Monday, October 23, 2006

Druids--4th Time's the Charmer

I have three non-fiction books titled Druids:

1. Peter Beresford Ellis’, which I devoured.
2. Nora Chadwick’s, which I slugged through and grumbled over,
3. Stuart Piggott’s, which, to be honest, I’m still edging through—but with surges of delight, because it really is a wonderful tome.

Now I’ve read a fourth book with the name Druids, by Morgan Llywellyn. It’s fiction. And a lot of fun.

Llywellyn's hero is a druid of the Carnute tribe who comes of age just before Caesar’s march through Gaul. His best—no, soul—friend is Vercingetorix, so you can see where the story’s going.

Llywellyn imagines a cosmology, customs, rituals, and philosophy for her druids that holds together and heightens the drama. I loved the book; it moved fast

99% imagination, though. I can see someone coming away from the book believing that sex magic was an important part of druidic practices in Iron Age Gaul. Hmmm.....

My only criticisms are that she left some loose ends. Why have a kidnapping that remains unresolved, for example? These are minor items.

The biggest thing that bothered me is that her character calls Vercingetorix “Rix.”

I completely agree that Vercingetorix is an unwieldy name for a main character and he needed something shorter. But Rix? Yo, king-dude? No!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

It's a Boy Rock!

Nigel Pennick wrote a fascinating book titled Celtic Sacred Landscapes that is packed with wonderful bits of lore.

Unfortunately, he doesn't cite most of the tidbits. This makes for easier reading but drives me crazy, because I always want more information.

Crossroads, to the Celts, marked transitional places where the underworld, middle earth (yes, he calls it that) and the heavens meet. They were often marked by Herms. A herm, according to Pennick, is "an ithyphallic image of Mercury."

I had to look up ithyphallic. It means an erect penis. Well, of course; how could you carve a soft penis into rock? Wikipedia directs me to Herma: Greek pillars marking boundaries, topped with the head of the god Hermes, and featuring male genitalia.

The pictures accompanying the (uncited)Wikipedia article were disappointing--nary a ithyphallus, or even flaccophallus among them. But here is a picture I took at the Musee de Dept. Breton in Quimper, Brittany.

Now, that's a Herm.

The Gauls, or Celts, were wonderful artists, but they had a different way of looking at things. I think they were minimalists; they include in their art what is necessary.

This carving was unprovenanced, and was only identified as being Gaulish and--probably--1st century b.c. Posted by Picasa