GODS OF THE CELTS
By Dr Miranda Green, published by Sutton Publishing Limited at £10.99. 256pp. ISBN: 0-7509-1581-1
The present volume is a paperback reprint of a book first published in 1986. Readers who have previously encountered Dr Green's work, such as Celtic Goddesses, will no doubt expect this also to be an essentially scholarly and serious work examining both the mythological and archaeological evidence for Celtic attitudes to deity and religious practice. And it is. There is no room here, therefore, for the fantasies so popular with today's new age "Celt".
The book covers its subject in seven substantial chapters: The Celts and Religion; Cults of Sun and Sky; Fertility and Mother-Goddesses; War, Death and the Underworld; Water-Gods and Healers; Animals and Animism; and Symbolism and Imagery in Celtic Cult Expression. It is lavishly illustrated with maps, drawings and photographs, including many of rarely seen and therefore unfamiliar items such as a tiny carved jet bear from Lancashire and a magnificent bronze deer-hound from Lydney in Gloucestershire, and it is, taken as a whole, an excellent survey of what is known of Celtic religion and what is currently surmised about its more enigmatic corners.
As well as discussing the impact of Roman religion and attitudes to deity on those of the Celtic peoples they conquered, notably the tendency of the Romans for absorbing local deities and for the twinning of Roman and Celtic deities into a composite form, and the importation into Britain of what are otherwise continental Celtic deities, Green examines in depth how archaeology and myth shed light on each other to clarify and support what we know from each.
Green also extensively explores religious themes such as the importance of the head and skull and the concept of threes and tripling, as well as delving into some areas of Celtic religious practice which modern pagans may find disturbing - particularly the strong archaeological evidence for human sacrifice, especially of women and children.
This is an excellent book which is readily approachable for the non-archaeologist and extremely good value. Very highly recommended indeed.