Robert Van De Weyer has written and edited extensively in the area of Celtic literature and lore. In fact, he has two book entitled Celtic Parables, one longer one (approximately 250 pages) with full stories, arranged by categories, with an introduction and a good bibliography. The shorter one (64 pages) is more of a gift book, with brief excerpts from parables, done with an interesting graphic layout. Please check out my review on the other book, too.
The longer Celtic Parables, which bears the subtitle Stories, Poems and Prayers, is laid out in the following topics as chapter groupings:
- Truth and Falsehood
- Love and Hate
- Virtue and Sin
- Faith and Doubt
- Riches and Poverty
- Pleasure and Pain
- Peace and Conflict
- Wisdom and Folly
- Youth and Age
- Life and Death
One might get the sense that there is a dualist framework to the Celtic worldview, but in that this dualism is fairly superficial. There is a deeper connection between these apparent poles than we often understand. One of the best ways to illustrate the connections is through storytelling, particularly the kind of short, metaphorical storytelling that parables embody.
Parables and the use of storytelling for education and worship pre-date the introduction of Christianity to Ireland and other Celtic lands, but it does serve to explain the easy acceptance of much of the Christian message to Celtic peoples. Many of the stories now have a Christian flavour to them, but often these are modern revisions of older pagan stories, with the names changed to represent the change in religious orientation.
Very readable, very accessible, many of the parables in this collection take up one page or less of text. Many of them read in this translation like a prose poem. Most have a couplet or small synopsis at the end of the parable that helps make explicit the meaning contained in the story, rather like Jesus turning to the disciples after many parable-tellings and saying, 'Don't you get it?' and then proceeding to tell the disciples the points they missed.
Celtic spirituality is very popular at the moment, and for good reason, as the items in this collection ably demonstrate. There is a real humanity to the writing. There is care, compassion and warmth of emotion. There is concern and respect for the natural world (which would tie in both with the early Christian pastoral emphases and pagan naturalist practices). These are things that have seen a resurgence in the modern time.