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Author Topic: Neo-Druid Book Reviews  (Read 12870 times)

Asch

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Neo-Druid Book Reviews
« on: July 04, 2011, 01:53:44 am »
I thought it would be useful to have a place where we can review / discuss books about or regarding Neo-Druidry. Basically to help weed the chaff from the wheat so-to-speak. While I'm a big believer in critical thinking skills and finding something useful in any book I think its safe to say that there are certainly some lesser works out there that it would be nice to avoid as well as some real gems that would be great to pick up.

Any takers?

Asch

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Re: Neo-Druid Book Reviews
« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2011, 01:15:17 pm »
Quote from: Asch;578

 


The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented past Won't Give Women a Future By Cynthia Eller (2000).

Why is this relevant to Neo-Druidry?

  • The myth of matriarchal prehistory is firmly entrenched in many Neo-Pagan groups and mythologies.
  • Eller traces the 'Kurgan' invasion cited and claimed to be the source of the patriarchal revolution to the Indo-European expansion.
  • The ADF traces the origins of its Druidry to Proto-Indo-European / Indo-European peoples and societal stratification.


Overall Rating? 4.75 / 5

I initially sought out this work for two reasons. First, the topic intrigued me as I was tired of running face first into people that had seeming watched/read The Mists of Avalon one too many times and taken it as gospel and wanted more factual information about the mythology. Secondly, I believed that the power and appeal of the myth wasn't entirely negative but couldn't/can't accept that it's literal fact. And thirdly it is listed on the ADF's Dedicant Path recommended reading list as an Indo-European studies book. (List can be found here http://www.adf.org/training/resources/reading.html).

It is apparently extremely well research with 88 of the 276 pages comprising notes and references. I only say apparently as 11 years have passed since the hardback was printed (Amazon lists a paperback dating from 2001 as well).

Eller is very careful not to disparage or personally attack the supporters, advocates, and adherents of the myth of matriarchal prehistory. She opens the book with a brief overview then moves on to describe why and how the myth has become popular through time, from early adoption by arm chair anthropologists to the various periods where it fell out of favor and its adoption by spiritual feminists and its later bolstering by Marija Gimbutas - an undeniably gifted linguist.

She then moves onto an overview of the supporting 'evidence' and a detailed critique of the reality and practical problems when it comes to evaluating prehistoric art and architecture through modern eyes with an agenda. She discusses the problems with ethnographic research of modern existing cultures and groups that are horticulturalists and hunter gatherers then goes on to outline how these ethnographies also serve to cast sharp doubts on the reality of a matriarchal prehistory.

She brings up some very logical doubts such as, how/why matriarchy could exist across the world at the same time, what the role of men could be in such a society and if, as some espouse, the sexes were equal, happy and peaceful in matriarchal prehistory men would ever have rebelled leading to a patriarchal revolution, how, if matriarchy was worldwide, the 'Kurgans' or other patriarchal invaders even came to be, the problems of linking every straight line, every squiggly line, every triangle or vulva like design or statue to a worldwide goddess etc.

While Eller is clearly not a supporter of the myth she is surprisingly even handed in her evaluation of it, particularly as regards the inherent dangers in claiming feminization as a rallying banner for women (a tactic she points out several times has been used by staunch patriarchalists such as the Christian right for decades to valorize and 'protect' women/motherhood), and how the inherent contradiction of defining women as mothers and by their biology leads to uncomfortable questions for adherents that are childless.

All in all a well though out and well argued work that is willing to celebrate the motives behind the embracing of the myth while questioning the ultimate good of it in the face of historical evidence, common sense, and egalitarian thought. I only rated it at 4.75 out of 5 as I believe it's absolutely due for an update considering over a decade  has passed for Neo-pagans, feminism, and archeology/linguistics/anthropology.

Her conclusion sums up the work by stating, "...we do not need matriarchal myth to tell us that sexism is bad or that change is possible. With the help of all feminists, matriarchal and otherwise, we need to decide what we want and set about getting it". (pg 188). A sentiment we can all take to heart.

darashand

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Re: Neo-Druid Book Reviews
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2011, 08:59:28 pm »
Quote from: Asch;720


The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented past Won't Give Women a Future By Cynthia Eller (2000).

Why is this relevant to Neo-Druidry?


 
I've been wanting to read this book for awhile now.  I am happy to see that she is unbiased and well-researched, because feminist or not, these types of books can be heavy-handed at times.  

I love the fact that you included why this was important to Druidry.  I think that is a great addition to these reviews, because not every important book will feature a specific "Druid" title.

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Re: Neo-Druid Book Reviews
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2011, 09:50:50 am »
Quote from: darashand;4977
I've been wanting to read this book for awhile now.  I am happy to see that she is unbiased and well-researched, because feminist or not, these types of books can be heavy-handed at times.  

 
I'm also happy to see a good review on this book, as I've been feeling I should pull it out and read it thoroughly before my English course this fall semester. I've been reading the required reading for the course and one of the books states as fact that 40 million women were killed during the Burning Times and that the ebil penis patriarchy wiped out the peaceful goddess matriarchy.

This is a non-fiction book. So I wish to have a counter-argument prepared well ahead of the semester beginning. I was thinking this book might do well in that regard, and your review makes me think it will.

Quote from: darashand;4977
I love the fact that you included why this was important to Druidry.  I think that is a great addition to these reviews, because not every important book will feature a specific "Druid" title.


This too.
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Asch

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Re: Neo-Druid Book Reviews
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2011, 04:26:49 pm »
Thanks of all the kind words and positive input :D



Being a Pagan: Druids, Wiccans, and Witches Today By Ellen Evert Hopman and Lawrence Bond (2000).

Why is this relevant to Neo-Druidry?

  • The work opens up with several interviews with Neo-Druid leaders and founders of Neo-Druid groups including Isaac Bonewits and Alexei Kondratiev.


Overall Rating? 4 / 5

Again I chose this title largely because it is an accepted entry for the ADF Dedicant's studies. Additionally I wanted to get a look at some of the other traditions and groups I had either not known about or barely heard of when I joined ADF and officially 'outed' myself.

First, onto my main problem with the book, it was originally published in 1996, the edition I have was a paperback re-issue dated from 2002 however, it is evidently not updated in any way from the original publication. For a six year gap that's not terribly notable except that the original version was published while several of the subjects were facing legal actions etc and even a minimal update would have been valuable. This isn't a crippling stumbling block as a little time on the internet can resolve the reader's questions, still, it's worth noting.

Further, it is now 2011, the original book was published fifteen years ago. Fifteen years in some ares of study and even social/religious movements may not be terribly substantial but for neo-paganism/pagans it seems it very much is. I couldn't help but wonder - while reading - what views had changed, what organizations had collapsed or radically altered their views, so on and so forth. Which I found distracting and for me at least, took away from the work somewhat. This may simply be a quirk limited to how I was reading the work, nonetheless reader beware.

My second gripe is the main interviewer's (Hopman?) clear positive bias toward several of the interview subjects, most notably Victor Anderson. Many, perhaps even most, readers would/will not find the interviewer's focus and excitement to be distracting and biased but I certainly did. I would have preferred that such a bias be noted in the initial introduction to the interview or edited out of the interview as much as possible but again this may simply be a clash of my expectations with the intent of the authors.

The writing itself is solid and easy to read though the repetition of the main questions can lead to a sense of boredom. I assume the repetitions were intended to allow the reader to compare and contrast the responses and appreciate it for that intention, nonetheless because of the repetition I would recommend that the reader not attempt to plow through the work as though reading a novel but rather focus on the more relevant (to him/her/them) sections first so as to remain engaged.

Aside from these points the work does provide a valuable and much needed overview to assist a seeker in determining groups and persons to follow up on and therefore is still a valuable, and much needed resource.

Still, I can't help but wonder how powerful and useful a follow up work would be, both for Pagan seekers and for non-pagans curious about us and our little slice of the world.

All in all a 4/5 for being dated and slightly biased.

Asch

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Re: Neo-Druid Book Reviews
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2011, 04:33:21 pm »
Quote from: darashand;4977
I've been wanting to read this book for awhile now.  I am happy to see that she is unbiased and well-researched, because feminist or not, these types of books can be heavy-handed at times.  

I love the fact that you included why this was important to Druidry.  I think that is a great addition to these reviews, because not every important book will feature a specific "Druid" title.


Yeah the book is great, I wouldn't whip it out in mixed neo-pagan company though or you'll likely get skewered by some adherents to the myth ;). I really enjoyed that the author acknowledged and respected why people embraced the myth but was also clear and concise in pointing out how and why that was folly. I mean, I'm certain that it really does help some people but there are some murky waters around it too.

I thought about clarifying the connection to neo-druidry after wading through a half dozen books on amazon with 'druid' in the title that were wiccish fluff imo. Soo yeahh :D

Asch

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Re: Neo-Druid Book Reviews
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2011, 04:34:45 pm »
Quote from: Morag;5428
I'm also happy to see a good review on this book, as I've been feeling I should pull it out and read it thoroughly before my English course this fall semester. I've been reading the required reading for the course and one of the books states as fact that 40 million women were killed during the Burning Times and that the ebil penis patriarchy wiped out the peaceful goddess matriarchy.

This is a non-fiction book. So I wish to have a counter-argument prepared well ahead of the semester beginning. I was thinking this book might do well in that regard, and your review makes me think it will.


Oh good! :D Have you had a chance to read it? And please do share what your class is like. I've been leery of such courses in the past (though I'm now beyond survey courses and my major is Environmental Management and Policy so I'm not exactly in line to take any just now anyway) but undeniably intrigued as well :D

Morag

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Re: Neo-Druid Book Reviews
« Reply #7 on: September 17, 2011, 07:23:53 am »
Quote from: Asch;20480
Oh good! :D Have you had a chance to read it? And please do share what your class is like. I've been leery of such courses in the past (though I'm now beyond survey courses and my major is Environmental Management and Policy so I'm not exactly in line to take any just now anyway) but undeniably intrigued as well :D

 
I actually ended up graduating early, so I'm not in school this semester (or for the foreseeable future). I haven't yet picked up the book, but it is on my list of things to do.

Probably this winter when I live at my mom's place and am bored out of my skull in her small town. ;)
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Re: Neo-Druid Book Reviews
« Reply #8 on: September 17, 2011, 09:08:29 am »
Quote from: Morag;20579
Probably this winter when I live at my mom's place and am bored out of my skull in her small town. ;)

 
I'm betting that either a) you're easily able to do this because you can borrow her copy, or b) she doesn't have her own, so she wants to read yours when you're done.

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Asch

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Re: Neo-Druid Book Reviews
« Reply #9 on: September 17, 2011, 08:21:17 pm »
Quote from: Morag;20579
I actually ended up graduating early, so I'm not in school this semester (or for the foreseeable future). I haven't yet picked up the book, but it is on my list of things to do.

Probably this winter when I live at my mom's place and am bored out of my skull in her small town. ;)

 

Ha ha well, if ever there were a good reason to skip a course, I think you found it! :D

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Re: Neo-Druid Book Reviews
« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2011, 08:11:01 am »
Quote from: SunflowerP;20590
I'm betting that either a) you're easily able to do this because you can borrow her copy, or b) she doesn't have her own, so she wants to read yours when you're done.

Sunflower

 
Either or. ;) I'm not sure if she has a copy of the book; there are well over 2,000 books in her house. (My bedroom is the library. Wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bookcases. With 12 foot ceilings. I really hope there's never an earthquake while I'm sleeping in there, because I would die buried under a lifetime of books.)

I may see if the library has it, too. I love taking out books from the library.
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Morag

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Re: Neo-Druid Book Reviews
« Reply #11 on: September 20, 2011, 08:11:36 am »
Quote from: Morag;21230
Either or. ;) I'm not sure if she has a copy of the book; there are well over 2,000 books in her house. (My bedroom is the library. Wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bookcases. With 12 foot ceilings. I really hope there's never an earthquake while I'm sleeping in there, because I would die buried under a lifetime of books.)

I may see if the library has it, too. I love taking out books from the library.

 
The public library, that is. Not Mom's library.
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Re: Neo-Druid Book Reviews
« Reply #12 on: September 20, 2011, 10:08:07 pm »
Quote from: Morag;21230
(My bedroom is the library. Wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bookcases. With 12 foot ceilings. I really hope there's never an earthquake while I'm sleeping in there, because I would die buried under a lifetime of books.)

I can think of an awful lot of worse ways to die.

Sunflower
« Last Edit: September 20, 2011, 10:08:44 pm by SunflowerP »
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Morag

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Re: Neo-Druid Book Reviews
« Reply #13 on: September 20, 2011, 10:17:21 pm »
Quote from: SunflowerP;21397
I can think of an awful lot of worse ways to die.

Sunflower

 
Yeah, me too. ^_^
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Re: Neo-Druid Book Reviews
« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2011, 12:07:30 am »
Quote from: SunflowerP;21397
I can think of an awful lot of worse ways to die.

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