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Taliesin: Shamanism and the Bardic Mysteries in Britain and Ireland by John Matthews


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Taliesin - Shamanism and the Bardic Mysteries in Britain and Ireland by John Matthews

 

I recently came across a paperback copy of this book at a musty old bookstore that was in excellent condition and it stood out to me with so much intensity I thought I was going to start shaking.  It's never even been read--there were no creases in the spine!  I'm currently reading it, burning through its 357 pages rather quickly.  I'll post a review when I'm done since I didn't find any in a site search.  I'll do my best to be as objective as possible since I think that's the aim here (?).  I also found two other rather interesting books I may do reviews on as well if they seem to be something useful here.  In fact...many(most) of the books I read/have read aren't on here at all......If you all don't mind I can add quite a few to the wonderful database here.  I'm not entirely familiar with the process on the site yet on posting a review but until I've completed reading it, I'll post what's printed on the back cover of the book as a description (not sure if it's copyrighted and/or if that's allowed on the forum...please let me know if I'm not doing this right!)

 

"Taliesin is the 'Primary Chief Bard of the Island of Britain' - a real figure who lived in Wales during the latter half of the sixth century and who wrote a number of works which may still be read with reward.

 

The writings of Taliesin, lost and forgotten for many years and still virtually unknown, fall into two groups: poems composed by the bard himself and a vast body of mythical allusion, story and song which constellated around him as the last of the Celtic Shamans - living embodiment of a racial memory stretching back thousands of years.

 

From this remarkable body of authentic material John Matthews, drawing on nearly thirty years of research and an in-depth reading of every available text, has reconstructed what may be seen as the original Shamanic and Bardic mystery teachings of Britain and Ireland.  There are references to methods of divination, to a secret poetic language which kept the ancient mysteries in coded form, and to the rites, rituals, and beliefs which formed an essential part of the worship of major Celtic deities.  With the assistance of Caitlin Matthews there are completely new translations of Taliesin's major poems and those of his contemporary, Merlin.  Throughout, the original mystery teachings are set forth in both a scholarly and exciting manner.

 

Of interest to all who share a belief in the power of Shamanism, and who love and respect the ancient traditions of these lands, this revolutionary study should prove to be one of the most challenging for many years on the subject of Celtic mythology and the Mystery Religions of Britain and Ireland."

 

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Okay, a review:

 

This book is an extremely thorough plunge into old Welsh legend and mythology--I had a difficult time reading it without having a few other books and the internet as a reference point.  The book begins by tying Taliesin to many characters of lore across Ireland and Britain, including some references to the legends of the North that have been lost to the ages, including tying him to the Cailleach and Bridghe. These references parallel his legend with other stories similar to the more commonly heard story of Ceridwen and how the shaman bard was actually her servant whom she ate--the tender of the Cauldron of Inspiration reborn through her and knowing the wisdom of ages at birth.  (Much of this reminds me of the Germanic concept of the taltos.) Essentially he has been described as the son of a goddess across the entire Celtic region.  The book goes into great detail about the processes of death and rebirth and how surviving the process of becoming a shaman gives the bard his power of inspiration and vision.  The way some of this was described made me envision the practices which may have resulted in the "bog body" mummies that are occasionally found of a Druidic nature across much of the old North.  There are so many poems in this book attributed to Taliesin and referencing Taliesin in a mythical light translated into modern English that this book alone is worth much more than I paid for it used.  The descriptions of bardic rhyme and the hidden processes of developing poetry in the ways of the old shamans is described in full detail among other things like the process of fighting the spirits which cause illness.  The book goes through great lengths to give the author's commentary and insights into the ancient religions of the region and also includes many other scholarly translations across several centuries noting their differences as they were amended and edited throughout the spread of Christianity.  Matthews comes off as a very passionate writer on this topic and it shows that his interest is much more than just of a scholarly and historical nature.  If you're interested in the old ways of the bardic religions, this seems like a hardcore textbook to the life of a very important figure to anyone interested in the old ways of Celtic shamanism, druidry, or general history.  I'll be studying this book for a very long time and it is definitely worth the $4 that I paid for it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'd like to say that I had to slow down a lot reading this book.  I'm getting there.  I'm not as well versed in Celtic folklore/history as I assumed I was and it's kicking my ass.  I'll probably be done by the end of the week.  This is one book I may study for the rest of my life and continue to learn from it, I can say that much.

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Ok the review is up,  although I feel like it's missing something *shrug*

 

I think any time I dig into Celtic lore I'll be reaching for this book.

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  • 1 year later...

I've just treated myself to The Celtic Shaman by the same author. I find his style very readable and engaging. It's a fascinating subject matter. I might also attempt a review once I've completed it. ????

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