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Keltria Journal

Issue 31 - Lughnasadh/Fall 1996

The Druids and Pagan Celtic Britain

The Druids

by Peter Berresford Ellis


Pagan Celtic Britain

by Dr. Anne Ross

Review by Ellen Evert Hopman

When I was in England recently, two truly invaluable books came to my attention. The first is the long awaited reissue of Dr. Anne Ross's Pagan Celtic Britain now in paperback. Previously the only way to get hold of this book was to journey to a university library; thus, making it inaccessible to all but the most determined.

Pagan Celtic Britain is one the foundation stones of modern Druid scholarship and anyone aspiring to the title of Druid should own a copy. The book's greatest value is the solid archaeological evidence Dr. Ross provides to support her statements.

Pagan Celtic Britain gives an excellent overview of the Gods and Goddesses, of the sacred animals, the temples, sanctuaries, and customs of the ancient Celtic world. I often tell my students that this volume supplies the archaeological evidence that will enable them to separate fact from fantasy when they delve into other author's works. (The other book which I consider basic is Rees and Rees'sCeltic Heritage, for an excellent overview of the oral tradition.)

Peter Berresford Ellis's The Druids, also available in paperback was another pleasant surprise. This obviously Pagan-friendly author supports his narrative with material from numerous ancient sources. He is careful to include evidence for female Druids, female Brehons, etc. He is also distinctly pro-Irish. (I realize that we are supposed to watch out for biases in any historian's work, but perhaps we can be forgiven this once for enjoying a well written, thoroughly documented oeuvre that leans in the direction of Keltria's biases!)

Ellis questions the frequency of human sacrifice in Celtic society and examines the links between the Brehon laws and the Hindu Manavadharmasatra. He looks in-depth at the Druid schools, rituals, and religion. He shows how the Druids were distinctly polytheistic. Ellis finishes the account with a chapter on the modern Druid revival and reminds us all that even as we wax romantic about the Celts of the past, the still existing Celtic cultures and languages are disappearing under the pressures of political and cultural oppression.

The Druids, Peter Berresford Ellis, Constable London 1994, ISBN 0-09- 474470-X, Most Highly Recommended.

Pagan Celtic Britain, Dr. Anne Ross, Constable London 1993, ISBN 0-09- 472330-3, Most Highly Recommended.

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