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Le Secret Des Keltes * Lancelot Lengyel (1969)

I realise that this is one of my ‘impossible reviews’. I ran into the 1976 German translation (1981 second printing) of this book in an Amsterdam bookshop. The title in French means “the secret of the Celts”, the German title is more promising: “Das geheime Wissen der Kelten”, or “the secret knowledge of the Celts”. Looking for the book on the internet I only found a few references, not totally clear if it is this book for sale. Still I want to bring it under your attention.

The book has a strange format, square. There are many books about the Celts, but this one rose my interest because it has a lot of symbols in it. The writer investigated Celtic coins and their symbolism and only after that Celtic mythology and the like. There is a lot information in this book which was new to me, but the writer literary gives meaning to anything, triangular eyes, dots and spots, cracks and the form of a haircut. Often I have the idea that Lengyel goes way too far in his minutious investigations, but of course everything can be taken into concideration and does not necessarily have to be believed. A fact is that the coins may be rich in symbolism, but they do not tell us too much about gods, goddesses and mythology, or do they…?

The writer continues with short chapters about subjects such as ‘the not-rational’, ‘the sun-hero Finn’, ‘the dear-god’, etc. More towards the end pieces of continental, Irish and Welsh mythology with (sometimes) interesting explanations. At least to me, unconventional!

Less good about the book is that I found it almost impossible to read. I read in German quite a lot and I don’t know if it is the construction of the sentences, the use of words, the density of information or maybe the ‘unexpectedness’ of the information, but for some reason I really had a hard time reading the book. I’m planning to put it aside (I have paged through it all, read most of it) and reread it in small parts of so.

One thing is for sure, this is the most informative book about Celtic symbolism and mythology that I have read so far. There is a staggering amount of images and highly detailed descriptions of coins, so if you want to learn more about this side of Celtic culture, try to locate a copy of this book.

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