Monday, May 13, 2013

A Brief History of the Druids - Book Review

Book Reviews
Short book reviews on at least: 1 Indo-European studies title, 1 preferred ethnic study title and 1 modern Paganism title. These titles can be selected from the recommended reading list in the Dedicant Program manual or the ADF web site, or chosen by the student, with prior approval of the Preceptor. (325 word min. each)

            I was initially hesitant to read this book because of the shear amount of information it contains combined with the constant references to other material and inclusion of quotes from other sources.  However, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy this information was to understand and how well written this book was.  I believe that the book was divided into logical chapters and the sections seemed to make a lot of sense to me.   This book adequately gives an excellent historical account of the Celtic and Druid world and is honest about the lack of historical sources.  It is not filled with mystical fantasy like many of the books about Druids, however the mythology of the Druids is definitely acknowledged. 
            The book begins by exploring the Celtic world, including the spread of the Celtic people and the evolution of the Celtic language.  It also ties the Celtic people to other cultures, such as the Greeks and Romans.  It’s interesting to me to learn about the culture that was tied to the Druids to be able to further understand who they were.  The book continues on to explore the origins of the Druids.  They were first introduced to the world through Greek writers and were believed to be a caste in ancient Celtic civilization that was responsible for intellectual decisions and the wisdom of their people. 
            The book gives an interesting perspective, looking at the Druids through the eyes of different cultures, including the Greeks and Romans, philosophers, and other well-known figures such as Julius Caesar.  It then gives a view of the Druids through the eyes of the Celts.  It explores the differences between romanticized and realistic Druids and the roles Druids played in Celtic mythology.  It also briefly discusses the conversion of the Celts into Christianity. 
            I was pleasantly surprised to find an entire chapter dedicated to the role of women in Celtic society and the comparison to their role in other societies.  It was inspirational to read about a culture that allowed women to hold roles as both leaders and heroines.   The book then explores the religion of the Druids, including the worship of rivers and mountains and the fact that there is no recorded original creation myth.  It explores the importance of Dagda and Lugh, as well as the trinity worship that they participated in.  The book then progresses into the rituals of the druids, which seems to be similar to popular modern rituals, such as baptism and funerals.  However, it also touches on the idea of human sacrifices and the reasons that people believe whether or not they actually happened. 
            The eighth chapter of the book is the longest by far, discussing the wisdom of the Druids.  It discusses the different roles that they played in the Celtic society, which included philosophers, historians, poets, physicians, magicians, and so much more.  Any role in the Celtic society that was intellectual seems to have fallen on the Druids.  It was interesting to see how varied those roles were.  The book finishes with a brief account of the revival with the druids, starting with the classical revival. 

            Overall, I think this book is a fantastic resource.  It covers so many different aspects of the Druidic life and the history of the Celtic people.  There is so much that can be learned from this book.  The inclusion of passages from other authors, poems, and other important documents helps to make the information clearer and gives a background as to why the author has come to the conclusions that he has about the Druids.  (593 words)

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