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HomeDruid, Reviews Recommended Reading


Recommended Reading

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(Note from Daven:  This is a simple listing of books that may be good for those who are interested in reading about the Celts, their culture, history, religion, and culture.  Despite your studies in Druidry, one should read everything about the Celts, since you can’t separate the religion from the culture.)

Recommended Reading on Celtic History, Culture & Religion

Pre-Celtic & Indo-European Studies –

J.P. Mallory, In Search of the Indo-Europeans, 1989

Peter Harbison, Pre-Christian Ireland: From the Earliest Settlers to the Celts, 1988

Stuart Piggott, Ancient Europe: A Survey, 1965

Stuart Piggott & G. Clark, Prehistoric Societies

Stuart Piggott, The Neolithic Cultures of the British Isles, 1954

Aubrey Burl, Prehistoric Avebury, 1979

Sarunas Milisauskas, European Prehistory, 1978

Jacquetta & Christopher Hawkes, Prehistoric Britain, 1953

Jacquetta Hawkes, History in Earth and Stone, 1952

Phillip Van Doren Stern, Prehistoric Europe: From Stone Age Man to the Early Greeks, 1969

Colin Renfrew, Archaeology & Language: The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins1, 1987

Colin Renfrew, Before Civilization: The Radiocarbon Revolution & Prehistoric Europe, 1973

T.L. Markey & A.C. Greppin, When Worlds Collide: Indo-Europeans & Pre- Indo-Europeans (The Bellagio papers), 1990

Iron-Age Britain & Ireland –

K.H. Jackson, The Oldest Irish Tradition: A Window on the Iron Age, 1964

B.W. Cunliffe, Iron-Age Communities in Britain, 1978

D.W. Harding, The Iron Age in Lowland Britain, 1974

A.C. Thomas, ed., The Iron Age in the Irish Sea Province, 1972

Myles Dillon, Early Irish Society, 1954

Celtic History & Culture –

T.G.E. Powell, The Celts, 1958

Nora K. Chadwick, The Celts, 1971

Nora K. Chadwick, Celtic Britain

Lloyd Laing, Celtic Britain, 1979

Lloyd & Jennifer Laing, Celtic Britain and Ireland, 1990

Myles Dillon & Nora K. Chadwick, The Celtic Realms, 1969

Jean Markale, Celtic Civilization, 1976

Jan Filip, Celtic Civilization and Its Heritage, 1962

Anne Ross, Pagan Celtic Britain: Studies in Iconography and Tradition, 1967

James Simon, The World of the Celts, 1993

Ronald Hutton, The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles, 1991

Stuart Piggott, The Druids, 1968

T.D. Kendrick, The Druids: A Study in Keltic Prehistory, 1927

Seumas MacManus, The Story of the Irish Race, 1921

Seán P. ó Ríordain, Antiquities of the Irish Countryside, 1942, 1968

E.G. Bowen, Britain and the Western Seaways: A History of Cultural Interchange Through Atlantic Coastal Waters, 1972

Gerhard Herm, The Celts, 1975

Ward Rutherford, The Druids and Their Heritage2, 1985

Ward Rutherford, Celtic Lore3, 1993

Sabatino Moscati, ed., The Celts, 1991

Christine Eluhre, The Celts: Conquerors of Europe, 1993

Celtic Mythology –

Jeffery Gantz, ed., Early Irish Myths and Sagas, 1981

Jeffery Gantz, ed., The Mabinogion, 1976

Kenneth H. Jackson, ed., A Celtic Miscellany, 1951

T.W. Rolleston, Celtic Myths and Legends, 1917

Jeremiah Curtin, Myths and Folk Tales of Ireland, 1890

W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, A Treasury of Irish Myth, Legend, and Folklore, 1986

Myles Dillon, Early Irish Literature, 1948

W.Y. Evans Wentz, The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries, 1911

Proinsias McCana, Celtic Mythology, 1968

A.G. Van Hamel, Aspects of Celtic Mythology, 1934

John Arnott MacCulloch, Celtic Mythology, 1918

Thomas F. O’Rahilly, Early Irish History and Mythology, 1946

Alwyn Rees & Brinkley Rees, Celtic Heritage, 1961

Alexander Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica: Hymns and Incantations, 1992

David Bellingham, An Introduction to Celtic Mythology, 1990

Frank Delaney, Legends of the Celts, 1989,1991

Anne Ross, Folklore of the Scottish Highlands, 1976

Barbara Ker Wilson, Scottish Folktales and Legends, 1954

Joseph Jacobs, Celtic Fairy Tales, 1968

Charles Squire, Celtic Myths and Legends, 1994

Douglas Hyde, A Literary History of Ireland, 1899

H.R. Ellis Davidson, Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe, 1988

Miranda J. Green, Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend, 1992

Peter Berresford Ellis, Dictionary of Celtic Mythology4, 1992

Peter Berresford Ellis, Dictionary of Irish Mythology4, 1987

The Picts & Celtic Scotland –

F.T. Wainwright, The Problem of the Picts, 1955

Isabel Henderson, The Picts, 1964

Evan W. Mackie, Scotland: An Archeaological Guide, 1975

H.M. Chadwick, Early Scotland, 1949

Britain and Gaul Under Rome –

Gladys May Durant, Britain: Rome’s Most Northerly Province, 1969

Peter Hunter Blair, Roman Britain and Eraly England: 55BC-AD871, 1963

O. Brogan, Roman Gaul

Lindow Man –

Don R. Brothwell, The Bog man and the Archeaology of People, 1987

nne Ross & Don Robins, The Life and Death of a Druid Prince, 1989

Pre-Celtic Megaliths and Stone Circles –

Jean-Pierre Mohen, The World of Megaliths, 1990

Aubrey Burl, The Stone Circles of the British Isles, 1976

Aubrey Burl, Rings of Stone, 1979

John Edwin Wood, Sun, Moon, and Standing Stones, 1978

Irish Language and Grammar –

Myles Dillon, Irish, 1961

Myles Dillon, Teach Yourself Irish, 1979

The Classical Writers

Ammianus Marcellinus, History

Strabo, Geography

Diodorus Siculus, History

Julius Caesar, The Conquest of Gaul5

Tacitus, Annals

Tacitus, The Agricola and Germania6

Herodotus, The Histories

Livy, The Early History of Rome

Livy, The War With Hannibal

Polybius, History

Plutarch, The Fall of the Roman Republic

Notes –

1 The reader should be forewarned that the opinions expressed by Renfrew in this book are far from the conventional wisdom. Many flaws have been pointed out in his details, and his ideas in this area are not favored by myself or very many other Indo-Europeanists. Still, this book does offer a fresh look at the problem and does pose some interesting questions.

2 Rutherford’s first book dealing with the Celts and the Drúidh was an admirable look at the state of our current knowledge, arranged in a very straightforward manner, and offering a newcomer’s fresh eye. Yet, one must keep in mind that Rutherford is only what I would call a ‘middling’ historian. He often tends to slip into areas of supposition and guesswork without acknowledgement of such to the reader.

3 In this, Rutherford’s latest look at the Celts, his tendency towards sometimes outrageous supposition is stretched even further. Most of this book is pure guesswork, or facts and theories taken out of context. The advanced reader should be able to see this themselves, yet this is far from a book for the unwitting beginner to start with. Some interesting opinions and ideas, yet only opinions and ideas.

4 The Works of Peter Berresford Ellis can be useful as simple reference, yet I have note a considerable number of mistakes and misinterpretations. Always check anything from his books with secondary sources before taking it as truth.

5 A Note on Julius Caesar’s Conquest of Gaul: When reading Caesar one must keep in mind that he was not a historian, but rather a cunning military man and master politician. The letters that make up the Conquest were written and sent back to Rome as propaganda. They, like the entire cnquest itself were nothing more to him then tools to greater strength and power at home. The events and numbers given in the Conquest were greatly exaggerated in an attempt to make his victories seem even greater. (At one point in his narrative, he claims to have destroyed a tribe down to the last person, and yet later fights a monumental battle against huge numbers of the same.) Thus, when reading Caesar, take his statements with a few pounds of salt.

6 A note on Tacitus: Tacitus’ Annals are a very reliable look at the British Drúidh, yet the Agricola is not, as it is filled with a “soft Primitivism” towards the Celts.

A Note on “Hard” and “Soft” Primitivism:

For those readers who may be unfamiliar with the terms, Primitivism is a way of looking at a culture that is less ‘advanced’ than your own. When studying ‘primitive’ (or as Joseph Campbell calls them, ‘Primary’) cultures, usually one of two outlooks are used.

“Hard” Primitivism has the tendency to look at a less developed culture through a very critical and usually negative lens. A historian who approaches a culture in this frame of mind is more likely to point out the drawbacks and flaws of the peoples he studies; he takes a more critical stance in his reporting of what he sees. Thus, with “Hard” Primitivism, we more often will receive a more accurate view of the culture; we have the opportunity to observe it on its bad days as well as its good.

However, “Soft” Primitivism usually takes the ‘Noble Savage’ approach to reporting history. A historian who tends to view his subject cultures in this manner will usually only report the positive aspects of the people he observes, de-emphasizing the negative. In some cases the negative aspects of the culture is ignored, and in others it is actively altered to present a more acceptable view. Thus, with “Soft” Primitivism we do not tend to receive an accurate picture of a given cultural group.

At the simplest level, “Hard” Primitivism tends to report history “as-it-is”, whereas “Soft” Primitivism tends to report history “as-it-is-wished-for”.

A Note On The Classical Writers:

Celtic Scholars generally classify the classical writers according to two basic schools of thought…The Posidonius Tradition, which tends to take the more reliable “Hard” Primitivism view of history, and the Alexandrian Tradition, which follows the less reliable (and some sy wholely unreliable) stance of “Soft” Primitivism.

The Posidonius Tradition- The writings of Posidonius, which have mostly been lost to us, are among the most accurate of the classical references to the Keltoi. The “Hard” Primativism of Posidonius (who wrote his Histories about the end of the second century B.C.E.) and of Strabo (c. 63 B.C.E to C.E. 21) who had known Posidonius personally, as well as Diodorus Siculus (c. 60 B.C.E. to 30 B.C.E.) are the most reliable, as each of these was a true historian writing about history, culture, and geography. Athenaeus (c. C.E. 200) was a gourmet compiling information on ethnography only so far as it affected his subject. Of all the “Hard” Primativism writers, Julius Caesar is to be taken the most carefully. While he used Posidonius as a source, he also added many items of other origin as well. It is also important to not that he was certainly not a historian, but rather a military man and politician interested only in power and status in Rome, and thus his texts are notibly distorted in areas. Also, of lesser importance are, Ammianus Marcellinus (Fourth Century C.E.) who quotes Timagenes (1st century B.C.E.); Lucan (1st century C.E.), as a poet discribing Caesar’s campaigns; Pomponius Mela (1st Century C.E.), Quoting Posidonius; The Eldar Pliny (1st century C.E.) discusses Drúidh magic and folk medicine; and Tacitus in the Annals gives a “Hard” look (and the only look) at the British Drúidh.

The Alexandrian Tradition – In all of the Alexandrian historians’ “soft” Primativism studies of the Keltoi, there can be found no new information or first-hand experience. Most rely upon often misused parts of others’ works and even more appallingly on mere rumor. Writers such as Dio Chrysostom and Hippolytus, Diogenes Laertius and Polyhistor, as well as early church fathers Clement, Cyril and Origen, writing up to the third century C.E. are unreliable as they are presenting the Drúidh-as-wished-for rather than the Drúidh-as-known.

A Warning Concerning Non-Historical Sources –

There are today hundreds of books being published that claim to be the historically authentic teachings of the Keltoi or the Druids, or purport to know the ‘secrets’ of Merlin. However, these books, written by unscholarly (and often unscruppulous) persons and intended for consumption by an unknowledgable (and often rather gullible) Pagan public, are not only misleading, but are outright trash.

Do not misunderstand me, if someone wishes to believe that the Kelts were space aliens and the Drúidh came from Pluto, that is fine with me, but I get Highly upset when these folk try to tell people that the garbage that they are shoveling is historical.

The works of people such as John and Caitlín Matthews, while interesting, are far from being historically authentic. The Matthews, with books such as The Celtic Shaman and Mabon and the Mysteries of Britain offer their own ideas and opinions on certain Keltic issues, yet they are only ideas and opinions, not fact as they so often seem to imply. Like so many other quasi-historians seem to be pick and chose the evidence that supports their already preconcieved theories and beliefs about the Kelts. That is not an acceptable way to conduct a historical study. Their works are thus highly suspect.

As well that the reader avoid any book that has been published by the Pagan and New Age presses (such as Aquarian and Llewellyn). These are not scholarly works by true historians of Keltic history, culture, and religion. Books such as The Twenty-one Lessons of Merlyn, The Sacred Caulron, Practical Celtic Magic, Celtic Magic by D.J. Conway, The Book of Druidry, Witta: An Irish Pagan Tradition, and Phillip Car-Gomm’s The Druid Tradition (whish is particularly laughable), among many others are nothing short of fantasy.

You will have greater success in learning about the real, historiacal Kelts if you stick to the works of true historians and archeaologists and shun those of weekend scholars.

Anyone who has questions about anything that appears herein should feel free to contact me on-line or at home. TavaMorian@AOL.COM, or write to: Gwyn Jackson, P.O. Box 24203, Lexington, KY 40524. I will be happy to help in any way that I can.

Most Sincerely Yours,

Gwyn Jacksonwas

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