Category Archives: celts

De Graal * Koenraad Logghe (1997)

I bought and reviewed this book not too long after it was published. Back then I did not know the author and was not yet involved in the group that he founded (Werkgroep Traditie) from which he is no longer a part. Logghe is a “Traditionalistic Asatruar” and a Freemason, but I do not know how active an Asatruar he is nowadays, perhaps only in private. Many many years of mostly self-study made Logghe a specialist in Indo-European comparitive mythology and genuine esotericism, also at the age of writing this book (34). In “the grail, between a heathen and a christian heritage” he investigates mostly the grail legends of the Low Countries such as the stories about Ferguut and Torec. Logghe came to the conclusion that these (all) Arthurian legends are deeply rooted in Indo-European mythology, yes I say mythology, because rather than historical, the stories are mythical and the characters based on Gods. Also the stories are obviously initiatic stories. To make his points, Logghe gives countless quotes of the ancient manuscripts that he studied at the now (2011) troubled Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (Joost Ritman also introduces the book) and makes cross references to Persian texts (which seem to have had a big influence on the Arthurian legends), Hermetic texts (which may be an unexpected, but quite clearly also a source), Gnostic and all kinds of early Christian texts and different religions and mythologies. All this gives the book a staggering amount of details in which the red thread tends to get lost, but which gives a great many leads for futher study. Being from the hand of a Traditionalist author, you can expect thick layers of Guénonian thinking. Yes you may get the idea, Logghe is the man that had a profound impact on my own thinking. This was the third (I think) time that I read this book and I want to bring it to you attention (again) almost three years after the first publication of this review at Gangleri.nl. It is one of the greatest works that I have, is unfortunately only available in Dutch, but seems not to be sold out, but can be found quite easily secondhand anyway.
1997 Uitgeverij Stichting Mens en Cultuur
Quotes from this book can be found here

Myths And Symbols In Pagan Europe * H.R. Ellis Davidson (1988)

Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe

Scholars like MacCulloch and Jan de Vries were well aware of this, but the parellels have tended to be forgotten or ignored because most recent work on early religion has been firmly restricted to one side or the other.

Thus says Hilda Roderick Ellis Davidson in her conclusion (p. 217). I must say it was very refreshing to see the Germanic (both continental and Scandinavian) and Celtic worlds treated together, not just to compare, but more like two branches of the same tree. Ellis Davidson has delivered a splendid work with an approach that I have not seen often, but also with very ‘practical’ subjects that I had not seen written about so extensively. “Sacred landmarks”, “ceremonial drinking” (the first time I saw the work symbel in a scholarly book), “feats and skills”, “Scandinavian land-spirits”, “the community of the gods”, just to name a few of the many short chapters. This is no book with vague assumptions, floating theories and spacey druids, it is scholarly, but not boring, and trying to make something of the little information that we have without inventing things. Ellis Davidson goes so far that she does not even really pose theories on certain things (I will come back to this), she merely presents what we have. Being very well read, you will not be disappointed by what that is, from myths to sagas to folklore, allways weighing the source.
However she refers to him many times, Ellis Davidson is critical about the theories of Georges Dumézil. She roughly follows Dumézil’s structure, but still manages to shove Heimdall and Balder under the Vanir (p. 221/2), with arguments of course, but without leaving a structure that she writes (p.222) “[…] were kept up as long as they fitted the background of men’s lives and the nature of the lands in which they struggled and fought for survival.” “Even if some of his theories do not fit the Scandinavian and Irish material in detail” (p. 222 again), I personally prefer the structure and the comparitive possibility it gives of Dumézil. Since Ellis Davidson does not (all the time), she sometimes comes to conclusions which I cannot follow. Anyone is entitled to his/her own ideas of course and inspite of this lack of structure, this little book of Ellis Davidson is a must-read for anyone interested in Germanic and/or Celtic religion and society, especially reenactment or reviving groups.
1988 syracuse university press, isbn 0815624387
see here for two more quotes

The Destiny Of The Warrior * Georges Dumézil (1970)

The Destiny Of A Warrior

heur et malheur de guerrier: aspects mythiques de la fonction guerrière chez les Indo-Europèens * 1996

Whereas The Destiny Of A King (see elsewhere) deals with “the first function” (religion, law, magic, etc.), this book speaks about the second (martial, warrior, etc.). As usually Dumézil starts with Indian and Iranian mythology where he finds and describes the warrior gods. Also he speaks about “the warrior function and its relations to the other two functions” by which this later work gives a very good idea of Dumézil’s theory of the three functions. The warriors written about at length are Indra, Starcatherus and Heracles, and Dumézil describes their three sins, functions and place in their respective mythologies (Hindu, Germanic and Greek). Also described at length are initiative combats with dummies, “warriors in animal forms” and etymological leads for the warrior gods’ names and their victims.
All in all The Destiny Of The Warrior is again a very interesting work which brings things I already knew (Dumézil is of course used a lot by contemporary writers), but also thought-provoking new ideas. I continue my search for titles of Dumézil in English (this one you will have to buy second hand, like most of them); next up is an entire book about the Thors-warrior Starkadr.
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Read quotes of Dumézil here.
1970 university of chicago * isbn 0226169685

The Destiny Of A King * Georges Dumézil (1973)


mythe et épopée, vol 2: types épiques indo-européens: un héros, un sorcier, un roi
Well this is a Dumézil book! Mostly based on the stories of Yayati and Madhavi, Dumézil writes about sacred kings, perpetual virgins and makes a great many cross references between different mythologies. The basis lays in the Indian and Iranian mythologies, but there are chapters about Celtic mythology and especially towards the end, references to Northern European myths. There is no beginning of telling about the writer’s findings in this book, but you can be sure to learn about myths, the tripartite hypothesis, the depths of ancient texts and the meaning of them in daily life. A great work of a great scholar and available in English.
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Read quotes of Dumézil here.
1973 the university of chicage press * isbn 0226169758

The Celts, bronze age to new age * John Haywood (2004 pearson eduction * isbn 058250578X)

It was the Dutch translation of this book that I saw in a local bookshop and decided to get a copy. When I was looking for it on the internet, I ran into the earlier reviewed De Kelten en de Lage Landen by Herman Clerinx. Clerinx’ book is wonderfull, this book by Haywood is rather dull. Haywood wrote a purely historical book with much focus on the British isles. His information is detailed and in that regard interesting, but I find the approach much too historical. Funny is when towards the end Haywood comes to nowadays Celts and New Age “celtomania”. If you are intered in the history of the Celtic people, this book may be for you, but if you are interested in Celtic religion and mythology, better look for another title.

Kelten En De Lage Landen * Herman Clerinx (2005/6 davidsfonds * isbn 905826324X)

I know that this is something to say, but this is the ultimate beginners book on the Celts for a Dutch-speaking audience. However the title means “Celts and the Low Countries”, Clerinx gives a very nice introduction into the scientific fields that are involved in the subject of the Celts as a whole, the theories around the Indo-Europeans, different theories on the Celts and mostly appealing, he used the most recent investigations, theories and information, so this book is not only very elementary, but will also bring you up-to-date of the latest findings and theories. This is the story of the Celts, with as focus and starting point the Low Countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg). So here follows my first point of criticism. However many scholars have doubts about the Celts in the Netherlands (especially above ‘the great rivers’), Clerinx joyfully keeps talking about the Celtic tribes of this area (this subject itself is very interesting btw.). When you read the book (and read it carefully), the writer gives all the scholarly opinions and doubts about the Celts, but his preferance in the doubt is quite clear and his seems to prefer Celtic Low Countries over Germanic Low Countries (or in the worst part, inhabited by tribes of which is not totally clear if they were Celts of Teutons). No worries, just a thing to keep in the back of your head, but Celtophiles will especially love this book I guess. Then another point of criticism. The book is very readable, too readable sometimes, almost as if it was written for adolescents with a silly sence of humour sometimes. Also just a thing to keep in the back of your head. For the rest, in debt linguistic and archeologic information about the Celts, grey parts which go a bit deeper in some subjects, many photos and towards the end, Celtic mythology in a nutshell (an a little small nutshell…). Nicely critical towards scholars and popular theories (most of them at least), not afraid to say what we don’t know for sure, critical towards nowadays ‘Celtophilism’, but giving a very good basic idea of the subject in about 280 pages.

Druid Worship & Their Temples * John Daniel (isbn 1558183922)

“Sinterklaas”-presents from American relatives can sometimes be a pleasant surprise. This is a small photocopied book (but well-done) from a small publisher from small village near Seattle. “Holmes Publishing Group” has at least two series of publications, one with Golden Dawn texts and one with other texts, including this one, but also for example The Hieroglyphic Monad of John Dee, The Divine Edda of Winifred Faraday and A Mithraic Ritual of G.R.S. Mead. This little Druid-book is fairly informative and (I suppose) also fairly inexpensive, so I think I will try to get my hands on other publications of Holmes. The books have the following address, should you want to get in contact yourself:

Holmes Publishing Group
Postal Box 623
Edmonds, WA 98020
USA

King Arthur In The Netherlands * Martine Meuwese (editor) (BPH 2005)

Since 1930 “Arthurian congresses” have been held by what later became the International Arthurian Society (IAS). This society consists of scientists in a variety of fields (linguistics, archeologists, etc.) who have an interest in the Grail-romances and -histories. For the first time in the existence of the IAS the congress was held in the Netherlands in july 2005. The Society was also interested in an exhibition of Dutch Arthurian scriptures, so they approached the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica in Amsterdam. This library -as reader of these pages will know- mostly focusses on Western esoteric, especially Rosicrucian and Hermetic texts. Because of the esoteric contents of the Grail-romances and their influence on later groups, the BPH also has several of these ancient texts. The IAS thought that the library founded by Joost Ritman was a good place for an intimate exhibition and so it happened that from 25 july to 22 october 2005 a small exhibition with old Arthurian texts can be visited in the wonderfull Amsterdam library. Following BPH customs, a catalogue of the exhibition is available which is the subject of this review.

The exhibition’s oldest item is a 1136 copy of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae. Further to be seen are Tristan texts, of course Chrétien de Troyes and Wolfram von Eschenbach, but also Middle-Dutch texts and histories such as Jacob van Maerlant’s Spiegel Historiael. From then on, the exhibition works all the way to the previous century with the famous drawings of Aubrey Beardsley in Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. Some books look magnificent, orther are highly affected by time. Also worth mentioning are the ‘Tristan and Isolde’ shoes! The items come from the BPH itself, but also from many other museums and private collections, so you can say that this exhibition is really unique!

Both the exhibition and the catalogue are highly informative. Each item is shortly elucidated and the different sections in the catalogue are each introduced at length, giving the history of the Grail-stories, how they were written and copied by hand, how they spread and survived to the present day. Also you can see/read how the Arthurian legends still appeal to us modern men. The best of it, this 70-pages, full-colour catalogue costs only E 10,-, so be sure to get your copy before they are all gone. Also be sure to pay a visit to the exhibition before it is over too. See www.ritmanlibrary.nl for more information about visiting the library.

A Celtic Miscellany * Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson (trans.) (isbn 0140442472)

Here we haven an anthology of Celtic literature. Jackson made a bunch of subjects in which quotes from Celtic literature are put. This literature varries from seventh to the eighteenth century and from all Irish, Scottish, Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Cornish and Breton literature. The subjects are hero-tale and adventure, nature, love, epigram, ‘celtic magic’, description, humour and satire, bardic poetry, elegy and religion. The quotes can be a few lines, but also several pages. The nice thing about a book like this, is that you get a lot of Celtic literature so you will have a good idea of the styles and forms of Celtic literature after reading this book. But the book only gives the sources of the quotes as “Irish; traditional folk song”, “Welsh; traditional verse; seventeenth century?” or in the best case “Welsh englyn; David Jones of Llangwyfen; eighteenth century.” I don’t think this is enough information to find the text where the quotes are taken from.
Then a personal note. Celtic literature can sometimes be very beautiful with fantasyfull descriptions and dreamy ways of putting things, but I find that very often this style is very tiring and even boring. Some sections of the book I read through very quickly, others at a more modest pace. It is quite strange to see how even in very early texts there are already many references to Christianity, but of course, the Celtic islands embraced Christianity pretty early in history.
A nice book to read some time, but don’t expect too much of it.