Book Review: The Balance of the Two Lands
The Balance of the Two Lands: Writings on Greco-Egyptian Polytheism
H. Jeremiah Lewis
Bibliotheca Alexandrina; CreateSpace (June 3, 2009)
Heh — the review I wrote about just before this one, incidentally, was about the blending of multiple religions! Go figure. However, whereas ChristoPaganism was about modern mixing of neopaganism and Christianity, The Balance of the Two Lands is a different critter indeed! It would seem that among some (not all!) reconstructionists and other highly scholarly pagans, there’s a deep bias against mixing traditions — if you’re a Celtic reconstructionist who happens to get a calling from one of the Lwa of Vodou and answer it, then you can’t really be a Celtic reconstructionist any more according to some folks. Worse yet, you might be considered — an eclectic! Horror of horrors!
Yet eclecticism is a very different concept from syncreticism, which is what this particular book deals with. Syncreticism is a much more deliberate and researched effort than the buffet-style picking and choosing of eclecticism (which can still work quite well for some people in its own right, for the record). Lewis (aka Sannion), over a period of years, found himself courted both by the Greek and Egyptian pantheons and their respective traditions, and spent time in each religious community independently — with each telling him that he couldn’t go to the other and still be genuine. But he found a definite precedent for Greco-Egyptian syncreticism, most famously in the Ptolemies of Egypt — and this book is the result of years of research and practice to that effect.
There’s not a whole lot about modern Greco-Egyptian polytheistic syncreticism out there, and much of what does exist has been written by Lewis himself, as well as other folks, particularly through Neos Alexandrina. If you want a good dead-tree textbook to have on hand both for theory and ideas to formulate practice, this is a great option. Lewis’ essays run the gamut from hard research about the original syncretic practices, to what it is that modern Greco-Egyptian syncretists can do in daily practice.
As with the other Bibliotheca Alexandrina texts I’ve reviewed (and you’ll find all of the current titles on my review blog except for Unbound and Echoes of Alexandria), I found this to be a breath of fresh air when it comes to the research. So many pagan texts today are based on half-assed “scholarship”; Lewis has most thoroughly done his homework, both in finding information and in interpreting it in a practical manner. You don’t need to worry about squishy-soft polytheism or claims of ancient Greco-Egyptian UFOs here. Bibliotheca Alexandrina, as a publisher, has represented itself well with its high standards of research, and this book is no exception.
In short, if you want to study and/or practice Greco-Egyptian syncretic polytheism in the 21st century, this will be an invaluable text to you. Highly recommended.
Five pawprints out of five.
Review ©2009 by Lupa
Edited by Sheta Kaey
Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.