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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Several Short Book Reviews

First a couple for the kids or parents with kids:

The Ancient Celtic Festivals: and How We Celebrate Them Today
by Clare Walker Leslie
Overall this is an excellent book to introduce children - and adults - to the basic concepts surrounding the Celtic, specifically Irish, culture and holy days. Some of the information is a bit dated now or controversial - the entry on Beltane is particularly problematic - but in general the content is comprehensive and well researched. I especially liked the amount and quality of illustrations and the inclusion of peripheral cultural information about the Celts that I know my children will enjoy.
I would recommend this book be read to a child by an adult who can explain or clarify the problematic points, and that adults reading for themselves supplement this book with something more in depth such as Kondratiev's the Apple Branch

A Child's Eye View of Irish Paganism
by Blackbird O'Connell
This really is the perfect book to introduce your child or children to Irish Paganism. The author touches on all the basics and important concepts but doesn't overwhelm the reader with too much information. Everything is covered in an age appropriate way and in enough depth to satisfy a child or encourage deeper research. As an adult I liked the book, but what's more important my 10 year old daughter loves it. She enjoyed reading it and has repeatedly asked to do the different activities in the book. I don't think any children's book can get higher praise than that.

Then some more adult books:

Teagasca: The Instructions of Cormac Mac Airt
by C. Lee Vermeers
This is my new favorite version of this classic text. Not only has the author improved the readability of the older translations but he has in many places clarified the meaning. I also really appreciate the extensive footnotes which offer insight into both the author's choices for certain translations and also clarify certain key points of Irish culture. This allows the reader in many cases to gain an alternate view of ways that that line can be understood as well as a deeper insight into the older culture from which the text originated. The book itself is trade paperback sized and so can easily be carried in a purse or bag, and the quality of teh printing is good. More than worth the money and highly recommended.

The Secret Commonwealth and the Fairy Belief Complex
by Brian Walsh
I highly recommend this book to anyone studying fairylore or interested in honoring the daoine sidhe. The author does a wonderful job of taking apart Rev. Kirk's Secret Commonwealth and analyzing every aspect of the material. His inclusion of Robert Kirk's personal history helps put the text in context. He also nicely summarizes the major themes and outlines the basic beliefs of the fairy belief complex in a way that is both straight forward and in depth.

Stalking the Goddess

by Mark Carter
This book is an absolutely fascinating dissection of Robert Graves' book the White Goddess, without the usual romanticism or blind-eye to history that many use to view that book. Rather the author uses a variety of tools to take apart the major themes of the White Goddess and explain their sources and ultimate motivations in ways that provide a deeper understanding of the text itself. Stalking the Goddess relies on a wide array of historic Irish and Welsh material as well as authors contemporary to Graves and Graves own words from other works to provide this in depth understanding of the White Goddess, a book that has become the cornerstone - realized or not - of many modern pagan religions. This book has great value, I think, both to modern neopagans who need to understand the roots of the things Graves has made popular but also to those interested in Irish and Welsh material who might enjoy the author's discussion of topics like the Ogham. Definitely an enjoyable and educational read.

Copyright Morgan Daimler

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