37 of 45 people found the following review helpful
Not What I Expected,
This review is from: The Flaming Circle (Paperback)
I normally do not write "bad" reviews on amazon.com, if a book I have read is not a 4 or 5 star book I just keep it to myself. I am making an exception this time because I bought this book based on the other 5 star reviews.
My biggest problem with this book is that it is not exactly what it claims. The term "Celtic Reconstructionism" has come to mean something very specific. That is a religious outlook that is built up on solid evidence in literature, linguistics, and archeology. This book is not that. I have a strong suspicion that Mr. Artisson, in the time honored tradition of paganism, used source materials to support his own ideas and theories and not the other way around. There is nothing wrong with this, of course, but to do so is not Celtic Reconstructionism.
He lost me right at the very beginning when he began speaking about a "great mother" Goddess, associated with the moon, and then about the "Five Realms" which are given colors (which did not even make much sense to me) and once again associated with the moon and directional and animal associations. While the Five directions are known from Irish literature, ironically, Mr. Artisson does not even mention the five provinces.
While I was willing to let this go, I also am not a reconstructionist, unfortunately the rest of the book builds heavily on the theme of the "Five Realms" and their associations. Even names he uses for several of the Deities are derived from these associations.
Coming to the Deities... as a strong polytheist I try not to associate the deities of one culture with another. As tempting as it is to associate Welsh and Irish deities, and as real as their associations are, I find it disrespectful to break down what the ancient cultures may have spent 1000s of years creating. So while Llue and Lugh may have come from a "common stock" deity we will never know about; years and years of their being celebrated in differing cultures, from my perspective, have created two wholly separate beings. I don't do archetypes.
Throughout the book there is a very anti-Christian tone. I am no lover of the most fundamental of our Christian peers but nor do I think the generalities that Mr. Artisson displays are true or very productive. For me, parts of the introduction even sparked ideas of heritage-ism and even, dare I say it, a touch of anti-Semitism.
Finally I would like to comment on the writing style. I appreciate that Mr. Artisson's goal was to write this book for his children. The concept is very endearing. As a writing style, I hated it. Every time a chapter starts with a phrase like "my dear children" or some such I found myself cringing at the sappiness. And while I understand his motives it was frankly annoying and very repetitive as was the constant barrage about words being dangerous (despite earlier telling his children that there is nothing inherently wrong with them... except their words... except ugg!)
In the end, I cannot recommend this book except to those who may be interested in Mr. Artisson's unique form of Celtic Paganism. If you consider yourself a Reconstructionist or are already following a specific spiritual path there is very little of value in this book.
PS. There is no bibliography in this book, the reader must simply accept the author's word on associations and the ancient origin he claims.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 8, 2009, 10:38:32 AM PDT
Artisson doesn't claim to be a "Celtic Reconstructionist."
Posted on Apr 12, 2009, 10:58:40 AM PDT
Robin Artisson says:
Thank you for your review of my book. I'm sorry you didn't like it.
If you will go back into the book itself, you will see that I made a point to avoid using the term "Celtic Reconstructionism". Instead, I called it a "Reconstruction of the beliefs of the peoples of the British Isles", and I avoided the term Celtic for a specific reason. "Celtic" refers not to a people, per se, but a huge grouping of cultures, linked together linguistically. The British Isles- the focus of the book- has been the home of many peoples, Celtic and non-Celtic.
I also qualify, several times, my use of the term "reconstructionist". I do not claim that the book is re-creating, in precise form, what ancient peoples were doing or thinking. I am reconstructing, based on the things I've seen, researched, and experienced, something I think is in the same spirit. I believe that this is a slightly looser, yet close to task definition that most "recons" use, even the "hard core" variety.
I'm sorry that you disliked my talk about the Old Veiled One. I made it clear several times in the book that she was not a "Great Mother Goddess" in the sense of the modern neo-Pagan revival's sense of the word; that she transcended that, and even transcended the notion of "she" or "goddess", but that these terms have their own use or meaning, on a relative level. The notion of a Goddess of Sovereignty is well known, both to history and to modern recons, and that very concept is where my notion of the "Old Veiled One" ended.
Likewise, I took pains to point out that these Gods and Goddesses, though similar across cultures, should not be worshiped together as though they were the 'same'- blending Irish and Welsh pantheons, as I said clearly in the book, would be disrespectful and should not be done. I wonder why you didn't see that I said this. My comparison of certain Gods and Goddesses across cultures is something that I've seen done in every book I own on the subject, and I wonder if you disliked them as much!
How you took my comments regarding Christianity (I think) says more about you than me; however, I own the fact that I have no real love for faiths that teach (from moment one) that every other faith on the planet is flawed and in need of being changed. I believe in the things I wrote. I know the Gods, their reality and their power. I will not be held to some politically-correct standard that forces me to subjugate myself to Abrahamic religious sensibilities. They have some nasty opinions about us; we are free to have our own opinions right back. There are no double standards here. I will not hold non-mainstream religions to one standard, and hold Abrahamic religions to another.
I don't preach "tolerance" because "tolerance" is an insult- to tolerate someone or something is to say that you are allowing it to exist out of the goodness of your heart, though you dislike it. It's a magnanimous, nasty position to take. I preach acceptance, but I expect it first, before I give it. That is every free person's right.
Regarding your comment on Llew and Lugh and Archetypes: I do not believe that human beings can "create" Gods, or "Create" wholly separate beings. I don't care how long they worship some being in some new way- a "new God" is not created by human worship. I don't think such a belief is defensible, drawing on either history or even modern philosophical thinking. I don't do "archetypes" either- as I say in my book- but what you are suggesting here, that humans can literally "create" Gods by just worshiping some other God in some new way long enough, sounds more like "archetyping" than anything else, to me.
Just because one tribe drifts off and begins worshiping a God in some new way, does not magically "create" a new God. It creates a new perspective on the original God. That is my belief. I think that belief is calm and rational. I welcome you to yours.
You misunderstood what I was saying about the danger yet necessity of language; I hold no grudges about that, because it is a subtle point. I do hope that one day you will understand what I was trying to say. I never claimed to be any great writer; I know that I can make a mess of things from time to time. I accept my limitations, but must keep trying. I am also sorry that you didn't like my tone, or the "sappy" way some things sounded. If you have children one day, maybe you'll join me in "sappy" world- children transform you, in great ways. It's not such a bad place to be, sappy though it may be.
Honestly, thank you for taking the time to read the book, and for writing your feelings. I praise honesty in anyone, even if I don't agree, and I hope that you and yours are well in the future. Thank you for giving me a chance to respond to some of your points.
PS: The next edition of the book will have a Bibliography. But the work wasn't intended primarily to be scholarship (as I pointed out several times in the work itself) but a personal work. That being said, I gave the sources I was using oftentimes inside the book itself, at the time I quoted them. I didn't quote anything that wasn't very well known.
Posted on Jun 22, 2010, 1:50:35 PM PDT
No One says:
I have to say the Mr. Artisson's view of deities makes far more sense to me than this reviewers, whose views seem illogical and self contradictory. It is possible that a culture could discover / be contacted by a previously unknown deity, which would not be known and have no place in a related culture or its religion. However, an existing deity can't be split into two by different tribes changing the gods name or their worship practices! Admitting that some cultures may know the same deity by different names (due to linguistic changes), and even have a different understanding of the same being is VERY different from trying to combine unrelated spirits in your own imagination. The reviewers views only make sense if the gods are not inherently real and only a socio-cultural phenomenon existing entirely in people heads -- it makes no sense if they are real being with their own independent existence. He dislikes "archetypical" perspectives, and so makes and argument that only makes sense from an archetypical perspective?!? Actually, what I think we have here is a politically correct fantasy designed by radical multiculturalists to avoid offending those with a different theology, not an honest approach to understanding reality, which the reviewer appears to have internalized and reinterpreted. Linguistics, cultural anthropology, and comparative religion are all VERY different things from an "archetypical" approach or New Age attempt combine all mythoi and religions willy-nilly -- as are gods (or spirits of any kind) themselves!
On Christianity, this is my one complaint -- not that he isn't tolerant, PC, etc., but simply that he bothers to say much about it without really knowing much about Christianity. Most of what these books call "Christian" is simply pop-culture. I don't care that he doesn't like it, but since its rarely relevant his beliefs and not in his expertise, he would be better just to ignore it.
Posted on Jun 16, 2011, 5:29:31 PM PDT
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