This book is a wonderful study of Pagan and Neo-Paganism. This is maybe the third book I have read on the subject and now I know that I am on the right path. The Craft is a way of life without the medieval notions of sin and guilt. Religion with out dogmas and the egotisim that denies freedom. A living breathing religion that is alive and growing. It's about being yourself, of feeling comfortable. This book gives views and philosophies on different ways of Goddess worship around the country. It includes a pretty big resource guide, although some of the resources may be out of date today. The book covers the growth of men's spirituality, feminism, society's views on Pagan religions, living with nature, Craft values, views on politics, science and technology, and how people as Pagans live and work in the world today. I agree with alot of the philosophies and some I did not. But that is part of the beauty of the Craft, you don't have to agree! "Society's violence begins at the place where creativity and self-expression is controlled". As a person who is new to this wonderful, natural way of life, I would highly recommend this book to others who seek refuge from the arrogant belief in "One Way". Of coarse, I am also recommending this book to a friend who has been in the Craft years longer then I, and has not yet read it. So it is an awesome read I believe for everyone.
Some people complain this book is too long. Hardly. Adler could add more good information and I'd read it all. Others say it is too dry. I rarely skipped anything. Still others say it is outdated. I reply by saying that this is an excellent view into the times when paganism wasn't a fad, before Ravenwolf and Cunningham came on the scene, before pagan books were written to make money.
Not only does Adler's book detail various types of the Craft from Gardnerian to Dianic, but also highlights lesser-known groups such as the Feraferians and NROOGD (New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn). For this alone it is an invaluable book, for where else can you find a book that isn't about Wicca or sugarcoated spellcraft?
This book is a classic, and should be read, if nothing else, for its historical value. It reminds us that, just 15 years ago, things were quite different. Wicca wasn't officially recognized, nor was it as prominent as it is now. The media was harsher on pagan religions, and there was less acceptance. We tend to take for granted the freedom we have today. I have been in practice for only three years, and yet I know that those who have come before me had a bitchier time than I have.
Also, it is often a shock to some to find that not all neopagans are liberals or libertarians, as the questionaires that Adler has given pagans have shown us. And the wide range of occupations held is also quite a fascinating thing to find in the pagan community.
And yes, Adler does tend to focus more on the Goddess, but perhaps that is more how Wicca was back then. Also, I have heard "Goddess bless" from more Wiccans than I have heard "Lord and Lady bless". There IS a marked leaning towards the Goddess, even today. I don't agree with it--I prefer a balance between the God and Goddess--but it is perfect for some people, and perhaps it was acceptable for a lot of people Adler interviewed.
So read this book, if nothing else, for its informative value. Yes, it is a big book, and it isn't "The Mists of Avalon." But it is well worth the time and effort given into reading it.