects of the God - the Green Lord of the Wildwood and the Lord of the Wild Hunt. There is, in short, a lot of material and ideas here.

The main difficulty of this book for me is that there is little new - and what there is often difficult to disentangle from all the stuff you've read before elsewhere. Unfortunately Jackson is one of those writers who tends to make sweeping statements without feeling the need to provide references or a bibliography so that the reader can check out his sources - which, while unacknowledged, are recognisable for those who've read them. If, as we are presumably expected to assume, much of this is hitherto unpublished "Old Craft" stuff from secretive traditions, why does Jackson not simply say so? Or if he has drawn together strands from previously published sources, why is he so reluctant to name them? Perhaps there is a clue in his use of the words "Traditional Weikka".

Jackson's style of writing and his use of language is distinctive and will not be to everyone's taste - at its worst it is little better than mock-archaic ranting, while at its best it manages to find a poetic quality which is both powerful and evocative and which could do much to improve the infantile doggerel which passes for invocation and ritual poetry in most other books. This book is worth considering - both for Jackson's inspired and inspiring woodcut-style artwork, and as a counter-balance to all the fluffy Goddess-stuff currently available.