Author: Alexei Kondratiev
Trade Paperback, 312 pages
Publisher: Citadel Press
Publication date: July 2003
Price & More Info: Click Here
The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual is the first book on Celtic spirituality and its modern practice by a Celtic Reconstructionist that I've seen. Unfortunately, I'm not a Celtic scholar, so I can't really comment on its accuracy, but the author seems to be a scholar in the Celtic field and fairly well respected by the Celtic Recons I know -- even if they don't agree with him on all issues. This is definitely not another Celtic Wicca book written by someone with very limited knowledge of the Celts. While it is not footnoted (an oddity given that it is obviously aimed at those who would appreciate -- and even expect -- footnotes), the bibliography seems well-populated with scholarly books.
The book goes into the connections between the elements, the Gods, and the festivals as the Celts saw them. It explores myth and legend to see what they tell us about ancient Celtic culture and religion. The back cover states that this book explains how to start a celtic group. I think that is overstating things a bit. The author provides a lot of information that would be useful source to a celtic group but does not give complete rituals or other information that many would expect after seeing this claim on the back cover.
The book is not without its flaws. The author's "political" opinions color a few parts of this book in ways that some Celtic Recons I know have problems with. Kondratiev goes on at some length about how Rome was the evil that destroyed Celtic culture, about how the Christian tradition in Celtic lands is the authentic carrier and preserver of that tradition, and about how one must learn a celtic language to be able to understand celtic culture. As I understand it, these positions (especially the language issue) are not always accepted by celtic scholars, although it is hard to tell this from the author's statements in the book. Nevertheless, the book is an interesting read and I'm told the actual "meat" of The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual, the information on celtic religion, is quite good. This book is a must read for serious students of Celtic spirituality.
Reviewed by Randall