juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
We're on day two of fantastic weather—gray skies and cool days and the occasional chance of rain—and after almost a week of heat (some of that without the even saving grace of a breeze) it's a blessing but also hard to believe. Part of me is suddenly gearing up for autumn—and not just mentally, but with a physical instinct towards soft warm fabric and an ache that begins in my heart. Part of me is unwilling to engage with or even appreciate the thick billowing clouds, because I know that there's more heat and blinding sun to come, and it'll feel even worse if I've adapted back to the cool.

I don't even know if it's weather you come to love. Myself, it seems bred into my bones, and the cool and wet and clean is where I'm meant to be, and the first hint of autumn is a homecoming. It revitalizes me. When the heatwave resumes I'll be crushed, so help me. But this autumn will be miraculous.

Anyway. Today I woke (the second time—both Devon and I have been sleeping poorly, and I was also up between 3a and 9a, but then managed to sleep until noon) being able to see a little more than just a line of type on a blank page—which is to say that when I pause for two minutes and remember that Madison is dead, it doesn't just trigger a sense of incomprehension; it triggers instead the beginning of comprehension, which is to say grief. It's not entirely unwelcome. That something, even if it's pain, is less frightening than the void of nothing—and this weather indulges gray melancholy with gray skies. It's exhausting, though. Today Dee and I went out on a distracting shopping trip, and I used up what bit of energy I had there. Then we went out to comfort food (the restaurant was warm against the cool of the day) and across the street for coffee. It's silly, but the warm cup in my hands almost made me cry—it's like a soft warm sweater, and it's a comfort, and I've been craving that (coffee, and comfort) since I heard the news.

Last Friday, Dee and I went to see The Decemberists in concert. They're turning out to be mostly a live-only band for me, and I'm enjoying it. Recorded and studio-refined, the twang to Meloy's voice bothers my ears—but live I embrace and forgive and soak up the energy. It's fantastic. On Sunday, we took the bus into the city center and went to Powell's for my birthday book shopping trip. I gave myself a blister on one heel, but the skyscrapers cast shadows on the sidewalks and I came away with a small but wonderful (and tailored to my taste in obscure books and favorite authors) stack, with leftover money for the next impulse used book purchase. On and off, I've been feeling a renewed desire to embrace the opportunity of living in Portland—and the heat has been utterly decimating my will to do so, so it's good that there was something to force us out of the house and into life. Since Madison's death, I've been trying to stay occupied because of the fear of seeing that line of text on that white page, so the trips out were exhausting in just the right sort of way.

Dee is heading out of town tomorrow to attend Dragon*Con. Devon resumed full-time work this week, so I'll see some of him while she's gone but not a full four-day stay. I was ambivalent about facing that time alone, but now I think I can embrace it. Oh, the weather will heat up by the weekend, and I'll be miserable and complaining as I play my video games. But right now the weather tells me that it's safe to be alone, and grieve. As much as my attempts at faith have consistently proven unsuccessful, I'm looking towards a thoughtful Samhain this year. If it seems silly that these deaths are impacting me so strongly, know that it seems quite right to me. I've been realizing, and I've been forced into correcting, my incomprehension of death. I want to see the world die around me. I've always found life in that—in the vivid colors and the cycle it precipitates and the way it makes my heart—and perhaps it will bring me full circle. I can dwell, and die, and come alive again.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
A few nights ago, I had two consecutive dreams (in between waking up and forcing myself back to sleep) involving goats. In the first, I was myself a goat but incredibly uncomfortable in that skin, constantly sitting and standing in postures that didn't suit my form. In the second, I was in a barnyard and a goat spoke to me, aiding me on a quest for something that was hidden below the floorboards. Both dreams were wrapped within the nonsense of dreamland: in the first, I was wearing a goat avatar in Second Life; in the second there was some long, rather comical story of a barnyard mystery.

I don't put much faith into the import and meaning of dreams precisely because they are so often rich with nonsense, and because the topics that I do care about (religious or otherwise) rarely appear within them. Nonetheless, I'm curious about this goat thing. I've been reading up a bit on the symbolism of the goat, and tying it back to therianthropy, totem animals, and Celtic Reconstruction; meanwhile I've been reading the personal journals of a few totemists and animists and shamans which have been thought-provoking and inspiring. It's all begins rather unconnected, but things have been coming together in an interesting way. I'm thinking of therianthopy into my religious beliefs, but I have to do more reading on human-animal shapeshifters in Celtic myth. I'm also thinking about animal "totems" and CR—perhaps better said, about animal spiritual guides within Celtic spiritual practice. This goat thing intrigues me, and I don't want it to pass unexplored. Furthermore, if I can build a framework for working with spiritual guides, I can also apply it to the bear.

I don't hold with archetypes. In my recent active exploration of my therianthropy I've actually found the cat archetype largely useless. As a cat, some of my behaviors coincide with cat stereotypes, but others are the result of cat aspects which defy popular knowledge, and some are simply the result of my personality, as a cat and otherwise. Celtic Reconstruction also discards archetypes, and I've moved consistently in that same direction. I was never able to bond with the the Wiccan/eclectic pagan concept of a universal God and Goddess, nor did I understand the inclination to see deities as archetypes. By contrast, Celtic deities are not archetypes, they are identities. They may be linked to some natural forces, social elements, or animals/plants, there is no "Sun God" or "Fertility Goddess" in any Celtic pantheon, at least not as recognized by CR. (I also believe that I need to attach myself to a specific Celtic deity to help realize my religious practices, but that's another thought and post.)

Archetypes can convey some overarching trends, but they obscure individual detail and some underlying truths. Therefore, I'm trying to approach the goat without its the preexisting archetype. I recognize that stereotypes may have a seed of truth, so I've skimmed summaries of the goat as totem; I'm more interested now in reading about goats in Scotland, where they were originally brought over as livestock but have since been abandoned and gone feral. I figure that by learning how the goat lives and why will give me a basis to determine for myself what the goat "means."

I've also been doing some brief mediation simply to approach and interact with goats. Brief because I'm still a poor hand at slipping into trance, though I'm getting a bit better at it with the practice of my therianthropic work.* I've been beginning in my field, moving further out and towards a group of grazing goats. I had some early frustration—I think because I was trying to force the goats closer, into domestic animals in the field; today I had quite a bit more luck: a journey with a goat. )

In that experience, the goat for me was: Leaving my comfort zone. Journeying further afield. Walking difficult terrain. Lacking immediate, personal support. Emotional distance, but also the opportunity to follow and learn. Journeying to new territories, moving upward, overlooking hitherto unknown potential. The invitation to go, do, achieve new places and things. Feral independence, contrasted against my domestic identity. It fits within what I would expect from what I know so far of the goat within a Scottish context, and some aspects from, say, [livejournal.com profile] moonvoice's essay on goat. It was a wonderful experience, although intimidating—I'm keep encountering urgings to explore new territory, explore my potential, and take action, and frankly that makes me want to turn tail and run. However, since that seems to be such a strong current theme—well, I suppose it makes sense that the goat would enter my life.

The goat showed me territory that I had not seen before; territory that I can explore, but I must take the steps to do so. I could follow the goat up the hill, but I don't have a guide back down and into those fields.

I will try and return to the goat, and I'm curious about more mundane features of that goat's identity. Is the goat a specific animal? I'm curious also to gender; I know nothing about gender differences within goats, and have been thinking a lot on the (lack of) gender differences in domestic cats and what my self-as-cat's precise identity, sex, and appearance may be. But that is thought for later and certainly content for a different post; this one is long enough. I hope it's vaguely interesting to someone and I'm happy to talk about it all, but I took the time to write it largely because I want to focus more on specific moments, practices, and steps forward. I want to actively practicing these things, rather than being caught up just in the thought of them.

* For my own purposes, and for anyone that is curious, my meditation is pretty low key, but useful. I sit or lie comfortably and concentrate on something to slow and focus my thought: frequently deep breathing or heartbeat counting, sometimes repetitive movement, infrequently repetitive music. When I've calmed and centered, I envision my usual starting place, which is a field broken by a single large tree. This setting arose from my first experience with a cat transformation hypnotism tape, and its details and surrounding vary depending upon what I require. My mental images are patchy at best (see comments), sometimes I float in and out of trance, sometimes the image disintegrates, sometimes I wander off focus, sometimes time moves out of joint. I allow all of that, use my breathing or movement to hold the trance as best I can, and give up if it just won't work. By forcing myself to allow imperfections and avoid frustration, I've actually been able to make progress. When I'm done, I take a few moments to continue my deep breathing and recenter, then I move and stretch to reconnect with my physical body, give thanks, and then go on with my day.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Two days ago, spring arrived. I don't put much by calendar dates for the seasons, even those that are less arbitrary (such as solstices and equinoxes), because while they are good general guidelines, they sometimes reflect little about actual local weather patterns, temperates, and seasonal change. So February 1st (the "traditional" date for Imbolc) passed and I didn't blink—it was still very cold, here, just a week past our only snowfall of the year, cloudy and overcast. But yesterday morning, Devon and I awoke to brilliant sun streaming in in the gaps between the blinds and, more importantly, a wave of heat washing over the bed. We opened up the window and the air that came in was temperate and green—not the dryness of Oregon summer or the moist thickness of the winter, but a vibrant life-colored breeze, just this side of cold, rich already with the life of the sun.

So calendar date be damned, spring showed its first signs on February 15th this year. No doubt the sun will recess again soon, and we'll have the heavy deluge of spring rains, but that's how the weather functions here—when in doubt: rain. Nonetheless, if there ever was a time for Imbolc it's been these last few days.

To celebrate, since I don't quite have my life in order (yet? again?) to say nothing of my religious practices, I just took the guinea pigs outside for some fresh grass. Therefore a picture: that's Alfie, chowing down on fresh growing green grass, outside and in the sun. The sun indeed was almost blinding bright—Alfie and I share very sensitive skin and eyes, so we spent our time largely covered in long sleeves/towel and turned away from the sun. He was also adorably skittish, scrambling up onto my lap whenever he heard a door squeak or a power tool from one of the neighbors turn on. Alfie and I aren't that close, so being Protective Pig Mommy today was a good bonding experience.

Dink on the other hand has fewer reservations. A loud squeaky door makes him jump onto my lap, but otherwise he eats eats eats like—well, like he had just found a treasure trove of grass, and he would be damned if he wasn't going to find a way to eat it all, right now. Dink doesn't freak out about much, really, and he does love his grass. I took Kuzco out separately, after putting Dink&Alfie away, and he spent the whole time climbing on to me and looking scared. He's always like that, to tell the truth, but you think his love for fresh grass would outweigh his OHMYGODI'MGOINGTODIE fear of, you know, everything else.

Pig neuroses aside, it was lovely out and they were happy to fill their fat tummies, and spring has indeed shown its first light. This isn't my favorite season by far (that would be autumn) and indeed I'm terrified of the sun, but even I can appreciate the cycle of the seasons and the light and growth and warmth of these first warm days.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Fuck!)
I don't know why, and I would be hard pressed to explain how, but my back has been exceptionally painful the last few days (three, perhaps?). It's not the stabbing pain of spasms, but more like a constant throbbing with sharp beats in it where the pain spikes, like a pounding headache except that instead of making it hard to think, it makes it hard to sit still. No position, sitting or lying down, seems to make the pain go away, but constantly shifting positions at least keeps it from getting worse (haha—like "not worse" is really all that much better). So I guess what I'm trying so say is that I hurt on a level that could be approximately described as "very badly." I do not approve, it is making it hard for me to do anything (as being incredibly uncomfortable and fidgety makes it hard to stay focused on a task for very long), and I request that it stop, please and thank you.

So that's fun.

On a better note, Samhain yesterday was quite nice, even if Halloween was a bit of a letdown. I'm still having a hard time delving in to specific outward CR acts—I'm very much plagued by that self-conscious sense of not knowing what the fuck I'm doing. Truly, that keeps me from doing so much. Nonetheless, the day rose with a thick layer of fog which, if any thing, certainly meant that the arbitrary October 31st date was well suited in this case. I went out walking. I detoured away from the preserve that I normally visit, and (under the comforting cover of the mist, because I feel so self-conscious if I'm afraid people from the road or houses might see me) I wandered off into a wild field across the way, which was thick with dew and absolutely lovely. I left an early offering (half of my breakfast, an organic apple—we picked up Liberty apples from the farmers market last weekend, yum) in a small copse that grew there, and then went walking out by the park somewhat further along the road, and then out through a back path, onto a residential street, and into another field, mowed and de-blackberried but again uncultivated, and then beside the railroad tracks until I finally came to another street and could make my way home. It was a much longer loop than normal, but since I spent so little time on the roads, I have no idea how long. Perhaps three miles?

Back at the house, I look a long shower and then cleaned around the house—using the start of the new year as a chance to clarify and clean a bit (not as much as I would have hoped, but still more than nothing). I set up my altar again (it's been packed away for some time), spent some time with my photo album, which goes back to my great great great grandparents on both sides of the family (proof that there is a purpose to middle school genealogy projects!), set out another apple and some seed pods (nuts and seeds are always quintessentially Samhain to me, as they reflect both the fruitfulness of the season and, as dried and emptied husks, the end of the harvest and the start of winter), and lit candles for the gods, the land spirits, and for the dead—the large pillar candle this time, though I usually use it for the divine. I placed it all nearish the window, with a clear view in from the night to the glowing lights.

I was a bit excited about the prospect of, for the first time, giving out candy for Halloween. This is the first year since 2003 that I've been living residentially and facing the street, the first time I was likely to have trick or treaters. But not only did I grow very tired at nightfall (my sleeping schedule is still very, very messed up), I also had a total of two groups ring my doorbell: one before I had any candy to give them, and one after I had gone to bed, and so Devon answered the door for me. So now I have a shit ton of leftover chocolate in the freezer, and that was a bit of a let down. A pity, really, as it would have been nice to have a few visiting souls—I see a very pagan root to modern Halloween, and I love that, and would love to appreciate it again, to work it in to the religious energies of the day. But, due to sleep and the fact that there were still almost no visitors ... no dice on that. Ah, oh well.

The chocolate will be nice, at least, provided I don't make myself sick on it.

On a less meaningful but truly wonderful pair of sidenotes:

I found a scent that perfectly matches that amber resin that first made me want to try perfumes at all: BPAL's Haunted (soft golden amber darkened with a touch of murky black musk). I cannot even begin to tell you how happy this discovery makes me. My most recent order turned out to be quite a nice one, but nothing tops discovering that a whim "oh that sounds nice" imp addition turned out to be the one scent that I've been looking for all this time.

I'm back to writing again, following this period of pain, depression, anxiety, and insomnia—none of which are quite gone. 1k words a day, I know what happens now (even though I had to reach for a few last bits of unexpected climax), and I want to get this draft done by the end of the month. No word count as of yet, because I haven't typed anything in ages.

I have a headache vying with my backpain now, so that's all for me, and instead I get to go lie down and bemoan my damned body.
juushika: Photograph of a row of books on a library shelf. (Books Once More)
Mostly for my own records: my mood has been particularly bad as of late. )

Moods aside, not all is lost. For one, I'm slowly resuming some of my CR religion studies. I've been hesitant to say as much because I hate falling through on the things that I announce publicly, which I did with exactly this announcement about a year ago. I am, unfortunately, much more of a flaky person than I intent to be. The depression and anxiety get to me, laying waste the very best laid plans. I get overwhelmed, I have a breakdown, I give up, and then I'm too ashamed to try again. But here I am, trying again—because I miss it, and because it is important enough to me to try again. So I'm (re)reading The Tain and The Mabinogion, to get started, as well as the Scottish-specific books that I bought last year (The Gaelic Otherworld, Carmina Gadelica, and The Silver Bough), to get my groundings. I plan to look into ogham a bit more this time, for want of a divinational practice. My greatest fear is changing book knowledge into life practice—building rituals, devotionals, and altars. The process of moving from theory to action has never been my strength. I hate doing things unless I am certain that I shall do them well—and there's no way to know that, with religion, especially with a reconstrutionist faith where so much of the wheel has to be reinvented. The thought scares me silly, but I shall try to press on anyhow.

If none of this is making sense to you, some background into may be useful. Last year, I began a study and practice of Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism, specifically focusing on (the highlands of) Scotland. CR tries to reconstruct pre-Christian pagan Celtic faith, taking into account how it would change in the modern world (read: we do not collect the heads of our enemies). For more information, feel free to check out the CR FAQ (which was my first introduction and is an amazing resource) and my LJ tag on the topic, which will take you back through my studies last year. Also feel free to check out [livejournal.com profile] cr_r, the LJ community closely affiliated with the people that run/wrote the FAQ above.

And now having said as much, I shall proceed to worry myself silly about the doing of it all. Gah. But do wish me luck. This is as important to me as it is utterly mystifying and terrifying.

For another—in other "not all is lost" news—I've come up with a starting place for that book genome project I was contemplating earlier. This starting place is basically the relevant information to input into the program so that it could churn out useful results. In other words: the genes that make up the genome of the book. I tried to select information that would provide useful results: books with similar characters, settings, styles, genres, publishing dates, ratings/intended audience, and key characteristics, all in a simple fill-in-the-blanks schematic that would be easy to put into a database and simple enough to categorize.

The format I'm looking at follows. ) But there's still a major bug to be worked out: what the categories are, how many to have, and how to structure them. This is particularity relevant for genre, setting, and keywords. With genre, it probably comes down to creating a finite hierarchical list. For example, urban fantasy would be on the list, as a subgenre of fantasy, as a subgenre of nonfiction (which is implied, as I have absolutely zero intent of dealing with non-fiction at all). When setting is selected, the most accurate subgenre(s) will be selected, and the parent categories will be taken into (weighted) account when the genome spits back results. A set list of genres will make labeling easier and make the system function better by providing more (and more accurate) results. Keywords are not as easy. These are incredibly important—if I'm looking for more books like Season of the Witch, I'm probably far more interested in finding something with alchemy in it than I am in another 30-some male protagonist. As a result, these keywords need to be diverse and specific—enough that I can find another book on alchemy, not just magic, and that a book on prophecy can turn up appropriate results too—but they have to have some order to them, or the results are useless. What the author calls remote viewing may be too minor a term—is psychics better? Will the categorizers (me!) forget what term they went with before and therefore invalidate the search process? I think keywords are probably the trickiest and the most important part—after all, they are what makes the Amazon system start to float ... and then sink like a stone.

With this system mocked up, what comes next is implementing it. I plan to make an table (Excel, probably) and start categorizing any books that I can think of, and am sufficiently familiar with (read recently or read many times) to assign genre and keywords too. After I build up a big enough database, I can start searching it and seeing if I can con the boy into mocking up a system for it—and see if it's any good. I have four books labeled so far. So... that's a start? Ask me again in a few months if this brainchild should have been aborted or not.

The other tiny bit of good news is that I have book reviews (three, including Lane Robins's Maledicte, a title which I plan to repeat until I drill it into every readers brain and convince them all to check it out) and BPAL (a bottle and another half-dozen imps) on the way. The reviews are getting written about now, and the BPAL is in shipping and should be here any day now. Yay.

(I should totally have a tag that reads "one more tag" for posts when I write a short novel and cover enough topics for a dozen tags... just to drive the point home, yanno.)
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Title: The Folklore of the Scottish Highlands
Author: Anne Ross
Published: Totowa, New Jersey: Rowman and Littlefield, 1976
Page Count: 174
Total Page Count: 31,765
Text Number: 92
Read For: Celtic Reconstruction research, checked out from the Lewis & Clark College Library through Inter-Library Loan.
Short review: A brief but inclusive text, Folklore of the Scottish Highlands provides exactly that: and overview of clan lore, information on second sight, witchcraft, social customs, life and death, and seasonal cycles all as they related to the customs and folklore of the Scottish Highlands. For those that have done other research on traditional Celtic/Scottish culture and religions, much of Ross's text will be familiar as her sources include Carmichael and Campbell, two of the most important authors in the field. Ross does, however, narrow down the field of study to just the highlands, making this a useful resource for the reader interested in localized information. Her information on seasonal religious practices is particularly useful.

Long review. )

Review posted here at Amazon.com.
juushika: Photograph of a row of books on a library shelf. (Books Once More)
Title: The World of the Druids
Author: Miranda J. Green
Published: New York: Thames & Hudson, 2005
Page Count: 192
Total Page Count: 31,591
Text Number: 91
Read For: Celtic Reconstruction research, checked out from the Corvallis Public Library
Short review: Illustration-heavy, The World of the Druids is a partial introduction to the Celtic Druids. Green reviews the various sources of information about the Druids (classical texts, archaeological evidence, and Welsh and Irish myths). Relying heavily on the near-300 illustrations that make up the bulk of the text, Green analyzes the little we do know about Druids: their political and religious roles, ancient Celtic religious practices, and the use of sacred space. Some of the text is dubious extrapolations, but Green is generally willing to admit just how little we do know. The tail end of the book looks at the Druidic revival, including renewed interest in the Druids, early modern texts on Druids, the erroneous but commonplace connections between Stonehenge and Druids, and historic and current new Druidic religions and movements, including aspects of Neopaganism. A little repetitive, lacking in-depth analysis and commentary, but with copious illustrations. This is a decent introduction to the subject and interesting to look through, but not particularly useful. Borrow it, don't buy it.

Long review. )

Review posted here at Amazon.com.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Seasonal)
Title: Gods and Heroes of the Celts
Author: Marie-Louise Sjoestedt
Translator: Myles Dillon
Published: California: Turtle Island Foundation, 1982
Page Count: 131
Total Page Count: 29,232
Text Number: 85
Read For: Celtic Reconstruction research
Short review: God and Heroes of the Celts is an excellent, approachable, rich text that provides a wonderful introduction to ancient Celtic myth, religion, and culture. Sjoestedt discusses the traits of Celtic mythology, the Gods of the Continental Celts, the Mother-Goddess concept (in Ireland specifically), the concept of the Chieftain God, the relationship between the physical and mythical/spiritual world, and the role of the hero within and the hero outside of the tribe. These topic selections cover a great deal of important concepts in ancient Celtic mythology and society, and while the chapters aren't very long, Sjoestedt makes clear and important arguments that are easy to read without being innately obvious or insignificant. My only regret about this book was the length: I wish it had been longer, covered more subjects, and contained more depth (such as contradictions within the myths and more information of the various Gods and Goddess [or God/Goddess types]). Nonetheless, this is a readable, accurate, useful introduction to ancient Celtic religion, and I highly recommend it to the curious reader both as a good read and as a lead-in to further study.

Long review. )

Review posted here at Amazon.com.
juushika: Photograph of a stack of books, with one lying open. (Books)
Title: The Encyclopedia of Celtic Myth and Legend: A Definitive Sourcebook of Magic, Vision, and Lore
Author: John and Cailtin Matthews
Published: London: Random House, 2004
Page Count: 499
Total Page Count: 29,091
Text Number: 84
Read For: Celtic Reconstruction research, checked out from the library
Short review: While this is an accessible, fairly broad introduction to Celtic myths, this text lacks commentary and is poorly edited, making it a mediocre introduction at best. The Encyclopedia of Celtic Myth and Legend contains a decent range of myths, grouped by theme, with a short introduction to each myth. The range of stories is fairly broad and contains a number of important, highly referenced tales. However, the book obviously doesn't contain all of the myths, including some important stories. The theme grouping can make it difficult to keep characters and time lines straight, but it is historically accurate. The introductions to the myths are limited, often informal, and while they do give a sometimes useful plot overview, don't provide much context or information about the myth or its setting within the Celtic mythos. The myths themselves contain no footnotes, minimal name translations, and are poorly edited (there's a lot of missing punctuation and a few typos). The lack of commentary and information makes the myths less accessible to the reader: character identification is difficult, plot cycles and time lines are confused, and cultural notes and explanations are lost. On the whole, this is a mediocre introduction: the myths are there, but they are hard to interpret and not very useful to the reader. However, this book does appear to be easier to find at local libraries than longer, more annotated Celtic mythology collections, so it may be a good introduction to a reader curious about the myths but unwilling to buy a book without reading more. I recommend it only on that basis: borrow it and read it for an idea of Celtic mythology, but purchase a different book for in depth study.

Long review. )

Review posted here at Amazon.com.
juushika: Photograph of a stack of books, with one lying open. (Books)
Title: The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual
Author: Alexei Kondratiev
Published: Ireland: the Collins Press, 1998
Page Count: 263
Total Page Count: 28,592
Text Number: 83
Read For: Celtic Reconstruction research, checked out from the library
Short review: How useful the reader will find this book depends primarily on what he is looking for in a Celtic-based pagan religion. Kondratiev's text has a much stronger Celtic background than many of the books published on Celtic Wicca and Celtic Neo-Paganism, but he deviates and modifies historical Celtic belief and practice too much for this to be considered an authentic view of Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism. Kontratiev proposes a Pan-Celtic practice, based in Celtic mythology but heavily modified to create a simplified view of the deities and a more complex wheel of the year. His book contains a useful overview of Celtic history and pre-history, both before and after Christianity, and to the Celtic culture, an introduction to ritual and sacred space, a year-long cycle of eight holidays, a monthly moon cycle, and a seven-holiday cultural cycle of non-religious holidays. The introduction to Celtic history and culture and the historical analysis of the major Celtic holidays (Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine, and Lunasa) should be useful to readers on all religious paths; the rest of the book is too heavily adapted and ritualized to be considered Celtic Reconstructionist but may be useful to those interest in a modified, Pan-Celtic path. As such, I recommend this book only tentatively, and I believe that those interested in an authentic Celtic Reconstructionist practice will find it only minorly useful. However, Kontratiev's extrapolations are good food for thought, and the book may be very useful to those not interested in following a strict, historically accurate Celtic path.

Long review. )

Review posted here at Amazon.com.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Title: Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions
Author: H.R. Ellis Davidson
Published: New York: Syracuse University Press, 1988
Page Count: 268
Total Page Count: 26,780
Text Number: 78
Read For: Celtic Reconstruction research, checked out from the Portland State University Library
Short review: A useful introduction to the structure, key concepts, and beliefs of ancient Scandinavian and Celtic religions. Davidson covers a number of topics, including holy places, feasting and sacrifice, battle rites, land spirits and ancestors, divination, the Otherworld, and what she calls "the ruling powers." Her text is an overview and an introduction: not very deep, but a good place to begin one's study. Because she discusses both Germanic and Celtic religions, there is too much ground to cover to do so in depth. Sometimes the religions feel confused or one of the other is ignored in order to move on to the text subject. Nonetheless, the text is scholarly, well-footnoted and clearly based in research; for the most part her analysis manages to identify key themes and symbols in an analytic, readable fashion. I believe that her attempt to categorize the gods at the very end of the book fails, but with that one exception the book is on the whole a useful, intelligent introduction to these ancient religions, and the writing style is approachable while still scholarly.

Long review. )

Review posted here at Amazon.com.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Seasonal)
Title: Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Whales
Author: Alwyn Rees and Brinley Rees
Published: New York: Thames and Hudson, 1994 (1961)
Page Count: 427
Total Page Count: 26,512
Text Number: 77
Read For: religion research, checked out from the Portland State University Library
Short review: Celtic Heritage is an in-depth study of the myths of Ireland and Whales, interpreting the myths, identifying key themes, and determining the impact of pre-Christiain Celtic society on the myths. The Rees brothers provide an overview of the branches of Irish and Welsh mythology, explore themes such as darkness and light, creation stories, hierarchy, religious/cultural centers, and the use of numbers as they appear in the myth and therefore as the influenced Celtic society, and then analyze the aspects of the different kind of stories, including births, wooings, adventures, and deaths, that make up the Irish and Welsh myths. Their analysis closely follows the original texts and shows a great deal of research into Celtic history and ancient culture. Ultimately, by working backward from the myths and using archaeological and cultural research as a guide, they are able to draw conclusions about the pre-Christian Celtic society itself: structure, beliefs, and practices. It is a scholarly text and can be dense and difficult to read it at times; there are also too many comparisons made to Indian religion, and the Reeses are to willing to use these comparative studies to imply or infer parts of Celtic religion and mythical interpretation. However, on the whole this is a scholarly, in-depth, eye opening book with useful information and brilliant, logical analysis. I highly recommend it. If you're having trouble finding a copy, college libraries seem to stock this book fairly consistently.

Long review. )

Review posted here at Amazon.com.
juushika: Photograph of a stack of books, with one lying open. (Books)
Title: Magic of the Celtic Gods and Goddesses
Author: Carl McColman and Kathryn Hinds
Published: New Jersey: New Page Books (The Career Press), 2005
Page Count: 203
Total Page Count: 23,924
Text Number: 70
Read For: Celtic Reconstruction study, checked out from the library
Short review: Surprisingly, considering its length and subtitle (A Guide to Their Spiritual Power, Healing Energies, and Mystical Joy), Magic of the Celtic Gods and Goddesses is a decent, if broad, introduction to the Celtic deities. The authors provide very general introductions to a number of the "primary" (that is, popular or common) gods and goddesses in Celtic mythology, and then briefly extrapolate this information into suggestions and ideas for practice and for learning more. The descriptions of the gods and goddess are largely based on Celtic myth and legend, and the authors usually differentiate between fact and their opinions, but they fail to footnote or reference the original texts. The extrapolations have a Wiccan slant but for the most part are general and balanced. All in all, this is a good introductory text but doesn't provide much in the way of detail or authentic history or practice.

Long review. )

Review posted here at Amazon.com.
juushika: Photograph of a stack of books, with one lying open. (Books)
Title: Celtic Women's Spiritually
Author: Edain McCoy
Published: Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 2005 (1998)
Page Count: 328
Total Page Count: 23,621
Text Number: 69
Read For: Celtic Reconstruction study, checked out from the library
Short review: Celtic Women's Spirituality is at best an introduction to Celtic Wicca. Without delving much into history or myth and legend, McCoy pulls out some aspects that she sees in ancient Celtic religion and connects them to aspects of mainstream Wicca. She envisions the three-faced Goddesses in Celtic mythology as the triple-goddess (virgin, mother, and crone) in Wicca, overemphasizes the female warrior in Celtic history in order to create a strong archetype for women to follow, has a number of sections about "Celtic shamanism," and provides a lengthy, somewhat arbitrary wheel of the year. The book is a broad introduction to Celtic Wicca, with a general overview of the factors that she sees as important and a sprinkling of guided meditations and rituals. What Celtic Women's Spirituality is not is an introduction to historic pre-Christian Celtic religion. Many of the factors that McCoy focuses on don't arise from Celtic myth or Celtic history, and they are heavily adapted to fit Wicca. If you are interested in "actual" Celtic religion and culture, or Celtic Reconstruction, this is not the book for you.

Long review. )

Review posted here at Amazon.com.

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