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Book Review: Way of the Druid by Graeme K. Talboys

I’ll admit it, the subtitle of ‘The Renaissance of a Celtic Religion and its Relevance for Today’ gave me pause since, to put it politely, a great many books purporting to illustrate ‘Celtic’ beliefs, practices and cultures have only a cursory relationship to trivial matters like history, evidence or, in fact, reality. I was therefore very relieved to find that the author dealt with such concerns very early on and with much the same frame of mind, leaving me free to ungrit my teeth and enjoy the rest of the book.

And I did enjoy the rest of the book, very much so. This is not a foofy new-age manual about where to stand in stone circles at what time of year with this chant and invoking those mystic symbols. This book is not really at all about what a druid does, it’s about what a druid is – by no means an easy topic to address. Part history, part philosophy, part spirituality, Talboys looks (very acutely) at what we really know of the Celtic way of life as well as what we can infer; the myths, preconceptions and misconceptions about druid orders, and the extent to which these have been helped and hindered by modern reconstruction; and the advantages and limitations of adopting such a world view in contemporary society.

It’s not always an easy read, but in the best possible way. Many of the concepts and ideas are challenging and thought-provoking, even to someone (me, specifically) familiar with varied pagan ethos’. However the author neither panders nor patronises and is refreshingly honest and unsentimental while still conveying the wonder, beauty and insight that can be discovered as part of a druidic journey.