This blog will contain reviews of books that I have read to deal with the Celts and other subjects that interest me, as well as my own thoughts on the subject of the Celts their religion, mythology and culture.
Title: The Wisdom of the Outlaw: The Boyhood Deeds of Finn in Gaelic Narrative Tradition.
Author: Joseph Falaky Nagy
Publisher: University of California Press
Pages: 338 with Appendix One starting at 209; the book includes Appendix One, Appendix Two, an extensive notes section as well as an index and bibliography.
Review: It took forever to get my hands on a copy of this book and even then it was lightly used. Still it was better than waiting for a new edition that never materialized.
This is like the seventh or eighth time that I read this book and every time I read it I discover something new.
The book discusses Finn as a poet and an outsider. It talks about the terms Fénnid, Fían, and Rígfénnid and discusses Finn’s parents. Once that is all done the author starts analyzing Finn’s life.
This is a great book if you are following the path of the Outlaw in Irish tradition. It is also a great analysis of the Finn tradition as a whole so if you are interested in it from the standpoint of literature this is one of the best books on the subject.
There is also a great Appendix one in the back with some translations of the text which are very useful. And the notes section is quite extensive.
I see myself reading this book a few more times in the future and still discovering something new.
Pages: 272 including Appendix, Bibliography, and Index.
Synopsis: Hospitality was one of the most important social institutions and cultural customs in medieval Ireland. The fundamental principles governing the provision of hospitality were rooted in both the secular and religious traditions of Irish culture, and were represented in both the public and private spheres of Irish life. Legal texts, court records, ecclesiastical decrees concerning the privileges of high-ranking clerics and secular statements regarding the rights of kings reveal that the practice of hospitality was largely contractual and generally involved the mutually self-interested transactions of mundane affairs. Yet an ethos of generosity, strongly linked to a cultural code of honor, suffused the Irish practice of hospitality with an air of moral uprightness and decorousness. Gnomic literature provided a series of adages, maxims and proverbs reminding individuals that the path to virtuous living began with charity, liberality and good housekeeping, while sagas and bardic praise poetry underscored the influence hospitality had in determining one’s standing in society. Still, hospitality was not wholly secular, nor exclusively Irish for that matter. It was a basic Christian duty sanctioned by the Church and observed throughout the medieval world. Christian precept and example had a major impact on native Irish concepts of hospitality, and how the practice was played out in everyday life.
Hospitality in Medieval Ireland discusses hospitality in Ireland between the period of 900 – 1500 CE. The text has six chapters and an appendix of observations on the customs of hospitality in Medieval Ireland.
The first chapter discusses the sources used to glean these customs. The sources include the Annals, legal and administrative sources, Gnomic literature like instructions or proverbs, narrative literature both secular and religious, praise poetry, political memoirs, letters, field notes and finally descriptions of Ireland.
Chapter Two talks about the recipients of medieval Ireland’s hospitality. Some of the recipients were ordinary travellers, men of art who included poets, musicians and various other talents, churchmen, and noblemen and their retinue.
Hospitality and the ordinary household is the subject of the third chapter and I found this chapter interesting because it talks about ordinary people. The sources on this is very sparse and so this chapter was really short.
The fourth chapter is about hospitality and the nobility. Of course this chapter is a lot longer than the previous one as there is more evidence in the texts when it came to the nobility.
Chapter five is about guest houses and their keepers. There are three types of keepers traditionally and they are Hospitallers, churchmen, and professional learned men. The one that surprised me the most was professional learned men, they are better known for getting hospitality rather than supplying it.
The Irish church also practiced hospitality, and chapter six discusses the impact of the arrival of Christianity on native Irish concepts of guesting, feasting, and gift giving. There were sections on guesting, feasting, and the giving of Alms.
The book ends in an appendix that gives us observations on the customs of hospitality in Medieval Ireland. It talks about receptions for guests, customary lengths of stay, sleeping arrangements, guest houses and entertainment.
I found this book very interesting because I kept comparing the customs to the customs followed by Arabs and found them extremely similar. Parts of this book surprised me because of preconceived ideas that I had and some just confirmed what I already know. A must read book.
Full Title: The Great Queens – Irish Goddesses from the Morrígan to Cathleen ní Houlihan
Series: Irish Literary Studies 34
Author: Rosalind Clark
Publisher: Colin Smythe Limited
Pages: 277, including Notes, Bibliography, and Index
Synopsis: From GoodReads.com
The book is made up of an Introduction, four chapters and a conclusion.
The Introduction discussed the background of the Irish language and the stories the author is talking about the rest of the book.
Part One, which is made up of two chapters, discusses who the Morrígan is as a goddess and how She was portrayed by authors who wrote (or didn’t write) about Her in Myths.
Part Two, which ends with Chapter Four, discusses Sovereignty goddesses and how they turned into an allegory in Medieval times. The author then takes that one step further and discusses how They go from an allegory to peasant “ordinary” women from the end of the Middle Ages through the Irish Renaissance.
Finally, the conclusion puts it all together and ties it up with more information.
I’m a little torn about this book. It has a lot of great information on the War Goddesses but sometimes I wanted to scream at the book “nope, nope, nope!” It has more to do with how I read the myths and my own thoughts on the War Goddesses then with actual wrong information. So in the end, read the book and see if it jives with your thoughts on the subject matter…some of it certainly didn’t jive with me.
Full Title: Gablánach in Scélaigecht – Celtic Studies in Honor of Ann Dooley
Editors: Sarah Sheehan, Joanne Findon and Westley Follet
Publisher: Four Courts Press
Pages: 282, including the Index
Synopsis: This book celebrates the career of Ann Dooley, one of Canada’s most eminent Celtic medievalists. Dooley’s colleagues at the University of Toronto, her former doctoral students, and some of the most prominent scholars in medieval Celtic studies honor her work with 16 original essays reflecting Dooley’s teaching and interests: early Irish and Welsh literature and history, literary theory, and feminist approaches to medieval Celtic literature. Chapters include: studies of major figures in early Irish and Welsh folklore, including Gwydion, Nes, Deirdriu, Luaine, Medb * studies of major texts, including the Auraicept na nEces, the Acallam na Senorach, and the Tain Bo Cuailnge * women, blood, and soul-friendship * how Irish was medieval Ceredigion? * the ‘Statute of Gruffudd ap Cynan’ * the Irish history of the ‘Third Troy’ and medieval writing of history * the monstrous hero * the O’Donohue lives of the Salamancan Codex.
Review: This book has a collection of sixteen essays that are diverse, informative and interesting. The authors of these essays include Ann Dooley’s collegues and students. Authos include John Carey, Pádraig Ó Riain, Tomás Ó Cathasaigh, Dáibhí Ó Cróinín and Patrick K. Ford; all giants in their fields.
Some of the topics discussed include St. Patrick, Irish Saint’s lives, the Book of Kells, women and blood, the Acallam na Senórach, Auraicept na nÉces, and the Táin Bó Cúailnge.
I won’t discuss the essays themselves because they are very specialized, but I will tell you that I learned a lot and had a lot of “hmmm” and “aha!” moments. Some of the essays were more interesting than others and some were much more fun to read than others. I also want to say that this book is not for the beginner in the field. It is more intermediate to advanced. You have to at least have an idea about the texts the authors are talking about or at least have a way to access them and get some background knowledge.
Pages: 419 including a maps section, a Patrons of the Grail Legend section, a bibliography, a general index and an index of scholars.
This is the first book-length study of the origins of the Grail legend to have been undertaken by a specialist in medieval Irish literature. Drawing on a detailed reexamination of the relevant texts in Irish, Welsh, Latin and French, extensive sections of which are presented in new translations, the author argues that the roots of the Grail legend are to be sought in the lost Old Irish manuscript known as the Book of Druimm Snechtai.
Review: So this book has been staring me in the face and on my To Be Read list since October 2012. Yep it has been waiting its turn patiently since then and the main reason for that is that I bought this book on a whim. I love reading anything by John Carey but at the same time I’m not really all that interested in the legends of the Grail. I tend to think of them as Welsh or French and not Irish. When I saw the title I thought hmmm and John Carey and so here we are seven years later. I finally decided enough was enough, either I read it or I find it a good home with someone who would enjoy it. If you know anything about me you know that I rarely NOT read a book that I own and if I do read it I rarely DNF it. So at the beginning of May I started reading it. Yesterday, I finally finished it. I learned quite a lot from this book, I learned about the first ever Grail legend and who wrote it. I learned that even though on the surface it looks like its origins might be Wales that might be decieving and I leanred that I REALLY am not into the Grail Legends. As such, I’m not qualified to give it a real review. I can say that I enjoyed it for the most part and am glad that I read it. So since you came here for an honest review I’m not going to let you leave here with out one. Click on the link below!
**I can’t seem to get my fada to work on this iPad so be aware that there is a fada on the last “a” in Manannan.
Full Title: Pagan Portals: Manannan Mac Lir Meeting the Celtic God of Wave and Wonder
Author: Morgan Daimler
Publisher: Moon Books
Pages: 78 includes bibliography, and appendix.
Synopsis: The sea is a powerful, driving force for many people, a source of sustenance as well as danger. It is no surprise that Manannan, the Celtic God of the sea, should be an important figure but one who is also as ambiguous as the element he is associated with: a trickster, a magic worker, an advisor and a warrior. In this book you will get to know the many faces of Manannan, called the son of the ocean, and learn of his important place in mythology and the pivotal role he plays in many events.
Review: Manannan Mac Lir is not one of my patron Gods per se, but he is a part of my life that I am still grappling with. He and I have our rough days but for the most part we understand what we want from each other. So when I learned that Morgan was writing a Pagan Portals book I knew I had to get it and when it came I knew I had to read it right away.
When I saw how tiny the book is I was a little worried because I was wondering how she would fit all of what Manannan is into it, but it is Morgan and I shouldn’t have worried. The book is made up of seven chapter, and a short conclusion. It also has a bibliography and an appendix containing a glossary and pronunciation guide.
Morgan managed to cover who He is, what was said about Him in mythology as well as pop culture, what “kind of a God He is” and also give us a picture of how a relationship with Him is possible from her personal experiences with Him. As with all of Morgan’s books this one was well researched and has a personal touch which I always love to read in books about the Gods.
I had a lot of fun reading this book and saw bits of myself in Morgan’s personal relationship with Him. I highly recommend this book.
Full Title: EXPLORING CELTIC ORIGINS: New ways forward in archaeology, linguistics, and genetics.
Series: Celtic Studies Publications XXII
Edited By: Barry Cunliffe and John T. Koch
Published By: Oxbow Books
Pages: 212 including General Index
Review: This latest book from Barry Cunliffe “focuses on a research programme, based in the centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies at Aberystwyth in collaboration with the School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, designed to explore the origins of the Celts and of the Celtic Language family.” (P. IX)
I love the way it is structured, basically a bunch of essays with their own further reading section after each essay.
The first two chapters are a summerization of the Celtic From the West hypothesis and a set up of the next four chapters. They were written by Cunliffe and Koch respectively.
The next chapters were written by many experts in the fields of linguistics, archaeology, and genetics as well as chemistry. There was a lot of good information which was at times interesting, and other times REALLY confusing. There is a little bit for everyone to nibble on: DNA, linguistics, Atlantic connections, Beakers and much more. Even those who are proponents of the Kurgan Hypothesis will find something for them in the pages of this book.
It took me a while to read it because it was such an interesting mix. I’m still not sure about the Celtic From the West hypothesis; there is evidence but not exactly, there are certainly a lot of holes still to be filled in. However, in the end, it is not a hypothesis that you can summarily dismissed.