Posted by: Nyxks | July 23, 2008

Way of the Druid

Way of the Druid
by Graeme K. Talboys © 2005
O Books
ISBN 978-1-905247231
272 pages
$29.95 (U.S.)
Reviewed by: Mike Gleason

There are two things this book is NOT and one that it is (appropriate given the use of triads in Celtic learning)). It is not a scholarly work, full of arcane references and dense footnotes. It is not a lightweight, fluffy treatment of the Druids as an autonomous phenomenon. It is an extremely readable, well-integrated presentation of Druidic functions as a part of overall Celtic culture.

Before the author, himself a Druid for more than three decades, even begins to tackle the subject of the book, he takes the time to explain (in broad, general terms) Celtic society. He also makes it clear that most of what we “know” about it is from second-hand sources in many cases. A thorough grounding in the Celtic view of the world is impossible at this point, due to a lack of first-hand sources to give us that understanding. The best we can hope for is an approximation based on what we can tease out of history, folk-lore and mythology.

I am sure that many modern-day Druids will be offended by parts of this book. While acknowledging that there was no one “Celtic” culture the author makes statements which could be taken to mean that “all Druids” share certain beliefs, traits, and attitudes. He also makes it clear that “Druids” as a separate class of Celtic society did not exist. By and large, Druids were integral members of their clans and tribes, and were expected to work in the fields, be a blacksmith, or fill any other function which needed doing, in addition to the roles as genealogist, law-givers, healer, or whatever their specialty was as a Druid.

This is, without a doubt, the most informative book I have read on Druids in many years. It is not the be all and end all on the subject. There are many other books available on the subject, but most of them tend to be at one or another end of the spectrum when it comes to approaches – they are either intensely dense scholarly works, or fluffy “white light” treatments. This one steers a middle course, and thus may be even more valuable because of that.

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