By John Billingsley, published by Capall Bann at £10.95. 204pp. ISBN: 1898307-71-7 (Reviewed by David Taylor)
The human head is one of the most potent symbols we know. Its power as a talisman against evil is evident from archaeology, mythology and folklore. The "cult of the head" appears to have originated in the Stone Age, reaching its height in the Celtic Iron Age. The "Celtic Head" has been a favourite of fringe archaeologists, antiquarians and neo-pagans for well over a decade. In this fascinatingly well-researched and well-written book, John Billingsley, editor of Northern Earth magazine, takes a critical look at "Celtic Heads", particularly in his native North of England.
Tracing th ecarved head from the Stone Age through history to more recent stylised heads, John also considers the placement of the head over gateways, doorways, windows, water thresholds, buildings, furniture, weapons etc and then analyses the vast array of styles from Green Men to Horned Heads and Tongue-pokers. The use of the head as a motif in folklor is researched in-depth and its relationship to otherworld, chthonic levels is given long overdue serious consideration.
That John's knowledge of this subject is encyclopaedic is evident from the fact that this book is based on his MA degree thesis on the subject. And it is a book long over due. Despite the subject of carved archaic heads being a vast subject, this is the first serious in-depth study, and John's perceptive insight, along with some beautiful illustrations, make this a definite "must have".