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Celtic Mythology

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Celtic Mythology
By John Arnott MacCulloch. (Dover Publications, Mineola, New York: 2004. Pg. 256. 26 Full Page Illustrations.) ISBN: 0-486-43656-X.

Reviewed by Herbert White - February 14, 2005

The world of Celtic myth comes to life in John Arnott MacCulloch's book, Celtic Mythology. In this work, MacCulloch presents an overview of Irish and Welsh mythology told in a riveting narrative style. This work is based in part upon Roman writings and inscriptions found on monuments. It is also based upon the few remaining written accounts of the Celtic myths, including the Welsh Mabinogion and the eleventh and twelfth century Irish texts, The Book of Leinster and Leabhar na hUidhre (Book of the Dun Cow). Throughout this text, MacCulloch recounts stories of love, betrayal, war, heroism, and supernatural tales. Recounting both pagan and Christian folklore, MacCulloch provides the reader with an edifying introduction into Celtic mythology.

This work covers the Celtic pantheon, how the Irish arrived in Ireland (in one myth they arrived after the biblical flood), the rituals associated with the Celtic deities, their dwelling places and activities of these deities, mythical animals, the origins of the myths, and the interaction between the deities and their human subjects. It also includes a selection of heroic myths including the story of King Arthur, Fionn and the Feinn, and Cuchulainn and his Circle. The development of the bardic tradition is also touched upon, as are the myths and folkloric traditions that are unique to the British Celts (Welsh). MacCulloch also shows how the pagan Celtic myths were coopted and changed by later Christians.

Interwoven among these rousing tales are historical facts, historiographic details, and comparison to other mythologies that help to put the world of Celtic mythology into an historical and folkloric perspective that will fascinate both folklorist and general readers. This monumental work was initially published as the Celtic section of The Mythology of All Races series, which was published in 1918. This new edition represents an unabridged republication of this section, complete with the original illustrations, notes, and bibliography. Although the book's notes and bibliography are dated, they do provide a bewitching glimpse into the level of research into Celtic myth in the early part of the 20th century and also offer interested individuals direction for further study.

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