Archaeology and Celtic Myth: An Exploration

Author: John Waddell

Publisher: Four Courts Press

Published: 2014

ISBN: 978-1-84682-494-4

Pages: 203 including index and bibliography.


Synopsis: In this book, author John Waddell contends that elements of pre-Christian Celtic myth preserved in medieval Irish literature shed light on older traditions and beliefs not just in Ireland but elsewhere in Europe as well. Waddell mainly focuses on aspects of the mythology associated with four well-known Irish archaeological landscapes: Newgrange and the Boyne Valley, the royal sites of Rathcroghan in County Roscommon, Navan in County Armagh, and Tara in County Meath. Their mythological associations permit the pursuit of the archaeological implications of several mythic themes, namely sacral kingship, a sovereignty goddess, solar cosmology, and the perception of an Otherworld.


I bought this book a while back, and kept it near my bed so that I could read it, but kept reading other books that I got after it. So finally I decided to read it.

The book is made up of a Preface, seven chapters and an Epilogue. It also has some beautiful illustrations both black and white and colored. This book is a study of the elements of pre-Christian Celtic myth preserved in medieval Irish literature, which sheds a light on older traditions in both Ireland and Europe. This study focuses on the myths associated with four archeological sites: Newgrange and the Boyne Valley, and the royal sites of Rathcroghan in Co. Roscommon, Navan in Co. Armagh, and Tara in Co. Meath.

I’m a little conflicted about this book. I liked a lot of things in it but I also hated a few things in it. I liked that the myths were being tied to archaeology and many of them were very convincing but some weren’t and I felt like it was a bit forced or not tied in correctly when it comes to linguistics. The writing style as usual was a bit dry but that is John Waddell for you. The pictures were beautiful. Also, the bibliography is a treasure trove.

I did like the book, but I would be very careful with the associations that the author makes. He is an archaeologist, not a linguist or a mythologist.