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75 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An instant classic and introductory primer on modern Druidism
FIRST, THE QUICK EXECUTIVE REVIEW

Bonewits' Essential Guide to Druidism (BEGD) is a masterpiece in the vibrant growing field of modern Druidism. It is an indispensable library addition not only to the new folk interested in joining a Druid organization, but also to the veteran Druid who is teaching a study course at her/his own Grove. BEGD is a succinct and...
Published on August 24, 2006 by Michael the Traveler

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1 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars HIS RESEARCH IS WRONG - DO YOU AGREE?
Bonewit is wrong, wrong, wrong about the Druids.

There is very little evidence about Druids, just a handful of mentions by ancient writers - and none of them what anyone would call pleasant mentions, by the by - and that was it, until recent archaeological evidence.

Archaeologists found in Alveston, England about 150 bodies, all human sacrifices,...
Published on September 16, 2008 by Amazon Customer


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75 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An instant classic and introductory primer on modern Druidism, August 24, 2006
By 
Michael the Traveler (Washington, DC United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism (Paperback)
FIRST, THE QUICK EXECUTIVE REVIEW

Bonewits' Essential Guide to Druidism (BEGD) is a masterpiece in the vibrant growing field of modern Druidism. It is an indispensable library addition not only to the new folk interested in joining a Druid organization, but also to the veteran Druid who is teaching a study course at her/his own Grove. BEGD is a succinct and refined introduction (267pgs) to the variety of Druidisms now practiced in America and Britain. It clearly shows how they developed, compares their structure, and gives enticing examples of their words, sample rituals, and introduces some of their colorful leaders.

BEGD is the first book one should read on modern Druidism, but it is certainly not the last one; the reader's appetite should be whetted for yet deeper material afterwards. Indeed, after dispelling myths and correcting misconceptions and providing a framework of accepted facts, history and eye-opening comparisons; the BEGD's priceless bibliography and internet web-links illuminate several ways to pursue further trustworthy academic studies and also where to find 'inspirational' and contemporary works (and he explains the difference between the two). In conclusion, it will give prospective Druids (and less-well-connected old-timers) a firmer foundation of background information, reliable resources, and a view of the "big picture" of this fascinating religious movement. And now for the rather longer, more nuanced review that this book richly deserves...

* * * * * * * * NOW, THE LONGER DETAILED REVIEW * * * * * * *

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (& THIS ARTICLE'S REVIEWER)

I (Mike Scharding) have run the International Druid Archives since 1992; cataloguing magazines, historical records, pamphlets and books by and about modern Druidism, that first appeared in the early 1960s in the U.S. with surprisingly little connection to their older British siblings; whose predecessors might date back to the 18th century. With their often obscure roots, modern Druidism is a confusingly diverse genre of religious sub-groups, with up-to-now few authoritative reference guides.

Indeed there are dozens of Druid organizations today clamoring for attention, besides the "big four" (RDNA, ADF, Keltria and OBOD). Although cross-memberships occurs frequently among the 50,000 plus modern Druid practitioners today, there are literally only a handful of Druids who have been intimately familiar with these groups over the decades AND are also talented writers and gifted speakers. Isaac Bonewits is probably the most famous, well traveled, and prolific publishers amongst these few revered elders. Therefore, this book has been highly anticipated, and I would be frankly stunned if BEGD isn't quickly found at every Druidism 101 class offered to incoming members of all groups, or on the shelves of the quite numerous solitary Druids.

Bonewits' straight-forward advice and careful scholarship are influential and often trendsetting. What he predicts, is usually accepted as the common standpoint about 10 years later, by some estimates. I, myself, have not always agreed with Bonewits on some finer tangential points (such is our argumentative nature) and I gently resist the allure of his "progressivism" or the lightly implied inevitable "development" of Druidism. That said, however, I have grudgingly developed an admiration for his tireless dedication and ability to repetitively explain the basics of Druidism to any-and-all crowds on the lecture circuit and numerous articles in various journals and websites. Bonewits is a networking extraordinaire, one who either personally met all the major players, or has corresponded with them. This is a vital resource for any researcher of Druid groups; where the personality of the leaders gives key momentum to their (more-or-less democratic) group's direction. As with most similar groups, you'll find exceptions, and he acknowledges that frequently enough.

And yet despite his great talents, this book is not about Bonewits himself, a surprisingly modest and humble fellow (and straightforward about his biases and limits) with a rich sense of humor. The BEGD is really about DRUIDISM; the true passionate love of his life. Even for those hard-core scholars of these movements, familiar with his widely scattered and reprinted essays, much of this book will be pleasantly familiar to you, with a few surprises. Like a necklaced-string of fine pearls, most of the 33 short essays have been lovingly polished by decades of rewrites, painstaking draft reviews by fellow Druid leaders (including myself), and critical input from innumerable public lectures on these topics. Now, finally, they have all been seamlessly integrated in a single affordable book, where the true genius of the author, with his hand ever on the pulse of Druidism, can be better appreciated. It is my pleasure to now convince you of BEGD's charms.

SO, WHAT EXACTLY IS IN THE BOOK? (WHY IS IT SO GREAT?)

Naturally, the 33 essays of the book have been divided into nine parts (i.e. three times three, which is very Druidic, of course). The first three parts deal with the three different "stages" of Druidism; a catchy historical division that Bonewits invented by himself during the 1970s. Each section discusses the rise and fall of various organizations, who influenced them, and what they professed.

PART ONE, Paleopagan Druidism. He broadly chronicles the development of Indo-European customs and emergence of Celtic Druidism across Europe, until their disappearance soon after 500 CE. The underlying story being that religions, ethnicities and peoples changed and redefined themselves throughout history. He discusses ramifications of potential biases in academic research of books from different centuries.

PART TWO, Meso-"pagan" Druidism. During the chaotic efflorescence of the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment, there was also growth of Celtic folk studies and melding of liberal Christianity and fraternal groups from 17th to 20th century. Many of them styled themselves "Druids", and continue to this day, often capturing the attention of world media with their flamboyant annual festivals.

PART THREE, Neopagan Druidism. This phase began with efforts by "Mesopagan" Druidic groups in the 1970s to dispense with monotheistic concepts and adopt polytheism and magic, while making timely adaptations and accommodations to modern society, and a greater environmental appreciation. These types of Druids are still in a stage of rampant diversification and development, and is the special focus of concern for the BEGD.

PART FOUR responsibly reminds the reader that every movement has its charlatans and con artists to be wary of. BEGD provides a useful guideline chart (1-10 scale) [called "ABCDEF"] to evaluate any prospective religion for 13 key oppressive elements. For those concerned about "cults", it is intriguing that many mainstream religions score far less favorably than the average Druid group; most of whose members have strong aversions to such groups that they grew up in. It is a stern recommendation of certain baseline expectations of treatment that modern Druids have come to expect for their members.

PART FIVE describes the general beliefs of modern Druids, as far as they can be ascertained from printed statements, and Bonewits' own extensive conversations with members of every group over 35 years. While they might not be officially adopted, or believed by every member of every group, they would likely be acknowledged as exemplary by most Druids that I know. No book on Druids would be complete without an explanation of how the eight major festivals of Neopagan Druids developed (a mixture of Celtic and SURPRISE! Anglo-Germanic events) to make a "Wheel of the Year" with eight spokes at regular six week intervals. Many pre-1970 mesopagan Druid groups had only a few large annual events (such as the Summer Solstice), and more frequent lodge-type meetings. Always the fashion-diva, Bonewits wryly comments on the distinctive clothes, tools and symbols of Druids; with amusing insights on where they actually came from. Finally, he has always stressed that being a Druid isn't just about having fun outside, but also comes with self-enforced sobering responsibilities and/or obligations to ourselves, Nature, other religious minorities, and ultimately for the human-race.

PART SIX is a delightfully handy collection of sample official rituals from the "big four" Druid groups (OBOD, RDNA, ADF, Keltria). His most intense hobby over the years has been that of liturgical analysis (see his lengthy book "Rites of Worship"). He demystifies these four services, breaking them into steps, and briefly explains WHY they do things in a certain order in a practical down-to-earth manner. All too often people approach Druidic liturgy as too-reverenced-to-be-questioned, with the sometimes sad result that liturgies don't get adapted for changing needs of the group.

PART SEVEN, in addition to the liturgy of groups, Bonewits includes a treatise on Druidic divination and one on Druidic magic, (a bit more often practiced by individuals, but sometimes by groups). He discourses on the much-misunderstood Ogham "alphabet", and shows how many groups have added and encouraged non-ancient-Celtic forms of divination. Previous to BEGD, Bonewits wrote two "nuts-and-bolts" books in a sociological and rational manner on the 26 general principles or laws that explain why people do magic in certain formats (see "Real Magic" and "Authentic Thaumaturgy" on Amazon). He also provides a few example of how modern Druids have taken surviving semi-Christian folk charms and "repaganized" them, and stresses the importance of incorporating poetry, dance, song and arts into liturgy.

PART EIGHT. As I mentioned before, Bonewits is great at rationally showing the historical development and diversification of Druidism, but he also has an irrepressible vision and hope for the future of Druidism. He has repeated this chapter's contents for decades, and inspired legions of Druids; and bit by bit, elements of it are coming true. For example, he encourages Druids to focus on improving training programs, attain legal tax-exempt status as religious charities (true for three of the four big groups today), start greater advocacy campaigns, start giving their priests a working salary like mainstream faiths, and hold large public services for Druids and members of the general Neopagan community.

Finally, don't overlook the appendices ("PART NINE"). The lengthy bibliography and internet resources are up-to-date, listing 100 books that I believe I've seen on most reputable reading lists of the big four groups. You see, the number of books on "Druids", modern and ancient, have been exponentially increasing since the 1950s; some of them dry and academic, others wildly inaccurate (but interesting), and some are just pleasant personal observations. I agree with Bonewits, that a firm foundation in known facts, an informed awareness of disputed issues, and a liberal splash of inspirational works makes for a well-educated modern Druid. Being the indefatigable networker he is, Bonewits also provides the weblinks to most of the known Druid groups, for you to explore those that have caught your interest. He also mercifully moved some extra, detailed, background information on the Celtic language, terminology, Indo-European religious system to the appendix, to shorten the earlier introduction to Paleopagan Druids in part one.

SIMILAR BOOKS TO B.E.G.D.

It should be noted, that BEGD did not spring from the void. If you enjoy Bonewit's approach to the history and practice of modern Druidism, you'll probably like the following four books:

Rebirth of Druidry (aka Druid Renaissance) by Phillip Carr-Gomm of OBOD, 2003. Bonewits assisted in this book, writing a chapter on American Druidry. Rebirth of Druidry goes into extensive detail about the legion of British groups that have called themselves Druids, while BEGD focuses more on the American groups.

The Solitary Druid by Robert Ellison of ADF, 2005. This makes a fine complement to BEGD, which focuses on groups. 80% of most modern Druids don't have regular access to groups, and communicate by mail, or prefer their own company. This a book for them on do-it-by-yourself Druidism.

American Druidism by Daniel Hansen, 1995. Now out of print, but sometimes available, was a slimmer (160 pgs), a much simpler publication that I helped to edit, that discussed some of the same BEGD topics.

Drawing Down the Moon, by Margot Adler, 1979, 1986, 2003. DDTM talks of Neopaganism as a whole, with each edition updating the current history of the movement.

YOURS SINCERELY,

MIKE SCHARDING, ARCHDRUID OF D.C. GROVE, OF THE R.D.N.A.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended, August 24, 2007
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This review is from: Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism (Paperback)
Learning about neo-pagan druidism should, at first glance, be easy. The shelves of both "New Age" bookstores and the "Alternative Religion" category at your local Barnes and Noble are sure to be filled with tons of books with words like "Celtic" and "Druid" and "Irish" and so-forth. Simply grab one of those books, and you're on your way.

The reality is, of course, quite different. Most of those books are filled with romanticism of the worst sort, outrageously unverified scholarship, 19th century forgeries and errors, etc. While at times they may prove usable in a personal spiritual life, they're hardly accurate and sometimes those sources can be downright deceitful and dangerous (such as the 21 Lessons of Merlyn).

Bonewits' book is a breath of fresh air. Bonewits is a man devoted to genuine scholarship, learning and a no-nonsense approach to both ancient druidism (or as he calls it, Paleopagan) and modern Neopagan Druidism. Bonewits' book is filled with scholarship, gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) wit and wisdom regarding Druidism, ancient and modern.

As someone who has recently become interested in the subject, I knew immediately that, based upon his previous books and his webpage, that Bonewits' book would not be a "mixed bag" or an outright falsehood like many so-called "Celtic" books are. I am exceedingly glad that I purchased this book and it shall serve as both a reference and a guide to other books on the subject (I've already ordered Ellison's The Solitary Druid: A Practitioner's Guide due to Bonewits' high recommendation of the book).

If you're dedicated to believing that the Druids built Stonehenge, that the Druids were all monotheists, that "Celtic Christianity" was a beautiful combination of "gentle Druidism" and "mystical Christianity," this is not a book for you (or rather, it IS but you're likely to become very angry at your cherished myths being turned on their heads without so much as a by-your-leave). If you're interested in an intelligent and witty guide to the multiple forms of a genuine pagan faith that is based upon sound research AND imagination (with the latter never trumping the former), then this is a terrific place to start your journey.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism, September 10, 2008
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This review is from: Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism (Paperback)
I have been a Druid for twenty-three years and I have recommended this book to my adult children and others who want to get a basic perception of what a Druid was and is and if they are interested in a "How to" manual. It is a veritable panacea for various rites, incantations, clothing, regalia, ceremonies, and a host of other items and issues of concern to potential and practicing Druids. This is a meat and potatoes book for Druids - or for anyone who wants to know more. It differentiates between the real Celtic Druids of the past (Paleo-Druids), the resurgence of Druids in the 19th century called Meso-Druids, modern Neo-Druids and Reconstructionist Druids.

It goes into considerable detail of the many varied and diverse modern day groups claiming, rightly or wrongly, they are Druids, and debunks much of the disinformation out there. This alone is worth purchasing the book. It does contain several versions of rituals so one could grab and go with this book. It does belong on a Druids book shelf - or better on the coffee table for constant reference. It gives many addresses and email contact points for individuals who may desire to become involved in groups.

It is a good, informative read, well researched, well documented and well written.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not to be missed!, September 29, 2006
This review is from: Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism (Paperback)
To me, Issac is like the somewhat eccentric but very well loved grandfather that some of us might be lucky to have. Always dispensing wisdom, while not holding back on his opinions, Isaac has long been a very respected elder in the general pagan community and much beloved especially by those who are in the druidic organization he founded some time ago, Ar nDraoicht Fein (ADF). It was with much excitement that all awaited this book and it was well worth it. He presents cogent histories of the Druids and modern day Druidry in its many forms. His presentation of basic Druidic beliefs and the differences between some organizations is cogent and informational. The books ends with numerous sample rituals, divinations, and magic and closes with a thoughtful essay of Druidry both today and tomorrow. This book is not to be missed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read....!!!!!, June 30, 2010
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This review is from: Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism (Paperback)
If anyone is researching Druidism or looking in to practice Druidism this book is a MUST READ before looking into any group, author or way of teaching that claims ties to the past, knowing Druid "secrets" or a connection to ancient Druids. Isaac Bonewits is a trusted scholar of Celtic history. His study of linguistics, migration of ancient people and culture is very in depth. He gently guides the reader to a safe path of study and encourages further research from trusted sources. He is honest about the fact that not much is known about the Druids of ancient times. What is known fact about the early Celtic people and Druids is presented in a very easy to understand fashion with lots of web addresses for further research. If you are researching for fun or considering Druidism as a way of life this book has the answer to most if not all of your questions. This book is a perfect starting point as Isaac gives plenty of references to other trusted authors on the subject. The information is presented in a casual tone with a touch of humor that makes it a hard to put down book.

I am very pleased with this book and am thankful for Isaac's hard work in researching some of the cleanest information on Druids possible. Highly Recommended!!!!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Have, April 26, 2011
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This review is from: Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism (Paperback)
This book and Bonewits's Essential Guide to Witchcraft and Wicca are almost essential bookshelf material for those of us interested in the array of religions and practices which fall under the sometimes murky umbrella of 'Neo-Paganism'. If you want to thoroughly know what Druidry has been through the ages, and what it means now,on both sides of the Atlantic, this is the book.

Isaac Bonewits (1948-2010) had the writing skill of a scholar, but the perspective of a priest, and thus what we have is a rather judicious treatment of all things Druid, from Indo-Europeans in general, to the Western Celts (the only Celts we have much evidence on), to the various Meso-Druid revival attempts circa 1700-1950, and more recent attempts to reconstruct Druidism on a more scholarly or Neo-Pagan (polytheistic) basis. Bonewits' own organization (ADF), and some other Druid orgs, have more broader bases, such as pan-Indo-European mythologies and more scholarly work comparative mythology

This book, like his book on Witchcraft and Wicca, is focused primarily on the history, rather than on the practice, although there are ritual examples and key beliefs of each major organization. It is dry at times, like many historical accounts, but Bonewits showed a delightful sense of humor at times, something often missing in books like this (See for example his bits on forming the Reformed Druids, and the Hasidic Druids of North America).

Thus, I would say that this seems to a great reference book for Druidry (all kinds of it), and plenty of sources are given inside it, for those that want to continue reading about the subject.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome!, June 1, 2009
This review is from: Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism (Paperback)
Now this is a book about Druids that shouldn't be missed. If you want Wicca-style Druidry this isn't for you. There are no secret mysteries or lost "lessons" from Merlin, Amergin, Cathbad, etc., just good, strong, scholarship from the mind of a living legend.

If you want the real deal, something with some real scholarship that gets you thinking, this is your book.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes!, September 21, 2008
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This review is from: Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism (Paperback)
A number of years back, I sat there for a number of days comparing the flow of similarity between different basic words from a number of languages and compared that to what I knew from archaeology (ancient trade paths, some of which are discernable from space, archaeological finds turning up from cultures distant to their location, and so on). Naturally, I wondered if our ancestors traveled, mingled, and mated (exotic is sexy, trade means money/power, such things make such unions desirable, and then comes baby) far more than most of us were previously made aware so I truly enjoyed the description of the evolution and migration of the Proto-Indo-European peoples with their theologies and rituals (orthopraxy) and how that has led up to contemporary Druidry on both sides of the Atlantic.

Highly engaging, this type of scope and the author's attention to details, patterns, metapatterns, and probabilities are consistently and delightfully conveyed with such a carefully (!) and well articulated level of honesty - this is why I have a serious crush on this author's work. And how often do I see this caliber of work? Not nearly often enough and rarely when it comes to religion!

Enjoy. ;)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars But you don't look Druish!, November 20, 2011
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This review is from: Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism (Paperback)
Finally a book about Druidry from someone who was actually there and in the thick of things through most of the modern Druid revival! If you are looking for a book on how to be a Druid in 10 easy lessons, this is not your book. If you want to learn the history of Druidy from ancient to modern times you have found it at last. I especially enjoyed Isaac's trademark dry sense of humor. "On the other paw..."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read, is what it says., July 7, 2011
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This review is from: Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this...a mine of information and written in an offbeat and easy to read style. For me, it confirmed that Druidism (in all it's forms) is not my path, which is just as important to me in a guidebook as one which "sells" a path or viewpoint.
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Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism
Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism by Philip Emmons Isaac Bonewits (Paperback - August 1, 2006)
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