January 11, 2007
The Sacred Isle: Belief and Religion in Pre-Christian Ireland by Daithi O hOgain
I thought this was a very good explanation of ancient Irish religion. It would serve as a good introduction to those who are new to this area of study, as well as add to the knowledge of more experienced readers. O hOgain discusses the evidence beginning with preCeltic cultures, and gives his own interpretations. One caveat to keep in mind however, is that he has a tendency to emphasize solar mythology, which is a rather outdated Victorian conceit that most Celtic scholars have since rejected. While the sun was undoubtedly important to the ancient Irish, it was not the be-all and end-all of their religious worldview. He also likes to make arguments that various mythological figures are the same being. These points aside, there are a lot of interesting insights on the deities to be found and intriguing interpretations of the myths. He devotes Chapters 3 & 4 to the druids, giving detailed information on the evidence we have of their practices and teachings as well as reading in between the lines with comparison to other cultures.