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CELTIC GODDESSES - Warriors, Virgins and Mothers

By Miranda Green, published by the British Museum Press at £20.00 (Hbk). 224pp. ISBN: 0-7141-2303-X

Without doubt this is one of the most impressive books on matters Celtic I have read in a long time. Dr Green lectures in archaeology and Celtic Studies at the University of Aberystwyth, and though her approach is sober and scholarly her writing is never dull or heavy-going for the non-expert.

As one might expect, given her background, there is no room here for the clutch-a-crystal-and-channel-a-dolphin approach to Celtic "studies" which unfortunately dominates the pagan "Celtic" scene. Instead, Dr Green presents an in-depth examination of the archaeological, literary and mythological evidence for the attitudes of the Celts to their Goddesses and to women in general. Some of the conclusions she reaches are not going to go down too well in some pagan quarters - she makes a strong case, for instance, against the commonly accepted view of the matriarchal Celtic golden age of neo-pagan fantasy. Drawing from sources both familar and not so well known, she demonstrates that the interpretations of myths and sources favoured by the neo-pagan publishing industry may actually have been the oppposite of the reality experienced by real women - in Gaul, for instance, a man had the right of life and death over his wife and children. She also presents some intriguing evidence that the introduction of Christianity may have raised the status of women rather than decreasing it, as many feminist pagan writers have asserted.

Dr Green also examines the nature of Sovereignty in Celtic society, the nature of marriage and partnership between the sexes, Goddesses of war, motherhood and healing, attitudes to virginity and the connection between the divine female and beasts and much more besides. There is much here to fascinate the open-minded - and infuriate the bigotted. Very strongly recommended.