The Philosopher and the Druid

Full Title: The Philosopher and the Druid – A Journey among the ancient Celts

Author: Philip Freeman

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Published: 2006

Pages: 221 including an index, notes and suggested readings, a pronunciation guide, a glossary of Gaulish words, a timeline and some black and white pictures.

Synopsis:

Early in the first century B.C. a Greek philosopher named Posidonius began an ambitious and dangerous journey into the little-known lands of the Celts. A man of great intellectual curiosity and considerable daring, Posidonius traveled from his home on the island of Rhodes to Rome, the capital of the expanding empire that had begun to dominate the Mediterranean. From there Posidonius planned to investigate for himself the mysterious Celts, reputed to be cannibals and savages. His journey would be one of the great adventures of the ancient world.
Posidonius journeyed deep into the heart of the Celtic lands in Gaul. There he discovered that the Celts were not barbarians but a sophisticated people who studied the stars, composed beautiful poetry, and venerated a priestly caste known as the Druids. Celtic warriors painted their bodies, wore pants, and decapitated their foes. Posidonius was amazed at the Celtic women, who enjoyed greater freedoms than the women of Rome, and was astonished to discover that women could even become Druids.
Posidonius returned home and wrote a book about his travels among the Celts, which became one of the most popular books of ancient times. His work influenced Julius Caesar, who would eventually conquer the people of Gaul and bring the Celts into the Roman Empire, ending forever their ancient way of life. Thanks to Posidonius, who could not have known that he was recording a way of life soon to disappear, we have an objective, eyewitness account of the lives and customs of the ancient Celts.

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Review:

I want to start with what I enjoyed from this book. It was a good refresher, and the writing was very readable and very engaging. I loved that the author wrote this from the perspective of Posidonius. Unfortunately, we don’t really know much about what Posidonius would have done or how he would have done it because his writings only survived in fragments in other people’s writings. What I didn’t like was that it was full of “may have, could have, must have”.

The writer did however, take us on a journey from the beginning of the Celts until their “end”. He talked about the history, the social structure of the Celtic tribes, their warriors and kings, their feasts and their women. I’d consider this a great introductory book or a refresher for the fully versed.

The Treasure of the Tuatha Dé Danann

The Treasure of the Tuatha Dé The Treasure of the Tuatha Dé Danann

Full Title: The Treasure of the Tuatha Dé Danann: A Pocket Book of Irish Myths

Author: Morgan Daimler

Copyright: 2015

Pages: 121 including a bibliography

Synopsis: This dual language pocket book represents a collection of new translations of several Irish myths. Each story is first presented in the original Old Irish and then in English so that a reader can experience the story as it existed in the original before reading a new translation. Many of the existing translations are around a hundred years old, and often either exclude material or else skew the retelling to fit the mores of a more Victorian audience. The translations included here in stories including Angus’s Dream to the Taking of the Sidhe are an attempt to find a balance between a more literal translation that is still enjoyable to an English speaking audience. All material focuses on the stories of the Irish Gods, the Tuatha De Danann.

The Treasure of the Tuatha Dé The Treasure of the Tuatha Dé Danann

Cover of the print addition.

Review: Honestly? I think this small book is terrific. First of all it has all the bits of stories in the myths that interest me, and second I loved that it was in a tiny book that I could carry around if need be.

I loved the Miscellany part of the book too since it coved some of the major Gods that everyone love and what said about the festivals.

People reading it should know as the author already mentioned that this is HER translation of these stories and as such should be taken as an amateur’s attempts. Still I think that Morgan did a good job (from this amateur’s point of view anyway).

Get it. You know you want too.

The Celts An Illustrated History

Author: Helen Litton

Publisher: Wolfhound Press

Published: 1997

ISBN: 9780863275777

Pages: 138 including a bibliography, index, and many pictures both black and white and coloured.

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Synopsis: In the eyes of the world Ireland is a Celtic country – but just how Celtic is Ireland? Do we know whether the Celts arrived at all? What was their real impact on this western island at the edge of the known world?

Review: I brought this book from http://www.thriftbooks.com and from the name I honestly thought it would be one of these books with lots of illustrations and not enough words. What can I say, I can’t resist a book that says Celts on the cover. When it arrived I thought…oh well it is such a tiny book…full of pictures no doubt…I’ll start with it, look at the nice pictures then put it on the shelf. I did none of that.

The book certainly had many pictures. It also had text. Good text. The author, for the time period this was written in, was really on top of her game. She knew what she was talking about and she certainly knew how to present her information in a way that was informative and not boring.

I loved all the boxes with quotes from the classical writers about the Celts and about Ireland. The pictures were a great collection and were interesting to look at. This is one of the best introductory books on the Celts that I have read because even thought it was written in 1997 it still felt very relevant today in 2015.

Continental Connections

Long Title: Continental Connections – Exploring Cross-Channel Relationships from the Mesolithic to the Iron Age
Editors: Hugo Anderson-Whymark, Duncan Garrow and Fraser Strut
Publisher: Oxbow Books Limited
Published: January 31st, 2015
ISBN: 9781782978091
Pages: 172 with some maps, charts, pictures, and illustrations.

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Synopsis:

The prehistories of Britain and Ireland are inescapably entwined with continental European narratives. The central aim here is to explore cross-channel relationships throughout later prehistory, investigating the archaeological links (material, social, cultural) between the areas we now call Britain and Ireland, and continental Europe, from the Mesolithic through to the end of the Iron Age. Since the separation from the European mainland of Ireland (c. 16,000 BC) and Britain (c. 6000 BC), their island nature has been seen as central to many aspects of life within them, helping to define their senses of identity, and forming a crucial part of their neighbourly relationship with continental Europe and with each other. However, it is important to remember that the surrounding seaways have often served to connect as well as to separate these islands from the continent. In approaching the subject of continental connections in the long-term, and by bringing a variety of different archaeological perspectives (associated with different periods) to bear on it, this volume provides a new a new synthesis of the ebbs and flows of the cross-channel relationship over the course of 15,000 years of later prehistory, enabling fresh understandings and new insights to emerge about the intimately linked trajectories of change in both regions.

Review:

This isn’t a long book, only 172 pages; however, it is full of interesting information on the relationship between Ireland, Britain and mainland Europe, which has always interested me immensely.

The book is made up of eight chapters, an Introduction and a Conclusion. The introduction of the book acts like a mini methodology chapter and then goes one to give us a short description of each essay (chapter) of the text. The conclusion surveys at all the chapters, and tries to pluck out the more interesting ideas. Then it acts as a review of the data presented in the eight essays.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this book and the essays presented in it. It gave me a lot of food for thought about some ideas I’ve had about the Celtic languages, the Celtic religion and Celtic Art (which is the subject of one of the essays) and how they might have gotten to Britain, and Ireland. I know a lot of the essays dealt with the Mesolithic and Neolithic eras but the thoughts in those essays can easily be extrapolated to the Bronze and Iron ages. I’m a little biased so I would have to say my favorite two essays were on the Iron Age and Celtic Art (Chapters 8 and 9) but this is a book that I would recommend to anyone who REALLY wants to think about the cross-channel relationships and the origins of the Celts.

Early Medieval Ireland AD 400-1100: the Evidence from Archaeological Excavations

Authors: Aidan O’Sullivan, Finbar McCormick, Thomas Kerr, Lorcan Harney

Publisher: Royal Irish Academy

Published: 2014, originally 2013

ISBN: 9781904890607

Pages: 584 pages including Appendix tables, Bibliography, Index, plates and figures.

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Synopsis:

How did people create and live in their own worlds in early medieval Ireland; what did they actually do; and to what end did they think they were doing it? This book investigates and reconstructs from archaeological evidence how early medieval Irish people lived together as social groups, worked the land as farmers, worshipped God, made and used objects and buried their dead around them. It focuses on the evidence from excavations conducted between 1930 and 2012 and uses that evidence to explore how people used their landscapes, dwellings and material culture to effect and negotiate social, ideological and economic continuities and changes during the period AD 400–1100.

Review:

As the synopsis says this book uses archaeological finds and data to investigate and reconstruct how early medieval Irish people lived. The book is full of interesting information and not just about the finds but also about how these finds came to be and all the interesting history of the Early Medieval Archaeology Project and all the work that went into it. And it is A LOT!

The book is made up of nine chapters; the last of which, chapter nine, is a conclusion.

The first chapter discusses is an introduction to what is coming.

Chapter two talks about antiquarian origins and the development of archaeology in the 19th century, the university and state funded archaeological excavations in the Republic of Ireland and in the North of Ireland from the 1930s to the 1970s, the origins and development of commercial archaeology after Ireland and the UK joined the European union in 1973, the urban redevelopment archaeology in Ireland during the 1970s to the 2000s, and the NRA road development schemes during the time period between 2000 and 2013 which had archaeologists attached to them. And the politics and dynamics of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland also played a role in how these finds were interpreted and through which lens. This chapter was a bit too full of names, but if you don’t focus on them what is left of the chapter is very interesting, especially how the Irish dealt with the building of the roads and the archaeological finds around them.

Early medieval dwellings and settlements are the subject of chapter three. This chapter does a great job of reviewing the different types of evidence available for secular settlement activities and the knowledge that these activities provide us about the society of the time. This chapter was so interesting to read. Some of it was straight forward telling of what was found on archaeological finds but then rest of it was pure gold.

Chapter four is all about churches, especially their archaeology, but it also talks about burial, and church craftwork. It wasn’t my area of expertise so I was very interested in reading it and digesting it. I still felt though that I needed to understand more that was not possible with this book focused on archaeology.

The next chapter talks about the economy of Medieval Ireland, specifically farming. The big take away from this chapter was that agriculture was the key element in the organisation of early Irish society and the glue that kept it together. For more information on this, Kelly’s book is seminal.

Chapters six and seven discusses Irelands crafts and technologies and their trading. It discusses the technological knowledge and skills needed for the craftwork, the different roles of specialist craftspeople in the community, the networks of production, they way it was used or exchanged, and the way crafts changed across time. I’ve read a few art books and I think this rounds out my knowledge nicely.

The final chapter is death and burial. This final chapter showed that the conversion to Christianity was very slow and very complicated. There was probably a differing pace between locations and regions.

I feel that this book could really be complimented by reading Ireland in the Medieval World AD 400 – 1000: Landscape, Kingship and religion. See my review of it here.

Ireland in the Medieval World AD 400 – 1000: Landscape, Kingship and Religion

Author: Edel Bhreathnach
Publisher: Four Courts Press
Published: 2014
ISBN: 978-1-84682-342-8
Pages: 293 including Endnotes, Bibliography and Index. The book also has illustrations, black and white and colored pictures plates.

17991406Synopsis: This is a study of Ireland’s people, landscape, and place in the world from late antiquity to the reign of Brian Borama. The book narrates the story of Ireland’s emergence into history, using anthropological, archaeological, historical, and literary evidence. The subjects covered include the king, the kingdom and the royal household, religion and customs, free and unfree classes in society, exiles, and foreigners. The rural, urban, ecclesiastical, ceremonial, and mythological landscapes of early medieval Ireland anchor the history of early Irish society in the rich tapestry of archaeological sites, monuments, and place-names that have survived to the present day. A historiography of medieval Irish studies presents the commentaries of a variety of scholars, from the 17th-century Franciscan Micheal O Cleirigh to Eoin Mac Neill, the founding father of modern scholarship.

Review:

The book is made up of three chapters which should really be considered parts. Each chapter is further divided into sections, and while chapter one is relatively short, chapters two and three make up the bulk of the book. The Introduction of the book talks about the tradition of writing history in medieval Ireland and how important it was to the writers to write it. I learned quite a few new Irish words in this chapter, which I’m going to love using whenever I can.

Chapter one discusses the natural environment of Ireland, and the rural and urban settlements. It also discusses the antique trading hubs and the Viking coastal towns. I was very interested and what the author had to say about medieval Ireland’s land and climate but I was also very interested in WHERE she got her information. Archaeology of course was one source, law tracts and mythology was another.

Kingdoms, kings and people are the subjects of chapter two. The chapter starts with Ptolemy’s geography, then goes on to discuss Ogam inscriptions (and some of the formulas used in writing them), annals and genealogies, the concepts of Kingship, the obligations of the kings and their powers, the royal family and its extensions, the royal household, and ends with the life and death of the king. The chapter even has a section on the women in the royal household and what their rights were. This chapter is just so full of information. There is no way to get it all with one read. So many concepts and degrees of kings and kinds of kings to understand. And as with the first chapter the evidence is based on archaeology, law tracts and mythology.

The final chapter of the book from my point of view was the most interesting. It discusses religion, ritual and ritualists. It focuses on the Christian era of course, but it starts from the earliest possible phase of Christianity in Ireland and goes on from there. The big take away is that it was a SLOW and complicated process.

Should be complimented with Early Medieval Ireland AD 400-1100: The Evidence from Archaeological Excavations, read my review here.

Manx Calendar Customs

Author: C. I. Paton

Publisher: The University Press, Glasgow

Published: 1939

Series: Folk-Lore Society London Monographs (Volume 110)

Pages:147 including Addenda and index, with pictures.

Scan

Review:

So obviously another old book, but this one is so interesting because it had so many similar customs to the Irish and the Scottish.

The book follows the calendar starting with how the year was divided. The author describes the movable calendar days and then goes on to discuss the months and then the days with celebrations in each month.

The author included what people did on these days, omens (weather and heavenly bodies, Fire and ashes, Water, people, animals plants and food), superstitions, sayings, proverbs, observances, and poetry.

The last chapters of the book discussed the practices around wells and in fairs.

I think my only complaint with this book is the way it was organised. Under each month and day there are classifications, and the author chose to tell you what these classifications were at the very beginning of the book after the table of contents and then only had the number of the classification next to whatever he was writing. Many times I had to go back to the classification table to figure out what the numbers were referring too. It is however a very minor complaint.