Druids, Celts, Anglo-Saxons and other Earth-centered (an ultra-mini-selection, for sure), and not in alphabetical order:

Robb, Graham.  The Discovery of Middle Earth:  Mapping the Lost World of the Celts (2013).  To quote the inner flap:  “A treasure hunt that uncovers the secrets of one of the world’s great civilizations, revealing dramatic proof of the extreme sophistication of the Celts, and their creation of the earliest accurate map of the world.”  That’s a bold statement, meant to sell the book.  I am in the midst of reading it, and so far it’s an understated comment.  The author is a well known historian, and this book took him into the ancient world as far as one is able to go, given the conditions of the land, the textual resources, and the archeological finds that demonstrate the truthfulness of his research.  ADDED COMMENT (12.12.2013)  This book demonstrates the exquisite knowledge of the earth itself necessary for our ancestor Druids to have accomplished their surveying and relationship to the land.  For all its details, staying with this book takes me deep into awareness of my own relationship to the land where I live.  And it reminds me that people who love maps probably have a keen sense of the land itself and how to navigate with it as well as on it.  In its own way, a map might have resonance with our earth altars within our homes.

Myers, Brendan.  The Earth, The Gods and The Soul:  A History of Pagan Philosophy from the Iron Age to the 21st Century (2013).  Excellent, easily read, compelling case for reexamining history of critical thoughtfulness preceding and sustaining the current revival of pagan philosophy and religion in the West.  Note separate section devoted to Emma Restall Orr (see below) and summary of qualities of Honor:  courage, generosity and loyalty.  Myers’s book is a gentle complement to Emma’s The Wakeful World.

Aldhouse-Green, Miranda.  Ceasar’s Druid’s:  Story of an Ancient Priesthood (2010).  Excellent and readable, honest look at the actual evidence for our ancestors and their practices, minus the hype invented in the last several hundred years.

Aldhouse-Green, Miranda and Stephen.  The Quest for the Shaman:  Shape-Shifters, Sorcerers and Spirit-Healers of Ancient Europe (2005).  ….being an excellent overview of the evidence, structures, crafts, tools, sexual variances, and ritual works of European ancestors. 

Gimbutas, Marija.  The Language of the Goddess (Unearthing the Hidden Symbols of Western Civilization, 1989).  The fundamental text of detailed (highly illustrated) archeological evidence, covering life-giving, renewing the earth, death and regeneration, energy and unfolding, and rituals, as illumined by the visual representations of the Goddess across all of Europe stretching back 25,000 years, though primarily focussing on most ample evidence 9,000 years ago.

Restall Orr, Emma.  Principles of Druidry (Thorson’s Principle series, 1998).  There are many introductory books to Druidry available.  Emma, however, has been teacher, colleague, friend of mine, so I have particular relationship to her thinking.  This book remains one of the most direct, pithy and accessible of all introductions.  There are newer introductions to Druidry since its publication, including a few in the United States, but its short text remains true.

Restall Orr, Emma.  Living with Honour:  A Pagan Ethics (2007).  This is the first of her two books of philosophy; rigorous reading, full of brilliant insights, and exploring the theme of nature’s inherent value.

Restall Orr, Emma.  The Wakeful World:  Animism, Mind and the Self in Nature (2012). This is her second of two philosophical books; not for the intellectually faint of heart, but contributes the single most substantial achievement for placing animism at the heart of consciousness.  This book is a serious advancement in her thinking since Living With Honour; while it does not negate the first by any means, it does go beyond it.

Restall Orr, Emma.  Kissing the Hag:  The Dark Goddess and the Unacceptable Nature of Women ( 2009).  Continuing her fearlessness, one of the finest writings of earthy, raw, brilliant and intelligent femininity you could ever find.  I recommend this book to every woman who wonders what potency is within her own soul, and I’ve given away copies as gifts.  Probably necessary reading for every man, too.

Guyonvarc’h, Christian-J.  The Making of a Druid:  Hidden Teachings from “The Colloquy of Two Sages”, translated by Clare Marie Frock.  Forget immediate, literal understanding.  That would be a futile effort reading this pithy and multilayered probing of the requirements to be a druid doctor.  The questions are simple.  The answers, however, reflect the entirely earth-centered perspective of a druid.  You’ll be thinking about these questions for some time, until you “get it” about yourself.

Manwaring, Kevan.  The Bardic Handbook:  The Complete Manual for the Twenty-First Century Bard (2006) and  The Way of Awen: Journey of a Bard (2010).  These two books by Manwaring are valuable tools for any person who wants to live riding waves of inspiration and creativity.  His first book explores the first year of bardic training, what it’s like to listen deeply and unlock your inner resources.  The second book continues the training from that point onwards.  Both weave in ancient poems and history, plus his personal journey in becoming one of the seated Bards of Britain.  The second book explores the themes of transformation and shapeshifting, via the myth of the protean evolution of Taliesin, from the boy at Ceridwen’s Cauldron to one of the greatest poets of ancient Britain.  

Markale, Jean.  The Celts:  Uncovering the Mythic and Historic Origins of Western Culture (1976/1993).  Markale’s writing is blessed with poetry, philosophy, history, sound scholarship, and storytelling.  He is author of numerous books on pre-Christian peoples, including Women of the Celts.  Anything he writes is worth reading.

Bates, Brian.  The Way of Wyrd (2004/2012).  Brian distills the essence of Anglo-Saxon life, philosophy, shamanism and sorcery, the same world of Tolkien’s hobbit novels.  He is a noted psychologist and Anglo-Saxon scholar, ably equipped to detail the spirituality of the times by creating an encounter between an Anglo-Saxon shaman and a Christian monk.  This “novel” is based in historical fact, in particular a thousand-year-old wizard’s spellbook preserved in the vaults of the British Library.  It is a handbook of healing remedies, sacred ceremonies and spiritual secrets–teachings for today from our ancient past (The Lacnunga–see next entry).  All of Brian’s books are worth reading, including his book on theatre acting as contemporary shamanism.  And if you ever get the opportunity to do a workshop with him, it’s worth it!  Brian is also Senior Adviser to the Ford Foundation-funded project on worldwide indigenous wisdom called “The Council of Elders.”

The Lacnunga:  Anglo-Saxon Remedies, Charms, and Prayers from British Library MS Harley 585.  There are various translations of this important manuscript.  Mine is a two-volume set edited and translated with introduction, appendices and commentary by Edward Pettit (Mellen Critical Editions and Translations, 2001).

Hughes, Kristoffer.  Natural Druidry (2007) and From the Cauldron Born:  Exploring the Magic of Welsh Legend and Lore (2012). These are highly personal accounts of accessing druidic wisdom and bringing one’s life into alignment. 

Augiéras, François.  A Journey to Mount Athos, trans. Sue Dyson and Christopher Moncrieff (2008).  One of three books of his available in English, reading for the tough minded, walking as a dead man in the midst of sacred sites, where you find everything with yourself while on sojourn in the Land of Spirits.

Augiéras, François.  The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, trans. Sue Dyson (2001).  From France’s secret, underground literature, raw, sacred and erotic story at the core of existential awareness.

Beowulf: a New Verse Translation, by Seamus Heaney (bilingual edition, 2000).  This is the one translation I think is worth keeping and rereading.

The Mabinogion, translated by Sioned Davies (Oxford University Press, 2007).  Of all the translations I’ve read, this is my preferred.

The Táin:  A New Translation of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, by Ciaran Carson, 2007.  A great translation, keeps the ancient poetic forms intact, an exciting text I choose for oral reading.

Abrams, David.  The Spell of the Sensuous:  Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (1996).  Earth-centered, brilliant, mind-awakening for shifting our thinking and feeling about the place of humans in the world.  If you are not already in this mindset, it will alter your perceptions and take you deep into reality.

Lucretiua.  The Nature of Things (c. 50 BC).  Utterly earth-centered and denial of supernatural realm, combination of philosophy and physics, yet it begins with an ode to Venus, the animating Goddess of love, who stirs and awakens the entire potency of the earth. Available in both poetic and prose translations.  I have both, worth comparing the two.

Chamovitz, Daniel.  What a Plant Knows:  A Field Guide to the Senses (2012).  A botanically researched, easily-readable account of plants’ abilities, despite their rootedness, to see, smell, feel, hear, know where they are, and remember.  Another mind-opener that sensitizes how we humans might form relationship with the world.

Buhner, Stephen Harrod.  The Secret Teachings of Plants in the Direct Perception of Nature (2004).  There is tremendous hubris–and dangerous environmental perturbations–in disregarding the wisdom of our ancestors…,people who said they learned about the world not from the ability of their minds to work as analytical, organic computers, but from their hearts as organs of perception….The truth is that this capacity to learn directly from the world and plants has never been limited to ancient and indigenous cultures….The truth is that this way of gathering knowledge is inherent in the way we are structured as human beings. (pp. 2 and 3)

Conner, Randy P.  Blossom of Bone:  Reclaiming the Connections between Homoeroticism and the Sacred (1993).  This is the foundational text referenced by most who walk between the worlds in body-mind and ritual.

Ritual Trance Induction

Goodman, Felicitas D.  Where the Spirits Ride the Wind:  Trance Journeys and Other Ecstatic Experiences (1990).  I read this book some years into my work with ecstatic postures.  I wish I had read it first, so I have put it first.  This lays the experiential groundwork, explains the spiritual dimensions and provides a solid framework for anyone who wishes to practice this craft.  What is this craft?…a revival of the access codes to the Alternate Reality.

Gore, Belinda.  Ecstatic Body Postures:  An Alternate Reality Workbook (foreword by Felicitas Goodman, 1995) and The Ecstatic Experience:  Healing Postures for Spirit Journeys (2009).  These two book comprise the major collection of postures being used in the United States from the Cuyamungue Institute.  Belinda explains history, physiological research into trance induction, the creation of sacred space to enter the spirit world, and gives a detailed and useful account of each of the postures described.  For anyone who wants to know more, these are necessary reading.  For those who want to engage in regular practice of trancing, these books will be constant companions.  Her books describe a 5-step preparatory process.  That has now evolved into 7-steps with the evolution of more discrete understanding of the trancing journey.  This is, without doubt, a living tradition.  

Goodman, Dr. Felicitas D and Nana Nauwald.  Ecstatic Trance:  A Workbook, New Ritual Body Postures (orig. 1998/translated from the German 2003).  This book comes from the well-established German school, complementary with the Cuyamungue Institute in New Mexico.


“Renegade” (orig. title “Blueberry”), 2004 by Jan Kounen, with Vincent Cassel, Juliette Lewis, Michael Madsen and others. Rare attempt to visually describe a Native plant-spirit medicine-journey and its relationship to coming to terms with the truth of one’s life, a film equally rare for its attempt to try to value Native First Peoples and the “Old West” America on the “same page” without collapsing one into the other.

“The Fountain,” 2006 by Darren Aronofsky, with Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz and Ellen Burstyn.  One of the most remarkable films made about one man’s attempt to come to terms with death while he tries to protect her from forces that threaten her existence.  Visually and conceptually brilliant!


One thought on “Reading

  1. Fantastic bibliography–I’m so glad to see “Kissing the Hag” here. James, as always, you’re doing wonderful, important work.

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