The Sacred Isle: Belief in Pre-Christian Ireland by Dáithí Ó HÓgáin
Author: Dáithí Ó HÓgáin
Publisher: Boydell Press
Years published: 1999 and October 4th, 2001
Pages: 259 including index
Synopsis: The first modern study of prehistoric religion in Ireland to draw on the combined evidence of archaeology, literature and folklore to illuminate practice and belief from the earliest human habitation in the island down to the advent of Christianity in the fifth century AD. An excellent book… a highly accessible and lively assessment of continuity and change in belief and religion from pre-Celtic times through to the arrival of St Patrick. …A fine book and to be recommended to a wide readership, especially to all those who think that Irish history started in 1601.
Review: This is the first book published specifically about the Pre-Christian religion in Ireland and so far I have only seen one other book that addresses the same material but it also expands to include Christianity. So I guess, specifically this is the only book I’ve seen so far ONLY addressing the Pre-Christian religion in Ireland (if some one knows of a book with similar material please let me know).
The book is an interesting and easy read with lots of good information. The author uses archeology and the classical writings as well as mythology to try and put together the Pre-Christian Irish religion, with a dash of comparative religion and mythology thrown in. It is well documented and has an extensive bibliography.
The problem I see with the book comes in the form of some outdated information and some conclusions that have already been debunked like the solar gods theory (he seems to see them EVERYWHERE). He also likes to put the Irish gods in neat little boxes which really don’t work well for them.
If you are careful with cross referencing and making sure that his information is up to date, this is actually a great book to have.