By Brendan “Cathbad” Meyers
New Page Books, 2006, $15.99 US
Review by Daven
Well, as a Druid myself I have looked at the texts out there on Druidism and been sorely disappointed. At one end of the spectrum are the excellent works by such people as Isaac Bonewits, Philip Carr-Gomm and other such noted Druids. They are packed full of information, dense with it, and as a result of that, they tend to lose the audience since most of they write about is beyond the average reader.
At the other end of the spectrum are the popular books on Druidism which are good for use in paper-mache; works like 21 Lessons of Merlin and other such landfill fodder.
There has not been a book to successfully bridge the two ends, making a good book that has lots of information which has the potential to become popular because of how that information is presented to the reader. That is, until now.
Make no mistake, I have known Cathbad from a list we were on together and I have spent many hours reading his articles on that list and off. He is an extremely knowledgeable man and I consider him one of the contemporary masters of Druidism. In this book, he brings his formidable knowledge to those who wish to know what he knows.
What emerges in this book is a snapshot of what the Druids could be now, and might have been in the distant past. He uses myth and story to construct possible rituals that the Druids could have performed. He shows how the myths fit together and what principles the Druids and Celts could have lived their lives by. He uses all this and then he admits that he is constructing from what he has been able to assemble in years of study, not that this is the only way or that this is THE way. He is very clear in saying that this is only an extrapolation based on what we do know.
But, oh boy, what an extrapolation. I found myself amazed with the contents of this book. Everything I had discovered through my studies with one group and on my own, things that I had thought were unverified personal gnosis (UPG’s) and guesses, were upheld and expanded upon. It was really an exciting revelation for me.
But I was also able to learn a lot. I have studied the myths of the Druids of Ireland, and I thought I understood them, but Cathbad was able to reinterpret those same myths and give me a different understanding of what was happening and what the story meant. He took me on a mythic tour of the seasons and explained those holidays with a sensitivity one would find only in someone who lived with the Land day in and day out as our ancestors did when they struggled to grow food for themselves. Reading this I began to wonder where his time machine was.
The ONLY quibble I have with this book is the text and typesetting itself. The publisher saw fit to break each page into two columns of text, like a newspaper. The problem here is that the size of the book doesn’t justify doing this. It’s a standard “trade paperback” size, approximately 9 1/2 inches by 6 1/2 inches. That gives a reading area of about 8 3/4 inches by 5 3/4 inches, and given that size, it is not a strain to read across the entire page at one time. This is why this technique is normally reserved for large volumes, more than 15 inches tall and 9 or more inches wide.
In fact, breaking this into columns made it harder to pick out the quotes Cathbad uses in his text. Normally a quote is indented in the text about 5 characters. Given that this layout mandated less than half a page of room per column, the quotes would be indented maybe 2 characters. This is not enough of a visual difference for most people to notice that indentation, making the quote look like part of the regular text. I expected that the publisher would italicize the quotes to set them off, but they don’t. And when a picture is dropped into the text, they plunked it down right in the middle of the columns. This shoves the flow of the words to tiny little one inch space on either side of that picture, making it very hard to read.
New Page would have done better to leave the text flowing across the page.
But, for this work as a whole, I must give it 4 1/2 stars out of 5. There is nothing like it on the market that I have seen. There is finally a work on the market that takes a serious look at Druidism for the 21st century and teaches the old way in a manner that new Druids can understand and participate in.
This book IMMEDIATELY goes on my “recommended reading” list.
Originally posted 2009-11-15 18:11:31. Republished by Blog Post Promoter