The first reviewer was right. It is MARVELOUS.... It is the first book I've read that actually grounds you in the Wheel of the Year by making sense of the often disconnected stories of Celtic myth. NONE of the neo-pagan stuff is here exept to compare and contrast what he writes to what has been written or done by neo-pagans.
At first I thought that I would not like to use the Celtic revisioning of the elements. Then I started reading the rest of the book. Now the elemental placements make sense. The book has NO illustrations so your best bet to understanding where everything falls is to draw your own Wheel of the year and place on it, the elements, the moons and the earth/sun celebrations. I highly recomment putting the neo-pagan elemental directions (in reference to the cycles of the day) in the center to keep you aware of where you are. The best place to start is the chapter on the Moons. Here the author uses the Song of Amergin to understand and celebrate the different moons of the year. Why I suggest starting here is simple: The Celts have no surviving creation myth and to truly be grounded in a mythic cycle it helps greatly to have one so that you understand the basic symbolism of the religion. The author's study of the Song makes this possible. Even though he IN NO WAY suggests that his study of the Song is a Celtic creation myth, he inadvertently shows that the Song could well be the only surviving record of a Celtic creation myth. THAT IS MY THEORY not the author's. The author also finds the strands of similarities among the different stories in Celtic myth and strings them together to help one see an actual pattern in the chaos that is Celtic myth. He makes a connectable and smoothly flowing study of Celtic ritual for the Wheel like NO OTHER author I've read who has written on the subject. I CAN now see the BIG picture among all those disconnected stories of gods and mortals. Now all the stories flow together, connect to the Earth, the Wheel--everything!! You wanna really UNDERSTAND the ritual of Lughnasad read this and nothing else on so called "celtic" ritual or wicca. If you want to UNDERSTAND why one celebration may seem like a repeat of the one before--read this book. If you want to UNDERSTAND Celtic spirituality--START here!
I never EVER wanted to tackle a book on Celtic mythology--now I eagerly await an opportunity. Now that I can see the connections between different gods, understand how the Celts saw their year--I can go deeper into the studies of my ancestors. His research is valid and scholarly. He is amazing. This is my new "bible" and it replaces thoroughly EVERY ritual primer I've ever read. I no longer feel like I'm studying a religion that was created by modern ritualists that belongs to a dozen different countries and traditions, but like I'm studying--in an organized and wonderfully understandable form--what my ancestors did and why they did it. I can actually understand why they celebrated what they did and can connect it to my life!
Thanks to this author I CAN reclaim my tribal ancestory. Something I've wanted to do for over 13 years. He has brought to life what was once a very dead and/or POORLY resurrected religion.
Bless you Alexi--Bless you three times three times.
***This just in. I found out through parousing imbas.com (a Celtic Reconstructionist site where Alexei is a member and where some of his articles are posted) and by then parousing Amazon and emailing a reviewer, that Alexei has republished this book under the name Apple Branch. Amazon sells it.***
I can't even begin to explain how good this book is. It is, bar none, the best book about Celtic traditions I've seen yet, and I've read a lot of them--the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Kondratiev is not afraid of controversy; he spends the beginning of the book expressing some strong opinions. A person wishing to use Celtic spirituality, he asserts, should become a defender of Celtic ways on the more mundane and political level as well. Most importantly, the Celtophile should learn one of the six Celtic languages, since they, along with the worldview they describe, are rapidly disappearing as people begin to speak only English or French in the Celtic nations. And he's probably right. One should embrace all of Celtic culture, not just the "fun stuff", if s/he wants to embrace the spirituality.
The rest of the book is concerned with spiritual rituals for the major earth holidays of the Wheel of the Year, and rituals for the lunar cycles. Kondratiev gathers together huge amounts of information from both Pagan and Christian traditions. He examines the way the holidays are celebrated and were celebrated in the past, and draws parallels between the traditions and mythic stories that may be related. In this way, he gives each festival a "story" or two that illustrates its meaning. Then, he gives a sample ritual as performed by his circle, Celi De. The best way to describe it is that it's similar to the Farrars' _Eight Sabbats for Witches_, only better--both more scholarly and more emotional, two qualities often difficult to combine.
This book is invaluable for anyone wishing to delve deeply into Celtic spirituality. It's out of print, but try to find it wherever you can. You won't regret it.