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The Maddening Mystery of Druids

Magic. Secrecy. Danger. Nature, concealed in the mists of the ancient forest. Rings of stone megalith. Oak, mistletoe and holly. The foundation of wizardry, of Merlin, of Gandalf, of Albus Dumbledore, of Harry Potter are in the druids.

Yet, for most people, this foundation is barely known. The druids lurk at the edges of our mythic consciousness, so nearly forgotten that nothing but their dim silhouettes can be made out.

This is the problem that haunts The World of the Druids: What do you do when you want to write a book book about a group of people whose history has intentionally been left in mystery?

Author Miranda Green acknowledges this problem when she writes: "We have no inscriptions or any images which can certainly be identified as Druidic. Thus, any attempt to use archeological material as evidence for the Druids must be made with an awareness that we are dealing with supposition and inference rather than fact."

If you want to read a book in order to find certain knowledge about the druids, then you will be disappointed with The World of the Druids. The fact is that there just isn't a lot of information to go on. First of all, the druids were a purposefully secretive group of people. Secondly, the Christians who followed after the druids did their best to obscure the druidic traditions after eliminating their practice.

So, what you'll find is that the title of this book, "The World of the Druids", amounts to a bit of sly word-play. There is some information about druids in the book, but it's almost all second-hand.

What you will find in this book that's of more value is information about the ways of life in ancient Western Europe and the British Isles that formed the context for the druids. There's a good survey of the archeology of the times, along with the preoccupation with burial artifacts that plagues the academic discipline of archeology. There's also an interesting review of literary references to the druids, but the contemporary accounts are fairly scant and far removed from the actual practice of druidry, because the societies in which the druids existed were almost completely illiterate.

So, if you read this book, prepare yourself for a lot of talk around the edges - a lot of supposition and inference, with too much focus on the ancient found objects that don't really say very much in themselves.

Don't expect a new age guidebook. Don't expect inspired musings on the meaning of the cosmos. Expect an archaeological/historical book about pre-Christian Europe that's been given a focus upon druidry in order to keep the interest of the average reader.

There's nothing wrong with that, exactly. The book gives a much better survey of the true life of the druids' times than a piece of mystical pulp you might find at your new age book store.

Before reading this book, you've got to decide whether that's a strength or a problem. Ultimately, this book fails to excite because it fails to address the continuing need for natural mystery that provokes popular interest in the druids.

Not all readers want to be excited. Some want to be informed, and for them, this book is going to be as good as it gets. When we are searching for the plain facts about the druids, we must content ourselves with the simple conclusion that for the most part, we just don't know anything, and we probably never will.

This book does have one powerful, mystical lesson to teach: We must not forget the power of that which we do not know.

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