I recently read Nimue Brown's book Druidry and the Ancestors: finding our place in our own history. I was intrigued by the book's title but approached reading it with some trepidation as I have felt ambivalent about the work of other OBOD authors in the past. Generally my approach to Druidism is very different from OBODs and while I have great respect for the wisdom and vision of their organization the result is that books by their authors often leave me with strongly mixed feelings. I must admit I was quite pleasantly surprised by this book and found it thought provoking and more than worth reading.
The author breaks the book down into a look at how we perceive history, the way that viewpoint shapes our ideas about ancestors, and a discussion of the ancestors themselves. She is refreshingly open about her own biases and viewpoints and uses anecdotes to illustrate her points to good effect creating a personal touch to the text. The author is also not afraid to tackle the more difficult or emotional issues of ancestry - including adoption, abuse, and invention - in a direct manner.
After an initial chapter which defines who the ancestors were and are the second chapter delves into "history as story". I found this section to be profoundly thought provoking as it challenges the reader to look at what we know about history, how we know it, and how our view of it shapes our understanding at the most basic level. The book raises several points that I had never before considered but which will require some profound reflection long after I've put this book behind me.
Next is a chapter on 'spotting the melons" which encourages critical thinking in reading and offers a list of basic guidelines to sort bad sources from good. The author feels, as do I, that paganism is plagued by bad source material and faulty or outdated facts and tries to educate readers about the pitfalls to be found. Although I felt that some of the examples used were a bit vague, overall the chapter was a great edition to the book. Particularly in Druidism sorting fact from fiction from fantasy is an endless process and discernment is essential.
Moving on there is a chapter on the importance of ancestors and then several on individual types of ancestors, including ancestors of place and of tradition. I enjoyed the way that a variety of non-blood ancestors were included and that the author continues to challenge readers with new perspectives and ideas. The reality of ancestors whose stories we know well stand side by side with those who we have invented as part of our own narrative, and we are encouraged to value fact as well as myth in building practice. In this book knowing our ancestors is about knowing ourselves, and indeed one of the final chapters, "ancestors of the future", encourages us to look at ourselves as tomorrow's ancestors.
This book is not a workbook or how-to of ancestor work; in its pages you won't find how to set up ancestor altars or what offerings to make to who. What you will find is an invaluable guide to connecting to your own past, healing broken connections, and how today's Druids are and will be the ancestors of tomorrows spiritual seekers. More than worth reading, more than once.