Wednesday 23 January 2008

Celtic Mythology

The stories surrounding the ancient gods of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales are as rich as those concerning the Greek or Norse pantheons but are not as generally well known.

I have always loved the tales of King Arthur and his knights, been a big fan of fairy stories and, as a child, enjoyed a book on the exploits of the Irish hero Cuchulainn.

However, the stories we are most familiar with today have little resemblance to the original versions of the tales and I had always felt that, as a modern day pagan, I ought to learn more about them.

So, when I found a copy of the book Celtic Mythology, published by Geddes & Grosset in 1999, on a deserted beach one wintry morning I felt I really ought to read it (as mentioned in A Bad Witch's Blog: Reading Matter earlier this month).

Having now read it, I can say I am delighted to have it on my bookshelf.

The book was a bit daunting to start. It is 480 pages long and doesn't have many pictures. I also found the first few chapters, on the history of the Celtic people, a bit heavy going. Once past that, however, the book is a delightful retelling of the legends of the ancient gods and people of the British Isles with references to the early manuscripts in which the tales are found.

Celtic Mythology tells the story of the arrival in Ireland of the people of the goddess Danu, the Tuatha de Danaan, and their overthrow of the even older gods of the race of Partholon. It goes on to describe the wars with the Fomorii, the coming of mortal men, the exile of the gods and the rise of Irish heroes such as Cuchulainn and Fionn through to Christianising of Ireland.

There are, apparently, fewer sources of information on the ancient gods of England and Wales than on the Gaelic deities. However, sources such as the Mabinogion reveal many stories about the children of Don and the children of Llyr, deities which were worshipped by our ancient ancestors. These are beautiful tales of love, deceit, treachery and battle such as that of the flower maiden Blodeuwedd who, with her lover, tried to kill her husband Lleu and was punished by being turned into an owl.

Celtic Mythology also digs deep into the background of the Arthurian romances to find ancient forms of the story, in which Arthur - or 'Artur' - is a combination of a real Celtic chief and an Celtic divinity who waged war against the underworld.

An appendix provides a 150page dictionary, which is very useful for looking up the gods, goddesses, heroes and sites that figure in Celtic legends.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wanted to read the stories of our ancient gods and find out more about the origins of the legends of the British Isles.

Celtic Mythology is available through Amazon


Anonymous said...

What a fantastic find. A fateful moment...

Badwitch said...

Yes, finding that book on a beach was one of those things that I don't want to explain away as just a coincidence.

Anonymous said...

Sounds interesting, I guess I'll have a look into that one as well. I greatly enjoyed the Mabinogi [and even Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur when it comes to arthurian legend]

...and what a wonderful place to find something on celtic mythology...