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The Last Celtic Shaman

Published by Inner Traditions
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

Taliesin, Chief Bard of Britain and Celtic shaman, was a historical figure who lived in Wales during the latter half of the sixth century. Encoded within his work are the ancestral beliefs of the Celtic and pre-Celtic peoples. In addition, his verse is established as a direct precursor to the Arthurian Legends--and Taliesin himself, shaman and shapeshifter, is said to be the direct forebear to Merlin. Though the bard's work is steeped in the rich traditions of druidic practice, few have explored the revelations of his writings--the secret poetic language of the bards, revelatory information about divination, the ancient mysteries of the Druids, and the cosmological rites that were central to Celtic worship. John Matthews, one of today's preeminent Celtic scholars, sheds new light on the poems of Taliesin and on the vast body of allusion, story, and myth that grew from his body of work and shamanic practice. With the help of fellow Celtic scholar Caitlin Matthews, the author presents completely new translations of Taliesin's major poems in their entirety, uncovering the meanings behind these great works for the first time.


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Taliesin Pen Beirdd, the 'Primary Chief Bard of the Island of Britain', is a real figure who lived in Wales during the latter half of the 6th Century and composed songs and poems which have survived to the present time - though in a fragmentary and sometimes confused form. Lost and forgotten for many years in private libraries and collections, they were rediscovered in the 18th Century, and efforts were made to translate them from medieval Welsh into English. Unfortunately, the insufficient knowledge of the language or, more importantly, the background from which the writings sprang. This resulted in uneven and sometimes extremely unreliable material which has remained, until now, largely unexplored and generally unexplained.

About The Author

John Matthews has authored over 60 books, including The Grail: Quest for Eternal Life and The Encyclopaedia of Celtic Wisdom. A foremost expert in the Arthurian legends and esoteric wisdom of the Celtic traditions, he teaches and lectures around the world. He resides with his wife, Caitlin, in Oxford, England.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Inner Traditions (April 1, 2002)
  • Length: 376 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780892818693

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Raves and Reviews

"As with all of John and Caitlin's work, this book is well researched and has a wonderful bibliography."

– Lise Quinn, TBP Review, Winter 2003, Issue 31

"There is something raw and essential here, something lost in modernity."

– Robert Baldwin, The Bloomsbury Review, Sept/Oct 2003, Vol.23 Issue5

". . . this is a deeply intriguing book and should be on the reading lists of all seekers of the Celtic ways, especially aspiring bards."

– Belladonna's Book Shelf, Feb 2007

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