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.

Essays in Contemporary Paganism

Editor: Trevor Greenfield

Publisher: Moon Books

Published: 2013

Synopsis: In this absorbing anthology twelve Pagan writers from across the globe offer a unique perspective on Paganism today in both its theoretical and practical aspects. Each writer began with a blank canvas, other than their essay must reflect a contemporary theme. In turn the essays are philosophical, practical, personal and reflective, with issues ranging from parenting to polytheism, from being a Pagan in London to the sacred landscapes of Australia, from mysticism to the World Wide Web. In their breadth these essays reflect a concern with living in a modern world, with modern technology and with understanding oneself within a tradition that is evolving and adapting to meet the needs of its adherents whilst staying true to its fundamental principles.

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Review: I don’t usually read books on general Paganism anymore, but two of my friends had essays in this anthology and to support them I decided to go ahead and get it. I’m very glad I did. 

The essays are not long, the whole book took me 1.5 hours to read but the snapshots I got about paganism in Canada, and London were very interesting. The essay about raising a potentially Pagan child was very well written and thought out, the one on polytheist psychology is something to chew on, and ending the book with After Paganism was a great idea. Of course I had my favourites among the essays, like the essays on Reconstructionist Druidism and  Polytheist psychology but that was because the subjects were near to my special interest.

I can’t say that I agree with every word in these essays, and there were moments when I rolled my eyes lol, but those were few and far between.

1. Evolving the Spirit – 3.75/5

2. Connecting the Past and Future: Modern Reconstructionist Druidism – 4/5

3. A Modern Celt: The Tuatha De Danaan in the Twenty-First Century – 3/5

4. Listening to the Land I walk on – 4/5

5. Parenting a Potentially Pagan Child – 4/5

6. The Way of the Web: A Case Study in online Pagan Experience – 3.75/5

7. A Week in Pagan London – 4.5/5

8. A Very Modern King Arthur – 3.75/5

9. Canadian Paganism: Turn and Face North! 4.5/5

10. Eclectic Mystic – 3/5

11. Towards a Polytheist Psychology – 4/5

12. After Paganism – 4/5

I’d very much recommend this book!

 

Europe Before Rome

Full Title – Europe Before Rome: A Site-By-Site Tour of the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages

Author – T. Douglas Price

Publication – Oxford University Press

Published – 2013

Synopsis - Werner Herzog’s 2011 film Cave of Forgotten Dreams, about the painted caves at Chauvet, France brought a glimpse of Europe’s extraordinary prehistory to a popular audience. But paleolithic cave paintings, stunning as they are, form just a part of a story that begins with the arrival of the first humans to Europe 1.3 million years ago, and culminates in the achievements of Greece and Rome. 

In Europe before Rome, T. Douglas Price takes readers on a guided tour through dozens of the most important prehistoric sites on the continent, from very recent discoveries to some of the most famous and puzzling places in the world, like Chauvet, Stonehenge, and Knossos. This volume focuses on more than 60 sites, organized chronologically according to their archaeological time period and accompanied by 200 illustrations, including numerous color photographs, maps, and drawings. Our understanding of prehistoric European archaeology has been almost completely rewritten in the last 25 years with a series of major findings from virtually every time period, such as Otzi the Iceman, the discoveries at Atapuerca, and evidence of a much earlier eruption at Mt. Vesuvius. Many of the sites explored in the book offer the earliest European evidence we have of the typical features of human society–tool making, hunting, cooking, burial practices, agriculture, and warfare. Introductory prologues to each chapter provide context for the wider changes in human behavior and society in the time period, while the author’s concluding remarks offer expert reflections on the enduring significance of these places. 

Tracing the evolution of human society in Europe across more than a million years, Europe before Rome gives readers a vivid portrait of life for prehistoric man and woman.

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Review – This was an interesting and delightful book to read. Basically, the author took me with him on archeological site hopping tours.  At the beginning of each tour he gave me an explanation where, what, and who we were going to visit. 

In this book you may choose to read the explanatory chapters then choose whichever sites may interest you, or you may read the book cover to cover. I read it both ways and see myself going back to read specific entries at a later date.

Don’t expect too much deep history as this is primarily an archeological survey book but there are some tidbits that are worth further research like the fact that an analysis of the Bell Beaker peoples’ teeth showed that they were from Northern Spain and the Czech Republic and that the author very much equates them with the Indo-Europeans…

Mapping the Lost World of the Celts

Original Title: The Ancient Paths: Discovering the Lost Map of Celtic Europe

Author: Graham Robb

Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company

Published: 2013

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Synopsis: Fifty generations ago the cultural empire of the Celts stretched from the Black Sea to Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland. In six hundred years, the Celts had produced some of the finest artistic and scientific masterpieces of the ancient world. In 58 BC, Julius Caesar marched over the Alps, bringing slavery and genocide to western Europe. Within eight years the Celts of what is now France were utterly annihilated, and in another hundred years the Romans had overrun Britain. It is astonishing how little remains of this great civilization. While planning a bicycling trip along the Heraklean Way, the ancient route from Portugal to the Alps, Graham Robb discovered a door to that forgotten world–a beautiful and precise pattern of towns and holy places based on astronomical and geometrical measurements: this was the three-dimensional “Middle Earth” of the Celts. As coordinates and coincidences revealed themselves across the continent, a map of the Celtic world emerged as a miraculously preserved archival document.

Review: The book is made up of a Protohistory, four parts and an Epilogue. The first part is made up of five chapters, the second is made up of three chapters, the third and fourth parts are each made up of four chapters. At the end of the book there is a Works Cited section, a Notes section, a General index and a Geographical index. It also has a Chronology of the Celts.

The Protohistory chapter, or rather the Preface of the book, describes how the book came to be written and how it was all a series of happenings that led to the ultimate idea. The language was a bit flowery though so by this point I was kind of wondering about the rest of the book…

I wasn’t left wondering for long.  The book was…it was…I honestly have no words. Most of the time I was reading the book (what I could stomache of it anyway) I was either rolling my eyes or thinking SOURCE!!! Don’t get me wrong his most outlandish hypotheses were explained…sort of in the notes for the chapters in the back of the book but still they were just…Can you tell I’m frustrated?

This book was basically a lot of assumptions that had some basis in history but you had to make some great leaps of faith to connect them. I wish someone had plastered Unverified Personal Gnosis all over this book’s cover so I knew what this book would be instead of me thinking that it was a history book. I’m sure there are some truths in this book, but they were buried so deep in the author’s flowery words and wishful thinking that I totally missed them.

After I wrote my review I went to Amazon to check what other people had to say about this book and I was boggled by the people who said it was a dry read but a great one, and that it was a great book to read if you are interested in the Celts…

I wouldn’t recommend this book to beginners, and to the more advanced readers of Celtic history?  Approach with caution.

Dying For the Gods

Author: Miranda Aldhouse Green
Publisher: Tempus Publishing
Copyright: 2001
ISBN: 0752419404
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SynopsisSacrifice, like death, is one of the great taboos of modern society. The notion that human sacrifice, and even cannibalism, could be considered a most holy act is almost inconceivable. Yet the evidence for human sacrifice in northwest Europe, deriving from both archaeology and the testimony of Classical writers of the first centuries BC and AD, has to be confronted. Professor Green puts forward some reasons for ritual murder and shows how the multiple deposits of bog-bodies at sites like Tollund and Lindow illustrate the importance of place in the sacrificial rite. She also highlights the essential role of the priesthood in sacrificial murder.

 

Review:
The aim of this book is to look at the evidence for human sacrifice in the ancient European Iron Age and the Roman period. The areas covered, for the most part, are north and west of Europe and that includes Britain. The time period discussed is from around 600 BCE to AD 400.

 

In the Prologue Green makes sure to discuss her sources and the problems that each source present in interpretation. She also discusses how modern distaste for human sacrifice can shape our thoughts concerning it and how others that accept it blindly are also doing themselves a disservice considering that the material available is not clear cut.

 

I really found chapter one interesting. It discusses what the nature and function of human sacrifice is and what it originally meant as well as what it meant in European antiquity. Human sacrifice is introduced in this chapter.

 
Chapter two has the following themes: Human and Animal sacrifice and how they are different than inanimate offerings, and the discussion of how animals and humans are similar when sacrificed, sacred violence, and ritual cannibalism. The themes were interesting to read about, especially since to my mind it relates to what is a sacrifice and what is an offering.
 
The third and fourth chapters are a discussion of fire and blood rites.The author dedicates a chapter for each and discusses sacred fire, the wicker man, fire sacrifices, and blood sacrifices (human). 
 
Chapter five is all about head hunting and the ritualistic significance of that practice.
 
Chapters six, seven and eight discuss some of the ways of ritual killing and the way that victims are chosen and some of the reasons for ritual murder.
 
Chapter nine discusses the people who perform the sacrifices .
 
Each one of these chapters had something interesting to say, I found the archaeological evidence presented interesting. As a whole the book does a good job of fulfilling its aim of looking at evidence of human sacrifice.  There is enough evidence there to convince the people who are not convinced yet.
 
I think however, for me, the most important chapters were not about who was doing the sacrificing, who was sacrificed or the way it was done.  What was most important to me were the Prologue that discussed the sources and what needs to be set aside for us to even look at the issue of Human sacrifice, the first chapter which discusses the nature and function of human sacrifice and gives the different definitions, and finally the parts in all the other chapters that discussed or made the distinction between sacrifice and offerings.
 
For the most part a good book to add to the home library.     

A New History of Ireland

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In this review I will be discussing a whole series made up of 9 volumes called A New History of Ireland. Some of the volumes will be out of order because they are actually a companion to one of the other volumes. The series covers Irish history from prehistoric times to 1984.

Volume I (Prehistoric and Early Ireland): The aim of this volume is to survey Irish history from the first settlement (around 7000 BCE) to the Anglo-Norman invasion. This happens to be the longest period of Irish history. This period is divided into pre-and post-Patrician eras mainly because with Patrick came the written word. The four themes discussed in this volume are:

  1. The antiquity and thoroughness of the process by which land was cleared and given a shape designed for human needs, as well as the fluctuations in the extent and intensity of agriculture.
  2. The origins of Celtic Ireland.
  3. The organization of the Church AD 650 – to 1150.
  4. The relationship of the political order to the landscape

This volume is edited by Dáibhí Ó Cróinín. First published in 2005 then reprinted in 2008.

**Some of these chapters were written in the 1960s and 1970s, and so they reflect the direction of research rather than the lates research.

Volume II Medieval Ireland 1169 – 1534): The period discussed in this volume starts with the coming of the Normans and it ends with the rebellion of 1534. Basically, two nations and their interactions that form the complex history of Ireland.

**This is a very interesting volume that sets the stage for the history that is yet to come, and REALLY begins to explain the struggles that are coming.

This volume is edited by Art Cosgrove. First published in 1987 then reprinted in 1993 and 2008.

Volume III Early Modern Ireland 1534 – 1691: This volume actually came out before volumes I and II. In this volume we see the English completely taking over Ireland. The period discussed in this volume starts with the unsuccessful rebellion of Thomas Fitzgerald in 1534 and ends with the Treaty of Limerick in 1691. This volume also discusses the Irish language, literature, the Irish abroad and even the English language in early modern Ireland.

This volume is edited by T.W. Moody, F.X. Martin, and F.J. Byrne. First published in 1976 then reprinted in 1987, 1993, 2009, 2012. 

Volume IV Eighteenth-century Ireland (1691 – 1800): This volume discusses a well marked period in Irish history that starts with the Treaty of Limerick and ends with the parliamentary union. This was the period where the protestant minority reached its height in the political, economic and social arena. This volume also discusses Irish language and literature, Irish literature in English, the visual arts and music. It also has a chapter on the migrations to the continent of Europe.

This volume is edited by T.W. Moody, and W.E. Vaughan. First published in 1986 then reprinted in 2009.

Volume V Ireland Under the Union (1801 – 1870): This volume discusses the first part of Ireland under the Union.  The Union was enforced on January 1st, 1801 but by the end of 1870 there were a lot of things that undermined it.  These include the Land Act of 1870, the Church act of 1869, and the foundation of the Home Government Association. This was the period of direct rule by Britain of Ireland.

This volume is edited by W.E. Vaughan. First published in 1989 then reprinted in 2010.

Volume VI Ireland Under the Union (1870 – 1921): This volume discusses the second part of Ireland under the Union. It completes the coverage of Ireland under the Union.  This is one of the more interesting volumes to me.  I heard a lot of stories and read a lot of books on this period, but none of the stories have actually explained it as well as this volume.

This volume is edited by W.E. Vaughan. First published in 1989 then reprinted in 2010, 2012.

Volume VII Ireland (1920 – 1984): This volume  gives an outline of the division of Ireland and the eventual birth of the Irish Republic. It also gives us a comprehensive at the political developments in the north and the south.  It also gives us chapters on the economy, literature in English and Irish, the Irish language, the visual arts, emigration and immigration, and the history of women.

This volume is edited by J.R. Hill. First published in 2003 and reprinted in 2010.

Volume VIII (A Chronology of Irish History to 1976 – A Companion to Irish History, Part I):  The chronology here encompasses all of the volumes.  The editors attempted to give us a chart of events in the history of Ireland from the earliest times to 1976.  It aimed to cover all of the social spectrum but of course politics has a major part of this chronology. The book is divided into phases that correspond to the volumes of the New History of Ireland.  Every entry is based on either a primary source or a reliable secondary one. This as far as I know was never done before and if it was, it was not done to this extent.

**If you don’t get any of the other volumes get this one.

This volume is edited by T.W. Moody, F.X. Martin, and F.J. Byrne. First published in 1989 then reprinted in 2011.

Volume IX Maps, Genealogies, Lists – A Companion to Irish History, Part II: This volume is amazing.  Full of interesting information that you probably won’t get all in one place.  For any researcher this is a treasure trove.

**If you don’t get any of the other volumes get this one.

This volume is edited by T.W. Moody, F.X. Martin, and F.J. Byrne. First published in 1989 then reprinted in 2011.

MY VERDICTED: I think you need to pick and choose which volumes you want to get depending on the subject matter you are interested in, for me all of them were relevant.  If you want my advice and have a limited budget I suggest you get the last two volumes and read the rest in the library. 

I loved the series and see myself going back to it time and again when conducting research (with some cross referencing for updated ideas and such of course).