In this section I present a few words from some favorite indexers regarding thoughts they have on the indexing of religious or spiritual texts.
First up is Sylvia Coates. Sylvia has been indexing for over 20 years and is currently teaching the curriculum she developed for UC Berkeley's Extension course for indexers. Sylvia has indexed a tremendous number of books, many of them within the field of religious studies.
"I have several different indexing specialties but one of my favorites is that of religious studies. I enjoy this type of work which explores issues of morality, free will, personal development, religious history and the nature of good and evil among other fascinating topics."
"Most of these projects I've worked on have been published by either university presses or non-university scholarly presses and authored by philosophers, religious sociologists, and theologians. It would be difficult to name a single favorite author as I've enjoyed so many of these projects. Each one has enriched me in a very individual way and I have experienced a real satisfaction in exploring these topics through the different perspectives of each author."
Next is Sara-Jayne Donaldson, in Scotland. Sara does genealogy work, is an editor for the Tarot Association of the British Isles and enjoys indexing books dealing with mind/spirit/body. In this selection she explains how her background has helped her in her work:
"I decided to index spiritual and paranormal texts, amongst my other specialities, as these are areas which have fascinated me since childhood. I was always drawn to the unexplained areas of life - many homes we occupied seemed to have their own ghostly presence and this, along with innate psychic abilities, was something taken for granted within our family. The more I read the more I wanted to learn and as a result I have years of experience with all things paranormal. Spirituality raised its head around ten years ago when I came to realise that my path was and always had been one of pagan sensibilities. I have further specialities of Wicca and Tarot as these are special to me and as a Tarot reader I can understand what is needed in a good index much more readily than a layman."
"When training I completed a few journal indexes, but my favourite has to be the index for the Tarot Association of the British Isles (TABI) e-zine. This is ongoing, but it has opened my eyes to the many different aspects of the Tarot and how it can mean many different things to many people. Indexing paranormal and "New Age" books is extremely rewarding, as each one can open your eyes to a different point of view and lead you along a whole new path of knowledge."
Here is a fascinating entry from expert in Judaica indexing, Shoshana Hurwitz. Most indexers take about three years to get their businesses in place once they've launched their careers, but Shoshana hit the ground running and became successful right away.
She's a great inspiration!
"I definitely fell into Judaica indexing by accident -- it is a field that requires an extensive amount of background knowledge on the subject, and having gone to Orthodox schools all the way through college, I was an ideal candidate without even realizing it at first. The few other Judaica indexers I met while I was doing my training thought of me when they had extra work, and were a really big help in getting my foot in the door with some Jewish publishers/authors, which in turn gave me the indexing experience I needed to start making connections with other publishers."
"These days, about 2/3 of my business is in Judaica indexing and editing, and I love it -- I learn something new every day about my religion through the books I get to work with, and get paid for it too!"
"One challenge that may be unique to the field of Judaica publishing is working with transliterations in manuscripts. There is a lot of Hebrew in the books I work with, but there does not seem to be a standard as far as spellings go when Hebrew words are transliterated into English letters, which is frustrating for us editors! From the perspective of indexing, transliterations pose a problem as well because the indexer does not always know the book's readership and whether they will look in the index under a term's English translation or its transliteration -- which is where the indexer's knowledge of double-posts and cross-posts come in handy!"
Kate Mertes of Virginia is a prolific indexer with various specialties, one being in the field of theology. She has written The Queen of Sciences: Indexing Theology and Disciplines Related to Religion -- which also appears as a chapter in the book Index It Right! Advice from the Experts, Volume 1, edited by Enid L. Zafran.
Kate recounts :
"I started out as a medievalist specializing in socioeconomics, but if you are interested in the middle ages you've got to be aware of the role of religion in its daily life. I've always been interested in matters of faith (I used to build my own altars out of cardboard boxes and gift wrapping paper tubes as a child), and as a graduate student I spent four years as a lay member of a Dominican monastery in Scotland. I taught church history and medieval Latin at Blackfriars College, Oxford, for several years and while there I earned a post-doctoral degree in systematic theology. Since most of my work is scholarly, I generally get offered texts on theology, religious and church history, and philosophy of religion."
"I'm probably most comfortable working on books in my own tradition of Roman Catholicism - I know the vocabulary and thought patterns. But I've done a good deal of Judaica, which I really enjoy and which gives me the chance to use some Hebrew, and I enjoy working on Eastern philosophies of religion because their starting points are so different from my own spiritual background. A favorite recent book was on some of the more heterodox Christ-based religious sects throughout history, from the Gnostics to the Theosophists."
"I've done a quite a bit of work on Thomist texts for Sapientia Press, and since my earliest religous training was Thomist, it really awakened my interest in reexamining those roots. I do a lot of work for the Canon Law Society of America, including the most recent commentary on the Code of Canon Law, which has given me a lot of insight into the workings of my own Catholic tradition. I've also been fortunate to work on three biblical indexes, which meant I've to read right through the Bible three times with an indexer's eye - you notice a whole different set of nuances when you read it that way."
"Three of my favorite publishers are Sapientia Press, a Catholic Press out of Ave Maria University who are just a joy to work with; The Canon Law Society of America, who have sent me a lot of interesting work and who really care about quality indexes; and Liberty Fund, which publishes a lot of new editions of historical texts - they produce some fascinating volumes and are great to work with."
"One of these days I would REALLY like to do a standalone index to the Bible, perhaps as a joint project with other indexers. There is no really comprehensive index - although I've worked on three, they've all had restrictions and were not full indexes to the biblical content - and it's a real lack in the field."
Kay Banning is an active member of the American Society of Indexers. She holds indexing workshops across the country and has participated in many seminars. Kay explains how indexing religious texts became one of her specialties:
"I have been indexing in the humanities and social sciences for 19 years. My subject specialties have developed out of my experience and interests. I have always been fascinated by religious studies and took a few classes when I was an undergraduate. Whenever offered a book that concentrated on one religion, compared religions, or discussed spiritual and meditative processes, I would snap it up. With this approach I developed a varied list of titles I have indexed to show prospective authors. I've had the opportunity to index religious studies in scholarly books, textbooks, and trade books. I enjoy exploring the multiple perspectives that these different types of books offer. Trade books give me a general view, scholarly books take an in-depth approach and textbooks offer a good overview."
Janice Flatoff of Wisconsin is one of those angelic indexers who contribute much useful advice to the various indexing forums. In this piece Jan comments on the connection between indexing and her work as a Lutheran Church librarian:
"When one indexes a book one becomes very closely acquainted with it, much more so than with reading it for pleasure, and thus learns the subject matter very well. So it's a joy to index a book in an area that I have a special interest in. (By the time I'm done indexing it, I know the material very well!) What I learn in books about religion or spirituality can also enhance my life. As an added bonus, I can "preview" possible additions to my church library (I'm the librarian)."
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