I'm researching for a new novel and thought I'd share a few notes on the books I'm using. So, if you're interested in Celtic culture & history, this one's for you:
The Apple Branch: a path to celtic ritual
written by Alexei Kondratiev and published by The Collins Press, Ireland - 1998
This is a serious book for people really interested in bringing celtic ritual into their lives. It is not a new-age, self-help, "pop" publication.
The book starts off with a detailed and well-researched history of the Celts, including their movement around Europe, their evolving society and the flexible, family-oriented laws they lived by. Social connections were judged by who a person was related to rather than how much they owned or their position within the society. Family groups were often self-ruling, separated by fields from the other families in their tribe. This self-reliance encouraged strong individualism in the warrior class and was the opposite of the centralised "states" they would later fight against. Even if you're not that into Celtic ritual, the historical chapters alone are worth the read.
I am truly bothered about cultural borrowings: take the good bits, ignore the bad bits and don't bother to make a deep commitment to the culture you're borrowing from. I do not display Native American dreamcatchers on my walls or any other "borrowed" paraphenalia. It's not my culture, though I am deeply fascinated by it, and I have no intention of changing religions or lifestyles, so I won't use their symbols in my life. The writer of "The Apple Branch", seems to feel the same way.
He talks about the need to study language when involving oneself in another's culture because only through a knowledge of the language can one truly understand, appreciate and interpret the culture. Learning about celtic culture but not learning the language is like paying shallow lip-service to the depth and meaning of being celtic.
When it comes to ritual, "The Apple Branch" goes first into history and meaning, and then into procedure and words.
"Every activity of the Tribe involves, in the end an interaction with the Land." And this world view is interlaced with every ritual, step and song. The relationship with the Land is all important in Celtic culture. Each ritual is connected to a cycle - between Earth and Sun, the Moon, Events and the Tribe - and fits into the seasonal pattern of life. All outlined and explained to great affect.
The passages on the Druids were very informative and cut right through fable and myth to give the reader a realistic picture of their purpose within Celtic life.
If you are researching or studying this culture, or the history of the six modern-day Celtic nations (Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, Cornwall and the Isle of Mann) then I recommend this book to help you along. It will be worth the search at your local library.
If you'd like to add "The Apple Branch" to your personal library, then Amazon currently have two copies available.
For more information on things Celtic and for articles written by Mr Kondratiev, stroll along to The Celtic League and The Celtic League, America. To find out more on Alexei Kondratieve, just enter his name into your favourite search engine and you will find entries from Wikipedia as well as several other websites.
Oh, and I found it quite helpful for my research purposes. The symbolism of the apple tree and the cycle of the moon, in particular.