Celtic – A Comparative Study

Author: D.B.Gregor
Publisher: The Oleander Press
Published: 1980
ISBN: 9780900891564

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Synopsis:

“A marvellous book which is both readable and scholarly”

The core of this work is an examination in depth of six Celtic languages: Irish, Gaelic, Manx (all correctly called Gaelic by their speakers), and Welsh, Cornish and Breton (three cousins of the first group). It is the core because the rest of the work grows out of it; and its consequently central position is intended to mark the peak between flowering and decline.

Encapsulating the core is an account of Celtic origins, and the story of its origins, and the story of the formation, vicissitudes, and dissolution of the six regions where different forms of Celtic are or were spoken. The decline in the number of Celtic speakers is traced in detail; its causes are examined one by one; the struggle for survival is described wherever it is being carried on; and finally the question is asked: “What is meant by revival?”

The requiem for Manx in these pages is included because its loss is doubly painful for having happened in our own day. It is time that languages were regarded as part of the ecological scene, and the end of one of them felt as deeply as the extinction of a species.
It is hoped that this work will leave the reader in that frame of mind: willing to halt the further decline of the Celtic languages.

Part of the Oleander Classics series, this 1980 title has been reproduced using the highest-quality modern scanning technology. This is in order to keep important works from the Press’s 50-year history from going out of print. In this way, the invaluable resources provided by this and other books in the series remain available for general readers, academics and other interested parties.

Review:

It took me two days to read this book. That is how much I loved reading it. It was written in 1980 so there has been of course 34 years worth of historic and linguistic discoveries made BUT what was in this book is still for the most part still valid. I loved the fact that the book started out with a historic overview of the regions these languages were spoken to set the scene for the linguistic stuff, and I love that the author included the Isle of Man, Cornwall, and Brittany in there because a lot of the times these three languages and places are overlooked when talking about the Celts. The language comparison that the author does is very easy to follow and he also gives a good example for the comparison in the text he uses for it. The causes of decline (no matter how painful it is to read them) are also presented by the author and they are disunity, loss of status, shortage of reading matter, lack of instructions in school and university, the loss of language in the religious life, immigration, emigration, the impact of newspapers, cinema, television, and radio, and linguicide. Then finally, he talks about the revival of language…

I really loved this book as I said before and I would recommend it, but I would also recommend checking the information in it for the latest in the fields of history and linguistics.

Teagasca

Full title: Teagasca: The Instructions of Cormac Mac Airt
Author: C. Lee Vermeers
Publisher: Faoladh Books
Copyright: July 9, 2014
ISBN: 9781500128326
Pages: 89 including bibliography

Synopsis: In the third century, the great High King of Ireland, Cormac Mac Airt, stepped down from the throne to make way for his son, Carbre. To help his son prepare for the task of ruling Ireland, Cormac composed a poem outlining the best way to live and to rule. His Teagasca (“Instructions”) survived and were passed down through the centuries until they were written down by Christian poets and monks. This volume presents a new translation, based on the 1908 translation by Kuno Meyer, with extensive annotations and a new understanding that bring this classic manual of instruction into the 21st century.

Review: I was very excited to get and read this book. It is about time that the big names in the Celtic Reconstructionist community started putting out these types of books for others to read and learn from.

As the synopsis says this is a new translation of the Instructions of Cormac Mac Airt, which is based on Kuno Meyer’s 1908 translation. The author having noticed that Meyer had a lot of clumsy lines took the time to look at other translations and compare them to get the best wording for the book. He also in many instances tried to take out the overt Christian references to God and switched it to Gods, in some instances that was not possible though so he left those as is. I loved the annotations he added to the translations he gave. They gave me a lot of extra information on linguistics and also on how the Irish society may have worked, at least on paper. As you can see from the page count, it isn’t a long book, but it is certainly one that is worth having.

Chronicles of the Ancient World

FULL TITLE: Chronicles of the Ancient World – 3500 BC – AD 476
AUTHOR: John Haywood
PUBLISHER: Quercus Books
COPYRIGHT: 2012
ISBN: 978-1-78087-321-3
PAGES: 336 including Index and picture credits

SYNOPSIS: A beautifully illustrated history of antiquity’s greatest empires, from the cradle to the fall of Rome.

REVIEW: this book isn’t about the Celts but it gives the reader an easy way to see the world that the Celts were “born” into and the civilizations that were on the scene and what happened to them. It is also a good survey of ancient history without going too much in depth. It gives the major events that helped shape history and why they might have happened.

The author starts his journey in the Middle East where agriculture and writing started and ends with the fall of Rome. Along the way you learn about civilization and empires, and pivotal events that changed the dynamics of the worlds.

The illustrations give a look at the different cultures and the important people from the different empires. The information you get from the captions on the pictures is just as interesting as the tidbits that the author adds here and there in information boxes.

I highly recommend this book.

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Early Christian Ireland – Introduction to the Sources

**First published in Volume I Issue I of Air n-Aithesc**

 

Title: Early Christian Ireland – Introduction to the Sources

Author: Kathleen Hughes

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Copyright: 1972, 1977, 1979, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-521-07389-9 (paperback)

Pages: 320 including Bibliography and Index

 

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Synopsis: [From book back cover] In discussing the various kinds of source material for early Irish history, the problems each kind raises and the sort of questions it will answer, the author discusses the major historical issues.

Review: Early Christian Ireland analyzes the main sources of Irish history between c. 400 and c. 1170 CE, a time period during which a lot of the vernacular records of Ireland were written. The book discusses important issues like the effect of the Vikings and Christianity on Ireland.

Kathleen Hughes died in 1977 so this text should be read with that in mind. The book consists of nine chapters: Archaeology, the Secular Laws, Ecclesiastical Legislation, the Annals, Secular Literature, Ecclesiastical Learning, Hagiography, Art and Architecture, and finally eleventh and twelfth century Histories and Compilations.

Looking at the above-mentioned chapters it is obvious that the linguistic aspect is missing, an omission the author acknowledges in her own Preface. Her reason is that this is an introduction for people who have little to no Irish, and she advises the reader to take a university course on the subject.

The book delivers on its promise of giving an introduction to the sources—all of them. There are sources in there that I have honestly never seen discussed elsewhere, and this book unites them all in one place. There is a great chunk of information in this book that, given when it was written, needs to be updated. For example, the author’s chapter on archaeology is behind the times as there are many new finds that have happened since the book was written. However, even that doesn’t detract from its worth.

The author, in the publication, dissects the sources and gives the reader all the information needed to evaluate said sources. She tells the reader exactly what these sources are good for, what they are not good for, and the kind of questions they would answer. As an example, in Chapter Five secular laws are discussed. Hughes takes great care in telling the reader that these texts are essential for the historian to understand how a society claims to function, and how important they are to the understanding of early Irish history, but they are not the whole picture or the real picture. For that complete picture, the historian must go to other supplemental sources.

The only real problem I see with the book is that it was a little dry. I couldn’t read more than one chapter at a time, and perhaps that is a good thing so that the reader can digest the information and cross-reference and update it.

All in all, it is a good resource to have at one’s disposal.

 

The Celts

FULL TITLE: The Celts: A history from earliest times to the present
AUTHOR: Bernhardt Maier
TRANSLATOR: Kevin Windle
PUBLISHER: University of Notre Dame Press
COPYRIGHT: 2000, 2003
ISBN: 0-268-02360-3
PAGES: 310 including the Notes, Bibliography, and Index

SYNOPSIS:
This comprehensive history of the Celts from origins to the present draws on archaeological, historical, literary, and linguistic evidence. It is divided into three parts. Part one covers the continental Celts in prehistory and antiquity, complete with accounts of the Celts in Germany, Italy, Iberia, and Asia Minor. The second part follows the Celts from the departure of the Romans to the late Middle Ages, including the migrations to and settlements in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and Brittany. Discussions of the Celtic kingdoms and the rise and fall of Celtic Christianity are also given. The final part brings the history of the Celts up to the present, covering the assimilation of the Celts within the national cultures of Great Britain, France, and Ireland. Included in this consideration are the suppression of Gaelic, the declines, revivals, and survivals of languages and literatures, and the histories of Celtic culture. This book, containing 20 maps and black and white illustrations, will be invaluable to anyone with an interest in Celtic culture or history.

REVIEW:
I’m always interested in what mainland Europe has to say about the Celts but short of learning German, French, or Spanish, I have to wait for translations, and this is what we have in this book. It was first published in German by Verlag C.H. Beck in Munich. Its German name is Die Kelten and it was published in 2000. In 2003 it was published in English.

As such it doesn’t have any of the latest if theories and archaeological finds from the last ten years but that doesn’t take away from its worth.

Maier, the author, had two aims in writing this book. The first is to present the general reader with a sense of how diverse the Celtic culture was and is. The second aim is to present the more advanced and specialized reader with a detailed reference to all sources pertaining to the Celts.

I really loved the way the author talked about the prehistoric archaeological material in mainland Europe and in Ireland and Britain because he wasn’t just listing finds he was giving you the possible meanings of these finds, in short, it wasn’t a dull this was found there and it looks like this kind of commentary.

I also love the way he enlists the help of the classical writers when giving the reader a possible motive for why the Celts may have done something.

The chapters about Gaul, Iberia, Northern Italy, and Asia Minor were really something that I needed to read and will be re-read again extra slowly later to get more information and questions to research. I especially found the chapter on the Gallo-Roman culture and religion fascinating, as this was an aspect that I seriously am lacking in information about.

I find the strength of the book is in the fact that unlike most books on the Celts it doesn’t just give a cursory look at the modern times but goes into an elongated look at it.

I think the author very much realized the aims he was going for, there is something there for everyone to enjoy. Of course there are things in there that not everyone is going to agree with, such is the nature of the material presented, but I for one highly recommend it, if only to get a perspective from someone who is not British, Irish or American.

Irish Megalithic Tombs

Author: Elizabeth Shee Twohig
Series: A Shire Archaeology Book
Publisher: Shire Publications
Published: First Edition 1990, Second Edition 2004, this is from the second edition.

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Synopsis: This is a summary of the research that has been carried out on ‘megalithic’ tombs such as Newgrange and Knowth in County Meath. The four main tomb types are described. Plans and photographs illustrate their main features together with a brief history of the tombs and there is also a glossary of the terms used.

Review: I’ve always been facinated by the Megalithic Tombs of Ireland and this is why I bought this book.

This is a very short but interesting read. The book is packed  with great information if you are interested in the Irish Megalithic Tombs. The first chapter sets the scene by giving you an introduction to the different types of tombs that can be seen in the landscape. Chapters 3 to 6 are a deeper explanation of the different types of tombs, but it was chapter 2 that I really enjoyed. Chapter 2 was an explanation of the history of the study of these tombs.

Like I said before, the book is short, 60 pages of text, but it was 60 pages of beautifully laid out information by a really good writer who knew what she was talking about.

A section of the book that came after the conclusion (chapter 7) and the one page glossary was a list of sites to visit, there were, of course, the usual suspects (Knowth and Newgrange), but there were sites I’d never heard of (Carrowmore and Calliagh). Then of course came a further reading section, which I always look forward too in a book.

I highly recommend this tiny book.

Fairy Witchcraft: A Neopagan’s Guide to the Celtic Fairy Faith

Author: Morgan Daimler

Series: Pagan Portals

Publisher: Moon Books

Published: 2014

ISBN: 978-1-78279-343-4

 

Synopsis:Many neopagans today are drawn to honor the fairies but find that the modern-day path to Fairy is hidden in mist and shadow. Yet the path is still there, waiting for those who are ready to seek it out. This is a guidebook for those seeking a path that combines modern neopagan witchcraft with the older Celtic Fairy Faith. Topics include basic beliefs and practices, holidays, tools, altar set up, and theology, with the intent of giving the seeker a solid grounding in the basics of modern Fairy Witchcraft.

 

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Review: If you know me well, you’d know that the moment I see the word Fairy in any book title I tend to run away and hide. The only reason I actually read this book is because I knew the author was a great researcher and an honest writer who tells it like it is. Plus it was a fairly short read and I was curious about the subject matter.

The Introduction to the book presents the author’s thoughts on her practice and what she is going to present in the book. The Frequently Asked Questions that she provided also answered a lot of the simple questions that came to my mind about the subject matter. The rest of the book gets down to the basics of what she is offering. She begins by giving us some pointers on how to interact with the Fairies and then she moves on to the aspects of beliefs, ritual, tools, and space. I absolutely loved the “Through the Veil” stories that she adds at the end of most of the chapters. A very human look at what can happen when interacting with Fairies.

She ends the book with two appendices and an impressive bibliography. The first appendix has an example of a self dedication ritual and the second appendix has some interesting resources.

I think this book presents a very traditional yet modern way of looking at Fairies and our interactions with them, it provides the reader with the very basics of what they need to start on that path to follow and expand on it. A very much needed 101 book on Fairy Witchcraft.