A Study Program for An Irish Traditional Polytheist


To begin with this is my own program of study, it is not associated with anyone and I came up with it based on a few things I read across the Internet in different and scattered places as well as advice from some friends.  I’m sure that some will think it is too much, while others will think it is a load of hogwash.  Follow it or don’t, it is totally up to you.  I’m also including A Starter’s Kit of books at the end for people who want to give it a try but don’t want to invest too much time and money in the beginning to find out whether this is for them or not.

Get a sense of geography; figure out where everything was and is in Europe.  History is next; you need to have a look at the history of Europe in general and then the Indo-Europeans, Greeks, Romans as well as the Celts.  The reason for this is that all of these cultures impacted on the Celts in one sense or another.

You then need to study the culture and history of Ireland. You might want to study the language too, as this can be a great way to look at the culture.

You’ll want to look at Celtic mythology and folklore as well as comparative mythology from other cultures related to the Celts.

Learn about magic, trance work, meditation and divination through practical involvement. Again, many of the actual patterns and techniques are cross-cultural. Understanding the dynamics involved through personal experience will help you apply that knowledge to the specifically Celtic forms you will find in the sources.

Some books to aid you:

History:

1. Europe: You need to have a working knowledge of European history as well as the Indo-Europeans. The European history will help you put into perspective who the players that may have affected the Irish Celts and where everyone was at any particular time in history.

  • Europe Between the Oceans: 9000 BC – AD 1000 by Prof. Barry Cunliffe *
  • The Oxford Illustrated History of Prehistoric Europe edited by Prof. Barry Cunliffe
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians by Peter Heather*
  • The Blackwell Companion to the Roman Empire edited by David S. Potter
  • The Blackwell Companion to the Classical Greek World edited by Konrad H. Kinzl
  • Ancient Europe: 8000 BC – AD 1000 Volumes I & II by Peter Bogucki and Pam J. Crabtree
  • Greeks and Pre-Greeks: Aegean Prehistory and Greek Heroic Tradition by Margalit Finkelberg

2. Indo-Europeans: The Indo-European history gives you the history of the ancestors of the Celts and knowledge of their history and culture will give you a good basis for later knowledge of the Celts and how they behaved.

  • In Search of Indo-Europeans: Language, Archeology, and Myth by J.P. Mallory*
  • The Horse, The Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders fro the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World By David W. Anthony*
  • The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World by J.P. Mallory

3. Celtic History: In order to follow a religion you need to know the history of its people and its culture.

  • The Celts: Bronze Age to New Age by John Haywood*
  • The Ancient Celts by Prof. Barry Cunliffe*
  • The World of the Celts by Simon James*
  • Pagan Celtic Ireland by Barry Raftery*
  • Pagan Celtic Britain by Anne Ross
  • The Pagan Celts by Anne Ross (Also called The Everyday Life of the Pagan Celts)*
  • Pre-Christian Ireland: From the First Settlers to the Early Celts by Peter Harbison

Culture:

  • Celtic Art: From Its Beginnings to the Book of Kells by Ruth Megaw*
  • Art of the Celts by Lloyd Robert Laing
  • Symbol and Image in Celtic Religious Art By Miranda Jane Aldhouse-Green
  • A Passion for Justice: Social Ethics in the Celtic Tradition by Dr. Johnston McMaster
  • Cattle Lords and Clansmen: Social Structure of Early Ireland by Nerys Thomas Patterson*
  • Land of Women: Tales of Sex and Gender from Early Ireland by Lisa M. Bitel*
  • Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales by Alwyn Rees*
  • Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia (Five Volume Set) by John Koch*(expensive but worth having)
  • Guide to Early Irish Law by Fergus Kelly*

Mythology

  • The Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe by Hilda Ellis Davidson (Note: it focuses more on the Germans than the Celts, but has an excellent chapter on Celtic Goddesses.)
  • Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe by Hilda Ellis Davidson
  • Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend by Miranda Green*
  • The Gods of the Celts by Miranda Green*
  • Celtic Mythology by Proinsias MacCana
  • The Silver Bough by F. Marian McNeill*
  • The Wisdom of the Outlaw by Joseph Falaky Nagy
  • Celtic Myths and Legends by T. W. Rollston
  • Gods and Heroes of the Celts by Marie-Louise Sjoestedt tr. by Myles Dillon
  • Ancient Irish Tales, ed. by Tom P. Cross and Clark Harris Slover*
  • Cath Maige Tuired: Second Battle of Mag Tuired, ed. and tr. by Elizabeth A. Gray
  • Early Irish Myths and Sagas, tr. by Jeffrey Gantz*
  • Lebor Gabála Erenn: Book of the Taking of Ireland (5 vols.), ed. and tr. by R. A. S. Macalister
  • The Táin Tr. Thomas Kinsella*
  • A Dictionary of Celtic Mythology by James MacKillop*
  • Myths and Legends of the Celts by James MacKillop*
  • The Lore of Ireland: An Encyclopedia of Myth, Legend and Romance Dáithí Ó hÓgáin

Celtic Religion and Religion: It is a bit tricky when it comes to Celtic religion mostly because we don’t have direct texts on the subject matter and most of what we know for sure comes from interpreting archeology.

  • God Against the Gods: The history of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism by Johnathan Kirsch*
  • A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism by John Michael Greer*
  • The Sacred Isle: Belief and Religion in Pre-Christian Ireland by Dáithí Ó hÓgáin*
  • Where Three Streams Meet: Celtic Spirituality by Sean Duinn

Ritual and Practice: Some of these books are good ones based on very good research but are not to be taken as the “gospel” truth.

  • Stations of the Sun by Ronald Hutton (mostly dealing with Britain but is good for ideas on the times of year)
  • The Apple Branch by Alexei Kondrateiv (An amazing book on the stories surrounding the festivals of the Celtic Year, with lots of great information on the Celts. The actual ritual structure is more Wiccan in style so you will need to tweak that.)*
  • Deep Ancestors: Practicing the Religion of the Proto-Indo Europeans by Ceisiwr Serith (this is a great book that gives great Ritual structure, as well as amazing definitions of the Gods, Ancestors and Spiritual beings. It can easily be translated to the Celtic year.)*
  • The Year in Ireland by Kevin Danaher*

* Denotes highly recommended books.

A Starter Kit: This is to figure out if this is what you want to do or not…

  • The Celts: A Short Introduction by Barry Cunliffe
  • Celtic Myths by Miranda Jane Green
  • A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism by John Michael Greer