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Dictionary of Celtic Mythology 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0198691570
ISBN-10: 0198691572
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The full richness of Celtic mythology, with legends, sagas, and folklore, with traditions, places, and personalities, are now evocatively yet concisely conveyed in James MacKillop's dictionary. The 4,000 entries include brief descriptions (such as the short explanation of Arthen, the bear-and-river god of early Wales) as well as extended stories of bloody vengeance (following actual or supposed treachery), romantic love, and frequent adultery, plus tales of mysterious monsters on lonely hillocks. From Deirdre and Cúchulainn to leprechauns, from Galahad, cauldrons, and archaeology to druids, MacKillop provides an impressive amount of lore and research in a reliable, browsable, and enjoyable dictionary. --Stephanie Gold

From Booklist

With the possible exceptions of the Arthurian legend and the saga of Tristan and Iseult, both of which can be traced to Celtic sources, the mythological world of the ancient Celts is not as familiar to most Americans as are the classical myths of Greece and Rome. This gap in our cultural literacy is unfortunate, for, as this dictionary reveals, the Celtic peoples developed a rich and fascinating tradition of legends and myths.

In compiling this volume, MacKillop, an English professor who specializes in Celtic studies, drew not only upon texts written in Irish and Welsh but also on Breton, Cornish, Manx, and Scottish Gaelic sources and traditions. In addition to gods and goddesses, heroes and heroines, creatures, and other mythological figures, the approximately 4,000 entries cover real and imaginary places, archaeological sites, animals and plants, narrative cycles, and ideas. Entries, which frequently include variant spellings and etymologies, vary in length from a single identifying phrase to more than four pages, but the majority are one or two paragraphs. Asterisks within the text of an article indicate those terms that are treated further in separate entries, and numerous cross-references guide the user from alternate titles, names, and spellings to the forms used by MacKillop. Supplementing the dictionary portion of the work are a general guide to pronunciation of the various Celtic languages and a 13-page bibliography of selected sources pertaining to Celtic literature and culture. Especially helpful is a topical index that classifies entries under 36 broad categories, such as concepts, games, literary forms, monsters, rituals and curses, and saints.

Although a number of dictionaries pertaining to Celtic myth have appeared in the last decade, none are as extensive as this work. For example, Peter Ellis' Dictionary of Celtic Mythology [RBB Ag 92] and its companion volume, Dictionary of Irish Mythology [RBB N 1 89], were designed for lay readers and therefore have far fewer, and generally less-detailed, entries. With only about one-tenth the number of entries, Miranda Green's Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend [RBB Ap 15 92] lacks the breadth of coverage of this work, but it is important for its illustrations and its links to archaeological evidence and to literary sources. Since each of these earlier works has unique entries or features, this new compendium does not supersede them but rather complements them by offering a more comprehensive approach. Supplementing the coverage of both The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature [RBB Ap 15 96] and The Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales (Oxford, 1990), this scholarly dictionary should be a valuable addition to academic and large public libraries.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 402 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (April 30, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198691572
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198691570
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.4 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #553,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is wonderfully useful for Irish and Welsh mythology. Irish and Welsh entries are generally quite comprehensive and individually mostly of a high quality.

The major flaw, and it is quite a major one, is the horrific dearth of Scottish and Breton entries, which appear quite randomly and often are only of very low quality. So for instance, Irish "kings" of minor historical or mythological importance occur in abundance, yet figures such as Macbeth, Malcolm II and Malcolm III are totally unaccounted for. Dublin has a huge entry, Glasgow has no entry (although admittedly St. Kentigern does). There may be entries for Goidel Glas and Scota, of supreme importance in medieval Scottish origin myth, but nothing is said of them in relation to Scotland or in how they were used there. Every half-significant Irish geographical feature has an entry, yet a location like Scone has nothing. Likewise, there are no entries for the "Prophecy of Berchan" or the "De Situ Albanie." I could go on and on.
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By A Customer on April 29, 2002
Format: Paperback
There is much in this book that is useful about Celtic folklore and mythology. However, the etymologies are usually incorrect. This may not matter to some. It does to me.
The back cover claims that this book has "authoritative...etymologies for Celtic names..." when they are in fact neither authoritative nor correct.
For example, MacKillop gives for the entry Deva an etymology from Latin meaning goddess "[L. goddess]." However, the Latin for Goddess is _diva_ not _deva_. The word _Deva_ is transparently Brittonic from (Proto)-Celtic *_deiwa_.
Especially annoying for me is the etymology of English words used as headings, which are out of place in a Dictionary of Celtic Mythology (I believe).
So, while the entry for "Stag" is indeed useful, giving the etymology of 'Stag' from "[OE stagga]," (while at least correct in this instance), is just absurd.
As for careerist motivations and cut and past "druidical" names: ...
Lastly, my motivations were not careerist, but one of informing others. A book that claims to be authoritative in Celtic etymologies, I belive ought to live up to that claim. Unfortunately, this one doesn't, and others should be aware of that.
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Format: Paperback
I'm really enjoying skimming through this interesting reference. Lots of great entries and cross-referencing. Unfortunately, I've run across several big errors. For example, MacKillop has Bran mac Febal turning to dust at the end of the story, where reference to Kuno Meyer's translation reveals that it was not Bran but one of his men that was turned to dust. Bran relates his story and then 'from that hour his wanderings are not known'. This was only one of several obvious errors. I sincerely hope they are corrected in subsequent editions!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am writing a novel which has quite a bit of Celt mythology in it (yes it is fantasy) and I want to "respect" the old stories as some things you just cannot make up. This is a treasure, a bible of Celt mythology. I have a ton of resources, books and online and find opening a book is far easier than obtaining the information online BUT I do make comparisons...Celt mythology has so many stories and characters which are subjective to the writer's POV or their resource. I try to flush out the more consistent descriptions and narratives and use those in my novel. You can tell a good book of this nature by how many times you have picked it up and how many dog ears it has and I can say many for both!
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Format: Paperback
Quite frankly, if this is the best reference work on Celtic legends and culture, this only goes to show how very bad the rest are. Other reviewers have pointed out the irrelevant English items and very bad etymology; I would like to add that the book is infuriatingly uneven in its references. Some I have been able to track down; other entries have no origin listed at all, which has resulted, in one case, in a desperate and completely unavailing trawl through EVERY TITLE in the Brittany bibliography - and that for a reference which is absolutely fundamental to my research. I know this particular character and folk-tale exist; they must, because other facts I encountered confirm that they must; but because Mr. MacKillop has not given his source for his description, I am unable to proceed. And that is not the only case in which the entries let me down. It is pointless to write a reference dictionary if you are not going to give references!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is, in my view, the best Dictionary of Celtic Mythology available anywhere. I teach a course Celtic Mythology & found
MacKillops broad scope appealing & his detailed descriptions of older Celtic gods/deities/heroes to be refreshingly
insightful. The immediacy of being able to focus in on one particular figure in Celtic Myth is very helpful. I will be
requiring students to purchase this "dictionary" which would be more appropriately termed an "Encyclopedia".
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By Eerie Ka on March 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Awesome find for anyone who knows their Celtic Legends and wants to be able to skim and remonise over the names and deeds. A great way to find everything you know but cant prove to yourself without written evidence.
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