If you get into Ceremonial Magick, especially Chaos Magick, you quickly learn that a mythos doesn't have to be 'real' to have power or legitimacy. You'll find magical systems based off H.P. Lovecraft's work, and superhero comics, or tv shows.
So I'm not questioning the legitimacy of this work, but, well, yow. I did find it pretty damn misleading.
For those who know the history of modern Druidry, they'll catch the references Greer is making, and realise the focus of the book, but for those new to it, it'll go right over them.
This book is based off the ideas about Druidry of 18th Victorian Christians, who wanted to make up a vaguely 'Celtic' flavoured Freemasonry - kind of like a Victorian D&D, much of the text of which was built off the 'ancient' forgeries of author, and fairly decent poet Iolo Morganwyg.
That's not so bad though, right? Every tradition has to start somewhere! We're all modern!
But I don't think I've explained well enough - in *every* place in the book where the 18th Century Victorian Freemason-Druids did something one way, and where we now *know* that the Celts actually did it differently, the author has chosen to go with... how the Victorians did it.
I don't think many people are going to realise that when you just say it *started* in the 18th century, or that it's a 'revival'. There's no revival, there's the 18th century druid way, or the highway.
Example: on page 99, the first 'Druid' deities mentioned are Hu the Mighty, and Hesus. Wait, who??
Ah, right, 18th Century inventions (go wikipedia it).
It's finally stated in plain terms at the Appendix, and there I quote:
"While many books currently available discuss the old Irish pantheon, most accounts of the deities revered by Welsh and English Druids in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are long out of print."
because... "It probably needs to be said that no solid evidence ties most of these divinities or their worship back to the ancient Celtic Druids".
That's right, it's not a revival of *Celtic* Druidry, it's a revival of 18th Century Druidry. Ohhhhh!
Why not just state that at the beginning of the book? I guess they figure if you've made it to the end of the book you're committed now.
I really like diversity in belief and magical practice, but what bothers me is, given how *little* we know of what the Celts actually did - wouldn't it, somehow, be *easier* to accurately portray of fact check against that tiny pool of knowledge? And doesn't that actually leave us with a huge amount of flexibility in how we turn that into a workable system?
It disturbs me that books like this are not just presenting their own magical tradition, they're trying to overwrite in the public perception the little we *do* actually know of Celtic practice and mythology - it smacks of cultural imperialism.
Calling it 'Revival Druidry' doesn't really cut it for someone coming in new, because ALL modern Druidry is a 'revival' in some form, but some modern forms *do* try and incorporate what we know of Celtic culture & myth (the 'modern' forms which, as described by the book, have 'rejected' their 18th century Druid heritage. Uh, as opposed to what? Rejecting their actual Celtic Druid 'Heritage'?).
Why not come up with different name, and not intentionally mislead people? Victorian Druidry? Telluric Druidry? Freemason-style? I don't know, all bad names - but you get the idea.
So just to be clear, anything labelled a Druid tradition, or an AODA tradition - 18th century druidry. A few things listed as 'Celtic' - might actually be actually Celtic.
He talks a lot about 'ancient traditions' and 'new magic', but the traditions aren't that old, and the magic? Isn't that new, it's just plain old Ceremonial Magick with a very thin overlay of 18th Century Druidry.
That's where it loses another star. Why not just get an actual book on Ceremonial Magick, or the Golden Dawn etc? A synthesis would be the creation of something new, this was more a weak 'hodgepodge'.
I can't really cover all the other points I had problems with - early on in the book, he starts talking about connecting to the earth energies as being 'Telluric Energy', and the sky being 'solar', and said that medieval mages were binding 'Telluric' entities to their will. Wait, you're talking about the medieval magicians calling down/up Angels and Demons?
Ouch. Frankly, I think the comparison is unflattering all around. The earth is not equivalent to Hell just because Christians or other dualists might connect 'down' with 'bad', and just as pagans have never been too impressed when Christians/dualists telling them their gods are really 'demons', it's just as hypocritical to tell people from other religious or magical traditions that their sacred/profane spirits are REALLY Solar and Earth elementals.
Then there's the 'Secret of the Grail', revealed on pg 22.
See, if as a symbol of 'Lunar' energy you use a new moon on it's side, and then as a symbol of 'Solar' energy you use a circle, and then of the 'Telluric' energy you use an upright triangle (a bit arbitrary these symbols), and you put them all together, you get...
A rather wonky looking shape.
But no, the author declares this, the secret of:
Personally, I think you'd get a nicer shape if you put a half melon on top of a carrot on top of an orange. Or not.
And then. Argh, there's the whole thing with the Upright and Inverted Pentagrams, cutely named the 'Oak' and 'Heather' pentagrams, based on a rather arbitrary arrangement of ogham in a squarish shape, and then how if you take the 8 seasonal festivals in a circle then put the two pentagrams over them... Uh, you probably can't visualise that given that's not how pentagrams are shaped, and how there aren't 10 points, but trust me, there's another diagram, and this *clearly* means that for the summer festivals you should use upright pentagrams for invoking, and for the winter festivals you should use inverted pentagrams for invoking (and for those darned overlapping equinoxes you should use either). Why come up with such an artificial justification? Why not just go with, oh, we'll use the upright pentagrams for the summer/growing seasons, or inverted for the winter? It's not like there were '8' festivals prior to the 1950s anyway, so the diagram and detailed explanation, seems, yet again, like a way of fluffing the book up with psuedo-intellectual jargon - with no actual *content*.
And it's not like I'd remove a star for the Ogham associations, because no one ever lists what they *actually* are (Ruis? Red, not Rowan), although he then gets into the (pretty much entirely invented) Ogham Calendar, and then actually does mention that Robert Graves didn't exactly have a sterling scholarly reputation but feels that that 'misses the point', but after skimming over that mention, hasn't bothered to mention that all the stuff he's just presented is the *reason* he doesn't have a scholarly reputation.
It just isn't accurate - and I'm using accurate in the sense that I do expect when people pick this book up, to think that it's about Celtic Druidry.
He could have made the argument for using Graves stuff *anyway* on a poetic or cultural basis, instead, it's just presenting incorrect information, and deriding any objections he knows there must be, as 'missing the point'.
Oh, there's so much more, but in summary, it's all a bit tenuous for me, and to my eye, not a particularly elegant magical framework. :(
You know what really go me? I just wouldn't *believe* that the author didn't know what he was writing - he seems far too well read!
He has a magical tradition that works for him, and has it's own tradition - why the subterfuge?
I can only charitably hope that maybe there was originally explanations of who this book was for at the beginning, but that the publisher felt there was more of a market for people interested in Celtic Druidry rather than 18th Century Christian 'Druid-flavoured' Freemasonry, and didn't mind obscuring the point.
And ooooh, just because I can see people thinking I've got a bias towards the 'modern' Druid traditions, I'm actually a member of OBOD.
The book just seemed... misleading.
If he was as proud of his tradition as he usually seems to be (and hey, by now, all the Robert Graves derived stuff and 18th century stuff *does* have what's known as an egregore / basically a built up magical charge, from using something in a tradtion), why not actually present it as that? Why belabour and obscure the point?
It had schizophrenically little distinction between the old, the new, and the unsubstantiated personal gnosis.