BOOK REVIEW: 2 books

Irish Text Society Books: The Book of Rights and Lebor Na Cert Reassessment

BOOK 1: Lebor Na Cert (The Book of Right)

Series: Volume XLVI

Edited by: Myles Dillon

Publisher: Irish Text Society

Published: First published 1962, Reprinted 1984, 1994, 2012

ISBN: 1 870 16646 9

Pages: 198, with 2 Appendices, Index of names and places, a map, and notes on it.

Review: There is no way I’m going to review The Book of Right of course but I will be discussing some points about it.

The book has 4 chapters: Introduction, Lebor Na Cert, Appendix A- Timna Chathaír Máir, and Appendix B – Tables of Stipends and Tributes.

The Introduction is VERY informative. It talks about what the Book of Rights is all about, and how it was written (its structure, prose and poems), who may or may not have written it, how old it really is, the value of the Book of Rights as a historical document, and how the book was edited, when and by whom and from which manuscripts. (Pages ix – xxv)

The chapter that contains the Book of Rights has both the Irish and the English translation. The Irish text is on the left page and its English translation is on the right. It has both prose and poems. The prose explains the poem to come after it. (Pages 1 – 147)

Appendix A is a chapter that contains The Testament of Cathaír Már. There is an explanation of what that is and then similar to the Book of Right there is an Irish and an English translation. (Pages 148 – 178)

Appendix B is literally a bunch of tables of stipends and tributes from Cashel, Connachta, Ailech, Ulaid, Temair, Lagin, Cruachain, and Mide. (Pages 179 – 189)

Lebor Na Cert (The Book of Rights)

BOOK 1: Lebor Na Cert Reassessment

Series: Subsidiary Series No. 25

Edited by Kevin Murray

Publisher: Irish Text Society

Published: 2013

ISBN: 1-870166-74-4

Pages: 126, with Bibliography and Index

Review: The book has 5 very interesting essays by Fergus Kelly, Thomas Charles-Edwards, Catherine Swift, Edel Bhreathnach, and Kevin Murray.

Essay 1 by Fergus Kelly is all about Myles Dillon the editor of the Book Of Rights. Kelly talks about his scholarship contributions and the importance of his work, and his reputation as a nativist.

Essay 2 by Thomas Charles-Edwards talks about the organization of Ireland in terms of clientship as seen through the lens of the Book of Rights. It is a detailed analysis of the different types of clientship found in the text.

Essay 3 by Cathrine Swift looks at the broader historical context of som of the customs and practices that are important to the Book of Rights. Especially customs involving taxes, trade and trespass. This essay was really interesting because it discusses the interactions of the Norse and the Irish population.

Edel Bhreathnach’s essay talks about the Testament of Cathaír Már. Especially the genealogical traditions of Leinster.

Finally, Kevin Murray’s essay builds on what Dillon did and looks at the language and date of the Book of Rights.

I can’t choose a favorite between the essays as each one has interesting information from a different perspective. If you read those two books together you will get a comprehensive understanding of the Book of Rights.

Lebor Na Cert Reassessment

Two Book Reviews

Title: The Rise of the Celts (The History of Civilisation Series)

Author: Henri Hubert

Publisher: Dorset press

Published: 1934, second edition 1988

Review: This book talked about the history of the Celts, starting from the origins up to the Hallstatt period. It also gave an overview of the history as a whole in the beginning, with linguistic and archeological analysis.

For me this was an interesting read. It too me a while to get through it mainly because it was old and a translation from a French text; so at times it felt awkward and some of the terms used for the time periods were a bit confusing because there were no dates attached to them for reference.

So why did I find this interesting? I liked the parts of the book where the author discussed the current (1934) hypotheses on the origins of the Celts, and I liked comparing how different (or similar) they were to the current hypotheses on the same subject.


Title: The Greatness and Decline of the Celts (The History of Civilisation Series)

Author: Henri Hubert

Publisher: Constable and Company (first English edition) Routledge (Second edition)

Published: 1934, First English edition 1987, Second edition 2013

Review: This is part two of the series on the Celts. The book picks up where it left off from the previous one and takes us up until the decline of the Celts after the Roman conquests.

For me, part three of this book was where it was all at. It talks about the social and political structure of the Celts. I found the discussion on some concepts like reciprocity totally fascinating. Of course I should say that the author in this part of the book kept talking about the “unity of the Celts”, which was annoying because the author had previously made an effort to differentiate between the continental and insular Celts.


So would I recommend these books? Yes, with the following caveats. Don’t read them if you are just starting out, they are definitely not for the beginner. Keep in mind that the author favours the hypothesis that says the Celts came from Gaul, and everything is about France. Be prepared to be a little confused on some of the period names.

Lords of Battle: The World of the Celtic Warrior (World of the Warrior) by Stephen Allen

Author: Stephen Allen
Series: World of the Warrior
Publisher: Osprey Publishing
Copyright: 2007
ISBN: 9781841769486
Pages: 224

Synopsis: To the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome, the Celtic warrior of the late Iron Age was the archetypal barbarian: savage, undisciplined, and bloodthirsty. In a clash of cultures that lasted almost 500 years, the rich and vibrant society in which he lived, fought, and died was virtually destroyed, becoming the stuff of myth and legend.
Covering the period from the first mention of the Celts by ancient Greek writers to the Roman conquest of Britain, this book examines the Celtic warrior, his society and his place within it, and the conflicts that would eventually destroy his world. Beautifully illustrated with many examples of Celtic art and craftsmanship, this book provides a fascinating insight into a culture whose legacy has endured to the present day.

Review: Osprey are world renowned for their graphic and interpretive content, especially for gamers, modelers and to a lesser extent the reenactment community. They are THE industry standard in graphic illustrations of military settings.

If this is what you were expecting from this book then you will be sourly disappointed. If however you are looking for a book to read that is a bit like The World of the Celts by James Simon then this is a great book to have and it has the latest information on the field. The pictures in the book are all very beautiful and the writing style is very interesting.

The book has four parts, and eleven chapters. The focus of course is on the warrior aspect of the Celts, but it is a great review of the history as well. A good book to have.

The Celts: A Chronological History by Dáithí Ó hÓgáin

Author: Dáithí Ó hÓgáin
Publisher: The Collins Press
Copyright: 2002, reprinted 2006
ISBN: 9780851159232
Pages: 248


Synopsis: The Celts were one of the most important population groups to spread across the ancient European continent. From 800BC to 1050AD their story is one of expanding power and influence followed by contraction and near extinction. Drawing on all possible sources of evidence, from archaeological remains of ancient Greece and Rome to surviving cultural influences,Dáithí Ó hÓgáin outlines the history of the people known as Celts. He follows the evolution of their culture as it gained strength on its two-thousand-year passage through Europe, from its earliest origins in the east through the upheaval of the early middle ages to its ‘twilight’ and decline in the west. The influence of the Celts is far more widespread than its fragmented survival in the outer fringes of western Europe indicates; this once important culture is still a vital component of European civilization and heritage, from east to west. In tracing the course of the history of the Celts, Dáithí Ó hÓgáin shows how far-reaching their influence has been. Dáithí Ó hÓgáin is Associate Professor of Irish Folklore at University College Dublin. A recognized authority on Celtic folklore and history, he has lectured widely and contributed to many radio and TV programs on Irish literature and cultural history. He is the author of The Sacred Isle#58; Pre-Christian Religion in Ireland.

Review: The book is a pretty short one (238 actual reading pages) and it has ten chapters.

I decided against writing a chapter by chapter summary because of the nature of the book. It is a survey of the Celts from the origins until the waning of their power and almost disappearance except of course from the Atlantic fringes.

This is a book aimed at someone who wants an abridged history of the Celts, told in a very simple manner. However, I really would not recommend it to someone who has not read other books on the subject. While most of the information in the book is accurate I could not help but get the sense that in many places the author was a Celtophile (not necessarily a bad thing just something to be aware of), it was a word here and there that kind of gave the game away. Also, he tends to use explanations that are not main stream for some things. I understand that interpretation of archeology really depends on the archeologist but somethings are considered standard.

This is a book that I would recommend to people who have already read history books on the Celts by authors like Barry Cunliffe and John Haywood, so that they can know which parts of what is written is correct and which part of it was the author’s own interpretation. For those wondering I’d say 85% of the book is correct information, 5% is dated and 10% needs to be cross referenced carefully with other history books.

Indo-European Poetry and Myth By M. L. West

Author: M. L. West

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Publishing Year: 2007

ISBN: 978-0-19-928075-9

Pages: 539


Synopsis: The Indo-Europeans, speakers of the prehistoric parent language from which most European and some Asiatic languages are descended, most probably lived on the Eurasian steppes some five or six thousand years ago. Martin West investigates their traditional mythologies, religions, and poetries, and points to elements of common heritage. In The East Face of Helicon (1997), West showed the extent to which Homeric and other early Greek poetry was influenced by Near Eastern traditions, mainly non-Indo-European. His new book presents a foil to that work by identifying elements of more ancient, Indo-European heritage in the Greek material. Topics covered include the status of poets and poetry in Indo-European societies; meter, style, and diction; gods and other supernatural beings, from Father Sky and Mother Earth to the Sun-god and his beautiful daughter, the Thunder-god and other elemental deities, and earthly orders such as Nymphs and Elves; the forms of hymns, prayers, and incantations; conceptions about the world, its origin, mankind, death, and fate; the ideology of fame and of immortalization through poetry; the typology of the king and the hero; the hero as warrior, and the conventions of battle narrative.

Review: The Introduction to this book was very organized. In it the author gives you a timeline for the Indo-European and places them and he also talks a little about all the people who made this possible. He talks about the sources he is going to use and the methodology he will employ so by the end of the Introduction you have some background on the people he will be talking about, where he got his main sources from, and how he will arrive to where he wants to take you.

I really liked the way he described his methodology. It helps to smooth out a lot of things that the “old comparative method” doesn’t. Though in a way this is comparative mythology too.

In Chapter One we learn about the author’s definition of poetry, all about who the poet was in the Indo-European cultures, the structure of poetry and the occasions and genres of poems in the Indo-European world.

It was certainly an interesting chapter especially when the author talked about the different types of poets and all the training they had to get through to be poets, their relationship with their patrons, as well as all the different occasions poems were recited.

Chapter Two talks about the phrases used and the figures that can be seen in Indo-European poetry.

To be honest this chapter was both interesting and a bit confusing (not in a bad way) just that I had to unlearn a few things that I thought I learned correctly.

In Chapter Three we go into everything to do with the gods and goddesses. This includes what they were/are, how they were worshipped, the distinction between them and mankind, characteristics of their divinity, their names and mythical themes associated with the.

I found this chapter very informative and forms a great basis for further study of the gods both in the Indo-European sense and later if one is to go into in depth study of any of the gods of the daughter Indo-European cultures.

The Sky and Earth are the subject matter of Chapter Four. In this chapter the author talks about the Sky god and Earth goddess, their divinity, their relationship to each other and their children.

I loved how the author showed that the gods may have started out as one thing and then evolved into another. Most of the time though, this other is a small part of the first association.

Chapter Five was about the Sun and his Daughter and Dawn. There are quite a bit of motifs and associations that are put forward in this chapter.

The whole chapter made me think. I know a lot of people think that Miranda Green saw the Solar God everywhere with association with the Celts and while the author does not agree with her excesses in that respect, he does show that there is some evidence for a Sun God. Also he puts forward an interesting association of the Dawn goddess with Brigit.

More on the Gods in Chapter Six on this time it is the gods of Storm and stream.

I was really interested in reading about all the parallels and similarities between these gods.

Nymphs, gnomes, elves, dwarfs, and satyrs are just some of the deities and supernatural beings discussed in Chapter Seven.

I loved reading this chapter, I always assumed that some things were just unique to certain cultures but boy was I wrong.

Chapter Eight talks about one of my favorite subjects, hymns and spells.

I’ve always talked about how pagans should go back to the fact that the paths of Paganism are religions, and that part of that is worship and prayers. The chapter also talks about spells, magic and healing.

Cosmos and Canon is the title of Chapter Nine. In the chapter the author talks about cosmology, cosmogony, and the world wide wed.

I really can’t describe this chapter it needs to be read to be believed.

Two component of Indo-European cultures are morality and fame and they were the subjects covered in Chapter Ten.

This chapter explores the relationship between death, life, names and reputation. It really struck me how some of the concepts discussed are so similar to Arab (mostly nomadic Arab) philosophies of old.

Chapter Eleven speaks of King and Hero. The chapter looks at the King and his relationship with his Queen, with the horse with the priest and many other concepts that go with Kingship.

This chapter reminded me a lot of what I read in a book on Celtic views of Justice. It explained a lot of where the concepts in that book came from.

The final chapter of the book has to do with battle. Chapter Twelve talks of arms and the warriors who wield them.

This is a very interesting chapter to me because a lot of what we know about that Celts we know from that stand point. It is good to see where that originated.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It is one of these expensive books that are really worth every penny. I always had problems with Georges Dúmiezil’s methodology when it came to comparison but M.L. West smoothed out the rough edges for me with his tweaking of it.

West’s writing style is so easy to read and it is never dry. I keep getting the impression that I was listening to a friend talking about everyday life rather than a scholarly work, but make no mistake this is definitely a scholarly book. The information is interesting and well organized. The book just flows beautifully. It took me a bit to read it mostly because I needed to digest it. Lots of information in there to process, and I know that this is one book that I will be referring to time and again.

The Celtic Languages Edited by Dr. Martin J. Balls and Dr. Nicole Muller

Editors: Dr. Martin J. Balls and Dr. Nicole Muller
ISBN 13: 9780415422796
Pages: 816
Publisher: Routledge
Copyright: Second Edition 2009

Synopsis: The Celtic Languages describes in depth all the Celtic languages from historical, structural and sociolinguistic perspectives with individual chapters on Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Breton and Cornish.

This second edition has been thoroughly revised to provide a comprehensive and up-to-date account of the modern Celtic languages and their current sociolinguistic status along with complete descriptions of the historical languages.

This comprehensive volume is arranged in four parts. The first part offers a description of the typological aspects of the Celtic languages followed by a scene setting historical account of the emergence of these languages. Chapters devoted to Continental Celtic, Old and Middle Irish, and Old and Middle Welsh follow. Parts two and three are devoted to linguistic descriptions of the contemporary languages. Part two has chapters on Irish, Scots Gaelic and Manx, while Part three covers Welsh, Breton and Cornish. Part four is devoted to the sociolinguistic situation of the four contemporary Celtic languages and a final chapter describes the status of the two revived languages Cornish and Manx.

With contributions from a variety of scholars of the highest reputation, The Celtic Languages continues to be an invaluable tool for both students and teachers of linguistics, especially those with an interest in typology, language universals and the unique sociolinguistic position which the Celtic languages occupy.

Review: With a book like this (written by different people) I always worry about who these people are. The list is VERY impressive, and the fact that it was professors and researchers who were also in most cases native speakers of the language they are writing about makes them even more interesting. Also I’m kind of glad I’ve read Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction because when talking about the structure of the languages the authors write assuming that the reader knows what technical linguistic terms like ablaut and velar. It would also be a good idea to know one of the Celtic languages since they talk about their grammatical structure.

The essays in this book are concerned with the status and structure of the Celtic languages. The beauty of this book is that I got to learn about all the different theories on how the Celtic Languages were broken (I always assumed that there was no controversy there, boy was I wrong). I also got the background on languages that you don’t hear to much about like Cislapine Celtic and Gaulish. Then of course, you get a good background and an outline of grammar for many of the Celtic languages. I paid special attention to Irish and I learned a lot.

I have to say that this book is more for the linguist than the historian, but if you are interested in learning what the structure of the Celtic languages is and where they are today then this is a good book to read. Just be prepared for a little technical discussion that might send you to the dictionary.