Now we enter that topic of the ancient Druids.
First off, don't read any books before 1960, unless you are interested in Antiquarianism (p.s. many of these outdated books are being deceptively republished without changes).
Second, read the hard stuff first. Then, if you like, wander into the interpretations.
Third, always check their sources, many authors inadvertantly base their works on discredited sources.
IMPORTANT NOTE We have read almost all of the following books, and are in the process of procuring them for the Gould Library of Carleton College (the seminary of the Reformed Druids). As is always the case, your local library can often BORROW books from bigger libraries, so you needn't always purchase the books. However, I would recommend that you check the book carefully for poor scholarship before using them and send your opinions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Be sure to also check out the General Celtic page (mythology is there) and the Celtic Links page.
First a short version of the titles followed by a detailed list of the contents, ordering information, book descriptions and reader reviews
Previously the best survey available (first printed in 1966). Somewhat unfriendly to the culture it describes, but full of good data about the archeology and facts about the Druids. This book is the granddaddy of them all and has been in print for ages.
Although Piggott doesn't seem to like his subject much, he does give a very careful, scholarly synopsis of the historical material, especially the 18th- and 19th-century Druid Revival. Although he's dismissive of modern Druids (whom he calls "pathetic"), Piggott is still required
An excellent book, covering the archaeological, classical, and historical evidence concerning the Druids, both Paleopagan and Mesopagan, albeit in a very grouchy, Secular Humanist (all priesthoods are Evil) style.
This comprehensive study of the Druids offers a fresh look at the enigmatic and often controversial question of the role of these priests in Celtic society. The religion of Druidism is examined as an inheritance of Indo-European tradition, with intriguing analogies made between Irish and Roman cultic practices. The author identifies the functions of the ancient priests, providing an inventory of their duties and services. Druids are also defined in terms of their connections with other branches...
A more recent work than Piggott's, just as grouchy but multidisciplinary and informed by both Dumezilian theory and the latest scholarly research. He makes the excellent point that modern would-be Druids should be far more concerned about the imminent demise of Celtic languages and cultures than they usually are. A good guide to what we do and DON'T know about the Celts.
A commerically successful book by the ordinarily dry author. Written in the format of a murder mystery, it recounts the real discovery of several bog-bodies in southern England, evidence of ritual sacrifice and ties it into the period of Roman Invasion of England in 1st Century B.C. Her conclusion is that its the body of an elite Celt, possibly a Druid.
When a body was found preserved by the tannin in an ancient bog as someone was digging, archeologists and anthropologists and most importantly, a paleobiologist were called. The stomach contained the remains of the 30-year old man's last meal which consisted of a burnt bit of barley bread. The corpse was found to have been sacrificed in at least four different ways. Reconstruction of the circumstances surrounding this pagan ritual makes for fascinating
Reviewer: A reader from South Carolina November 17, 1999
A fascinating read! The fact that a completely intact body of a Druid, 1000's of years old was unearthed in a peat bog was a find in itself. How he got there is even more fascinating. This book is beautifully crafted in its presentation in that you are drawn into the discovery and summations first by the archeologist findings, then the anthropologists reconstruction, and most interesting, the paleobiologists conclusion. Amazing that they could learns so much! Positive proof of ritual death, the last meal, his clothing, and armor are priceless confirmations of history. -
One of the FIRST and BEST analysis of Druidism, paring away Modern Druidism from the ancient. It has most of the classical references in the original and literally translated. Recommended.
Excellent for her detail on showing the historical literature and its limitations on our interpretations of Druids. Her hard-headed approach is a usefull anecdote to flowery interpretations found in the preceding preriod. However this book has been since outdated by new archeological finds.
A good long essay on what the old Irish tales actually relate about the Druids.
For my money, this is the the single best introduction to the subject, by a noted Celtic scholar. It provides a solid historical overview, sympathetic coverage of modern groups, and lots of illustrations. Green has written a number of other books on Celtic religious and art history, all of them wonderful.
Over the years, many studies and groups have changed the public opnion of what the ancient Druids were like. These resources should help you understand the shifting image of Druidism, both among ancient and modern authors.
A rare book, but essentially for studying 19th century Bardism and Druidism. Mr. Nash carefully presents the Welsh originals and gives exact English translations. He then discounts most of the erroneous readings that have been absorbed into popular Fraternal organizations until this day.
An interesting overview ofpublic opinion of Druids as found in ancient and modern literature.
This anthology of historical material on ancient and modern Druids is very useful if you're interested in the 18th- and 19th-century Revival; the Classical material in the beginning of the book is rather thin. Like Matthews' other source books, this one relies heavily on works in the public domain--presumably so the publisher could avoid paying permissions fees--so the works of Celtic scholarship are rather dangerously outdated or suspect.
However this book is useful for understanding the development of the popular myths surrounding the Druids by modern readers.
An excellent overview of modern Welsh Barddism/Druidism and the historical underpinnings of Welsh poetry and its relationship to Nationalistic movements.
A rare book, but a very in-depth biography of William Stukeley, a man who sensationalized the Druids in 18th century literature, founded several fraternal Druid movements and irreversibly linked the Druids to Stonehenge in popular imagination.
In addition to some reprints, this book includes a number of translations of Old Irish texts of interest to modern Druids. Be wary of the Matthews' tendency to impose their own interpretations of "Celtic Shamanism" onto the texts. The translations themselves, however, are sound enough.
Everything by this author is just brilliant. I would even like to read her shopping lists! Here are all the names your looking for and some details about them.
Editorial Reviews (1) From Book News
In nearly seamless weave of archaeological and literary evidence, Green (archaeology and Celtic studies, U. of Wales) surveys the role of women in Celtic society and the representations and influence of the divine female in myth. Britain and Wales are her main focus, but she also considers Irish and continental Celtic people and encompasses a period from the earliest artifacts to the taming of goddesses into saints and historical figures. Well illustrated in black and white. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Reviewer: A reader May 16, 1997
Celts are big right now. Seems like everyone and their dog is claiming Scottish/Irish/whateverish ancestry, which neo-pagans and goths alike sport knotwork jewelry and call themselves things like Rhiannon and Cerridwen and so forth. And there are a lot of books out there, many of which are so sure in their assertions of things that happened millenia ago that you wonder where their bibliographies are.
Miranda Green has, in contrast, skillfully charted a path through myth, legend, history, and archeology to present us with a fairly brief, but overall comprehensive portrait of the divine feminine in the Celtic world. Drawing on sources as diverse as Welsh lore and ancient shrines buried beneath modern-day cathedrals, she illustrates the influence of goddesses in this ancient world, how their power was transmuted to that of saints with the dominance of Christianity, and how the pedestals on which they stood compare with the role of women in their society.
Green is also willing to leave certain questions open, to point out that current historical inquiry does have its limitations, and that there are many things about the Celtic world that we will likely never know. But from such well-known deities as Rhiannon, the Morrigan, and Blodduwedd, to lesser-known guardians of springs and hills, Greeen takes us on a guided tour of the Goddess as She was revered in this particular pre-Christian world
The ancient Celts were the greatest and most powerful of the early European peoples residing north of the Alps. Warlike, exuberant, and superstitious, they saw divinities in every facet of life and nature, venerating deities of the sun, thunder, water, war, healing, hunting, fertility, and death. They practiced human and animal sacrifice, and a powerful priesthood--the Druids--presided over much of their religious life. The Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend covers every aspect of Celtic myth, religion, and folklore in Britain and Europe between 500 BC and AD 400. In parallel with the fruits of archaeological research, the testimony of Classical writers and the earliest recorded versions of the pagan oral traditions of Wales and Ireland provide us with a complete overview of Celtic lore. This guide presents that knowledge in over 400 copiously illustrated articles, together with a comprehensive historical introduction.
From Book News, Inc. , June 1, 1990
Green (classics, Open Univ., Wales) has compiled an impressive list of statues, reliefs, and some coins that represent Celtic religious iconography in Gaul under Roman artistic influence, 500 B.C.-A.D. 400. The discussions are thematic: male and female images, the divine marriage, the natural world, and multiple images. What the book lacks is an idea--if not an inspired vision then at least an innovative concept of Celtic religious belief--for which her impressive list is evidence. She does make a few hesitant guesses as to what this or that attribute may signify; repeats the now safe theory that images were "desecularized" by deliberate distortion from what we (after the Romans) call normal perception; and silently assumes the imperial, bureaucratic notion that dieties had distinct departments and jurisdictions. But the jacket's promise of a "radical new interpretation" is unfulfilled. She has examined the stones closely and widely, but apparently has not seen the dieties within them, or the believers behind them. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or. --This text refers to the paperback edition of this title
Reviewer: email@example.com from Portland, Maine January 7,1998
Green manages to evoke some of the beauty and mystery of these religions while maintaining a careful focus on the historical record. As a serious student of Celto-Roman religion, I find this book one of the best I have bought, and I recommend it highly.
Reviewer: A reader from USA November 8, 1999
Definately not for the beginner in Celtic studies, while the book is archaic in some of its terminology and scholarism, it still offers a fairly good resource for those wshing to learn more about the Ancient Celts.
Reviewer: A reader from Leicester, England May 6, 1999
This book is firmly entrenched in 1930's archaeological theory. Ross uses Irish and Classical texts inacurately and then presents them as fact! This book has been reviled by the acedemic community, and rightfully so. DO NOT read this book if you want to learn anything about the 'real' Celts.
The author has written about various forms of Pre-Christian religions throughout Northern and Eastern Europe. This book makes a good lightweight overview from the Meso-lithic era to about 1000A.D.
Of great interest to those not knowledgeable of the daily life, appearence and institutions of the Celts . LIke Jackson:s book, it shows the agreement of classical, early Irish and archeological sources on the material life of the Celts. Very well illustrated and footnoted.
Although outdated (originally written in early 20th cent), it still is a good read and may encourage further study on the religious borrowings between the Celts and their viking invaders.
Editorial Reviews The publisher, firstname.lastname@example.org , August 14, 1998
In this unique study, the author compares Celtic mythology and religion with the beliefs of early Scandinavian society.
Vikings and Norsemen who raided British shores ruled parts of Britain for centuries. The religion of the Scandinavians was the same as the religious beliefs and practices of their fellow Teutonic and Germanic tribes, and their chief deities and religious rituals were like those of Teutonic people anywhere.
Characteristically, their gods were not invisible nor theoretical, but rather were based on phenomena which they could see or which seemed to positively affect their lives in one way or another: for example, the sun and moon and fire. And they had no interest in sacrifices nor did they have Druids to regulate worship or religious rituals.
Scandinavian sources are fairly abundantŃthe poetry and prose of the Eddas, literature which is evoked by Wagnerian opera. In addition, readers will find that the sections of this volume that deal with Scandinavian religion also serve as anintroduction to Old Norse texts.
As he does in all his mythological studies, MacCulloch describes the complexities of disparate religions with the utmost clarity.
Despite its date (recently republished) it was one of the first level headed examinations of the Celtic religion based on reliable evidence and accounts. It also contains chapters on irish mythology and modern folk customs persisting until 1900 in the Celtic countries.
Much better than the antiquarian books of its era. Possibly the first sensible approach to Druidism by relying on historical records instead of upon popular tradition. However, it is now terribly outdated.
While many Neo-Pagans study early Celtic Christianity in the hopes of finding pre-Christian beliefs, they tend to neglect the fact that Celtic Christianity is a very present thing and that most modern Celts are very satisfied with the current Christian faiths.
A little old now, but a good reliable introduction to the quesiton of whether the Celtic church incorporated pre-Christian elements.
Reviewer: Vanessa Hammond (email@example.com from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada September 30, 1999
The editors have assembled, organized and introduced a rich collection of the prose and poetry of Christians from Brittany, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Although many of the works are translated from modern or ancient Breton, Irish, Welsh and Scottish Gaelic and from Latin, all flow with grace and feeling. The works from over a thousand years ago provide profound insights on the issues we face today and on how we can address our local problems through the love of all creation. The modern works are intensely personal but all have the ability to touch readers far from the Celtic homelands. A wonderful introductin to Celtic, Christian or Celtic Christian literature and an excellent springboard for wider studies.
Readers unfamiliar with the geography and history of the Celtic lands might wish to read with a map in hand and balance the anthological approach with the works of J.Phillip Newell, David Adam,John O'Donohue, Edward Sellner, Thomas Cahill and Peter Berreesford Ellis.
Reviewer: A reader from Fort Lauderdale, Florida
This collection has become a sourcebook for those interested in Celtic Christianity and even in pre-Christian ritual. I use it frequently as a reference to find out common folk themes running through Christianity on the fringe. The tradition was dying out when Carmichael chronicled it, and now the richness of imagining is preserved for future generations. If you are interested in spirituality, particular in Scotland, you must get this book!
A comprehensive and richly illustrated examination of Celtic traditions and their continuity and relevance to the present day. 130 color photos.
Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom offers an exploration of the secret universe we all carry inside us, the connections we forge with the worlds of our friends and loved ones, and the products of our worlds reflected in the things we create outside of ourselves. Anam Cara, Gaelic for "soul friend," is an ancient journey down a nearly forgotten path of wisdom into what it means to be human. Drawing on this age-old perspective, John O'Donohue helps us to see ourselves as the Celts did: we're more than just flesh, blood, and bone; we comprise individual worlds. The comprehension of the sublime architecture of the worlds we are born with will engender a new appreciation for the outside world and the way we contribute to its evolution. --This text refers to the hardcover edition of this title
From Booklist , July 19, 1997
The Gaelic title refers to the "soul-friend," a lovingly stern companion to whom you can, in stringent honesty, unburden your heart as you move toward enlightenment. O'Donohue positions himself to be that soul's companion for readers who yearn for a spirituality that is accepting of bodily wisdom but does not deny the power of the Christian vision. The Celts--well, the Irish, anyway--grappled with that yearning more than a millennium ago. Irish traditional ways were never subjected to the kinds of discouragement--racks, skewers, lions, and the like--practiced on the continent and so were able to wed pagan sensuality to the ethical challenges of the new creed. Reperforming that marriage, O'Donohue is as much at ease with Heidegger as with Yeats, with Rilke as with Jung, as he discourses on solitude, work, love, and death and works snippets of ancient Irish poetry seamlessly into the fabric of his text. Eloquent and learned, O'Donohue is more than just another Paddy-come-lately cashing in on River Dance era Celtophilia. He is the real thing: a poetic priest with the soul of a pagan. Patricia Monaghan Copyright© 1997, American Library Association. All rights reserved
seful summary of the Scottish conversion and mention of SIXTH century Druids
Okay for the early Celtic church, but doesn't actually talk about the Druid hypothesis at all.
Read about the slave (born in Wales) who claims to have converted the Irish, in his own words, or at least through the writings given to us three centuries later by Christian scribes.
If you have questions or advice on the materials discussed here, or if you have more resources to add; email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
This page was created in March, 2000 c.e. No copyright by presenter, excerpts taken from Amazon and various other cited sources.
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