An Alternative Guide
to Health & Well-Being
by Irisanya Moon
I have always been a practical person, possessing a sense of self-preservation that has allowed me to live for over sixty years in relatively good health. When I saw this book, I was quite naturally intrigued. I expected to read about holistic ways of keeping oneself hale and hearty in body and mind and spirit, and I wasn’t disappointed in that at all. Practically Pagan: An Alternative Guide to Health & Wellbeing certainly delivers. The thing is – there isn’t very much about it that’s pagan. No mention of gods or goddesses or pagan ritual or any of that. There’s mention of spirituality but it could be any kind of spiritual practice. I’m not bringing this up as a criticism – I think it’s an asset. I just want to point out that there’s a bunch of people who might walk by this book because of the “Pagan” in the title – because of silly prejudices against Pagans – and they would sadly miss out on a wonderful self-help book.
Practically Pagan: An Alternative Guide to Health & Wellbeing is written by Irisanya Moon and published by Moon Books, an imprint of John Hunt Publishing. It’s available on Amazon for your Kindle or as a paperback. I read it on my laptop in my E-reader.
Irisanya Moon is a witch – part of the famous Reclaiming coven – working in the Bay Area in California. Her website is here ~~> https://www.irisanya.com/ Be sure to check it out – there’s a lot of information. There’s classes, workshops and witchcamps – some are now online-only because of COVID-19 – there’s a blog and of course links to order her other books. I am definitely going to buy her Aphrodite book soon – I have been a devotee of the Goddess of Love for many years.
Much of what I read in Practically Pagan: An Alternative Guide to Health & Wellbeing was not unknown to me, due to my own long-term association with both alternative religions and recovery. But I always enjoy reading a new book about how to take care of myself and how to better my health, be it my physical health, my mental health or my spiritual health. As I read, I found myself nodding my head in agreement. Like basic black, common sense never goes out of style!
I really liked the idea about making and keeping promises (pages 19-20). If you can’t keep a promise to yourself, just to whom can you keep a promise? I keep lists of things I want to do but I never really thought of my daily tasks as promises to myself. But getting out for a daily walk – no matter what the weather might be – is something I do on a daily basis. I realized, as I was reading, that this is a promise to get daily exercise that I keep. A promise to myself.
In the chapter, “Your Body as the Foundation”, Moon writes, “There is no one way, no right way to eat – no matter what you’ve been told.” (Moon, 32). I couldn’t agree more. We are bombarded with messages that we must eat this specialized diet or that particular food regimen or that all animal foods must be eliminated or whatever it is. But the fact is, we’re all different and what works for me might not work for you. Again, Moon’s common-sense approach to an often-contentious subject is refreshingly rare in these days of didactic diet advice.
I also agree with her statement: “Weight is not a measure of your health or worth.” (Moon, 36). While I agree with this entire discussion, I do wish that she had brought up the idiocy of BMI (Body Mass Index) chart. More than anything else, this chart has doomed thousands – if not millions – of people to being labeled as “overweight” – even “obese” – when they were perfectly healthy. Honestly, this is really my only true criticism of the entire book.
The next chapter is “Settling Your Mind” and after that is “Activating Your Spiritual Practice”. The two chapters somewhat go together in that you can’t have a decent spiritual practice without a settled mind. Even though the book is called “Practically Pagan”, there’s no talk of paganism or anything even remotely witchy in the spiritual practice chapter. Honestly, it reads like it was written by a Buddhist.
• When things are falling apart around you, go to your daily practice.
• When things are wonderful, go to your daily practice.
• When things are confusing, go to your daily practice. (Moon, 73)
Honestly, I’ve heard that from more than one Buddhist teacher. But never from anyone within the Pagan/Wiccan community. But it doesn’t really matter, right? It’s the truth – no matter who’s saying it.
I could really identify with the chapter, “The Myth of Balance.” As someone who has a diagnosis of Bipolar-1, I have gone through over thirty years of psychiatrists and therapists prescribing me medications and talking me through how to achieve “balance”. But as Moon writes, “It sounds today as though it is a static point where you arrive. But in truth, balance is the constant shifting of things to come back to balance. It might be perfectly aligned for a moment, but we have to make choices to come back to what balance looks like for us. And balance might just mean different things in different areas of our lives, in different times of our lives.” (Moon, 79). The truth is, there is no true balance ever – life is ever changing, and that is the way it is. Would anyone of us want to live with our moods a straight line of sameness all the time? I know I wouldn’t. Not to mention that to be a creative person, one must experience the full spectrum of moods – not just the safe ones in the middle of the extremes. Her exercises for finding balance in your own life are worth the time and effort. In some ways, they mirror other exercises that I have done in other therapies. But it’s always good to review and renew!
The remaining chapters are about keeping oneself strong and healthy in these times of social upheaval – removing toxic people from one’s life, if necessary and finding people who nourish you (page 98) and dealing with trauma (pages 117-18). The last two chapters list tools and support systems – always important in recovery or just for someone who wants to live a healthy life! The very last pages are dedicated to resources.
In all, I can’t recommend Practically Pagan: An Alternative Guide to Health & Wellbeing, by Irisanya Moon, enough. I am so glad I was given the chance to read it and review it for Pagan Pages. I only wish that I had the paperback version so I could set it on my bookshelf with my other recovery books! But the E-version is OK by me. I hope you all get out and find yourself a copy of this wonderful book.
Moon, Irisanya. Practically Pagan: An Alternative Guide to Health & Wellbeing. Winchester, UK:
Hunt Books, 2020.
About the Author:
Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.
Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan but she gets along with a few of the masculine deities. She loves to cook and she is a Bills fan.
She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.