Book Review: The Druids

This entry was posted on August 18, 2007 under Book Reviews, Dedicants Program. Written by:

I think by the time I had gotten to this book review, my second to last essay, I’ve finally started to realize the significance and importance of the dedicant’s program. I’ve learned more over the last several weeks, that it really lays to rest any doubts I might have had about my path.

My second book report was the 1994 edition “The Druids” by Peter Berresford Ellis. I had been told that this was a dry read, so I was somewhat apprehensive in reading it, as I’m not remotely a philosophical pagan.

My impressions after spending a good two weeks immersed in this book are somewhat conflicting. I found the book to be filled with sometimes dry referenced material, as well as names of Celtic places, terms, and even unknown (to me) past historical figures. Because of so much content relating to the above, it was almost impossible to read or interpret several passages throughout the book.

However, I was also pleasantly surprised by the amount of historical story and detail within the book, of which I absorbed the most of. For example, Ellis seems very adamant about explaining with as much historical comparison as possible that there are indeed no historical facts that relate the Druids to human sacrifice (as noted on Page 17). He goes on to explain that much of what we know of Celtic history, or what the modern world knows in general, had been written by those that are “hostile to Celtic Culture” (as noted on page 14) such as the Romans and Greeks. I would assume that much of the negative history we have seen about the Druids was nothing more than a scare tactic used by the Roman and Greek governments to help denounce what they viewed as a threat. The Celts were not illiterate nor were they barbarians like their circus-craving nemesis. The Author Strabo even comments that “the Druids are considered the most just of men.” If anything, after reading this book, it would almost seem to me like the Druid society was more ideal than our own government.

I also learned that, even though I have no way to really legitimate Ellis’ facts, that he presents a very convincing look at many pieces of Celtic History. It made me realize that before reading this book, I knew very little about theorized OR factual Celtic History. He proposes information on Women in Celtic culture and how they were almost treated as equals, as opposed to other societies where men could not even look at women for fear of seeing the devil. He continues with the religion of the Druids, and the lack of a story of creation or the fact that the Celts looked upon their Gods as their ancestors or heroes, rather than their creators (as noted on Page 115-116).

The most interesting realization throughout many sections of “The Druids” is that the Druids were in fact very revered during the climax of their society. In one story about the King of Ulster, it is stated that even the King could not speak to the assembly before his Druid Cathbad (as noted on Page 75).

I’m sorry to read about how oppressed the Irish were for so many centuries, even up to the 19th century. Irish children could not be taught, Irish books could not be read. It’s no wonder that so much of their culture and history was passed on to each generation vocally, and eventually lost over time.

The Druids was a very informative book, and though dry at times due to much referenced material, I highly recommend it for anyone wanting an unbiased glimpse at Celtic history (though I can’t vouch for the validity of Ellis’ information).

(Word Count: 600 without page notations)

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