Posts Tagged ‘Hutton’

The Triumph Of The Moon; A Review ~

Intrigued by Ronald Hutton’s assertion that “Wicca” (meaning the wiseones) is the first all British religion given to the world, I approached his book The Triumph of the Moon as my first serious study of Wicca and Witchcraft with an objective attitude and without any preconceived perspectives on the matter. As anyone who has read any Hutton will already know, his books are academic, copiously referenced and invariably not a light read.

 

Art by Alexis Mackenzie

Of The Origins of Modern Perspectives 
On Witchcraft, Wicca and Paganism In Britain;
Restricting his research to Great Britain, the book opens with an exploration of prevailing attitudes towards Paganism in the late 19th – early 20thC, asserting that Wiccan belief and practice owe much to the scholars, novelists and poets who resurrected Pan and the Goddess in the Victorian and Edwardian culture, and identifying the four key perspectives of the period;
First, a belief that all Pagans, both of European prehistory and of contemporary tribal peoples represented a religious expression of humanity’s ignorance and savagery.
Second, that derived from the religion and culture of Ancient Greece and Rome, the Pagans were noble and admirable people but essentially remained inferior to Christianity in their ethics and spiritual values.
Third, that some writers considered Paganism superior to Christianity, being a life affirming and joyous alternative approach to religion which respects all of nature and seeks to integrate our lives with it.
Fourth, that a number of thinkers, writers and poets with connections to the Romantic movement such as Shelley, Leigh Hunt and Thomas Love Peacock, considered Paganism a remnant of a great universal religion of the distant past, elements of which were to be found in all the major religions practice by civilized humanity, from which contemporary NeoPaganism is descended.

Hutton then explored in greater depth the various strands of Romantic literary Paganism, the Frazerian Anthropology, Folklorism, Freemasonry, Theosophy, the revival of Ritual Magic and of Ceremonial magic, Thelema, and Woodcraft Chivalry, among others.
I found his research into the varieties of ‘Cunning Folk’ and other groups including ‘The Toadmen’ (still around in 1938) and a Masonic styled secret society called ‘The Horseman’s Word’ in the 19th century to be particularly enjoyable and informative reading.
To introduce them briefly, the ‘Cunning Folk’ were professional or semi-professional practitioners of magic active from at least the fifteenth up until the early twentieth century who practiced folk magic – also known as “low magic” – although often combined this with elements of “high” or ceremonial magic. In earlier times, the witch’s power to harm people, livestock, and crops was greatly feared: for this reason country people consulted with the ‘Cunning Men’ and ‘Wise Women’ who had the power to negate their spells with counter-magic.  Cunning-folk practitioners were also consulted for love spells, to find lost property or missing persons, exorcise ghosts and banish evil spirits.
Ronald Hutton suggests that the ‘Cunning Craft’, rather than dying out, had changed character by being subsequently absorbed into other magical currents.
The decline of the cunning craft in Britain was not however indicative of other European nations: in Italy for example, cunning practitioners continued operating right into the early twenty-first century.

Nevertheless, the author portrays that through the increasing interest in ancient Paganism and survival of traditional magical practices like charms during the 19thC, there came about in the 20thC what amounts to a new religion.

Laurie Lipton. The Black Sun

Of The Rise of Modern Wicca, 
Witchcraft and Paganism in Britain;
The second half of this book traces in greater depth the modern history of that new religion, of Paganism and Wicca, with particular focus on Gardnerian and Alexandrian traditions of Wicca and examines the personalities involved in launching modern pagan witchcraft, including Gerald Gardner, Sanders, Valiente, the Crowthers, Pickingill and others.
Hutton says that Wicca was introduced by Gerald Gardener in the mid to late 1950’s shortly after Britain repealed their anti-witchcraft laws. Gardener had claimed that he became acquainted with a group of Rosicrucian actors who introduced him to an ancient surviving craft and that Dorothy Clutterbuck, their priestess, initiated him into their coven.
However, Hutton also argues that Wicca’s origins go well beyond Gardener claiming that Gardener was influenced not only by Ancient Hinduism following his period of civil service in India, but also a diverse collection of sources including 17th and 18th century fraternal organizations, 19th century esoteric societies including the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Ordo Templi Orientis  and Freemasonry from whom he borrowed Wicca’s ritual structure, initiations, handshakes and passwords. The author makes clear that Gardener also derived inspiration and some practices from the Occultist Aleister Crowley and Romantic literary authors including Yeats, Frazer and Graves as well as the Back-To-Nature movement.

Despite Gardener’s claimed introduction to an older craft group – which Hutton points out is contested, and because of Gardener’s own subsequent gathering of sources and resources such as The Book Of Shadows, his forming of Covens and publicizing of his new organization, Gardener is nevertheless portrayed as the founding father of modern Wicca.
Whilst this early NeoPaganism may appear a socially or politically subversive movement, particularly because of its secrecy and the reversal of cultural norms such as that some aspects of ritual were to be carried out naked, the point is made that at this stage the movement was not of a socially minded reactionary nature at all. Several of its founding figures were deeply conservative (and politically Conservative), and their quarrel was not with social and economic status quo, but rather against the unnaturalness and destruction of traditional patterns of life and societies deep involvement with nature that characterized the rising industrial modernity.

On the one hand then Hutton appears to make the argument that early modern Pagan Witchcraft did not stem from any unbroken lines of succession and does not represent a survival of ancient forms of indigenous religious practice, but equivocally he also states that various forms of earlier practice such as the Cunning Craft, Wise Women and others had been subsumed and evolved into the new forms of neo Paganism and Wicca…



Of the Modern World View 
& American Feminist  Remodeling of Paganism and Wicca;
Moving on to consider the more recent developments in Wicca and Paganism, Hutton presents the modern world phenomenon of Witchcraft and of Paganism as having developed in Great Britain and been exported to USA where they were taken up by feminist pagans who massively popularized the concepts as well as imbued them with a more socialistic communal minded orientation. After this socialization the author says  a “new and improved” Wicca made the jump back across the pond to England in the early 1980’s, that Paganism and Wicca have returned with greater prominence and popularity to Great Britain in large part via the books of such authors as Starhawk, Z. Budapest and others who have provided a number of self initiation and guide books for the growing number of solitary practitioners or hedge witches. Hutton portrays then the development of an essentially a politically conservative religious movement evolving into a liberal/progressive movement prioritization feminist issues, promoting a progressive social policy, and advocating self-help/group therapies. The author rounds out his voluminous research with an interesting personal account of what in his view the principle precepts of modern Paganism and Wicca entail.

 

Of the Authors Conjectural Conclusions 
And Their Ultimate Uncertainty;
Despite the apparent academic objectivity of Ronald Hutton’s research which I have thoroughly enjoyed in a number of his studies, I found in this work an ambivalence and lack of clear resolution on a number of occasions. Mr Hutton seems to present an evidence based case as far as it would go and then implies the ensuing conjecture without the definitive evidence for the the implied conclusions, a practice which he points out in others as imaginative if academically erroneous. I find myself further intrigued by such deft footwork from an academic author and because of these misgivings I have looked about for other reviewers opinions. Of the many such reviews that I found among those who were not too overwhelmed, like myself, by all the cross references and closely written and basically bewildering panoramic scope of fine details, some appear to see the wood through the trees, claiming that the authors main pitch in this work, that Wicca and NeoPaganism do not carry any unbroken lineage to antiquity, are partisan perspectives that the author has impelled his evidence to support. These views of Ronald Hutton as expressed in The Triumph Of The Moon have then provoked a certain amount of debate from both sides of the camp so to speak. In response to such perspectives, Hutton frequently hints that there is more to this story, but states that without definitive evidence we cannot be sure and then proceeds present to his own conjectured conclusion almost as a definitive orthodoxy.

 

 

Of The Debate over Authorial Objectivity in 
The Triumph Of The Moon;
For a balanced review of The Triumph Of The Moon,  I have include a few quotes here from a well argued case against Ronald Hutton’s conjecture that there is no ancient lineage of Witchcraft or Paganism in Britain, from the author of the website ‘e g r e g o r e s‘ under the title of
The Recantations of Ronald Hutton;
”In Triumph of the Moon, Ronald Hutton triumphantly claimed that the whole notion of the Old Religion had been “swept away” by a “tidal wave” of research…Hutton had spent a decade studying the question of the relationship between modern Paganism and ancient forms of religion…Hutton had reached the conclusion that no such relationship existed whatsoever, and that no one could be taken seriously who believed otherwise, explicitly including anyone who so much as “suggest[ed] that there might be some truth” in the notion of the Old Religion.
The only problem was that the whole time Hutton had, now by his own admission, been systematically ignoring “certain types of ancient religion” which just so happened to be precisely the ones which most “closely resembled [modern] Paganism, had certainly influenced it, and had certain linear connections with it”! And why did he ignore the one place he should have been looking all along? Because it was “in every sense marginal to my own preoccupations.”
Hutton was by his own admission preoccupied then with his own proposition that “the paganism of today has virtually nothing in common with that of the past except the name.”

 

 

In Conclusion;
As I have previously held no particular view over the ancient lineage claims for Witchcraft, Wicca and Paganism in Great Britain, and their authenticity or lack thereof, and because I have followed a largely intuitive path similar perhaps to that of a Hedge-Druid in my relative independence of groups and traditions as regards my own awareness of Pagan and nature reverencing issues and of what I shall term Supernature and its apprehension in daily life, I have found this volume to be informative, enjoyable and unexpectedly provocative. That there ensues some degree of partisan prejudice was almost to be expected, as the wider public may still hold various oppositional perspectives based on an until recently dominant Christian cultural ideology and its ensuing misinformation against Paganism and Witchcraft in particular. That such views should apparently inform an objective academic in his choice of how to handle his subject matter is not a question that I am well enough equipped to consider. I would surmise however by saying that I have learned a lot by reading this work, both within the tome itself and further by becoming aware of sensible and informed dissent without.

For all of these reasons I recommend this study to any who would consider the origins and developments of Witchcraft, Wicca and Paganism in modern Britain today, with the caveat that there may indeed be more to this story than meets the eye or is presented here.

So Mote It Be ~
Advertisements

Blood and Mistletoe :

Very enjoyable scholarly assessment of the historical perspectives on and contingent development of more modern Druids.
Hutton portrays the origins and alternating fortunes of the Druid, how they have been reimagined, reinterpreted, and reinvented to portray them as patriots, scientists, philosophers and priests, or alternately as corrupt, bloodthirsty and ignorant, fomenters of rebellion, or forefathers of Christian Religion and along the way how they have become either by example or exclusion, guardians of tradition.
Such an extensive work merits a repeated reading, here is a brief review of the many areas that he explores.

These figures dressed in cucullus found on a shrine on Hadrians wall.
The Druids may have worn similar attire

Setting out with an exposition of the ancient literary references such as that of Pliny, Julius Caesar and etc which cast doubt over the Druid’s roles and presented the conquering forces of Rome as that of civilizing a savage and cruel religion, Hutton thoughtfully presents a fascinating and objective assessment of their actual value as historical documents and reveals the many influencing factors at play in them…


Following a period of little interest, the historical threads pick up in the late medieval period, as Hutton explores how subsequent notions of Druids were formed and employed in the service of national prestige and also the reverse engineering of their alleged role in supporting Christianities apparently literal historical accuracy and ensuing spiritual eminence.

At the end of the 15thc the new Humanist movement in scholarship with its aims to recover and build upon the knowledge of the classical ancient world, gave rise to a concurrent celebration of the indigenous peoples as honorable ancestors with a culture of some merit and in this context increasingly presented the Druids as the nearest thing that Europe had had to scientists and philosophers.

Despite the lack of evidence, the German Humanist Conrad Celtes claimed that the Druids had fled there across the Rhine to escape the Romans and hide in German forests, which along with the fact that the Rhineland had been part of the Roman province of Gaul, established their reclamation as of a shared Gallic ancestry.
Basing their accounts on Caesar’s comments of the Druids as meeting at Carnute where the Druids of Gaul had met each year, Symphorien Champier seems to have made the case for the druids as French noble ancestors, and in 1585 the French author Taillepied was the first author in any language to devote a book to them.
In this new favorable view, which deftly set aside Caesar’s comments about sacrifice as an unimportant fringe activity, the popularity of Druids rose to the extent that by the early 16thC the Druid and Christian cult had been united with claims of the cathedral of Dreux being founded by them following a prediction they had made over a coming saviour and by 1552 Rabelais could refer to them as ‘familiar beloved figures’.

They also appeared in a book published in Paris 1526 ‘Scotorum Historiae’ about Scotland written by the Scottish Hector Boece who nationalistically claimed the Druids main meeting place as the Isle of Man and thus shifted their central locus From Germany and France to Scotland.
Whilst the Scots were taking advantage of this new pro-Druid perspective, the Irish already had Druids built into their national literature via Irish sagas and saints’ lives recorded by Christian monks where Druids are accorded high social status until the coming of Christianity when the role of the Druid in Irish society was rapidly reduced to that of a sorcerer who could be consulted to cast spells or practice healing magic and their standing declined accordingly , and the Welsh who claimed direct descent and therefore unbroken lineage from the ancient Britons themselves.
The English annexed these various views into their own greater history with a view to establishing cultural supremacy of the whole archipelago, with which they could rival the French.

Tudor England however during late 16thC and early 17thC saw, rather than an ongoing rise in the popularity of Druids, a decline based on a number of factors including that the Irish writers presented the Druids as main opponents of their Roman Catholic Saints, the Welsh were co-opting them from the Scottish, and the English at this time did not wish to associate with the Welsh, plus identification of Druids with the poorly regarded Scottish and French may have been a further deterrent in and of itself.

Following this decline of favor, a resurgence of interest was slow but steady and backed with good credentials.
John Aubrey (1626–1697) was an English antiquary, natural philosopher and writer best known as author of the short biographical pieces ‘Brief Lives’. He was also a pioneer archaeologist, who recorded (often for the first time) numerous megalithic and other field monuments in southern England, and is particularly noted as the discoverer of the Avebury henge monument. He presented his findings about Avebury to the Royal Society of London in 1663 (The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge) .
In 1722 Edmund Gibson‘s published his enlarged edition of ‘Britannica’ which established a credible orthodoxy of interpretations of Britain’s megalithic monuments as the holy places of its prehistoric inhabitants.


Then the antiquarian Anglican vicar William Stukeley (1687–1765) who proclaimed himself a ‘Druid’, wrote a number of popular books in which he claimed that prehistoric megaliths like Stonehenge and Avebury were temples built by the Druids.


Stukeley had been inspired by Issac Newtons interest in the cosmological significance of numbers and measurements in ancient Hebrew architecture, particularly the Temple of Solomon which was a subject of wider interest at this time) as representation of the cosmos. Stukeley’s view was that these were all in their turn inspired by ancient Egyptians and early Druids, which furthered the growing impression of Druids as nature priests and worthy ancestors devoted to God.


Promoting the view of a powerful relationship between Christianity and Neoplatonism, Druids at this period were claimed to have been both subscribers to, or creators of Plato‘s philosophy of reincarnation, and the original discoverers of literacy, science and philosophy which they allegedly taught to the Greeks, their religion was thus held to have prefigured that of Christianity and all the alleged Druid symbolism was identified as coded references to the one greater faith that would come.


Soon after the publication and spread of Stukeley’s writings, other people also began to self-describe themselves as ‘Druids’ and form societies: the earliest of these was the Druidic Society, founded on the Welsh island of Anglesey in 1772. Largely revolving around ensuring the continued financial success of business on the island, it attracted many of Anglesey’s wealthy inhabitants and donated much of its proceeds to charity, but was disbanded in 1844.
A similar Welsh group was the Society of the Druids of Cardigan, founded circa 1779, largely by a group of friends who wished to attend ‘literary picnics’ together.

The third British group to call itself Druidic was English rather than Welsh, and was known as the Ancient Order of Druids. Founded in 1781 and influenced by Freemasonry, its origins have remained somewhat unknown, but it subsequently spread in popularity from its base in London across much of Britain and even abroad, with new lodges being founded, all of which were under the control of the central Grand Lodge in London. The Order was not religious in structure, and instead acted as somewhat of a social club, particularly for men with a common interest in music. In 1833 it suffered a schism, as a large number of dissenting lodges, unhappy at the management of the Order, formed their own United Ancient Order of Druids, and both groups would go on to grow in popularity throughout the rest of the century.


The wider British society began to accept the claims for a Druidic role in Biblical times, that they were either noble and inspired forerunners of the Patriarchal fathers of Judaism before Christianity, or alternately that they shared a similar view of Religion and were therefore very ready to embrace ‘the word’ (of Christ) when it arrived in Britain, either way the Druids Prehistoric and specifically Biblical associations seemed assured.
William Stukeley can be seen then as the man who did most to persuade the English that the Druids had been the builders of England’s spectacular prehistoric monuments which inturn secured their role in the British imagination as a whole as wise and worthy ancestors.

We also learn of the remarkable and imaginative Welshman Iolo Morganwg (Edward Williams 1747–1826), an influential Welsh antiquarian, poet, collector, and literary forger who began to perpetuate the claim that he was one of the last initiates of a surviving group of Druids who were descended from those found in the Iron Age, centered around his home county of Glamorgan. He subsequently organized the performing of Neo-Druidic rituals on Primrose Hill with some of his followers, whom he categorized as either Bards or Ovates, with he himself being the only one actually categorized as a Druid. He practiced a form of religion which he believed the ancient Druids had had, which involved the worship of a singular monotheistic deity as well as the acceptance of reincarnation. Widely considered a leading collector and expert on medieval Welsh literature in his day, he asserted that he had found and translated various ancient medieval and ancient welsh bards texts (which have become standards of subsequent neo Druidical tradition) although after his death it was revealed that he had forged a large number of these manuscripts including the Druidical Triads such as
The Three Triumphs of the Bardic order; Learning, Reason & Peace…
The Three Unities Of The Cosmos; God, Truth and Liberty.

He presented Roman Catholicism as the corrupted form of the teachings which had prevailed earlier and so set about a call for revival of the ancient ways by creating the kind of Druid literary evidence which was lacking historically but that he felt should have existed.
Despite the false nature of their origins, his literary contribution has significantly influenced the Welsh Gorsedds , the Gorsedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain itself was founded in 1792 by him along with much of its rituals.


By the 1860’s whilst druids had dominated the perceptions of the ancient Britons, portrayed varyingly as savages or heroes, they had become central to Britain’s story of its own prehistory.
Yet, although previously exemplified among the Pre-Raephelites and Romantic Poets, the artistic movement now began its Gothic phase and this prioritized the dark gloomy aspects of nature and existential despair over the earlier romantic immanence and delight of nature and in the Druids.
Further in this downplaying development was the arising of a more critical scholarship in part following on such luminaries as Charles Darwin whose Origin Of The Species decisively removed the stamp of literal authenticity from the Bible as a historical record of early times and in so doing also removed the need for people to identify their Druidical ancestors as related to that story.
Archaeological and Geological Science now replaced theological perspectives and in this light the origins of the many megalithic structures came under a sustained barrage of academia, which found little or no direct evidence for the Druids at these sites.

The rise of late Georgian and early Victorian Britain as a technological and industrial force displaced quaint ruritanian ideologies further, as the culture realigned itself with the earlier Empirical Roman culture, justifying their world wide land and resources grab and subjugation of wider world peoples as a spiritual mission to Civilize and Christianize them for their own good.
In this context the nature Druids were portrayed once again as forlorn savages easily identified with some of the tribes people now discovered around the world and whilst the latter were held to be less evolved morally or culturally, so these sweeping and disparaging generalizations were applied retrospectively to the formerly applauded Druids.
With a view to why the contemporary writers of note had not taken up the Druid cause, Hutton explains how they had apparently become such a standard trope that they did not hold any novel appeal, although less erudite literature salaciously celebrated this fall from grace with imaginative and avid accounts of the atrocities that it was suspected the Druids had carried out, both satisfying the repressions of the age and reinforcing their view of themselves and their culture as superior.

Yet at the end of this period the rise of clubs and societies which also include freemasonry as well as social clubs, brought about an increasing number of new, Druid fraternities, which at start seemed more to be about song and community, but as time wore on and they grew in membership, stature and influence, becoming increasingly akin to benevolent societies, designed to provide assistance to their membership in times of need.


We are then introduced to George Watson MacGregor Reid (1862?-1946), another remarkable and colorful character, this time Scottish, who held a philosophy based on his view of a Universal Bond and who led ‘The Druid Order‘. The Church of the Universal Bond was a religious group founded in Britain in the early twentieth century by MacGregor Reid, promoting socialist revolution, anti-imperialism and sun worship.
Initially aligned with Zoroastrianism, by 1912, MacGregor Reid was becoming more attracted to Druidry, especially as Stonehenge was at the time being seen as a solar temple.


His church began holding rituals there and their worship was permitted to continue when the site was given to the state in 1918. He and his group are first recorded there in June 1912. During the succeeding two summers they clashed with the owner and the police, because of their wish to hold rites in the circle and their disinclination to pay the recently imposed admission fee.

Although only commanding around 50 adherents in its early days, the church was instrumental in forming the link in the popular imagination between Stonehenge and Druids despite the efforts of archaeologists to discourage it. In 1924, the Office of Works permitted the church to scatter the ashes of cremated former members at Stonehenge, which drew significant protests from the Society of Antiquaries, the Wiltshire Archaeological Society, the Royal Archaeological Institute and famous archaeologists such as O. G. S. Crawford. The outcry persuaded the government to withdraw permission and in 1932 the Church officially moved its rites from the monument to Normanton Gorse nearby.
MacGregor Reid thereby made the name of Druid into both a vehicle and metaphor for English Cultural radicalism, and founded the enduring tradition which through succession continues unbroken to this day
(perhaps with the current day protests over access and admissions fees to Stonehenge of King Arthur Pendragon).


After the Second World War, MacGregor Reid’s son Robert took over leadership of the church and it was able to regain midsummer access to Stonehenge throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, to the dismay of many leading archaeologists.
When Thomas Maughan was elected chief in 1964, some senior members and the Order’s Maenarch left to form the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.


The growing Stonehenge free festival caused the monument to be closed at midsummer in 1985 and the Church faded into obscurity but has maintained a presence at the re-opened solstice festivities since 2000.

Despite the kind of mysterious and magickal account which one might have hoped for in such a book as this, perhaps a ‘history’ written by Iolo Morganwg would have served such a purpose better, this study provides the most objective and thorough account yet written of the little we know about the ancient Druids and their subsequent reinvention and revival to this day. Throughout the book Hutton’s prose is informed by many personal and some humorous details which furnish a much more engaging presentation than either a work of speculative conjecture or one of chronological charting might have done.
Suggesting then that the Druids displacement from the national imagination has occurred because of the earlier success integrating them into established structures of thought against which later artistic, religious and scientific developments defined themselves by contrasting orientation, ethics and methodologies, this book also portrays the far reaching influence of three very imaginative men, William Stukeley, Iolo Morganwg and George Watson MacGregor, ranging from classic English eccentrics to reactionary rogues who between them have created and characterized the nature of a Druid as we think of them today.

(Green Man by Miranda Mott)

~ Highly Recommended ~

A Christmas Carol

.

To share a slightly different outlook on the Christmas Festival I wrote a short song modeled after Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol but inspired by the earlier Pagan traditions of the Season.

According to historian Ronald Hutton, the current state of observance of Christmas is largely the result of a mid-Victorian revival of the holiday spearheaded by Dickens’ Christmas Carol. Hutton argues that Dickens reconstructed Christmas as a family-centered festival… in contrast to the earlier community (and church)-based observations which had dwindled during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Most of our actual British Christmas customs the tree, the turkey, the stocking, the cards and Santa Claus have only appeared since 1840.

This season was always however a time for community, charity and sharing, as the poorest, oldest and feeblest members of a community would become physically vulnerable to hunger and cold. Their morale would take a further dent if they saw their neighbors making merry all round them and were unable to share in any of it. If they then died, this would not be good for the consciences of their survivors; if they lived, they could bear nasty grudges. Hence, from the time that evidence survives, midwinter was a great time for the giving of food, drink or money to the less fortunate. In the Middle Ages people known as Hogglers or Hognels would often volunteer to collect and distribute them. In addition, poor women and children would go from door to door asking for such gifts, a custom known, according to your region, as Thomasing, Gooding or Mumping. The fitter men from the poorer families would visit their wealthier neighbours with plays, dances or songs, and earn the goodies in return; that is why customs such as mummers’ plays, sword dances and carols are so important at this time. So when your doorbell rings and you find a choir yelling ‘Good King Wenceslas’ outside while a collector holds out a tin for a good cause, you are sharing in (a tradition)… thousands of years old.
(Ronald Hutton, Stations Of The Sun)

Whilst the trappings of the modern Christmas are relatively recent, this festive season has been celebrated since history began.
In Ancient Northern Europe the mid-winter Solstice (between 20th/23rd of December) was called ‘Modranicht’ or ‘Earth Mother’s Night’ and as the shortest day of the year it effectively represents the turning point of the season.
In Northern Europe the winter festival was called the Yule (Juul). As the people thought the Sun stood still for twelve days in the midwinter, plunging Mother Earth and all her growing things into the dark, coldness of death, it was thought that spring could not come without their celebration of midwinter.
More on the Yuletide here.

Of Father Christmas, mythologist Helene Adeline Guerber suggests the Northern traditions indicate Santa as the Norse god Thor. Contrastingly from Iceland the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda poems
describe Odin as riding an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir (Santa originally had eight reindeer, Rudolph was nine) .
More on the origins of Santa Claus here.

Further, that the three greatest Neolithic monuments of Ireland, Scotland and England the massive tombs of Newgrange and Maes Howe, and Stonehenge itself are all aligned on the midwinter sunrise or sunset, shows how important this festival was even in the Stone Age.

With an eye to current world affairs and the rise of Global Corporatism, I have included a protestors scene, with a call to Occupy Christmas as an opportunity to reconsider what the festival may mean now.


✻ ✼ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❇ ❈ ❉ Occupy Christmas ✻ ✼ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❇ ❈ ❉
to learn about the causes of Occupy I recommend Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine
.
I replaced Dickens’ Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future with a mischievous Jack Skellington as Sandy Claws who finally gets his Christmas mission right, after a fashion), and instead of the more usual three visits through time in the life of Ebeneezer Scrooge, my character ‘Scourge’ is given 3 visions instead, to the Three Realms of Celtic mythology;

The Celtic view of the Otherworld consisted of three distinct realms, these being Sea, Land and Sky, their counterparts being Underworld, Earth and Otherworld.

Tir Andomain, Realm of The Underworld and the Sea.
This is the realm of the Ancestors and Gods and Goddesses responsible for the cycle of life, death and rebirth, the realm of the past.

The Meath, Realm of the Land (Earth) represents the present and the physical. We are beings of this realm that we share with the animals and the nature spirits.
Here we see the poverty of Dickens’ London as families live in sheds and children carol sing not for pocket money or treats but for essential foods.

The Magh Mor, Realm of Sky and the Otherworld.
This is where most of the Gods and Goddesses dwell, the realm of the future and the place that grants inspiration, creativity and wisdom. The realm of sky is the pathway of the Sun, Moon and constellations, as well as the wind and weather. Many Gods and Goddesses have influence in all three realms, just as the Land has it’s influence on the other two realms; caves, burial mounds, wells and springs are entrances to the underworld, while trees which exist in our realm are viewed as linking all three together. Represented here as a Celtic Afterlife peopled by Four Elemental Spirits of Air, Fire, Earth and Water.

As Air; Dian Cecht, Psychic Guardian and Healer of the Tuatha Dé Danann ~ The Hawthorn was a symbol of psychic protection due to its sharp thorns. Spirits were believed to dwell in Hawthorn hedges, which were planted as protective shrubs around fields, houses and churchyards. The Goddess Brighid was also associated with the Hawthorn, which is one tree which has managed to breach the divide between Paganism and Christianity and Dian Cecht was Brigid’s male counterpart.Hawthorn individuals are represented by a Masculine polarity and the color purple.

As Fire; Aibheaog is an Irish deity who represented fire, and yet she had a magical well which promoted healing. She is associated with wells and the number 5. Rules Over: Healing, Midsummer well rituals.

As Earth; Cernunnos. Although Cernunnos is a Gaulish horned god, his worship was widespread in the Celtic era, and he was venerated over the channel in Britain in various similar forms.
In appearance he had stag antlers sprouting from his head, wore a torc around his neck, and was depicted with a ram headed serpent. He may have been seen as lord of the animals, and the spirit of the woods, a powerful archetypal nature spirit and male partner of the earth mother. Later, in Christian times his image was transposed on to that of the Devil, who also appeared with horns.

As Water; Coventina, a Celtic river goddess known for healing, also associated with renewal, abundance, new beginnings, life cycles, inspiration, childbirth, wishes and prophecy. In worship to her coins and other objects were tossed into the wells as offerings for sympathetic magick. These wells represent the earth womb, where the Celts felt her power could be most strongly felt. Her symbols are the cauldron, cup, water, coins, broaches and wells. From Scotland comes her association with the underworld, where she was the Goddess of featherless flying creatures which could pass to the Otherworld. Being a river goddess she is connected the ebb and flow of time.

With a hope that this film may remind us to think of more than just family gatherings and presents, that it may be a magical time to think with our hearts and consider the wider picture.
To focus upon the whole rather than any portion, to live more meaningful lives, we may honor these the Three Realms and each-other throughout our daily lives.

A Yuletide Carol by celestialelff

Tis the Modranhit of Midwinter,
To the Three Realms we will go,
Through the portal to Tir Andomain,
Through the Silence beneath the Snow.

Deep within the center,
With the Ancestors in the past,
See the Joy of their Yuletide,
Beyond Time’s Oceans Vast.

The Rising of the Sun,
The Running of the Year,
The Setting of the Sacred Moon,
And the Circle is ever clear.

And look now upon the Earth Realm,
To the Meath beneath the Sky,
See the people in their families,
From their community awry.

Hear the Thomasing and the Gooding,
And the Mumping of the Children,
Both Ignorance and Want do Cry Out,
No more Cup Of Memory here….

The Rising of the Sun,
The Running of the Year,
The Setting of the Sacred Moon,
And the Circle now Draws Near….

Come beyond now to the Magh Mor,
Beyond the graveyard in the Sky,
To the Afterlife of the Otherworld,
Once again the Joy does fly…

Be Blessed then by this Vision,
Of the Three Realms you have made,
Join the Circle of your past life,
To your Future, Present saved…..

The Rising of the Sun,
The Running of the Year,
The Setting of the Sacred Moon,
And the Circle has come Here.

c Celestial Elf 2011.

Merry Christmas!

On A Modern Druid’s Education

Having an interest in The Druids, Nature and the Ancient Ways, I have from time to time been asked whether I could recommend any books for beginners or others to get a sense of what modern Druidry may entail…


The role of Druids in Celtic society was a broad and influential one that included Teachers, Healers , Bardic-Poets, Musicians, Shaman, Priests, Astrologers, Historians, Judges and Advisers to Kings.
Following the etymology of the name Druid, dru as ‘oak’ or ‘doorway’ and wid as ‘to see’ or ‘wisdom’, the name means ‘oak-wisdom’, although Irish druí and Welsh dryw could also refer to the wren, connected with an association of that bird with augury bird in Irish and Welsh tradition, thus the Druid is someone wise in the ways of nature, the seen and unseen.
Inspired by these traditions and the pre-Christian Celtic folktales, legends and mythologies which valued the spiritual within nature, some modern Druids commit to a guardianship of our environment and planet, to practise the ideals of the sacred and the spiritual by honoring the natural world.

In the past, a Druid’s education may have taken anywhere from 12 to 20 years, beginning around the age of five or soon after any person was deemed gifted by the divine, it began with a study of the tales and traditions, included Poetry, Nature and Law and continued with Communication and Music, a set of skills not unfamiliar to the teachings of similar cultural leaders in the classical antiquity of ancient Greece and Rome..

Today some Neo Druid and Reconstructionist Druid groups offer an education in these traditional subjects, giving tutored instruction progressing from the training of a Bard, moving through the Ovate grade to culminate in the ultimate achievement of becoming a Druid. Such tuition is naturally embellished by their own school of thought and necessarily funded by subscription to pay for the tutors guidance and support. But because there is no single sacred text or surviving body of doctrine upon which to base such teaching, whilst some of the books and course material used may be widely available from libraries and shops, others may be exclusive and available only from the organization involved..

Not all Druids today however believe the same things, or in the same routes of learning.
Some believe that the spirit is led by higher powers along its path to the gods, to apprehend the spirits and faerie folk, to travel the inner paths to the other-worlds, and to manifest healing and wisdom upon the earth.

Many who have not followed any formalized training nevertheless do also have powerful skills, and for them the distinction between the roles or formal acknowledgement of achievement is less important than the insight and abilities themselves.
The difference between these two approaches to Druidry could be considered the same as that between a college education and a vocational apprenticeship. In learning to practice such wisdom intuitively, they have learned the secret of setting aside worldly concerns and by embracing all that life has to offer have discovered the many truths transcending all.
Bringing this inner light back to the people, interacting with all things respectfully and as an act of devotion, this is the sign of a true Druid.

Central to modern Druidic belief is a love of nature combined with a pragmatic understanding that spiritual insight be expressed by responsible action in our daily life, shared with and on behalf of the community for its greater good.


To support an understanding of how we may continue to honor the ancestral spirits and follow the traditional paths of wisdom,
I have gathered here a short reading list for any who may wish to add an academic or historical basis to their insights and practice of Druidry.

However I would mention that whilst rooted in the traditional Druidic lore of yore, this list also establishes a clear link between reflection on the ancient paths and action in this modern world.


……………………………………………………………………..

Introductory;


”The Trials of Arthur” Arthur Pendragon and CJ Stone.

Detailing the return of England’s Ancient Leader, King Arthur.A Hearty and Heartfelt account full of derring do and of Down To Earth Druidry, following the path of Action and introducing the aims of the Loyal Arthurian Warband Order of Druids,The L.A.W. Arthur has risen to meet the challenges before him with delight and good humor, Recommended.
Reading Level: Standard


”The Apple Branch;A Path to Celtic Ritual” Alexei Kondratiev

Nicely written introduction to Celtic-inspired rituals and ceremonies. The author has done a lot of research and understands Celtic society and culture. It could be argued that Kondratiev’s NeoWiccan background throws things off a bit – but it’s still worth reading, because Kondratiev manages to avoid a lot of the overly-romanticized fluff that appears in many of the books purporting to be about Celtic Paganism.
Reading Level: Intermediate

”The Stations of the Sun” Ronald Hutton

Comprehensive and engaging, this colourful study covers the whole sweep of ritual history from the earliest written records to the present day. From May Day revels and Midsummer fires, to Harvest Home and Hallowe’en, to the twelve days of Christmas, Ronald Hutton takes us on a fascinating journey through the ritual year in Britain. He challenges many common assumptions about the customs of the past, and debunks many myths surrounding festivals of the present, to illuminate the history of the calendar year we live by today.
Reading Level: Advanced

…………………………………………………………………….

Historical;

”The Celts: A Very Short Introduction” Barry Cunliffe.

The Celts have long been a subject of fascination, speculation, and misunderstanding. From the ancient Romans to the present day, their real nature has been obscured by a tangled web of preconceived ideas and stereotypes.Cunliffe seeks to reveal this fascinating people using an impressive range of evidence, and exploring subjects such as trade, migration, and the evolution of Celtic traditions. Along the way, he exposes the way in which society’s needs have shaped our visions of the Celts, and examines such colorful characters as St. Patrick, Cu Chulainn, and Boudica.
Reading Level: Standard

”A Brief History of the Druids” Peter Beresford Ellis.

Contrary to the portrayal of them that we see in a lot of New Age books, the Druids were not a bunch of tree-hugging “get in touch with your feelings” peaceful clerics. They were in fact the intellectual social class of the Celts -Judges, Bards, Astronomers, Physicians and Philosophers. Although there is no written first-hand record of their activities, Ellis delves into the writings of contemporaries from other societies such as Pliny the Elder and Julius Caesar, whose Commentaries whilst politically partisan, do include frequent first hand references to the people he encountered in the British Isles.
Reading Level: Intermediate


“Women of the Celts” Jean Markale

Jean Markale takes an in-depth look at the society of the early Celtic tribes, and focuses on the role of women within that societal framework. There’s not a lot of information on Celtic mythology – but there’s a treasure trove of background on Celtic society, sociological theory, sexual standards, and economics. He also discusses legal issues that permitted the women of the Celts so much more freedom than their counterparts in other regions of the world, particularly the patriachalist Rome.
Reading Level: Advanced

”Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain” Ronald Hutton

This book is, quite simply, a tour de force. Interpretations of Druidry through the ages, treated to scrupulous scholarly dissection, in a masterly fashion. From Caesar, a truly machiavellian author, onwards, a succession of agenda-laden activists, scholars and authors have fashioned an image of druids for the popular imagination to suit the political and cultural points they are making. By examining all these written sources in the context of the social, economic, political standpoint of the various authors, a magnificent tapestry is gradually woven of English history and the men who have affected it; with. always, the misty figure of the druid just glimpsed to colour the narrative. Through the chapters we run – through the ages, and the gamut of emotional responses to the term druid; from disgust and vilification for a blood-soaked and savage priesthood to awe and wonder at the disseminators of the mystical wisdom of nature, pausing in admiration for them as radical freedom fighters along the way.
Reading Level: Graduate

……………………………………………………………………

Poetical;

”The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales”

There are numerous translations available of The Mabinogion, which is the Welsh mythic cycle. However, Patrick Ford’s is one of the best. Many modern translations of the work are heavily influenced by a blend of Victorian romance, French Arthurian tales and New Age imagery. Ford leaves all of that out, and offers a faithful yet eminently readable version of the four tales of the Mabinogi, as well as three other stories from the myth cycle of the early Welsh legends. This is a primary source of Celtic legend and myth, so if you’re interested in the exploits of the gods and goddesses, as well as the mortals and demigods of folklore, this is a great resource to use.
Reading Level: Standard

”Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” Burton Raffel (Translator), Neil D. Isaacs

One of the greatest works of the Middle Ages, in a marvelous new verse translation Composed in the fourteenth century, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is as beloved as it is venerable, combining the hallmarks of medieval romance-pageantry, chivalry, and courtly love-with the charm of fairy tales and heroic sagas. Blending Celtic myth and Christian faith, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a Middle English masterpiece of magic, chivalry, and seduction.
Reading Level: Standard

”Taliesin: The Last Celtic Shaman” John Matthews

Taliesin, Chief Bard of Britain and Celtic shaman, was an historical figure who lived in Wales during the latter half of the sixth century. Encoded within his work are the ancestral beliefs of the Celtic and pre-Celtic peoples. In addition, his verse is established as a direct precursor to the Arthurian legends – and Taliesin himself, shaman and shapeshifter, is said to be the direct forebear to Merlin. Matthews sheds new light on the poems of Taliesin and on the vast body of allusion, story and myth that grew from his body of work and shamanic practice. This book reveals Druidic prophecy, methods of divination and the rites, rituals and beliefs that were essential to Celtic spiritual practice. It also features Taliesin’s works as keys to the Arthurian legends.
Reading Level: Intermediate


”The Bardic Handbook The Complete Manual for the 21st Century Bard” Kevan Manwaring

This complete manual for the Twenty-First-Century Bard contains all you need to know to start you on the Bardic Path. Here you will find inspiration and instruction, whether you want to dedicate yourself to the Way of Awen, or simply wish to improve your public-speaking skills and be able to express yourself with confidence. Learn how to enchant an audience with gramarye, through poetry, storytelling and songcraft, and how to use the magic of words to bless, honour, heal and celebrate your identity, community and heritage.With an easy-to-follow 12 month self-study programme and week-by-week exercises and mini-lessons about bardic lore, this book will lead you along the Way of Awen.
Reading Level: Advanced

”The White Goddess: a Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth” Robert Graves

This labyrinthine and extraordinary book-length essay on the nature of poetic myth-making, was the outcome of Graves’s vast reading and curious research into strange territories of folklore, mythology, religion and magic. Erudite and impassioned, it is a scholar-poet’s quest for the meaning of European myths, a polemic about the relations between man and woman, and also an intensely personal document in which Graves explored the sources of his own inspiration and, as he believed, all true poetry.
Reading Level: Graduate


”Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being” Ted Hughes

Might best be compared to Robert Graves’ book The White Goddess in terms of its scope and intent, it is a rich book filled with what I would call poetic as well as literary insights (like Graves’ work). The section where Hughes breaks down Shakespeare’s language showing how within each contrasting set of phrases he was communicating both to the rabble on the floor and the intellectuals in the gods is stunning. A worthwhile read for anyone who loves to spend time at the juncture between myth, literature and poetry, remarkable.
Reading Level: Graduate

…………………………………………………………………….

Spiritual;

”Way of the Peaceful Warrior” Dan Millman

You’ve learned body control and even some mind control, but your heart has not yet opened. Your goal should not be invulnerability, but vulnerability – to the world, to life, and therefore, to the Presence you felt. I’ve tried to show you by example that a warrior’s life is not about imagined perfection or victory; it is about love. Love is the warrior’s sword; wherever it cuts, it gives life, not death.’ This is a book I would give to anyone to read for pleasure and to those following the path of the spiritual warrior. It demonstrates that the true essence of a champion is indeed the culmination of a strong body, mind, as well as spirit.
Reading Level: Standard

”The Complete Illuminated Books William Blake” John Commander (Foreword by), David Bindman (Introduction)

In his Illuminated Books Blake combined text and imagery on a single page in a way that had not been done since the Middle Ages. For Blake, religion and politics, intellect and emotion, mind and body were both unified and in conflict with each other. There is no comparison with reading books such as Jerusalem, America, and Songs of Innocence and of Experience in Blake’s own medium, infused with his sublime and exhilarating colors. Tiny figures and forms dance among the lines of the text, flames appear to burn up the page, and dense passages of Biblical-sounding text are brought to a jarring halt by startling images of death, destruction, and liberation.Blake often spoke of Albion, England’s great, mythological past, ruled by Druids. To quote Peter Ackroyd: “All his life, Blake was entranced and persuaded by the idea of a deeply spiritual past, and he continually alluded to the possibility of ancient lore and arcane myths that could be employed to reveal previously hidden truths.”
Reading Level: Intermediate


”Sun of gOd: Discover the Self-Organizing Consciousness That Underlies Everything” by Gregory Sams.
“Sun of gOd presents a perfectly outrageous hypothesis: The sun is a conscious, living organism residing in a thriving galactic community, thinking stellar thoughts that span the entire universe. Surely this is nonsense. Except that the more you read the more a conscious universe begins to make sense. Gregory Sams’ book is a clearly written and persuasively reasoned argument to think about the sun in a radically new and refreshing way.” -Dean Radin, PhD, Senior Scientist, Institute of Noetic Sciences
Reading Level: Advanced


”Living With Honour: A Pagan Ethics” Emma Restall Orr

Living With Honour is a provocative and uncompromising exploration of how Paganism can provide the philosophical guidance to live honorably in a twenty-first Western society. Part One explores the history of Paganism, its undercurrents of anarchy, heresy, environmentalism and animism, finding its place within the history of Western philosophy. Part Two addresses key moral issues from that animistic perspective, beginning with the foundation of human relationships and attitudes towards the Other. It book explores how we value life, and firstly human life, looking at dying, suicide and euthanasia, birth, abortion and IVF. It then examines the human abuse of nonhuman animals, discussing sentience, personhood and inherent value. Finally, it focuses on current global crises, exploring need as opposed to desire.’This is an excellent pioneering work, erudite, courageous and imaginative, that provides a new kind of ethics, linked to a newly appeared complex of religions, which are founded on some very old human truths.’ Professor Ronald Hutton, world expert on paganism and author of The Triumph of the Moon and many other studies.
Reading Level: Advanced


”The Sacred and The Profane: The Nature of Religion” Mircea Eliade

In the “Sacred and the Profane”, Mircea Eliade describes two fundamentally different modes of experience: the traditional and the modern. Traditional man or “homo religious” is open to experiencing the world as sacred. Modern man however, is closed to these kinds of experiences. For him the world is experienced only as profane. It is the burden of the book to show in what these fundamentally opposed experiences consist. Traditional man often expresses this opposition as real vs. unreal or pseudoreal and he seeks as much as possible to live his life within the sacred, to saturate himself in reality. According to Eliade the sacred becomes known to man because it manifests itself as different from the profane world. This manifestation of the sacred Eliade calls “hierophany”. For Eliade this is a fundamental concept in the study of the sacred and his book returns to it again and again.The “Sacred and the Profane” is divided into four chapters dealing with space, time, nature, and man. To these is appended a “Chronological Survey Of the History of Religions as a Branch of Knowledge.”
Reading Level: Graduate

……………………………………………………………………..

Environmental;


”Copse: Cartoon Book of Tree Protesting” Kate Evans

The rise of the environmental direct action movement in Britain in the 1990s is documented nowhere as well as it is here. Kate Evans was at most of the major protests, and tells her own story, but also uses interviews with more than 50 others who were there too. All the warmth, the drive, the integrity and drama of these extraordinary events is told with a disarming honesty and and involving humanity. It becomes clear that these were no heroes of the mass-media’s ‘eco-warrior’ stories; these were simply people with a will to affect the things that affect them, and who realised that morals and motivation are enough.The book does much to break down the barrier of spectator and participant, making you realise the ordinariness of the campaigners, and also encouraging you with a comprehensive ‘how to’ section at the back and a massive list of relevant contactsIf you want to understand what it’s all been about, this book is as accessible as it is comprehensive.
Reading Level: Standard

“Small is Beautiful” E.F. Schumacher.

Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered is a collection of essays by British economist E. F. Schumacher. The phrase “Small Is Beautiful” is often used to champion small, appropriate technologies that are believed to empower people more, in contrast with phrases such as “bigger is better”. The point of this book is to assault what is meant by progress and try and understand what has gone wrong when we live in almost obscene wealth while large parts of the planet barely get by. This book is a call to arms, to understand things we all seem to have forgotten: what is value? what actually matters in life? should the means always justify the ends? what is work for? and who put all these economists in charge?
The Times Literary Supplement ranked Small Is Beautiful among the 100 most influential books published since World War II.
Reading Level: Intermediate


”This Borrowed Earth” Robert Emmet Herna.

Lessons from the Fifteen Worst Environmental Disasters around the WorldOver the last century mankind has irrevocably damaged the environment through the unscrupulous greed of big business and our own willful ignorance. Here are the strikingly poignant accounts of disasters whose names live in infamy: Chernobyl, Bhopal, Exxon Valdez, Three Mile Island, Love Canal, Minamata, and others. And with these, the extraordinary and inspirational stories of the countless men and women who fought bravely to protect the communities and environments at risk.
Reading Level: Intermediate

”No Logo” Naomi Klein.

In the last decade, No Logo has become a cultural manifesto for the critics of unfettered capitalism worldwide. As the world faces a second economic depression, No Logo’s analysis of our corporate and branded world is as timely and powerful as ever. Klein also looks at the workers who keep these companies running, most of whom never share in any of the great rewards. The president of Borders, when asked whether the bookstore chain could pay its clerks a “living wage” wrote that “while the concept is romantically appealing, it ignores the practicalities and realities of our business environment”. Those clerks should probably just be grateful they’re not stuck in an Asian sweatshop, making pennies an hour to produce Nike sneakers or other must-have fashion items.

Throughout the four parts (“No Space”, “No Choice”, “No Jobs”, and “No Logo”), Klein writes about issues such as sweatshops in the Americas and Asia, culture jamming, corporate censorship, and Reclaim the Streets.

Reading Level: Advanced

”Landscape and Memory” Simon Schama.

An extraordinary survey of European attitudes to and conceptualizations of nature over the course of the last 500 years or so, and how our ideas of nature have shaped how we interact with it. In a wide sweep of history that encompassess as unlikely a set of figures as Varus, a Roman general responsible for a catastrophic lost battle in the Black Forest and a 19th century French founder of the concept of “eco-rambling”, Schama has produced a stunning work that seeks to answer the central question: is our view of nature ruled by the mind, or by magical human interpretations? There are few books that could match this pyrotechnic display of learning and exposition of aesthetic views of nature that have shaped warfare,politics,religion and modern ecology. It is impossible to view today’s environmentalism before reading this provocative and insightful book the same way as when one puts it down. Reasonably scholarly but still quite readable.
Reading Level: Graduate

Come forth into the light of things, let Nature be your teacher.

William Wordsworth. ~


Compiled by Celestial Elf /|\

On The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles


Five Star Book Review;
Ronald Hutton’s
The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles.

Remarkable amount of research has gone into this tome.
At times the book seems an almost random and endless list of unrelated items linked only by the authors suppositions that we cannot draw any meaningful connections between the varied aspects and artifacts of antiquity, which whilst perhaps literally true, I found to be a perspective that neglected the implied spirit of the ancient religion(s) and that’s his point, that he finds nothing is specifically implied by the evidence and that all subsequent conjecture is only deduced from incontrovertible evidence.

At other times the author seemed to hold an almost ambivalent attitude against the new Pagan’s uptake and intermingling of the ‘Old Religion(s)’ but he does this with such good humor and charming acknowledgement of their own beautiful or innovative if not actually historically true basis that it would be hard to object to his observations.

For myself I would underline that the very evidence referred to does specifically portray that ancient religious traditions in the British Isles did draw from earlier traditions and by necessity did incorporate, or become subsumed by newer traditions that arrived on these shores, that something of the former always informed the latter across the ages and that this practice is still (or once again)flourishing in the modern uptake and reinvention of the Pagan sacred miscellany..

Certainly not a page turner unless you are an avid archaeologist, but still highly recommended as a wonderful source of the progression of evidence over the centuries and how this may have some bearing on the current Pagan ‘Renaissance’.

%d bloggers like this: