Secrets of the Druids: Wizards, Powers & Spells, Chants & Visions, Bardic Traditions, Celtic Lore, and Merlin's Magic

John Matthews, Compiled by, John Matthews, Author Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers $24.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-57912-232-4
Although they left no writings of their own, the Druids have had a profound impact on modern culture. Largely forgotten by a Christianized Europe, this ancient Celtic priestly caste has reemerged as avatars of eco-friendly spirituality, potent symbols of what many feel is missing in a rational and industrialized world. This informative compendium of scholarly articles, stories and poetry explores the legacy, real and mythical, of these enigmatic people. A large selection of historical writings illustrates the changing perceptions of the Druids through the centuries. They were disdained as bloodthirsty barbarians by the Roman writers who provide our (meager) historical accounts of them, but lionized by 17th- to 19th-century ""antiquarian romantics"" who essentially invented much of our modern notion of hooded, tree-worshipping sorcerers. The editor, a practicing Druid, also includes more sober but still readable academic studies that explore Druidic beliefs and rites and the legacy of Merlin legends, prophetic seers, weird dreams and witchy women inherited from Druidic motifs. Rounding out the anthology (which gathers selections from three earlier volumes, including The Druid Source Book and The Celtic Source Book) is a strong selection of legends, myths and poems, most from ancient and medieval Ireland and Wales, but including some modern writers inspired by the plangent tone and haunting, sometimes surreal imagery of early Celtic literature. Devotees of Druid philosophy, lovers of Gaelic lore and those interested in our very modern nostalgia for an enchanted past will all enjoy this book. Illus.
Reviewed on: 06/01/2002
Release date: 06/01/2002
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