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Exploring the World of the Druids [Hardcover]

Miranda J. Green
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 May 1997
The white-clad Druid wielding a golden sickle and conducting secret ceremonies in remote forest glades is a familiar figure in art and literature. But just how accurate is this view when compared with actual evidence from the past? Were the Druids barbaric head-hunters involved in human sacrifice? Or were they wise and benevolent healers who could interpret omens and predict the future? In this rich and fascinating account, lavishly supported by beautiful illustrations, Miranda Green unravels the truth about the Druids. Examining the archaeological evidence, Classical commentaries and early Welsh and Irish myths, she shows that the Druids were fully integrated into Celtic society as judges, teachers, healers, magicians, philosophers, religious leaders and fomenters of rebellion. Including sections on the Classical texts and first-hand accounts of ancient Druids, archaeological evidence, Druidical sacrifice, sanctuaries, shrines, and witches, this book traces the history of the Druids from ancient times to the present day. Modern Druidism and its links with Stonehenge and Avebury receive full coverage and a directory of modern Druidical societies reveals a worldwide phenomenon. Special features cover the celebrity Druids, ranging from Winston Churchill, to William Blake, to William Wordsworth. Complete with timeline and a gazeteer, this meticulously researched book should appeal to scholars, New Age enthusiasts and all those who are fascinated by the Druids and their world.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson Ltd; First Edition edition (6 May 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 050005083X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500050835
  • Product Dimensions: 25.1 x 19.5 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 484,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Copiously illustrated ... well written, thoughtful, and thought-provoking." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Dr Miranda Green is Professor of Archaeology at the University of Wales, Newport, and has written widely on ancient Britain. Among her many books is The Quest for the Shaman, which she co-wrote with her husband, Stephen Aldhouse-Green. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, 11 Jun 2008
By Ogmios
I actually quite enjoyed reading this book, it seemed to be more interested in archaeology rather than some neo-pagan books which try to re-invent druidry without informing readers on their sources.

And whilst I cannot comment on the scholarly-ness of the text as other reviews might, I thought it was a reasonable effort - and containing quite a balanced view of neo-druidry in the final chapters.

I think with this book it depends on what you are looking for , certainly there many photos and examples of archaeological finds and I think how you find this book depends a lot what you have already assumed or have been told about the Druids either rightly or wrongly.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Druids in Prehistory, History, Myth & Modernity 25 Jan 2010
By Greywolf TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Miranda Green is probably the most knowledgeable scholar currently working on the Celtic Iron Age and has written numerous books on the period, so she was an obvious choice to write about the Druids for this series. The series as a whole is designed to make history as accessible as possible to a wide readership, hence the ample illustrations and frequent use of text boxes to give something like a magazine-style layout. The illustrations are, on the whole, well-chosen, many in colour and go well beyond the usual ones found in every other book on Druids. The text is informative and informed by recent developments in the field of Celtic studies. It is especially good on the archaeology and mythology. One or two errors creep in in the section on modern Druidry, but this is hardly surprising. It's difficult enough for modern Druids themselves to work out the difference between the Ancient Order of Druids and the Ancient Druid Order. All in all, a very good, wide-ranging, accessible introduction to the subject.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not quite what I was expecting 15 Jan 2002
By A Customer
Green's book, "Exploring the World of the Druids" is a brief introduction to ancient and modern druids. The scope of her book is quite broad and she undertakes the daunting challenge of exploring over 2000 years of history; the documentation for which is sketchy at best. She touches on topics as diverse as the portrayal of druids in classical literature and the modern Neo-pagan movement. Green draws on a large, although rather ambiguous body of archaeological evidence to complement and enhance the information gleaned from a variety of written sources. She seeks to present a balanced view of the facts citing different opinions and interpretations. All in all, it sounds like the ideal, if rather general, introduction to a fascinating subject. Unfortunately, there are a few key problems with Green's book that make it difficult to recommend to other readers.

Green attempts to make history "reader friendly". She does not want to overwhelm her reader with technical jargon and complicated stories. In order to make the sheer mass of subject matter less intimidating, she has broken her book up into bite-size chunks of information that may be considered more digestible. Most of her readers will find, however, that Green fails to strike the right balance necessary to make a general survey of this type work. One can appreciate that sacrifices have to be made in order to cover such a large amount of material, but this book lacks a sense of continuity, making it easy for the reader to put it down at any point without ever feeling the need to pick it up again. The text has a disjointed feel. The paragraphs read like a series of photo captions strung together.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great value for money 30 Aug 2012
By Jay
Read this book from the library and just had to have my own copy. Interesting and informative it covers so much a budding Druid would wish to know. The pictures are a delight, bringing to life the mysteries of Druidry.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not the best 9 Oct 2004
By Lisa L. Spangenberg - Published on Amazon.com
Green has solid Celtic studies credentials and her previous books, like the Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend (Thames and Hudson) were exemplary in terms of quality photographs and helpful bibliography. I therefore had, perhaps unfairly, high expectations for Green's The World of the Druids. Though there is a fair amount of text on each page, most of the emphasis is on the images and their captions. The captions often reinforce the impression that the non-artifact images created by artists like Gustav Dore and Fuseli are legitimate sources of data about historic druids, when they are at best sources of data about romantic nineteenth century presentation and imaginative views regarding druids.

Much of what Green has to say is speculation, presented as fact or scholarly hypothesis, like her ruminations on druidic prayer: "Druids and their peers would have conducted solemn prayer rituals for the whole tribe or community on important occasions. Lesser priests might lead small communities in prayer, and the head of the household perhaps led private family prayers" (32). Unfortunately, there really isn't a lot of data one way or the other about druid praying in the pre-Christian era. Green makes such assertions without referring to sources or even using the resources of comparative religion as support. There are a number of similar problems.

Green is at her best in The World of the Druids in her discussions of archaeology, and at her worst in discussions of myth and literature. Her chapter on sacred places is particularly well done, but not by itself worth the price of the book. She does include a brief survey of modern druid groups' beliefs and a directory of neo-pagan druid groups, but readers would probably do better to use the web to find Neo-Pagan druid resources since addresses and contact people change so quickly. The gazetteer of Celtic museums in the back of the book is a very useful list, and quite nicely done, though I wish her bibliography had been a bit more extensive.

I think in Green's efforts to relate to a new audience, specifically Neo-Pagan and new age readers, she missed her target by "dumbing down." Green would have done better to have written a well-bibliographied introduction to druids along the lines of The World of the Celts or her Dictionary of Celtic Myth books. I think that Neo-Pagan readers can readily find enough unscholarly material about druids; what they need is access to well-researched and cited books directing them to additional sources. Unless you already have Piggott's The Druids, and Green's The Celtic World, I'd give The World of the Druids a miss.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ideal introduction to the subject of druids past and present 16 Feb 2000
By Francine Nicholson - Published on Amazon.com
Do you have an interest in the druids past and present? Do you want to know the facts, not someone's romanticized version of them? Then this book is what you are looking for. Dr. Green presents the evidence with accuracy and sensitivity, describing what is known about the druids before the coming of Christianity (which is actually very little), the evidence of the medieval tales and saints' lives (which is suspect), and the efforts to revive "druidry" since the Renaissance. The illustrations are carefully described, appropriate to the text, and beautifully reproduced. My only complaint is that Dr. Green's description of modern druids mainly covers groups in the UK, with little acknowledgement that groups exist worldwide. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this volume as an ideal introduction to the subject for yourself or as a gift.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very basic introduction 7 Feb 2003
By Andrea Acailawen - Published on Amazon.com
Green's World of the Druids looks at various sources of information about the ancient Druids, including archeology, history, folklore, and classical sources. She relays more recent discoveries, explains the origins of the Druids, their role in society, religion, prophesy and a sacrafice. And, Green takes a look at Druids in the modern day.
This is a reasonably good introductory book on the Druids. It does tend to brush over some areas without as much detail as some other books in an effort to appear "credible," thus fresh ideas are somewhat lacking. For those looking for more of an introduction to Druid history, this more abridged (scaled down) work is a bit easier than many other texts, but it may not serve as well for those with a more solid grasp of Druidry and Celtic studies. I personally find much of Miranda Green's work simply reiterates what is already commonly written by other authors, and I don't get much new out of her work, which is a shame given her enjoyable writing style.
Discussion & analysis of Celtic mythology is relatively light, especially that from Non-Irish sources, but her accounts and interpretation are considered standard by many. Her account on women in Celtic Society, and as female Seers and Druidesses, (she gives them an entire chapter) is somewhat refreshing.
My only other complaint would be in her description of modern-day Druids all being Neo-Druids, and her promotion of a "shared perception" between Druids and Wiccans. While they are quoted as being "separate and distinct," the focus on Wiccan beliefs, rituals and coven membership seemed unnecessary in a more scholary book. I found it sad that the author felt the need to promote witchcraft in the form of Wicca, yet made no mention of Celtic witchcraft or magic, and 'shamanic' practices (for lack of a better term), which is laden throughout Celtic folklore, scarcely got a paragraph's mention, next to the five pages she dedicated to Wicca.
Mostly minor complaints aside, all in all, this is a good general book on Druidry, but I would recommend comparing it to other, more detailed works, to fill in those areas where detail isn't as deep as it should be, comments are light, and varying interpretations are needed. This book also does not hold up to her work on the Celts in general (The Celtic World), but it's still reasonably good. Just be sure to compare her offerings to that of others like Anne Ross, Alwyn & Brinley Rees, Nora Chadwick and Peter Berresford Ellis, for a wider range of understanding and viewpoints on the Druids, and the Celts in General.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Many interesting illustrations and a decent introduction, but lacks depth. Only tentatively recommended 20 Oct 2006
By Juushika - Published on Amazon.com
Illustration-heavy, The World of the Druids is a partial introduction to the Celtic Druids. Green reviews the various sources of information about the Druids (classical texts, archaeological evidence, and Welsh and Irish myths). Relying heavily on the near-300 illustrations that make up the bulk of the text, Green analyzes the little we do know about Druids: their political and religious roles, ancient Celtic religious practices, and the use of sacred space. Some of the text is dubious extrapolations, but Green is generally willing to admit just how little we do know. The tail end of the book looks at the Druidic revival, including renewed interest in the Druids, early modern texts on Druids, the erroneous but commonplace connections between Stonehenge and Druids, and historic and current new Druidic religions and movements, including aspects of Neopaganism. A little repetitive, lacking in-depth analysis and commentary, but with copious illustrations. This is a decent introduction to the subject and interesting to look through, but not particularly useful. Borrow it, don't buy it.

Beyond doubt, the illustrations are the most interesting and useful part of this text. There are nearly 300 of them, all with explanatory captions; many are also mentioned in the body of the text itself. They cover a variety of topics, findings, landmarks, and archaeological digs. Texts on Celtic history and religion generally lack illustrations or, if they have some, have few, making this a useful resource. Unfortunately, some of the images are drawn reproductions (rather than photographs) and few are in color, somewhat decreasing their value or usefulness. Furthermore, Green fails to discuss any of the illustrations, or indeed any one aspect of the text, in much depth. As a result, The World of the Druids is a quick read and doesn't require revisitation--I recommend that the interested reader find a copy to borrow rather than purchasing the text.

The lack of depth is the most disappointing part of the text. To some extent, the lack of depth isn't Green's fault: we know very little about the Druids, and so much of the text resolves to unanswered questions and admitted gaps in our knowledge. That said, while there may not be many hard facts to relate, Green could do a better job of discussing what we do and don't know. The text contains some worthwhile information: Green dispels a number of common misconceptions, has a good grasp of the classical texts discussing Druidism, and writes a fair and balanced historical overview of the study of, writing about, and interest in Druids. However, she tackles no one subject in sufficient depth. Almost every page is split into a main body, a number of illustrations with captions, and an inserted box on a related subject or illustration. These numerous divisions make the text read quickly, but limit the depth and detail that Green can go in to.The result is a fairly broad, approachable text that lacks in depth and ultimately in usefulness. I recommend this book as an introduction to the subject and as a source of illustrations, but the interested reader should definitely go beyond this text and look for other, more detailed scholarly texts on the subject. For the same reason, this is a good book to borrow but not worth buying. That money is better spent on more detailed texts that will require time, attention, and even note-taking.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, well presented 4 Aug 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I never give anything a full 5 stars, but this book was wonderful --though I read the European edition which was released a month before this one by the name "Exploring the World of the Druids". This book was presented wonderfully; easy to read for anyone with plenty of facts (none which I've found wrong so far, only a conflicting fact stating that Ogham was most likely created in the 4th century C.A. rather than the 3rd at Miranda Green states) on both ancient and modern druids. If you have the slightest interest in Druids, this is a wonderful book.
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