The Great Queens

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

Published: 1991

ISBN: 0-86140-290-1

Pages: 277, including Notes, Bibliography, and Index

Synopsis: From GoodReads.com

Review:

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.

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Gablánach in Scélaigecht

Full Title: Gablánach in Scélaigecht – Celtic Studies in Honor of Ann Dooley

Editors: Sarah Sheehan, Joanne Findon and Westley Follet

Publisher: Four Courts Press

Published: 2013

ISBN: 978-1-84682-386-2

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.

Ireland and the Grail

Full Title: Ireland and the Grail

Author: John Carey

Publisher: Celtic Studies Publications

Published: 2007

Pages: 419 including a maps section, a Patrons of the Grail Legend section, a bibliography, a general index and an index of scholars.

Synopsis:

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.

A picture of the cover of  Ireland and The Grail

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!

In-depth Review

Manannan Mac Lir

**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

Published: 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78535-810-4

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.

Exploring Celtic Origins

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

Published: 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78925-088-6

Pages: 212 including General Index

Synopsis:

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.

Aspects of the Táin

Editor: J.P. Mallory

Publisher: December Publications

Published: 1992

ISBN: 0951706829

Pages: 159

Synopsis: From the back cover: “Aspects of the Táin attempts to bring together for the modern reader an account of the historical development of the tale, how it succeeds or fails as literature, and to what extent it is a window on the Iron Age”.”

Review: This is one of those must read books that you should read along side The Táin. It starts with an outline of the story in the Táin by the editor J.P. Mallory and then it has 3 very informative essays.

The first essay is by Ruairí Ó hUiginn and it talks about the background to the Táin as well as all the things that influenced it, the different recensions, its age and so on.

Patricia Kelly’s essay talks about the themes, characters and elements in the Táin. It also talks about its literary impact.

The final essay is by J.P. Mallory and it is about how different people tried to put the tales in chronological order and look for archaeology to support it.

This was a short book but it was an interesting one. You can see all the different views that people had while studying the Táin and how their views were sometimes opposite to one another.

Inside the Táin

Full Title: Inside the Táin – Exploring Cú Chulainn, Fergus, Ailill, and Medb

Author: Doris Edel

Publisher: Cruach Bhán Publications

Published: 2015

ISBN: 978-3-942002-20-2

Pages: 371, including 2 Appendices, Works Cited and Index

Synopsis: This is the first literary-critical study of the Táin Bó Cúailnge in its entirety, and as an autonomous literary work.

The key to a more deeply probing understanding of the semiliterate epic is the study of its characters: what they do and why they do it – why more important than what. Why reveals the differences between the various versions. Most promising is the multilayered Recension I, mainly preserved in Lebor na hUidre, which testifies of the keen interest of its compilers in the portrayal of the characters, while the version in the Book of Leinster, with its tendency to omit what might lessen the heroes’ prestige, pays for its greater unity with loss of depth.

The multi-facetedness of the characters in the early version, combined with the deceptive simplicity of the plot, lends the work a remarkable pragmatism. Despite occasional baroque descriptions of battle frenzy, the main heroes Cú Chulainn and Fergus embody a heroism reined in by prudence. All through the war they do everything in their power to limit the use of force. Ailill and Medb represent a new type of ruler-entrepreneur, who seeks to realize his aim at the lowest possible cost and accepts failure matter-of-factly. So the epic has no fatal end-point. The greater part of the two armies are able return to their countries. The theme of mutual destruction is relegated to the Battle of the Bulls. The lasting antagonism between the North and the remainder of the island must have endowed the Táin with contemporary significance at various points in time, as the allusions to (near-)contemporary events suggest.

Review: This is one of the most interesting books I’ve read as a companion to the Táin. The Introduction to the book gives very good basic information on the recensions of the Táin, which goes into technical details that assume you are familiar with he content of all three Recensions of the TBC. The book then goes into a deep analysis of the actions of Cú Chulainn, Fergus, Ailill, and Medb. As usual when we talk about the analysis of a single person I don’t agree with everything that is concluded but for the most part the analysis presented is a very sound one. The author raises some good points and also explains things in an easy manor that helps the reader get a deeper feel for the Táin and its most important characters.

The amount of information in this book is no joke. I think I would have gotten this book for the Appendices only, never mind all the deep analysis in the body of the text. A must read book.