Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Review: By Land, Sea and Sky by Morgan Daimler

OK, maybe one more review then...

IMPORTANT! Please note that this review only applies to the first edition of the book. A revised edition has since been released and changes have been made to it taking on board some of the comments that the author received in various places. This includes changes with the formatting and the addition of some of the author's own material. Bearing this in mind, some of the comments I've made in the review below will no longer apply, and as I've yet to read the latest edition I can't offer any comments relating to what you'll now found. I'm leaving the review here for the meantime because as far as I'm aware the general focus and scope of the book is still the same, but I hope to be able to do an updated version at some point.

By Land, Sea and Sky: A selection of Repaganized Prayers and Charms from Volumes 1 & 2 of the Carmina Gadelica
Morgan "Láirbhán" Daimler

I saw this book being mentioned in a few places and then it was reviewed on Celtic Scholar, which ultimately piqued my interest. It's the first time I've bought a self-published book (I think....) so I wasn't too sure what to expect on that front. The first thing I'd like to comment on, in that respect, is the fact that Lulu seems to have employed Professor Farnsworth from Futurama to send out the confirmation emails - "Good news! Your purchase has been dispatched!" But that's probably not particularly relevant to anything, really...

Secondly, I'm impressed by the quality of the book itself - it's not going to fall apart after a few flick throughs, so that's good. But it does suffer from a few of the criticisms that regularly get trotted out when anyone talks about self-publishing books, and the main ones are formatting/proofing and layout. The whole book is double spaced and while it's not a huge negative, I think some differentiation between the prayers and charms and the introductions and commentary to them would make it easier to read, and flow better overall. Sometimes my brain took a while to catch up with the fact that I was reading a paragraph, not another verse.

The title of the book gives a good clue as to what it's all about; it pretty much does what it says on the tin, so to speak. I have to admit I was surprised at just how many prayers, charms and so on that are included - it's quite comprehensive, and covers all the main areas and a few of the more specialised ones like healing, divination, and different kinds of magical charms.

They're all grouped by subject matter and have a brief introduction for each song so it's easy to find whatever it is you're looking for. One of the strengths of the book is that the author gives a clear idea of her approach and process in reworking the verses (although I wonder if 'repaganizing' is necessarily the right word in some cases?), and she also often gives suggestions for how to perform them.

It's left to the reader to decide how best to incorporate them into practice, so it allows for a variety of approaches and has an appeal beyond CR - the book is clearly aimed at 'Celtic Spirituality' as a whole, rather than just reconstructionists. It's well-researched in this respect, and quite light on detail in the sense that it wouldn't overwhelm the beginner, but as a reconstructionist (or maybe just me being me) I found it veering towards the danger of being a little too light at times, perhaps. The aim of the book is to provide examples of liturgy, not and in-depth examination and elucidation of rituals or CR, though, so I guess that's my problem, not the book's. It would have been nice to have seen it, though...

The author identifies as an Irish Reconstructionist Druid, and this shows in her choices of deities that are incorporated into the verses. There's plenty of room to adapt them to your own focus and deities, though, but more than anything I think the value of this book is that it shows polytheists of various stripes just how the material can be approached and adapted, coming at it from a non-Wiccan perspective.

There still aren't many books out there that cater for (or even account for) a Celtic Reconstructionist audience, so it's always good to see someone doing something about it.

EDIT: I've since revised my review of the book, which is available here. In the interests of transparency I'll be leaving this one as is. However, the more I thought about it, the more I felt there were some things I mentioned only in passing here that I should have concentrated on in more depth, and the more I thought about it, the more I felt that I should edit the review to reflect that. It would be unfair of me to do that without making a note of it, at least. 


celticscholar said...

Great review Tairis and much more in depth than mine I'm posting a link to your review on my blog :)

Tairis said...

Thanks! I'm glad you like it :)

morgan-lairbhan said...

Thank you for reviewing my book. I think your criticisms are very fair and I am already working on addressing some of them, such as the typo's and formatting - although I chose the double spacing purposely to be reminiscent of the style of the original Gadelica. I will see what I can do to make the transitions easier and perhaps add more about the ritual structure itself as well; one of the advantages of self-publishing is that I can still make revisions when necessary.
Again, thank you for reviewing the book. I want to make it the best book that it can be and will use the feedback to adjust some things. And I'm glad, overall, that you liked it : )