While Ellis' "Celtic Women" is the best book I have yet read on the subject, it suffers from peculiar inconsistencies, as well as the author's tendency to disregard or dismiss evidence which contradicts his thesis. This work is definitely preferable to Jean Markale's book of the same title, as Ellis seems to be more of a scholar and less of a mystic. Ellis focuses on material from the Classical authors, native Celtic law texts, and vernacular works of literature and history in painting a vivid picture of the many roles of Celtic women and Celtic female divinities. This work is not without flaws, however, for one must ask, would a book about Celtic men include an overview of Celtic male gods? Female divinities are also prominent in Greek mythology, but I find the argument that the stature of goddesses reflects the status of women in the culture which worships them to be, at best, highly speculative. While there is definitely evidence that women could attain high social positions in Cletic societies, Mr. Ellis seems to gloss over the fact that ruling queens and influential female Brehons (judges) were notable exceptions to the rule. In addition, while there is much material introduced from native law regarding women's rights to property and divorce, nothing is said concerning women's rights to child custody. The reader is left to wonder whether nothing is said in these law texts about such an important and revealing point as a woman's right to her own children, or if the author considered it to be of no importance. As a woman, I would love to look to the Celts as an example of the "original egalitarian model" that the book's jacket claims, but as a scholar I feel that Mr. Ellis overstates his case, a failing of many of his otherwise fine works. Perhaps more disturbing, there are sections of the book that strike a strangely discordant note in view of the overall theme. For instance, Mr. Ellis devotes an entire chapter (out of 10) to the subject of personal adornment. In this chapter, he discusses not only the costume and adornments of women, but of men as well. Does this suggest a view on the part of the author that the whole subject of dress is a concern specific to women, or is this material introduced solely by way of comparison? While I would recommend this book as being the best available on the subject, I believe that a truly 5 star book on Celtic women has not yet been written.
After researching for years and looking desperately for a good resource on Women in the Celtic times, this book was an amazing find. I was thrilled by the information I found here. I learned things about Celtic Women that I had never imagined could be true. I know that I will be using this book for many years to come.