Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Isle of Avalon

As a practicing Pagan with an academic background, one of my greatest laments is that there are so few good books out there on Paganism. So when I find a well-researched book on a Pagan topic, I like to tell people about it.

Nicholas R. Mann's "Isle of Avalon" [Green Magic Press] is a spiritual exploration of the area around Glastonbury Tor, one of the sites considered to be a forerunner of the mythical Avalon of Arthurian legend. Mann grounds his work in modern archeology and historical understanding, but he interprets things with an eye to the religious and spiritual practices of nature-based worship. He is careful to note when he is speculating and lets the merit of his conclusions rest in the reader.

It is quite a task to integrate the Matter of Britain, the collection of legends and history that form what Mann calls "a charter for [British] nature, unity, spirituality, sovereignty, and ultimately for their destiny." That's a big job, but as Mann shows, the Matter of Britain is up to the task. And not just for the British either, but for everyone who has read the tales of the Mabinogi and King Arthur and felt a pull to something deeper than mere tales. Through the history of Glastonbury, from its beginnings in prehistory through its Christianization, Mann integrates the huge range of time and practice showing an approach to the material that allows modern readers to use this history to move forward.

This book is well written, well researched, and exhaustive in its coverage of the history and myth of the Tor.

No comments: