Pagan Book Reviews

As I was reading this book, I was trying to figure out where to fit it into the categories on this blog. On the one hand, its purportedly a reconstruction of a culture 6000 years old; this includes extensive research into botany, mythology, history, and other scholarly studies. But, when you get right down to it, it’s also a fascinating set of stories with well-developed characters, settings and plots.

Beyond a certain point, we can really know only so much about cultures prior to written history in a region. The stories supposedly tell about the people who lived in the British Isles 6000 years ago, well before there were any written records; while the author draws from texts about the Celts and other older cultures, these are still newer peoples than what Smedley describes. Whether the people of 4000 BC lived in the ways the book describes is unknown; nonetheless, the author does a lovely job of weaving together a solid description of her thoughts on the matter, and we get a good picture of what it is they did and believed.

So I choose to primarily read this for its storytelling value. Similarly to my experience of reading MZB’s The Mists of Avalon, it didn’t matter whether the story was literally true or not. I found myself sinking into a world where animism was the central belief, where the plants, animals, and other denizens of nature were so important to the people that they took their names from them. I read about rituals these people performed, as well as the participants’ feelings about them. I witnessed interactions between individual groups of people, and how they wove into the greater overarching culture of the time. It didn’t really matter whether this was the way things “really happened”; it was a great journey anyway. Even if seen only as a novel, its a worthwhile read.

I can’t entirely vouch for the validity of the herbal information; the author knows more about that than I do. A lot of the information about plants peppering the stories dealt with magical uses; however, there are some medicinal uses mentioned as well. For those intrepid enough to backtrack the author’s research, there’s an appendix with common and Latin names of all the plants (numbering in the hundreds) mentioned. Additionally, she included a thorough bibliography for further research and fact checking.

This is a book I had to read in bits and chunks over time; at 700 pages, its a lot to read! The formatting left a bit to be desired, most notably the complete lack of page numbers, which in a book this length, is frustrating when trying to find where I left off, or where I found a piece of information or a snippet of story I wanted to go back to. Also, I can’t for the life of me find information about the publisher, the owner of the publishing company, or the author.

Ancestral Airs is a thoroughly enjoyable read, regardless of how much salt you choose to take the research with. Whether you choose to read it as I did, in little pieces, or simply spend several hours going from cover to cover in one fell swoop, I hope you like this unique combination of research and narrative.

Four and half pawprints out of five.


*Please note that Pagan Book Reviews doesn’t seem to available at the moment. Consequently, I have re-typed¬†the review¬†here. The reviewer gave enormous amounts of time to this and deserves to be remembered. Please fogive any typo’s that might have occurred.

**The bibliography and appendixes mentioned in the review can be found on this website now in the Essays area. They are not included in the e-book.

***The e-book version of Ancestral Airs has been returned to its original two-volume format.

**** And no, I didn’t remedy the page numbers. Its a story about a people who lived cyclical lives, so lineal numbering for me didn’t quite jibe. And although I am more findable on the internet now, my publisher and I will always remain of the edge of anonymity.

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Responses to “Pagan Book Reviews”

  1. What a wonderful review, and I agree that 700 pages is a lot to read but worth every moment spent doing so. I found that I would read a section and walk away for a couple of days and start back up and read it again – each time I have done this I have come away with more insight and absorbed knowledge. Your book is truly in it’s own genre as you the author are. Thank you so much for this wonderful journey your book takes a reader on – a journey well worth traveling.

    • I loved this review too; all of them really, and now yours. Thank you! The one by Northern Earth is terrific too and I have been told NE is doing a new one in their March issue. Each of you and all the others have been generous with your words and I deeply appreciate it.