Friday, December 19, 2008

Review: The Celtic Flame - Aed Rua

Celtic Flame; An Insider’s Guide to Irish Pagan Tradition
Aedh Rua 2008
iUniverse, Inc. ISBN: 978-0-595-52970

This is a welcome addition to the wave of Celtic Paganism books beginning to break in the last year. Author Aedh Rua is a long-time participant in the effort to build a modern Gaelic Paganism, and this small book is a good summary of the basics. I recommend it to those seeking an introduction to Gaelic lore and neo-Celtic practice.

Aedh Rua (a former member of ADF, incidentally) does a good job of presenting the basics of a Tuatha De Danann pantheon, with plenty of good lore for each of the deities. Beyond the primary list of the Highest and Wisest, he also describes a category of deity he calls Earlaimh – ‘Patrons’. These are lesser spirits, Landwights, even Ancestors who become the special patron of some local tribe or place or family. Rua’s device provides a nice category for those beings that become ‘promoted’ to functional deity-hood. His chapters on the Ancestors and the Daoine Sidhe, and on the Otherworld are brief but informative.

The book offers an interesting chapter on a virtue-based ethic and Gaelic metaphysical principles. This concept of Fhirrine – Truth, in the Druidic sense – extends from the personal to the social. There’s a lot of good summary of Gaelic concepts in this section. The author uses it as a chance to discuss Gaelic social organization as well, perhaps a little more than I might have liked. However it is a very nice summary of some basic principles of brehon law – something not normally found in Neopagan treatises.

The chapter on the Fhomoire gives me my only chance to actually disagree. Rua makes the Fomor entirely too ‘demonic’ or ‘anti-cosmic’ to fit my understanding of their place in the lore. He describes them as entirely opposed to ‘the Truth of the Gods’, while I would suspect that they have been subsumed in that order, even as their chaos continues to refresh the world. All of that aside he provides a good description of the beings of the Fomor, and some discussion of dealing with them.

The chapter on ritual draws on many of the sources common to ADF ritual, and is quite compatible with Neopagan Druid liturgy. Rua provides some nice charms and invocations in Gaelic and in English, and in fact offers his entire short basic ritual in Gaelic, in an appendix. He provides simple solo works for each of the Gaelic High Days, as well.

Gaelic kinsfolk will be very pleased with this book’s handling of Irish language. Almost every vocabulary term or name offered is accompanied by its phonetics. A pronouncing glossary is included at the end. The actual charms and invocations in gaeilge don’t come with phonetics, but they’re simple enough to make excellent exercises.

Celtic Flame makes a fine introduction to authentic Gaelic lore and practice. It should be useful to reconstructionists and to Neo-Druids, as well as anyone who wants a better understanding of Irish lore.

1 comment:

Eremon UiCobhthaigh said...

Ian, I'm curious; would you say this is a book for a beginner in Gaelic lore, or would it also appeal to those who already have a considerable exposure?